Wildfire Music Festival honors memory of Brenna Currie

Jun. 08, 2014 @ 01:00 AM

If she were here, Brenna Currie would relish the Wildfire Music Festival taking place next weekend in Greensboro. She’d probably be sitting in the front row, wearing a tie-dyed T-shirt and a smile.
“She would absolutely love this,” says Brenna’s mom, Jo Ann Currie of Jamestown, one of the festival organizers.
Unfortunately, Brenna isn’t here to enjoy the inaugural bluegrass festival — headlined by The Time Jumpers featuring Vince Gill — at Greensboro’s White Oak Amphitheatre next Saturday. The 22-year-old college student died in March 2013 of a seizure. The festival is being held in Brenna’s memory.
“She would love what we’re doing,” Currie says, “but she would hate that she’s not in the thick of it, because she just loved to share music.”
To that end, proceeds from the festival will be used to establish a scholarship for Triad students who want to major in music, and to provide music education programs to area Boys and Girls Clubs and local schools.
“We want to be able to promote music education in the Triad through these scholarships and the music education programs,” Currie says, “because you never know how you can change a child’s life by introducing them to music.”
Currie knows, because she saw how it changed her daughter’s life.
Brenna, who grew up in Jamestown, was athletic — she played tennis and softball at Southwest Guilford High School — but she had always loved music, and it was while she was at Southwest that she really tapped into that love.
“Music was just a part of who she was,” Currie says. “She took a guitar class and just fell in love with the guitar. She also played the banjo and had a ukulele, a keyboard and a djembe drum. She liked to explore all those instruments, but the classical guitar was her main instrument.”
At Appalachian State University, Brenna was majoring in music therapy.
“She was a very giving person with a beautiful heart, and I think music therapy combined her love for wanting to heal people through music and wanting to help people,” Currie says.
“Doing music therapy, one of her favorite things was to go to a retirement home — she loved working with older people — and she would be able to re-create a memory for them by playing a particular piece of music. She loved seeing how it touched them. She was just one of those people who left a sparkle wherever she went.”
With the family’s encouragement, friends wore tie-dye to Brenna’s funeral as a tribute to her free, colorful spirit.
Last summer, Brittany Hudson — one of Brenna’s closest friends — approached Currie and her husband, Larry, wanting to do something in Brenna’s memory.
“Brittany came to us and said, ‘I’m just tired of being sad,’” Currie recalls. “She said, ‘I want to do something that will continue her legacy of wanting to change lives through music.’ ”
That conversation marked the beginning of the Wildfire Music Festival, which organizers hope will become an annual event. It also led to the creation of a Triad chapter of the I’ll Fly Away Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving children’s lives through music.
According to Currie, the old hymn “I’ll Fly Away” was one of Brenna’s favorite songs — it was played at her funeral — and Brittany Hudson’s mom happens to know the granddaughter of Albert Brumley, the man who wrote “I’ll Fly Away” in 1929. That bit of serendipity led to a partnership with the I’ll Fly Away Foundation, whose mission it is to help young people gain an interest in music and all it has to offer.
Consider, for example, Brumley’s story.
As a young man, he walked nearly 30 miles to a nearby town’s music school, where he told the headmaster he wanted to learn music but had no money for his education. The headmaster allowed Brumley to sleep on his couch and attend the school, with the stipulation that Brumley would repay the school when he was able to do so. Brumley went on to write more than 800 songs, including such gospel favorites as “I’ll Fly Away,” “He Set Me Free” and “If We Never Meet Again (This Side of Heaven).”
All because of that headmaster’s willingness to introduce Brumley to music.
“If not for that, all of those songs he wrote, including ‘I’ll Fly Away,’ would be nonexistent,” Currie says. “That’s what’s so great about the foundation — they realize what an impact saying yes to one person can have.”
And that’s an ideal Brenna Currie would’ve loved. Maybe she’s in the thick of the Wildfire Music Festival after all.

jtomlin@hpe.com | 888-3579

Want to go?

The Wildfire Music Festival will be held Saturday, from 3 to 10 p.m., at the White Oak Amphitheatre, located at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex.
The doors will open at 2 p.m.
The artist lineup includes The Time Jumpers featuring Vince Gill, “Ranger Doug” Green, Dawn Sears and Kenny Sears; The Gibson Brothers; The Sierra Hull Bluegrass Band; The Greencards; Alaska and Madi (from “The Voice”); and local bands The Radials and Carolina Coalmine.
There will also be jam tents and vendors — including a tie-dye vendor — as well as Wildfire and band-related merchandise.
Tickets are $25 for lawn seating, or $45, $55 and $100 for assigned seating. They are available through the Greensboro Coliseum box office or Ticketmaster.
Proceeds will be used to establish a scholarship — in memory of Brenna Currie — for Triad-area students who want to major in music. Proceeds will also allow the I’ll Fly Away Foundation to bring its music education program to area Boys and Girls Clubs and to local schools.
For more information, send an email to wildfiremusicfestival@gmail.com.