The Woodward Welcomes Songs at the Center TV

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America is about to discover Mount Vernon’s Woodward Opera House when the national television series, Songs at the Center, tapes upcoming episodes at the recently restored venue on Sat., May 18, from noon to 4 p.m.

Admission is free and limited to 250. Seating for the first part of the taping will be from 11-11:45 a.m. Seating for the second part will begin at 1:30 p.m.

Distributed by American Public Television, Songs at the Center spotlights the finest singer-songwriters in the region and nation, with interviews and live performances in a “Nashville-style round,” where performers exchange their songs and stories in front of a live audience that shares the stage.

Now in production for its sixth season, Songs at the Center has aired on 305 public television stations, in 41 states, and in four of the largest TV markets in the country—NY, LA, Chicago and San Francisco. In Central Ohio, the show airs Saturday nights at 11 on WOSU TV, as the lead-in to Austin City Limits.

The taping will consist of at least two rounds of performers, combining national touring acts with regional artists. The first round, scheduled for noon, features Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Inductee Matraca Berg, whose song, “Strawberry Wine,” shot to No. 1 for Deana Carter in 1997, when it also earned Berg one of her three Grammy nominations.

She will be joined by songwriter and author Marshall Chapman, whose songs have been recorded by such diverse artists as Conway Twitty, Joe Cocker, Wynonna, and Jimmy Buffett. Her song, "Betty’s Bein’ Bad," was a No. 1 hit for Sawyer Brown. She is also the author of two books.

Tommy Womack will fill out the first round. His songs have been recorded by Jimmy Buffett, David Olney, and others. He is the author of two books, an account of his time with the band, Government Cheese, titled Cheese Chronicles: The True Story of a Rock Band You've Never Heard Of, and the Lavender Boys and Elsie.

The second round, beginning at 2 p.m., features Jonathan Elliott and Nick D’Andrea of Columbus' nationally touring band, Doc Robinson; Cleveland songwriting legend Alex Bevan; and the West Virginia band, The Carpenter Ants.

Songs at the Center is hosted by award-winning singer-songwriter Eric Gnezda, who created the show in 2014 to showcase regional singer-songwriters who he believed deserved wider recognition. Since then, the show has exploded in national popularity, and he has also welcomed such music luminaries as Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductee John Oates, Multiple Grammy winner Delbert McClinton, Ohio native Marc Cohn, who wrote the iconic song, “Walking in Memphis,” and others.

Executive Producer, Jack FitzGerald, says, “We're proud Ohioans with a keen sense of our state's history. We've taped shows in the historic Lincoln Theater in Columbus, and in the venerable Peoples Bank Theatre in Marietta, which date to 1928 and 1919, respectively; but the Woodward Opera House, being the very oldest operating theatrical venue in the United States is another special treat altogether.” 

“The episodes of Songs at the Center that we shoot here in Mt. Vernon will be seen on over 300 Public Television stations from Coast to Coast,” he continues. “It is our pleasure to show off this beautifully restored, unique facility to a national audience, and to tell its story.  We consider it an honor."

Danny Gum, Managing Director of The Woodward Opera House, says he’s pleased to showcase Mount Vernon’s re-opened civic gem. “Showcasing the Woodward on national television is an opportunity we’re delighted to have. It shines a spotlight on our beautiful facility, and speaks to the vibrancy of Knox County.”

Due to some audience members being taped as part of the show, all guests will be required to sign a publicity waiver. (If under 18, a parent/guardian signature is required.)

Producers ask that audience members dress tastefully, for television, with no logos or message apparel.

With the taping lasting up to 4 hours, audience members are free to come and go as they please during periodic breaks in the taping.

The Woodward Opera House is located at 107 N Main St, Mt Vernon, OH 43050. On-street parking is free, with free city parking lot behind the building. For more information, call 740-263-6737.