The Cornerstone of Ft. Wayne’s Art Scene: a Conversation with the Embassy's Jonah Crismore
There’s no question that our arts community is right at the center of Fort Wayne’s incredible growth. And everyone would agree that at the center of our arts community is our beloved and historic Embassy Theatre.
Originally opened in 1928, the Embassy has played host to an extraordinary array of entertainment. From Vaudeville to silent movies, and from the Fort Wayne Philharmonic to Joe Bonamassa, there’s not much the Embassy hasn’t seen throughout its 9-decade existence.
Today, the Embassy continues to be our city’s powerhouse entertainment venue. And whether you enjoy its annual Festival of Trees or are catching your favorite performing artist, Chief Programming Officer Jonah Crismore is the man responsible for bringing it to our community.
As a musician himself, Crismore is passionate about maintaining the Embassy and Fort Wayne’s commitment to the arts. According to him, we’re on the cusp of some even bigger things!
Crismore was kind enough to take time from his busy schedule this holiday season to discuss the Embassy’s continued role as the centerpiece to Fort Wayne’s music and arts scene.
As Chief Programming Officer of The Embassy, you play a major role in the Fort Wayne arts community. Tell me a bit about your road to where you are today.
I am a long-time concert-goer, and I love being a part of the culture of live entertainment. I have always been very interested in the local music scene and actually sang in a band for a while.
Right before I started working at the Embassy, I was the executive director of Cinema Center. That helped me learn to program – and how to program for the benefit of the community. So, it was great becoming the Chief Programming Officer [at The Embassy] and getting to focus on those programming skills. I really love connecting the community to our historic building through our programming.
What is the Chief Programming Officer responsible for at the Embassy?
I am responsible for maintaining the programming calendar, as well as determining the direction of Embassy-originated programming, such as our film series, our organ programming, Summer Nights, Festival of Trees, and Down the Line.
Historically, the Embassy has been more of a rental house for promoters than a venue that brings its own programming. However, that is changing this season as we begin to program more of our own events.
The Embassy has been the centerpiece of the area’s arts scene for a long time. What do you think its role will be as the city rapidly expands into the future?
The Embassy is the best venue in Fort Wayne and nothing will change that. The Embassy is so entrenched in the history of the city, and so many fantastic acts throughout the twentieth and twenty-first century have performed here.
I also really believe the Embassy is the leader in regard to venue management and how it programs its acts. We are very much a wealth of resources for others in the live music/entertainment sphere. We understand completely that if the city is growing, that means the Embassy is growing.
Speaking of growing, some of the relatively recent programming additions to the Embassy include your rooftop lounge and your Summer Nights series. They’re a fantastic way to catch local music in a gorgeous environment and a great opportunity for local musicians to reach the community.
Our rooftop is a great component of our ballroom on the sixth and seventh floors. It has the best view of downtown Fort Wayne, and it is a great spot to take in some air, have a drink, and enjoy the summer in Fort Wayne.
Summer Nights is a weekly concert series that takes place in our Ballroom on almost every Wednesday from May to August. We try to program the series with local and regional musicians and bands.
The rooftop is also open, so audiences can experience that too.
If any local musicians would like to be considered for the upcoming Summer Nights series, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Local music is a big deal at the Embassy. Down the Line, for instance, is a popular celebration of pop music and local artists.
What other ways does the Embassy like to support the local music scene?
Down the Line is our biggest event with local music. However, we have several events throughout the year, including the upcoming Spring Forward Fest in March that will have local music as a large feature of it.
When there is a need for local music, we try to match the right local acts for the event.
The Philharmonic is also a major part of the city’s culture and is obviously tied to the Embassy. What does the Phil mean to the Embassy, and what do you think they add to the arts culture of the city?
Obviously, Fort Wayne is very lucky to have such an amazing and professional Philharmonic. We are really excited about the future of the Phil and the Embassy, and that is why we are partnering for the first time in a long period of years on a screening of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, with a live Phil concert with the film. The community is VERY excited for this partnership. And because of that, we are already talking about partnering in other ways in the future.
What other events are coming up for The Embassy that you’re excited about?
I am extremely excited for Neil deGrasse Tyson. He is doing a discussion all about science in the movies, and I think it is going to be a great opportunity for everyone in Fort Wayne to learn and to be entertained by this amazing scientist and performer.