For musician Jon Kiebon, performing is personal — not only because of his enduring love for music and songwriting, but also his love for his 25-year-old daughter Gail, who is on the autism spectrum.
“I always say I could never express my love for her in words, so I let the guitar do the talking,” Kiebon said.
Kiebon said he let the guitar do the talking in the best song he has written, an instrumental dedicated to his daughter simply called “For the Love of Gail.”
The singer-songwriter has long been a veteran of the open mic scene, both in his home state of New York and in Fayetteville, where he moved in June of 2021.
Kiebon, better known by his stage name Jammin’ Jon, said he has long tried to use his musical talent for good and a cause close to his heart, raising money and awareness for autism and autism organizations.
“The motivation behind this is personal as an artist,” Kiebon said. “But I always try to do some good with it.”
This June, Kiebon hopes to do just that with the inaugural Fayetteville Singer/Songwriters Festival, a three-day concert series featuring local musicians with all proceeds to be used for school supplies for special education teachers in Cumberland County.
“A lot of times, the classroom teachers have to lay out supplies and pay out of their own pocket,” Kiebon said.
Each day of the festival, organized in association with the Fayetteville Cumberland County Arts Council, will showcase local talent. Those attending can offer a $5 suggested donation to support the cause.
Jammin’ Jon’s Fayetteville Sing/Songwriters Festival will take place on three days in June. The festival will kick off on June 3 at the Arts Council. The concert will continue June 10 at Paul’s Place on 719 Starling Street, and on June 17 at Louie’s Pub on 2417 Robeson Street. All performances will last from 2 to 6 p.m.
After moving to Fayetteville almost two years ago during the height of the pandemic, Kiebon said he felt a bit of culture shock trying to adapt to the new area.
He said he found his footing participating in open mics as local businesses began opening their doors and easing restrictions, allowing him to meet and network with other like-minded local performers.
“It’s a struggle for me to pursue my love of performing, music, songwriting, guitar playing, whatever it is, but I still, whenever I could, tried to make the open mics ... and was definitely connecting with new musicians and songwriters all the time,” Kiebon said.
Kiebon said it can feel more difficult for local artists who create their own music to reach larger audiences, but hopes the upcoming festival helps to boost area talent while raising awareness for an important cause.
“That’s when I thought of this idea, and I said ‘it will help me get out there, keep me out there, and get other people (out there),’” Kiebon said.
Kiebon said he hopes the festival reminds artists to not give up on their dreams and their passions and encourages them to continue their craft.
“You’re never too old,” Kiebon said. “Never give up. Keep trying to get heard and get out there. And then I’m thrilled that I can try to tie it in again and raise some funds for autism awareness and for the dedicated professionals in the school system.”
The New York native hopes to continue the Fayetteville Singer/Songwriter’s Festival in the future, potentially considering seeking corporate sponsorship.
The June 3 performance will feature the musical talents of Jammin’ Jon, David Brown, the Untitled Lilly Sparkle Project and Tony Hirtz.
The Untitled Lilly Sparkle Project is the stage name for Katie Hamilton, a former Marine with hopes to attend UNC-Pembroke in the fall to complete her music degree.
Hamilton was born and raised in Lumberton, and is fairly new to songwriting, having begun writing only about a year and a half ago. Hirtz recently retired after serving in the military. He references classic rock, country rock, college or alternative rock, classic punk and Americana as his musical influences.
When not performing as a singer-songwriter in Fayetteville, Hirtz is part of the band Tidewater Valley based in Virginia. He allows his personal experiences to influence his writing. The June 10 show will offer performances from David Childers, Tricia DiLello, House and OT Hill.
Childers is a Gastonia native who came to the eastern part of the state in the 1970s. He pursued music on the side while spending 28 years as an educator for Cumberland County Schools. Upon retirement, the multi-instrumentalist began spending more time on his music.
Childers sites musicians such as Doc Watson, Creedence Clearwater Revival, REM, John Prine, Tony Rice, and Gordon Lightfoot as influences. He also plays guitar and serves as a backup vocalist for singer KasCie Page.
DiLello originates from the Elizabethtown area and said she enjoys pursuing storytelling through her Americana-styled songs. Hill has around 20 years of musical experience and regularly attends and participates in local open mic nights. He plays a variety of country and singer/songwriter music.
The June 17 show will include musicians David Sears, Denniz Cargile and Damien Lugo. Lugo, a visual artist and tattoo artist for Brighter Shade Tattoo in Fayetteville, labels his work as a “psychedelic folky project.”