Making sound decisions at Montclair’s the Outpost in the Burbs
Outpost's first Fall shows
With opener Lily Vakili
Saturday, Sept. 16, 8 p.m., the Guild Room
*Items collected for those
affected by Hurricane Harvey: shelf-stable food items, diapers, toiletries and cleaning supplies.
An evening with Nick Lowe
Saturday, Oct. 14, 8 p.m.
30th Anniversary Concert
Friday, Oct. 20, 7 p.m.
Marc Cohn and Valerie June, opener Ellis Paul
First Congregational Church
40 South Fullerton Ave.
By GWEN OREL
Gina Auriemma remembers when she first called the Outpost in the Burbs, many years ago.
She remembers because the person who picked up the phone not only told her how to get tickets, he also asked her why she was interested in the music and why she wanted to come.
That person turned out to be Steve Cutaia, the Outpost’s executive director.
“It felt very personal. Not like a show at the Garden, or anywhere else. It was very touching,” Auriemma said. “We’re a family. Everyone knows everyone.”
She and the Outpost’s board vice president, Gail Prusslin, who also heads promotion and publicity, reminisced about the past and talked about the future over coffee last week.
It’s a big year for the Outpost: it is turning 30. There will be a special anniversary concert on Friday, Oct. 20, with a split bill of Marc Cohn and Valerie June, and opener Ellis Paul, an Outpost favorite.
The Outpost’s season also includes Anthony D’Amato, Nick Lowe, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Ian Hunter, John Gorka and Laura Cantrell.
A past president of the Outpost’s board of trustees and a current volunteer, Auriemma has been working with the group for 17 years. But she began going to shows before that. The first show she saw was Cliff Eberhart.
“I will never forget it. I stood in line. They said, ‘Sorry, we’re sold out.’ Someone there had an extra ticket, and sold it to me for half of the face value,” Auriemma said, audibly impressed.
The spiritual attitude of the Outpost may be related to its origins in First Congregational Church, founded in 1987 as a “coffeehouse,” a musical venue to pass the hat, and draw people in.
Volunteers feed their soul at the Outpost, Auriemma said. She joined the organization after her father died, wanting to do something she enjoyed while giving back. She heard about an upcoming volunteer open house, and signed on. She did every volunteer job: ushering, cutting cake, selling merchandise.
The Outpost’s next open house will be at the end of October, Prusslin pointed out.
A volunteer form is always available at outpostintheburbs.org.
Before Prusslin began working with the Outpost, six years ago, she was a fan. “We moved here in ’97. My husband and I
went to almost every concert. It was music we really enjoyed, it was here in town, intimate, reasonably priced. It wasn’t until I got on the inside that I realized how much work it is,” she said, laughing.
Both Prusslin and Auriemma agree that the organization has changed over the years, but kept its feeling of intimacy.
A THREE-LEGGED STOOL
Prusslin said that there are about 100 active volunteers, not including the board and the committee heads.
Volunteers work in the soup kitchen too.
Community service is part of the Outpost’s mission: it works with Habitat for Humanity, Community Foodbank of New Jersey, Soup Kitchen Workdays, and Human Needs Food Pantry.
Auriemma, who runs the soup kitchen, said the Outpost “has always been about three things: music, community service, and helping the community come together in other ways, through activities, going to baseball games, theater, the movies.
“We’re a three-legged stool.”
Being able to feed those who are food insecure is part of the value of the Outpost’s activities, she said.
Volunteering was what made Auriemma feel welcome. In turn, she welcomes volunteers by hosting two parties at her home every year.
“We give them their own concert, and hire a musician to come. There’s food, fun, and all that jazz,” she said.
Prusslin said, laughing, “Shh, the performer is always a secret.”.
For Prusslin, volunteers are the core of the organization. That the Outpost is able to celebrate a 30th anniversary is largely a testament to them.
Over the years, the organization has become more professional, Auriemma said. “We’re a nonprofit, but we’re still a business. Now we’re a little bit different and sophisticated. We think about making big decisions, and have a strategic plan about how to move the Outpost forward.”
WHAT'S IN YOUR HEART
Of course, sometimes there are glitches in concert production.
Once, during a torrential rainstorm, a concert expected to have 600 people attracted only 300.
Prusslin recalled, “After Hurricane Sandy, we ended up opening the doors to anybody who wanted to come. We gave the show for free, but still had to pay the artist.”
“You assume everything’s going to go wrong, and when things go right, you have a reason to celebrate,” Auremmia observed.
Once in a while an artist gets stuck in traffic and comes late to sound check. Once, during a Steve Earle concert, it was uncomfortably hot.
But what keeps them both going is “what’s in your heart,” Auriemma said. “We do what we do for a great reason: for the love of music, of community, of the community service we provide. We don’t just show up because we have nothing to do on Friday night.”
Prusslin said that two couples have met at the Outpost in the past several years, at events she scheduled. “I’m happy to say that I now have a reputation as a matchmaker.”
“Artists always tell us how much they enjoy playing at the Outpost,” she said. “There’s a down-to-earth feel. It’s very professional, and very connected.”