Third annual NolanFest returns ‘bigger and better’

Jul 16, 2023

MARION — The sound of music could be heard across Silvershell Beach on Saturday, July 15 as young musicians took the stage at the third annual NolanFest.

NolanFest honors the life of 15 year-old Nolan Gibbons, a young musician and Old Rochester Regional High School student from Marion who died suddenly in 2020.

“Initially this was a memorial service as a way to celebrate Nolan’s life,” said Nolan’s mother Sheila Gibbons. “And it’s a little bit of a birthday party for Nolan, that’s how we think of it because his birthday was Wednesday. He would be 18.”

This year’s NolanFest represents an “evolution” for the event, said Nolan’s father Warren Gibbons.

During last year’s event, NolanFest raised money to provide scholarships and grants to young musicians across the country. This year, things came full circle as the same scholarship recipients took the stage.

Aside from covering the cost of NolanFest, which can be over $6,000, said Sheila, all the proceeds made from donations and merchandise sales go back toward the Nolan Gibbons Scholarship Fund. There is no cost for entry to NolanFest.

“We love the idea of NolanFest being this free public music festival for anybody who wants to come,” said Sheila.

The two scholarship recipients attended the online Music Career Mastermind Program, an online course that coaches young musicians in music production and songwriting under the instruction of Grammy award winning musicians.

According to Sheila, Nolan attended this program.

“Last year our dream was to raise money so we can support these other young people,” said Sheila. “We know what it’s like to raise a kid who is musical.”

One musical kid who took the stage was Jorge Carrillo, a Marion resident and rising senior at Old Rochester Regional High School.

Carrillo is the drummer in the band Glass Cannon and is a recipient of a scholarship to the Music Career Mastermind Program.

The program was “really fun, it was a few months [long] and they taught me a lot about stuff like marketing and songwriting,” said Carrillo. “It was really cool to work with Grammy award winners. It was a really crazy experience but I’m really thankful for it and I got a lot from it.”

Other scholarship and grant recipients who played at the third annual NolanFest included Liliana Moreno-Cornejo, Molly Dupre, Katelyn Craig, Riley Miller, Joe Connally and Kerry Driscoll.

This year’s NolanFest also had food trucks, craft vendors and NolanFest merchandise.

“I feel like it gets bigger and bigger every year,” said Sheila.

However, the event is always “a little bittersweet,” said Warren. “Now it’s a little less bitter, we’re getting more comfortable.”