Lundyville Music Hall
By Donna Kelly
Angel Fraley smiled broadly, stepped up to the microphone, strummed her guitar, and belted out a rousing rendition of “Me & Bobby McGee” suitable to make Janis Joplin proud.
When she finished, the silent audience of 50 or so seated in Lundyville Music Hall erupted into applause.
Fraley looked forward to the casual, friendly critique and camaraderie that would come a little later, along with a slice of homemade tie-dye colored cake.
“I have found a home here, an atmosphere that fosters musicianship,” says Fraley, who also plays the mandolin, and bodhran, an Irish frame drum. “I walked in here and they were immediately welcoming me.”
The 39-year-old Fraley, a marquee performer at Universal Studios, is one of the growing numbers of musicians frequenting Lundyville Music Hall, a gem that may well be Polk County’s best kept secret for music lovers. Located at 600 Lundy Rd. at Lake Juliana Boating and Lodging, a fish camp nestled between the lake and Interstate 4 outside Auburndale, Lundyville attracts a wide range of musicians, from the celebrated Jim Stafford to Glass House Point, an emerging indie folk/rock band of high school students – and everything in between.
“I was happy when I found this place,” says Fraley, who’d just moved to Lakeland from Chicago when she discovered Lundyville three years ago. “I was feeling lonely and isolated.”
Having performed in bands and in theater, Fraley was at home on stage – as long as she was part of a group. But going solo made her a bundle of nerves and the songs she wrote remained in her notebook, unperformed.
Encouraged by other musicians, today she’s not only performing solo with confidence, but she’s trying new music styles and singing her own songs.
“Coming here pushed me into that next level of ‘here I am,’” she says, adding that even experienced, well-known performers are friendly and helpful. “I pushed those boundaries. Everybody is supportive.”
Making Music and Friends
It’s nearly impossible to stumble upon Lundyville Music Hall, but regulars say it’s worth the effort to find it, whether arriving from the interstate or State Road 559 from Auburndale. Lundyville’s location just off these two roads makes it easy – and worthwhile – to get to for those who know where to look.
“When we first got to Lundyville, we felt like we fell off the map. Stepping back into another time, the 100-year-old fish camp was surreal, it felt like a perfect artist colony,” says Toni Brown, a professional musician and former publisher of the music magazine, Relix. Brown and her husband, Ed Munson, are familiar faces at Lundyville’s Open Mic Night. They were invited four years ago to the opening night of the Acoustic Stage by Lakeland singer/songwriter Phil Schneider, who started the weekly Open Mic event. “Beautiful Lake Juliana sets off the little community which houses a rec-room-turned-music-hall,” says Brown.
The fish camp, including the music hall, is owned by Michael Snow, who purchased the property in 2001. John Lange manages the place with a family-style atmosphere in mind. For folks who wish to relax a bit, cottage rentals are available for the weekend or the night. They opened the music hall in the small concrete block building five years ago, and added the acoustic stage a year later.
Lange stresses the fact that Lundyville is a music hall and not a lounge.
“It’s a place where people can play. It’s not a bar, but a listening room,” he says. “It’s a venue where musicians can fellowship and get together and play music.”
“The music thing,” as Show and Lange call it, started when songwriter Bonnie McMillian and tenant Larry Bryson started holding jam sessions in an unused cement block office building in the center of the camp.
They dubbed it Lundyville in honor of Emmett and Rula Lundy, who founded the fish camp in 1919.
“It started with six to eight of us just jamming. We’d put potluck on the table,” says Show. “We had at the most 10 people. It was amazing – people kept coming and the circle got larger. It just all came together.”
These days, the music hall houses a small snack bar where patrons can purchase hot dogs, hamburgers, candy bars, snack foods and sodas; a small shop offering antiques and memorabilia; and the listening room. Alcohol is not sold on the premises, but folks are invited to bring their own.
A recent publicity push brought more musicians and listeners to Lundyville, leading Show and Lange to make enhancements to the music hall, including new lighting, increased seating allowing for 125 people, and safety upgrades.
“It took on a life of its own,” says Lange.
For the Love of Music
Guitarist Ed Munson enjoys both performing onstage and listening to the music of others.
“The listening room atmosphere of the music hall is unmatched compared to anything that Toni and I have seen in Polk County, or Florida, or most anywhere we have played in the U.S.,” he says.
It’s small, intimate, and cozy. Seating is provided with several rows of folding chairs and a few re-purposed church pews. There are no fancy decorations but there’s good equipment, knowledgeable people to run it, and plenty of listeners who appreciate music.
During most weeks, visitors will find some sort of music happening at Lundyville on Wednesday through Saturday nights. Volunteer Janet Schneider, whose husband Phil serves as emcee, enjoys the listening room ambiance.
