Tara Viland is spunky and passionate about her love for Chattanooga. She has spent most of her life in the service and entertainment industries, doing everything from slinging beer to producing a radio talk show to managing events. Her heart for the growth of Chattanooga is especially fond for those in the music industry as she works closely with Carla Pritchard at Granfalloon, where she serves as the manager/event coordinator and Chattanooga Presents as the Beverage Manager.


Gerleen: What did you do in college that lead to the line of work you do now?

Tara: I started interning at the Pulse as a writer and music calendar organizer while I was a student at Chatt State in the media program. The college radio station transitioned from FM broadband to the online digital world. Everybody left my first year in the program because they didn’t believe that people would listen to online radio. Pretty much everyone except two hosts quit so I had this strange opportunity in my first year of radio class to be thrown into the radio host position for a local and regional show. I got the opportunity to interview some interesting people like Strung Like a Horse and Nick Lutsko when he was in the band Infinite Orange. Along the way I’ve met many cool people and grown with them. That was my introduction into everything, and now I’m managing Granfalloon.


Gerleen: At what point did you start working at Chattanooga Presents?

Tara: I started working for Carla Pritchard at Chattanooga Presents about two years ago. I came on as a beverage manager for Nightfall, where I maintained staff and onsite logistics. From there on I did the first two seasons of Nightfall, the Three Sisters Festival, and any events that they needed help with. The company owns the Clearstory building where Chattanooga Presents and Granfalloon are located, so when the previous owners of Granfalloon moved onto other projects Carla approached me about managing the space as she transitioned it from a coffee shop space into an event space. I have over a decade of experience in the service industry so between that, my love and passion for music, and the connections I’ve made it was an easy transition to build from the bottom up as we rebranded. It’s been a year and a half and we’ve had events ranging in size from 20-500 attendees. It’s been interesting to see it develop.


Gerleen: How have you seen the music industry develop as you’ve worked alongside it in the service industry?

Tara: I think it’s a lot more collaborative. It’s exciting for me to see the younger generation work together with programs like undaground and SoundCorps because it seems like everyone is working towards the same goal. I dip between multiple networks at different levels and everyone wants to create a product that is enjoyable, sustainable, and builds the community.

There have been changes that we need to learn and grow from like the closing of Rhythm and Brews. I really see the need for a mid-sized venue in the 200 range. I’m hoping that Granfalloon can transition towards that spot, but it’ll take some work. The music industry has changed because it’s so risky. We have really nice, small places where you can make a nice cut and then we have really big places that require thousands of attendees. It’s risky to host a show because it costs money to open doors and put bar staff on. I think that everyone needs to re-evaluate what their risk factors are or understand them. It’s constantly changing. You’re not going to get a flat rate of $800 to play a gig because nobody in this town has enough money to put that down for a band if they don’t have people turn out. Chattanooga is starting to get trained to the idea that they have to spend $10 at least for up to three bands instead of spending that on two drinks at Starbucks. Nobody is getting money out of playing music if the audience doesn’t pony up and pay to attend concerts. We must learn how to appreciate and compensate our musicians in town if we want a vibrant music scene.


Gerleen: What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned as you’ve worked in the service industry?

Tara: Never burn any bridges. Always be kind and genuine in what you do. If you’re not, you’ll be found out real quick because this is such a small city. Not that everyone doesn't make mistakes, but you should continually try to learn and grow from them. Be a connector. I wish there was more of an opportunity to network in the area of business that seems out of place, with tattooed men and women in suits and ties. I think that’s growing, but I’d really like to see a monthly networking event for people where musicians can come chat and not be pressured to pay a ticket.


With Tara's permission, she allowed me post-interview to announce that she will be leaving Granfalloon at the end of the month to return to her freelance roots. Tara, Chattanooga is grateful for your contributions to the people and growth of this city. Best of luck on your exciting new adventures.


Photo credit: Facebook