By Scott Sechman
November 6, 2020
The widespread negative economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are touching one of the more endearing programs for young people on the Outer Banks.
The Mustang Outreach Program is a nonprofit organization that teaches local children the benefits and joys of playing, composing and performing rock ‘n’ roll music.
Founded by local music promoter Mike Dianna, it’s funded largely from private donations and two festivals he organizes annually, both of which were cancelled this year – the Mustang Spring Jam and more recently the Mustang Rock & Roast Festival in mid-October.
“The safety and well-being of our fans, musicians and staff is our top priority, and unfortunately things did not improve enough for us to hold the event we had planned,” Dianna said in a news release about the cancellation of the fall festival.
Both festivals are a major part of the growing Outer Banks music scene, drawing fans from all over North Carolina and southeastern Virginia by presenting top-drawer regional, national and internationally known performers. The influx of visitors to the area was a boon to the economic bottom line of Dare and Currituck counties.
The cancellation not only adversely effects peripheral businesses such as food, beverage and realty companies, but musicians and festival workers are also hard hit.
Since the Mustang program was founded in 2012, more than 80 percent of the funds needed to sustain it have come from the festivals and community concerts. That fundraising source dried up due to this year’s cancellations.
“We are looking forward to hosting our Mustang events in 2021 with hopes of gathering people together again,” said Dianna, also head of Bearded Face Productions, “but right now we ask everyone to show some love to the Mustang Outreach Program.”
Dianna asked those who had planned to attend the Mustang festivals to consider donating their ticket cost or a portion of their ticket cost to the program.
“Your generous donations will save this special program and allow us to help the kids keep making music,” Dianna said.
The Mustang program recently moved into a brick-and-mortar location at the Seagate North Shopping Center in Kill Devil Hills, next to Jubilee Music, where participants can go for instruction, rehearsals and other events.
Since the program’s inception, its students have performed at the Mustang spring and fall festivals, their annual Spring Concert Fundraiser, as well as various other events.
“We believe that musical education is critical to all children’s growth and development,” said program music director and administrator Ruth Wyand, also an internationally acclaimed blues woman and performer. “Since we started the Mustang Outreach Program in 2012, hundreds of children have learned to play instruments, compose songs, improvise, work together and jam.”
Want to help?
Those interested in supporting the Mustang Outreach Program can donate online at MustangOutreachOBX.org or at MustangMusicFestival.com.