“I like music,” says Janet Schneider, who bakes cakes, maintains the Lundyville Facebook page, and makes photos and videos of performances. “I appreciate coming to a place where people aren’t blowing smoke in my face and I’m not fighting conversation.”
Open Mic Night on the acoustic stage begins at 7:30 p.m. each Wednesday and offers a performance opportunity to musicians and free entertainment for listeners. These are often themed events – Woodstock Night, Canada Night – and an upcoming celebration of cats – featuring theme-related songs and sometimes related attire. Janet Schneider often bakes cakes based on the theme.
Phil Schneider modeled the acoustic stage after the coffee houses of the 1960s.
“The Acoustic Stage is a place where musicians come to perform, where people actually listen. There is no bar or Kitchen noise, no TV’s with games on, no pool tables,” he says. “Experienced performers come to keep their chops up. Songwriters can try out their material. New performers can come and learn their craft.”
Musicians are welcome to sign up to perform three songs of their choice, a set-up Munson likes.
“The format of the open musician stage is such that, by being limited to three song sets, Toni and I have learned very well how to “hit the musical ground running” if we want to provide a full-on, energized performance,” he says.
Brown and Munson appreciate the full sound system, qualified sound technician Lange, and a venue dedicated solely to listening to and performing live music, which they say are rare for an Open Mic.
“There is no better place to focus so intently on the actual music and stage performance. Whether a beginner – young or old – or a seasoned veteran, you will step up to your best potential by being on a real stage, working with a real sound engineer, and being surrounded by supportive fellow musicians,” says Brown. “I have seen dramatic results in my fellow players, and in my own performance. Our fans see the results as well.”
Open Mic night normally draws 10 to 15 performers.
Country Night features music by the Simply Country Band, which Brown describes as “one of the finest groups of country players anywhere.”
With a $5 admission fee, the evening includes dancing, 50/50 drawings, a cakewalk, and special guest performers. “This is the best Thursday night entertainment value in Polk County,” says Brown.
Occasionally, special guest performers are featured on Friday. These have included such notables as Jim Stafford, the late George Hamilton IV, Joe Wright, and award-winning songwriter Ellen Bukstel. These performers typically draw audiences of 60 to 70 people.
The calendar also includes Karaoke Night at 7 p.m. every Saturday.
While a little profit is made on the concessions, the place survives on volunteer power and donations. With Lange being the only paid employee, expenses are kept low.
And when admission is charged, 80 percent of the proceeds go to the musicians.
“We don’t make much money, but we have a blast,” says Janet Schneider. “It’s developed into kind of a family.”
They Write the Songs…
“We put a lot of emphasis on original music,” says Lange.
He means it. Not only are musicians encouraged to play original songs on Acoustic Night, but also Lundyville hosts the Lakeland/Winter Haven Chapter of the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NASI) and an annual songwriting competition.
The NASI meets at 1 p.m. on the third Saturday of each month at the Lundyville Music Hall. The organization’s purpose is to protect the rights of, and to serve, aspiring and professional songwriters.
Here songwriters gather to talk about the craft of songwriting, critique each other’s songs, and learn tips to improve the listen-ability and salability of their songs.
“One only needs to have an interest in the mechanics of songwriting,” says Phil Schneider, who leads the group. “People who are serious about songwriting can improve their writing.”
Songwriters also have an opportunity to compete in the Lundyville Songwriters’ Contest. The only requirement is to have written a song. The competition rules are posted on the Lundyville Facebook page.
“The Lundyville Songwriters’ Contest is a chance for songwriters to have their material heard and put in competition in front of knowledgeable judges,” says Phil Schneider, who won the inaugural Lundyville Songwriter’s Contest in 2011. “It is amazing how many songwriters there are in the area and how high the quality of songs is.”
Last year the competition drew 37 entries from 17 songwriters. Each entry is performed on stage, but not necessarily by the songwriter.
For a $5 admission, people can listen to the songs begin performed.
“You get an entire day of music. We have so much raw talent in this area. It’s just fantastic,” says Janet Schneider. “Last year we had people bring lunch and scattered all over the place.”
She describes Lundyville’s offering as “a comprehensive music program.”
Whether they are professional performers or emerging musicians, Lundyville regulars use two words when discussing Lundyville: music and home.
“Lundyville fills a void for us when we’re not out working,” says Brown, adding that Lundyville provides an opportunity to work out new songs, learn different material, and meet other like-minded players. “It’s a musical home where we can continue to hone our craft, keep our skills sharpened, and surpass musical challenges.”
Lundyville is also growing and changing.
“No one genre of music is promoted. We’ve had country, folk, Americana, folk rock, classical and bluegrass. We had feature concerts with world-class performers,” says Phil Schneider. “Lundyville is developing into a music community.”
For more information about Lundyville Music Hall contact 863-984-1144 or visit Lundyville.com.