“Creating Our Community
20th Anniversary Series: Q&A with Bob McParland
To mark the Outpost's 20th anniversary of producing concerts, the Outpost Reader is profiling some of the earliest volunteers, whose ideas, nurturing, and leadership helped shape the organization we're proud of today. Bob McParland was one of those earliest volunteers to have a role in booking concerts. He served on The Outpost Board of managers and, as a singer-songwriter-guitarist, performed at The Outpost. Bob has also worked as a journalist, wrote several books and many articles, including several about literature and popular music.
What made you decide to join the Outpost?
I didn't so much "join" the Outpost as formulate the Outpost with Steve, Beth, Rich, Joyce and others. One morning Rich and I were walking past the windows of a church in Bloomfield when he mentioned the idea. Some people in Montclair had been discussing the idea, he said. I'd played a lot of coffeehouses and was immediately interested.
What were some of the goals or ideas that early members had for the organization?
Rich Pfeiffer once commented, "For many young adults, there is no place in their lives where they are truly known and accepted, no place where they can draw close without another pulling away, no place of hospitality." The Outpost was intended to be that place of welcome and belonging, a place of care and commitment and social concern...
How primitive were the early concerts? What was it like to learn concert production from scratch?
I think we need to chek our ideas of "progress." Sometimes simple is good and "primitive" societies have a lot to offer. We started with the singer-songwriter thing because we had access to this and it was affordable... We were grassroots and so was the music... It spoke to something we believed in: community, personal integrity, authenticity, commitment, and just good people. The Outpost is still about that.
When did you realize the concerts were starting to take on a life of their own?
When we moved some concerts into the larger space of the sanctuary. The booking was always something I did with Steve Cutaia. I remember being on the phone with an agent, Dave Tamulevich, and we worked out a package deal for John Gorka and Patty Larkin. They drew a crowd and it turned out pretty well for them and for us. We were booking "name" performers then. I think that was when we started making the turn and gaining momentum.
Any moments stand out for you at community service or social activities?
Habitat for Humanity in Newark was special: helping people make and build their homes and their future. It was good to present a musical production on Oscar Wilde's stories that I adapted in 1990, with music by Richard Shulman, and to work with Drew Willard and others on an interactive play. A place like The Outpost works best when people feel ownership and put their hearts and minds into making a contribution. Putting out a newsletter like this, helping out with an event, picking up a hammer for Habitat for Humanity: that's all part of it.”
The Outpost Newsletter "20th Anniversary Series"