There’s a new place to hear live music in Centre County, featuring all original tunes

Mount Nittany Vineyard and Winery in Centre Hall will introduce a new music series this fall, Happy Hour on the Mountain.
Mount Nittany Vineyard and Winery in Centre Hall will introduce a new music series this fall, Happy Hour on the Mountain. Photo provided

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the disparate, sometimes tense relationships between playing primarily original music and primarily other musicians’ songs. It sparked a lively debate on social media, and many people were able to share their views about the topic.

At the heart of the conversation are the places that employ musicians, because they get to decide what kind of act gets the gig, so I appreciate the opportunity to write about a new music venue coming down very clearly on one side of the discussion: Mount Nittany Vineyard and Winery.

“We are excited to introduce a brand new music series featuring original music by local artists, Happy Hour on the Mountain,” Mount Nittany Winery owner Linda Weaver said in an email.

Happy Hour on the Mountain will take place from 5-7 p.m. on four Friday nights this fall: Sept. 28, Oct. 12, Oct. 26 and Nov. 9. The dates correspond to home games for Penn State football.

The original music component is what sets Mount Nittany Winery apart locally. Weaver is only hiring musical acts that will play 100 percent original music, she’s doing so for a few reasons, including supporting the local scene and eliminating the possibility of crossing paths with the live music copyright watchdog BMI.

“I became aware that there were limited venues available for local musicians who want to play their own music,” Weaver said, “that, in fact, local venues often dictate what music is to be played. We just want to support the creative process by providing an outlet and audience for these musicians.”

Mount Nittany Winery is a beautiful venue for music, situated between Boalsburg and Centre Hall on ample acreage constituting a private, lush, rolling landscape, complete with a pond, ample parking, a banquet facility and a retail shop.

“We offer a scenic, peaceful setting here on the side of Mount Nittany,” Weaver said. “Our customers just love spending time here. Enjoying the ambiance of our location while sipping on a glass of wine or beer and being able to listen to local artists play their own music is what we think our customers want.”

With the music, wine and prime location in place, the only thing left to do is to provide food, and Weaver went with Meghan McCracken, who rolls out the good eats with her earthy and always evolving Nomad Kitchen Food Truck.

“We are delighted to have Nomad Kitchen Food Truck on-site during these Friday nights and look forward to Meghan’s creative offerings,” Weaver said.

Nomad Kitchen is a great choice, because McCracken syncs with the vibes of the original music and entrepreneurial scene, creating recipes from scratch and rarely making the same food twice, which means a whole lot of artisan food choices will be offered throughout the fall.

“I’ll be serving a menu with local fresh seasonal food with a new menu each week at the winery,” McCracken wrote in an email. “I will be the only food vendor there and will set up like I do at farmers markets, allowing people to pay for individual items, and they will purchase drinks from the winery.”

If all goes well, this is only the beginning. Like all things local, it will take the community to really help it take off, and hopefully the community will rally around this new, unique offering.

“We will see what response we get from this fall music series and consider a spring series if this goes over well,” Weaver said. “I have already been contacted by several local musicians who have expressed an interest in participating.”

Artists including Raven and the Wren, Blind Horse Wagon, Eric Ian Farmer and Chris Rattie are slated to kick off the fall series.

“Our mission really is to produce really good wine served up by a professional, friendly staff in a place that people enjoy and want to come back to,” Weaver said. “It’s as simple as that. We want our vineyard and winery to provide an authentic taste of central Pa., with all wine made on our premises, local food and gift items available and original music played by local musicians.”

Kevin Briggs is a musician, writer and teacher who performs at venues throughout central Pennsylvania. Contact him at KevinTBriggs@gmail.com.