I first spoke with TechFest’s lead man, Bill Bourke, several years ago when the festival was in its infancy. Since that time, he has grown the festival — including many new acts — with seasoned and learning experiences and situations to match. Having known Bill since he was old enough first to tune guitars in his father Dennis Bourke’s studio back in the mid-1990s, I knew that his passion for music and teaching would result in magical results, and his dreams are finally becoming realities.
The 2018 TechFest 8 lineup is looking great! They have got some cool bands from all over the East Coast. The TechFest crew has been working hard to expand their network and reputation. This year’s show includes bands and artists from New Jersey, Philadelphia, Staten Island, and Maryland. Asbury Park’s Deal Casino will be headlining the show this year. The lineup includes a bunch of current and former student artists as well, which is very rewarding for TechFest and Bourke.
TechFest has a challenge grant offered by The Jay & Linda Grunin Foundation this year for Tech Fest 8. Jeremy Grunin is willing to match TechFest contributions up to $10,000. This event is an excellent opportunity to increase the education-based scholarship fund.
Evan Kirkendall — who is a good friend of Zack Slater and has worked with him in the past in the live sound touring field — will be involved with his company Harford Sound, who will be donating the sound and lighting for the TechFest mainstage.
Mary Ann Fekete is a former student, a TechFest social media Guru, and Technical Director for the Groove dance competition. Through her assistance and coordination, they will be donating additional lights for the festival mainstage, and will be providing the actual stage for their side stage.
The TechFest audio program is now part of the Performing Arts Academy; a full-time, four-year high school program. Bourke is excited about this. This is their first year in which TechFest brought in freshman audio students; middle school students apply, and they audition them for the program. It’s been a tremendous and successful situation so far. TechFest is looking forward to creating the next generation of talented audio engineers.
TechFest is also getting a new school built for them on the campus of Ocean County College. They are going to have a brand-new studio facility and are looking forward to it. They will no longer have to deal with the gate at the military base anymore so that the staff will be bringing in many more guest artists in the future. This is another colossal reward for all the hard work and success that has happened over the years.
I spoke to Linchpin Bill Bourke recently and asked him a few questions about TechFest and its exciting history.
How did TechFest get started?
Tech Fest started as a “tech club” to learn more about live sound and lighting. It was a chance to also goof around and for the kids to grow socially a little bit more: To get together and have fun. Then we hosted our first “acoustic night” with five acts. From there we expanded our lineup and stages, and over the years it’s turned into what TechFest currently is.
What has been the most satisfying aspect of heading the festival for you over the years?
The final product is satisfying. Seeing everyone happy for so many various reasons. The community enjoys the event. The students on stage are given a great opportunity. Our tech students are given an experience behind-the-scenes. TechFest is there to showcase the talents “on-stage and off stage” equally while proving that students can run a successful event and don’t have to be 18, or 21, or graduated from college. I enjoy telling people about TechFest and what it does for the students, school and education, and community. I am satisfied when people believe and appreciate in the TechFest cause.
What bands have gone on to bigger and better things since starting with TechFest?
Tech fest has been a growth. It is still in its early stages (in my opinion). So, we are still yet to see the ultimate answer of “what TechFest” does for students and bands. But since you asked, we’ve had some notable success over the years. Wicked Hollow, Skyeline, Rose Adelia, Julie Murtha, are a few of the artists who have prospered from TechFest. Two of our former students, Nick Schmidt and Billy Nally, are currently in the band, The Wrecks. I believe TechFest helped guide those boys into that opportunity.
How much money has been raised over the last eight years and who benefits from it?
Oh man, I forget the exact details; but we’ve raised over $35,000 in the past seven years. We continue to grow. Each year we give out two scholarships to our students. I believe last year we gave out two $3,000 awards. This year, we are working with Jeremy Grunin of the Jay & Linda Grunin Foundation. Jeremy is offering us a challenge grant and will match our money raised up to $10,000. Hopefully that’s an exciting opportunity to grow our scholarship fund. I love giving out money to students. That is my most satisfying thing about TechFest.
Do you see TechFest going on the road someday?
I would love to see Tech Fest go on the road. One of my plans is to travel to different schools and use TechFest as a way to educate students on how to host and operate a festival-style concert, which could generate scholarships for other schools. What we do is unique, and it also gives scholarships to students; and raises awareness of the music and arts.
Do you find yourself turning away bands due to lack of space and time?
Yes, yes and yes. This year, we had almost 50 band submissions and inquiries. We are trying to expand TechFest and our opportunities, so we work with more people and towns to provide more shows and opportunities for artists, students and the community.
Tell me about the new facilities being built for TechFest students?
There is a new facility being built for our Performing Arts Academy at the Ocean County College campus. We will be getting a new state-of-the-art facility. Zack Slater and I have been very hands-on with the design process. The new school will be in a great location and have an impressive facility that we are very excited about. I am very proud of what we have achieved, and I believe my father would be very proud of what we have done to continue to grow the program and opportunities.
What will 2019 hold for TechFest and your students?
I’m still looking for that “mega band” that wants to become a part of TechFest and who believes in our purpose and mission. I’d love to have a mega band help us with raising our professionalism, our attendance, our reputation, our scholarship goals and the once in a lifetime experience that TechFest is.
Bottom line, I want to try harder than any other teacher. I want to change kids’ lives. I want them to remember this as one of the best things ever in their life. Making memories will have a lasting impact forever in a child’s brain. I’ve always loved music and hosting a good event. TechFest is still a way for me to do that while teaching young students the right way to do it.
TechFest 8 starts this Saturday, April 14 at 1 p.m. TechFest is in Brick, NJ at the Brick Presbyterian Church, 111 Drum Point Road. For more information head over to techfestmusic.com.