Concert to benefit scholarship fund

Published 12:26 pm Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Ben Phelps Project will perform at the inaugural Amy Phelps Art Scholarship Benefit Concert. The event will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday, June 7, at the Rawls Museum Arts in Courtland. -- SUBMITTED

The Ben Phelps Project will perform at the inaugural Amy Phelps Art Scholarship Benefit Concert. The event will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday, June 7, at the Rawls Museum Arts in Courtland. — SUBMITTED

COURTLAND—To foster learning and keep alive a young woman’s name, the inaugural Amy Phelps Art Scholarship Benefit Concert has been organized. The event, sponsored by Rawls Museum Arts, will take place on Saturday, June 7, from 4 to 8 p.m. at the museum in Courtland. Featured performers will be the Ben Phelps Project and special guest, Bria Kelly.

Amy Phelps, who would have been 35 on June 11, was 23 when she died in an automobile accident. The scholarship was founded a year later, and $2,000 is presented to a local high school graduate who’s pursuing an art career.

Ben Phelps, her brother, spoke recently about the upcoming fundraiser.

“We’d been kicking it around for awhile,” he said. “It was probably my mom’s idea. She was definitely the one who pushed it to fruition.”

Tricia and Rod Phelps of Franklin are their parents.

When Ben Phelps remembers his sister, Amy, one thing that he recalls is how well she did anything she set her mind to doing. Learning is one example.

“I was really impressed with the ease she did things. She finished Longwood College in 3-1/2 years as an honor graduate, then went to work in Richmond,” he said, and that he was always impressed by her artistic abilities, particularly in graphic arts and music.

“She played piano and took lessons. She had the talent,” he added.

When he’s not teaching senior government at Windsor High School, Ben is playing with his band, The Ben Phelps Project.

Though the group’s officially been around since 2004, he was exercising his own musical abilities back at Virginia Tech.

“I started in Blacksburg in 1998 playing publicly. I got back here and put the band together with Andy Ritter, a friend, and began adding people. Now we’re at six pieces strong. We call it blues, jazz, funk, rock fusion. There are saxophones and lead guitars that solo and play in tandem. We focus on original music and have two albums. I play rhythm guitars and sing.

“We’ve played a lot of places and for a lot of people,” said Phelps, who is the primary songwriter. “My band, The BPP, has toured regionally for the last 10 years and has shared the stage with national acts such as B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Colbie Callait, Michele Branch, Toad the Wet Sprocket, The Romantics, Cracker, Pat Mcgee and Carbon Leaf. We have a steady diet of shows coming up with our annual end of season show at the 41st Annual Neptune Festival in September.”

As mentioned earlier, Bria Kelly will also sing.

“We’re lucky that Bria’s going to donate her time for such a good cause. We’re excited about her coming,” he said.

Most recently, the Smithfield native was featured on NBC’s “The Voice,” where she was a semi-finalist. Even before that, Kelly had auditioned for the network’s “America’s Got Talent.”

The 17-year-old’s singing career began as far back as 8 when she sang in elementary school chorus. Three year later, she was performing the national anthem at local sporting events, and even went national at a televised Philadelphia Eagles football game and Baltimore Orioles baseball game. She’s done the same at concerts featuring country music stars, such as Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts, Miranda Lambert and Josh Turner.

Bria’s also gone on to form The Bria Kelly Band.

Ben Phelps estimates that with 300 to 400 people attending the concert next Saturday, they could bring in $2,000 with admission and extra donations.

“If we get more, it’s always good,” he said.

Tickets are $10 at the gate and are not being pre sold, but will be available on a first-come first-served basis.

Kid activities, face painting, corn hole, slides provided by Wayne Cook, hot dogs, chips and drinks all included while supplies last.