Michael Embrey of DeKalb has always loved music and performances.
Embrey, a former musician and arranger for the United States Air Force Band and Drum Corps and a former director of the Northern Illinois University Marching Band, uses his experience in the music and entertainment industry to help organize events, both large and small through his business, FunME Events.
Embrey helps organize the BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival in Chicago each year and closer to home, he organizes Kishwaukee Fest, a week of events and entertainment, including concerts, food fests and a parade held the last week of July.
Music at the Mansion began four years ago as part of Kishwaukee Fest and has become a free weekly summer concert event. It will be held Wednesdays, June 12 through Aug. 7, at the Ellwood House, 509 N. First St. in DeKalb. A local band will perform at 6:30 p.m. with the main show starting at 7 p.m. Each week features a different musical genre.
Embrey also helped start Balloons, Brews and Blues, a new event that will feature hot air balloons, craft beer and live music. It will be held June 22 at DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport, 3232 Pleasant St. in DeKalb. Doors open at 3 p.m. with live music from Luxury Pork from 4 to 6 p.m., Johnny & the Boomers from 6 to 6:30 p.m. and the evening balloon glow at 8:30 p.m. Tickets cost $5 for adults; children 12 and younger enter free.
MidWeek reporter Katrina Milton met with Embrey to talk about upcoming events he helped plan, including Music at the Mansion and Balloons, Brews and Blues.
Milton: How did Music at the Mansion start?
Embrey: It started four years ago as a concert part of Kishwaukee Fest. Kishwaukee Fest was started eight years ago and is always held at the end of July. There’s an event every day of the week: Monday a youth concert, Tuesday a community band concert, Wednesday Music at the Mansion, Thursday a concert at the Sycamore Park District, Friday a parade, Saturday is now a food show and Sunday is the car show in Sycamore.
Milton: How are you involved in Kishwaukee Fest?
Embrey: I’m involved directly and indirectly. I helped create Kishwaukee Fest. Most of the events were already happening, I just tied them all together to create a week-long festival full of events.
Milton: What is Music at the Mansion?
Embrey: It’s become a very successful and popular music series at the Ellwood House every Wednesday in summer. At first, we wondered, “Will this work?” Now we know it definitely will. It started small, maybe 100 people or so at the first concerts. Now, concerts attract more than 500 people. Music at the Mansion has become tremendously successful.
Milton: Describe the atmosphere of the concert.
Embrey: It’s a Ravinia-esque kind of concert. You can bring food tables and chairs and candelabra – or just a blanket – and watch concert a concert on the front lawn of the Ellwood House. We have a permit from the city to allow beer and wine, so drinks are available for purchase. This year we’re trying something new by having light snacks, like little trays of cheese and sausage, available.
Milton: What time does Music at the Mansion start?
Embrey: At 6:30 p.m., local acts will play and the main show starts at 7 p.m. Having a local band perform before the main show starts gives the band exposure and gives the audience something to listen to as they arrive.
Milton: How would you describe the music?
Embrey: There’s something for everybody. There’s a different band and a different style of music every week. What makes the concert series different is that every week is a different genre of music, from country to blues, big band to salsa.
Milton: Tell me more about Balloons, Brews and Blues.
Embrey: It’s a brand new event at the DeKalb airport featuring live music, hot air balloons and craft beers from The Forge and Fatty’s [Bar and Grille]. It will be Saturday, June 22, held in partnership with the City of DeKalb. You can talk to hot air balloon pilots, see military vehicle display, hear live music and enjoy some beer.