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Gasparilla Music Festival: The Founders on a Tampa Tradition

Gasparilla day parades are behind us. Gasparilla season: still going strong. Families who like setting their Gasparilla spirit to music are in luck. Gasparilla Music Festival takes center stage, March 9th and 10th, 2019 at Curtis Hixon Park. Stay tuned for details from my conversation with one of GMF’s founders, Grymes Cannon.  


Grymes with his wife Lauren on left.

Grymes isn’t a musician. His most poignant musical memories involve dancing to ballroom music with his grandmother. His first concert, Cyndi Lauper, with his childhood babysitter, is a close second. What he and GMF’s other founding members, the Ring of Fire, share is deep passion for Tampa, arts and culture, and education. The group wrote their ideas on a cocktail napkin, pitched them to locals, and secured seed money to support execution of the vision. Since 2011, GMF has grown exponentially—securing headliners like The Roots and The Avett Brothers. GMF is about more than big name acts, though. The festival is the main arm of the Gasparilla Music Foundation, a Florida 501(c)-3 non-profit corporation whose aims include supporting each local musicians, food, and music education: “We are doing all of this for Tampa Bay,” expressed Grymes.    


Grymes is proud of GMF’s incredible outreach. Through its Recycled Tunes program, the Foundation supports music education in Tampa schools: “Instead of technology, we’re putting instruments in kids’ hands.” GMF focuses on working with Title 1 schools. Crestwood Elementary is an example. Prior to help from GMF, the music teacher had 1 guitar for every 4 of his 38+ students: “Seeing the Foundation’s positive impact is incredible,” noted Grymes. Recycled Tunes’ Jamie Zinober was recently visited by a student who was given an instrument by the Recycled Tunes Program; Jamie shared he’s now on his way with a high school scholarship for his ability to play the trumpet and will be the first person from his family to attend college. “We’re focused on keeping a sustainable music festival in Tampa, but everything we do is driven by determination to do the best we can from a community standpoint,” explained Grymes. Stories like these make GMF’s positive community impact apparent. As does JudyAnne Jackson’s: a 10-year-old who got her start with GMF and has performed at venues like Madison Square Garden. To date, GMF’s local arm has made over 350 paid gigs a reality for musicians.     


Gasparilla-Music-FestivalPart of GMF’s impact is the experience it provides for children and adults alike: “The festival is all about the experience,” believes Grymes—who had his first date with his wife at GMF. “Each year, I look forward to all of the new faces entering the gates.” Grymes supports making the festival a family affair because it provides a sense of camaraderie, allows kids to interact with instruments, and gets everyone in touch with arts and culture: “It’s unreal to see the kids illuminate.” Grymes explained the myriad methods families follow for the full festival experience: “Some ride bikes. Some bring the kids during the day and come back without kids at night. GMF is customizable depending on a family’s wants.” For many kids, GMF is their first concert experience—what an unforgettable gift: “Each year, we work on fine tuning attendees’ experience.”  


GMF’s leadership is intent on keeping tickets affordable so that the experience is feasible for families from all socioeconomic backgrounds. All of the Foundation’s board members are volunteers and Higher Ground memberships support both low-ticket prices and the Recycled Tunes program. Your volunteer efforts can help. In exchange for a four-hour shift, festival volunteers receive a free ticket to GMF. There’s a volunteer party and several volunteers have worked their way up to volunteer captain status, eventually becoming Board Members. GMF recognizes the importance of reciprocity; GMF relies on volunteer efforts and GMF leadership supports local organizations: “We’re always at Onbikes and the Gasparilla Distance Classic. We’re purposeful in cheering on our community,” stated Grymes. The intentionality with which GMF executes its plans has helped the festival attain global recognition: “From the festival, to the production arm, and the Recycled Tunes program, GMF is a great success story.”  


I can’t imagine a world without music. I’m thankful GMF is committed to putting great, live music on the local stage, helping Tampa’s kids receive exceptional music education, and nurturing arts and culture in our area. Take the family to GMF this March 9th and 10th—everyone can march to the beat of their own drum.     

Related: Gasparilla Music Festival Kids Fest: A Sweet Rush of Music to the Head  

Get In Tune with Gasparilla Music Festival 

Laura Byrne
Laura Byrne
Laura Byrne is an award-winning former television news journalist who spent 15+ years in newsrooms across the state of Florida including Sarasota, Tallahassee, Fort Myers and right here in Tampa Bay where she still freelances on occasion. She covered the political beat, crime beat and every day breaking news during her time in Florida newsrooms, but is now focused on sharing positive news stories and events with families in Tampa Bay. She is a proud mommy of two little boys who keep her on her toes and laughing every day. Her goal is to inspire families just like yours to get out and play and experience all that Tampa Bay and our great state of Florida have to offer! She encourages you to share your stories and upcoming events so we can spread the good news.

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