ROCKchester creator wants this summer's festival to be 'the talk of the town'
Young musicians, take note of the work being done by Dylan Hilliker. The John Marshall grad is the founder of ROCKchester, a local arts and music festival that gives a spotlight to young musicians and artists from throughout the region. Hilliker started the festival in 2016 with the hopes of showcasing a few local bands. Now heading into its third year, ROCKchester's stage contnues to grow as the event solidifies itself as one of the city's most dynamic musical experiences. We recently had the opportunity to catch up with Hilliker, who along with a team of volunteers, is organizing this year's two-day event at Pure Rock Studios in Rochester.
Q: What do you have planned for ROCKchester 3.0?
A: This year we're hoping to make ROCKchester the talk of the town. We have more talent than ever, more art influencing the event than ever, and are working towards making the festival an exclusive, experience-driven event that appeals to anyone in town that loves live music and/or local art.
Q: Now in your third year, how has the event grown?
A: The festival has grown because the talent level has grown. We've broadened our scope this year, adding regional bands and even some talent from across the Mississippi (WI) and relaxed the age limit so that more established groups can be a part of the festival and join the community that we are cultivating here. Additionally, the festival has added a whole bunch more acts so we will switching from a one-day to a two-day format.
Q: Is the success of the festival something you ever imagined when your first started it?
A: No, but I find that with running a festival success is derived in the mini-achievements on the way. I've found that I am more fulfilled when an artist feels like they are part of the community we are building here than any ticket sales or attendance numbers. Hell, when people stood for Vansire, our headliner last year, I knew we were doing something special because that never has never happened to a show I have been at in Rochester. It's all in the little things and the relationships I've gotten to cultivate keep me working hard to make this festival the best for both the artists and the community.
Q: What does the festival mean for young musicians?
A: I think this festival really gives young musicians the chance to see where the level of talent is at within the broader arts ecosystem. The festival has always been about showcasing the best young talent MN has to offer and in effect that is motivating young local musicians to come out of the woodwork and really start pursuing music seriously. One of the reasons why it is so important that we get to host the event at Pure Rock Studios is that all the young musicians are able to in attendance and have that experience of playing with some of the biggest local and regional artists in MN. It's a paradigm shift that we're experiencing in our arts community here in Rochester; we're starting to realize that the creative arts are something to be taken seriously and that we want professional musicians and artists in our community. We've had this issue as a community about the lack of things to do in our town and I think art and music have filled those gaps.
Q: Tell us about this video series you're working on. Who's being featured?
A: I had been feeling very isolated in my position especially in the last year of the festival; I was trying to do everything by myself. This year, I knew I needed to make an effort to allow people in on the process so I put together a group of friends to help me plan the festival. One of them threw out in our group chat this idea that "Music is people". That phrase stuck with us and informed this video series. In summary, we took a ROCKchester artist — past or present — and put them in a local setting that they are most known for or most associated with. The shots are unstable at times, the sounds captured aren't perfect but it is a deeply personal, intimate moment with a local talent that embodies the human quality of creating and sharing art. Additionally, it's a way of interpreting our surroundings — as mundane as they sometimes appear — as something special and creative and magical. It's the idea that place informs a person's experiences and so do other people.
Q: What does the future hold for ROCKchester?
A: Right now, we're taking it year by year and seeing what comes of each. Hopefully, we can continue being an annual event to showcase the immense talent we have in and around Rochester and encourage kids to keep pursuing the arts if that's where their passion lies.
ROCKchester is scheduled for June 1 & 2 at Pure Rock Studios in Rochester.