It's not easy for Aaron Gomes to ask for money.
He hasn't done it in the 10 years he's been promoting art, music and cultural events in Visalia.
Even when the city of Visalia saw fit to help him start the nonprofit Sound N Vision Foundation five years ago, he never held a proper fundraiser.
"It's never been a money maker, and it never will be," says Gomes, a 38-year-old schoolteacher who started booking indie-rock shows with his wife with money out of their own pockets. Promoting concerts has always been a risky game.
"It's getting harder to make the numbers side make sense," Gomes says.
The music industry is changing and the caliber of performer he could get for $2,000 five years ago now costs $10,000.
So last week, SNVF launched a crowd-funding campaign via the website indiegogo.com. The campaign, which runs through Aug. 23, seeks to raise $6,000 to help offset some of the cost of doing business.
If you need to qualify what the foundation has done in the last 10 years, let me throw some names at you: Bon Iver, Vampire Weekend, Foster the People and Modest Mouse.
I could also add Billy Corgan, Thurston Moore, M. Ward, Jake Shimabukuro, Leo Kottke and hundreds more.
Gomes and the organization have hosted more than 1,000 shows, some with bands that were (and still are) by rights too big to be playing such a small market. These are bands that sell out 1,000-seat theaters in major markets like San Francisco and Los Angeles.
"Fresno is considered a secondary market, and Visalia is smaller still," Gomes says.
But Sound N Vision Foundation has brought them here. The bands came to Visalia because of the relationships Gomes created over the years. They keep coming because of the community of fans that support the shows, Gomes says.
If this was just about keeping Visalia's hip music scene alive, that would probably be enough. But SNVF has always been a strong community partner. It works with the Tulare & Kings Counties Suicide Prevention Task Force on the annual Festival of Hope, and it runs a series of music and art classes each summer where kids learn to play guitar or drums.
The classes are free and tend to fill up as quickly as they are announced, Gomes says. He's sure the program can be expanded to a year-round schedule. Money from the campaign will buy instruments.
"As you get older, you find more value in the next generation," Gomes says.
For some of these kids, the foundation is the only thing keeping them sane. Gomes knows this because they tell him.
That should be worth something — something definitely worth supporting.