Shannon Ferguson was going to be an opera singer. At least, that was her plan when she began attending Converse College back in 2015. But she eventually decided that wasn’t the path she was supposed to be on, and one day she found herself in one of adjunct professor John Jeter’s music business classes. Jeter, a former co-owner of the Greenville venue The Handlebar, was teaching his students how to create and promote concerts just like the ones he put on for nearly two decades.
Something clicked with Ferguson, and she knew she had found her new calling.
“We learned how to create a concert, finalize all the details that go into making one, and then promote it,” Ferguson says. “Whether that meant using the news or social media or word of mouth or even designing the posters, that class went into it all, and it really sparked a passion in me. When I took music business classes for the first time, I knew that’s what I was meant to do.”
Over the last several years, Ferguson has put her education to good use, organizing various concerts around the Upstate. Some of them spotlighted a single artist, like a performance by the electronic-pop band SHAED on the Converse campus. But most of them, like a 2017 tribute to Tom Petty at Tipsy Music Pub on Pendleton Street in Greenville, have involved multiple acts, with proceeds often going to charitable causes.
And as she moved from event to event, Ferguson (who still sings professionally as part of the Upstate variety band Hot as a Pepper) learned more and more about working behind the scenes as a concert promoter.
“Each event, it helps me understand more about what goes into setting things like this up,” she says, “whether that means finding bands, or coming up with a theme for the show. I’ve learned that people want to come together to listen to music and support a great cause, and as a musician I want people to come out and see live music and experience the culture that our city has to offer.”
For her upcoming Rock N’ Rescue event Saturday at Love Where You Live Park in downtown Spartanburg, the good-cause part is covered: Ferguson wants to raise money for the Spartanburg Humane Society. And she’s got the good-music part covered, too. In addition to Upstate vocalist extraordinaire Fayssoux McLean, who’s performed with Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, among others, playing with guitarist Brandon Turner, the bill includes the distinguished 4 Out of 5 Doctors (a rock band made up of college professors), the daredevil progressive-jazz-jam band The After School Special, and sure-handed folk-blues singer/guitarist Jack Greer.
And she’s playing a serious added-value card, not just by bringing out food trucks and adult-beverage vendors, but by bringing some of the Humane Society’s cutest ambassadors to the park for a meet-and-greet.
“Supplying interesting things at your event is key,” Ferguson says. “You can have live music, but there have to be other elements that keep people there,” she says. “So the Humane Society will be coming out with some of their friendliest pups. They’ll be available to love and play with and hopefully take home with you.”
Interestingly enough, Ferguson went to the Humane Society with the idea for Rock N’ Rescue, not the other way around. She says that initial phase, when she’s presenting her concept for a show, is one of the most challenging things about planning an event.
“You have to create a vision for your event and then be able to pitch that to people,” she says. “You have to have most of the details in your mind before contacting anyone, and that can be intimidating because you have to present that vision to somebody else.”
If you go
What: Rock N’ Rescue, featuring Fayssoux McLean & Brandon Turner, 4 Out of 5 Doctors, The After School Special, and Jack Greer
When: 2 p.m. Saturday, June 8
Where: Love Where You Live Park, Spring Street, Spartanburg
Tickets: Free (donations and other proceeds benefit the Spartanburg Humane Society)