Apr 30, 2018
by Robert Feuer
Mr. Music (aka Jim Corbett) has been bringing music to Sebastopol since 1972, when he volunteered “to do music,” he says, in his five-year-old daughter’s class. The seeds of that experience eventually flowered into the Peacetown concert series, every summer Wednesday in Sebastopol’s Ives Park (7400 Willow St, Sebastopol), 5 – 8 p.m.
During an interview in early April at his sweet Sebastopol home, where he raised three daughters with his wife of 43 years, Corbett discusses his early days as “a Midwest boy from Omaha,” one of seven children. They had an older upright piano his mother had painted bright red. For ten years he had to take piano lessons, when he would rather have been playing baseball. “Baseball was my love,” he says. “Now, I thank her every day.” Corbett confesses that his first record purchase was “Sing Along With Mitch.”
Now 69, (“but very immature,” he says), Corbett recalls coming to California in 1972, finding himself on a San Francisco beach on New Year’s Day, thinking of how he’d be shoveling snow if he were back in the Midwest. Needless, to say, he stayed here.
Over the years, Corbett, playing guitar and piano, fronted many bands, mostly mix and match organizations of musicians he knew and called upon when needed. His work in schools expanded to five days/week, while he supported himself by umpiring baseball games for the Pac-10, SSU, and SRJC.
He refers to teaching music to kids as “a sweet gig… It beat playing music for drunks.” That led to the Mr. Music Foundation, ongoing for over 25 years now. According to their website, this group “provides professional music teachers for elementary school classroom music, as well as after-school instruction and music assemblies.” At its height, 15 county schools were involved. Corbett, now retired from the classroom refers to it as “a holy gig...I loved every minute of it.”
Another of Corbett’s creations, The Love Choir, has survived for 20 years, and is “the backbone of Peacetown.” Sixty to eighty people gather weekly for two hours of singing. “It’s become a family,” he says. The group performs regularly, including an annual performance at the Kate Wolf Festival.
The Peacetown Concert Series, which is free, is in its seventh year, with an average attendance of 600-800. Over the years, it has expanded from four annual shows to eleven.
Corbett pairs groups, most located in the Bay Area, with similar styles. With his work done, he serves as emcee, while kicking back and roaming a crowd which he describes as “a schmoozefest” or “aCheers (the TV show) bar setup.”
Co-host Frank Hayhurst, who describes himself as “an advocate for music and musicians in the North Bay,” is a former KRSH deejay and former owner of Cotati’s Zone Music.
“The idea of Peacetown is more than concerts,” Corbett says. “It’s a concept of there being a place where we can incubate peace. Creating beauty is part of what Peacetown is about.”
2018 Peacetown lineup at peacetown.org/conserts-series/
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