Clayton’s Concerts in the Grove promoter, Howard Geller, has retired after 16 very successful concert seasons.
“Good evening, Clayton!” bellows Geller, his signature greeting to start the night’s performance. He was the Master of Ceremonies and had a knack for getting the crowd involved and cheering for encores. The concerts were always a true labor of love for Geller.
In 2008, when the Clayton Grove Park was finished, Geller was the Mayor of Clayton. Being the force behind hiring bands for the Clayton Art and Wine Festival, he had an inspiration to create a concert series in the new park.
“I started the concert series to help the downtown businesses who were suffering at the time,” says Geller.
In a meeting with then City Manager, Gary Napper, Geller asked for $10,000 of redevelopment funds to create a new concert series. He indicated the Clayton Business and Community Association (CBCA) would match those funds. It happened.
That year Geller produced 12 concerts and his vision for Clayton became a reality. Geller produced the concerts, booked the bands, administered band contracts, and oversaw funding and advertisement.
With redevelopment monies no longer available and with the support of Councilwoman Julie Pierce, they started collecting funds from the audience and sought out sponsors to continue the concert series.
With the help of other community leaders, he walked around the park with the jug and collected money for future concerts. Thanks to their efforts, the support of the concert goers and charitable sponsors, they went into season 16 with a buffer of over $95,000 in reserves, according to Geller.
He designed a detailed spreadsheet showing how much he paid the bands; how much was collected in the donation jugs and assigned band ratings based on crowd responses.
Geller’s normal concert Saturday was to drop by the park in the morning after Councilmember Jim Diaz and his volunteer team set up tents, brought out garbage cans, put out cones, etc. Around 4:30 p.m. or so, he was back to make sure the dance floor area was ready, the band was tuned up and ready to go and everything was in place.
He made sure handicap attendees had a safe and unobstructed view to enjoy the concerts.
Geller established a VIP table for any sponsors coming to a concert. He also had a corded off lawn area for VIP sponsors and his family and friends. Once the concert began, he opened the area up for any latecomers needing a space to sit.
“I have to thank all my friends and volunteers who helped make these concerts so successful over the years. I really couldn’t have done it without them.”
The Clayton Concerts in the Grove became one of the icons of concerts in the Bay Area drawing people from near and far. The past few years, the concert attendance usually exceeded two thousand, a good place to hand over the reins.
“I am looking forward to retirement and traveling in my RV and spending more time with my grandchildren,” Geller says. “I will miss my interactions with the concert audience. Everyone was happy.”
The Clayton community and concert goers have extended their heartfelt gratitude for his many years of dedication to Clayton and the concerts. Many have expressed how much they will miss his style and flair as Geller could always be spotted in the crowd usually wearing his identifying black cowboy hat and boots. They hope his legacy will live on through music in the park.