Singer-songwriter Don McLean performed at Ball State University’s newly-opened Brown Family Amphitheater Sept. 2. The free performance was open to young and old fans alike with both BSU students and Muncie residents flocking to the venue.
The New York native’s show was opened by musicians Mike Martin and Jerry Barker. Barker is a 2019 Ball State graduate who has performed at Muncie venues like Be Here Now and The Fickle Peach.
“We’re children of the 60’s, and McLean was a big part of that,” said Jim Schrecongost, Muncie native and 1968 Ball State graduate. “This is a wonderful venue, by the way, and right where I once went to school.”
From his greatest hits to lesser known songs from his catalog, McLean strummed his way through his setlist with songs like “And I Love You So,” “Vincent” and “American Pie.” He also paid tribute to past artists who left their mark on American rock ‘n’ roll like Johnny Cash, whose song “Folsom Prison Blues” was played by McLean at the concert.
“American Pie” — released on a record of the same name in 1971 and McLean’s most popular song — held the No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1972 and set a record for the longest song (8:42) to hold the top spot for nearly a half-century. According to Billboard archives, McLean’s song wasn’t beat out until 2021 when Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well (Taylor’s Version)” took the spot for longest No. 1 hit.
“I thought it was really fun, especially the atmosphere just feeling like everybody was united for the amphitheater's first show,” Jennifer Avendano said. Avendano is a second-year Ball State student who double majors in animation and pre-law.
McLean was the first performer to take the stage at the new amphitheater. With a career spanning over 50 years, this show was McLean’s last in the Midwest before his tour picks up again in California later this fall.
Completed in Sept. 2023, the amphitheater came to fruition through a collaboration between the City of Muncie and Ball State. The amphitheater was announced in 2020 and built in the years following after a $2.8 million gift from Charles W. Brown was given to fund the outdoor performance and gathering space.
In an interview with the Ball State Daily News, mayor of Muncie Dan Ridenour said he wanted to bring McLean to Muncie after conversations with community leaders and discovering that McLean had an opening during his current tour. With the amphitheater opening and the original venue, Canan Commons, being booked, Ridenour had conversations with Geoffrey S. Mearns, president of Ball State University, to secure the new venue for McLean’s performance.
To make McLean’s Muncie concert free for concertgoers, a total of $45,000 of EDIT (Economic Development Income Tax) funds were put towards the show. Collected through Indiana state taxes, EDIT funds are allocated for opportunities to improve the economy. Ridenour said marketing expenses and other production expenses culminated in the $45,000 needed for the concert.
A grand opening for the venue will be held Sept. 19. Food trucks will be parked near the amphitheater starting at 6:00 p.m., and backstage tours will take place from 6-6:30 p.m. Following the ribbon-cutting ceremony, there will be a free jazz concert open to the community.