Cellar Collective: Creating a Stage for Local Talent

There’s no mistaking the fact that passion breeds results. Jennifer Maynord created the Cellar Door Music Group, a blog-turned-bigtime-support-system that advocates for local, burgeoning artists. Calling Cellar Door a promotion...

story by Emily Hopkins | photos by Maddie Denton

There’s no mistaking the fact that passion breeds results. Jennifer Maynord created the Cellar Door Music Group, a blog-turned-bigtime-support-system that advocates for local, burgeoning artists. Calling Cellar Door a promotion company isn’t quite right, though; it’s so much more than that. The Cellar Door team books venues as disparate as Paramount Theater in Film Row to a church stage Uptown. They manage events and work with sponsors to constantly up the ante of the music experience here.

“We really try to support original music,” Maynord said. “Artists who are already doing things for themselves, who are really pushing themselves on their websites or on social media, who are really trying to do it professionally—we just give them that extra support.”

Local musicians love them back, like OKC-based rapper Jabee Williams, one of Maynord favorites. Jabee’s the type of person who will shoot over a simple text to invite someone to his birthday party.

“I just love the vision and encouragement they give Oklahoma music,” Williams said. “I’ve been able to build relationships with other local bands and get help pushing my music because of them. Cellar Door is really helping to build a community.”

Local singer-songwriter Rachel Brashear, so different stylistically from Jabee, but part of the Cellar Door cohort. Her debut album, Songs from a Cave, dropped in July and is a true indication of the kind of fresh, raw talent that lies just below the city’s surface. 

Her living room vibe, that personal connection that’s immediately felt as the chords of the ivory keys meld with her crooner’s vibrato, was perfect for Music at the Mansion, Cellar Door’s intimate series using the Overholser Mansion as a backdrop. After the success of last July’s show, Brashear was keen to add Cellar Door shows to her regular rotation.

“The sound was great, the vibe was great and they were on top of promotion,” she said. “They made my job easy. Since then I’ve found new fans and met other artists, and I love seeing new, creative shows pop up in the OKC area. All of these things are improving the local scene.”

Graham Colton’s Fanswell booking platform also contributes. Colton helped Cellar Door get off the ground after meeting Maynord at 2014’s Peace, Love and Goodwill Festival.

Cellar Door focuses on signing on new talent and finding fresh, hip places to put on a show. Case in point: The Crown Jewel Amphitheater, formerly the Jewel Box Theater, an abandoned 3,000-seat space near First Christian Church on N. Walker at 36th. The church, along with volunteers from Harding Fine Arts Academy, recognized the amphitheater’s potential as a gathering place for the community, scrubbing off the grime from decades of neglect to reveal a shiny blank slate ready for new life. That was the genesis of the Cellar Door series Edgemere Under the Stars, which kicked off in September.

“A lot of people don’t even know the amphitheater exists,” Maynord said. “But once they experience a concert there, they just love it. There’s trees all around it, and it really provides an intimate atmosphere even though it seats thousands.”

The block party-esque atmosphere at Crown Jewel contains echoes of simpler times—people from the surrounding neighborhood coming out on a weeknight, kicking back with a locally brewed beer, and watching the kids run around up front. Word of mouth breathes life into events like this, as do sponsors who often act as the saving grace in the form of local revenue and support.

Making money is a necessity, sure, but the good of the artists is Cellar Door’s primary concern. As a collective that started from an artist’s perspective, they understand the hard work that’s required and never ask anyone to play for free, even if payment is just in the form of hospitality, a portion of cover charge sales, merchandise sales, or applause. Says Maynord, “That’s really how we feed our community.”

Next up for Cellar Door: reviving the live music scene at Belle Isle Brewery, a venue Maynord frequented in her college years. The kick-off there will be a mini music fest around Thanksgiving.

“(Cellar Door has) grown into something that I never expected,” Maynord said. “I feel like the sky’s the limit, and it’s hard to imagine where we might be down the road. We just want to take every opportunity we can to keep growing.”

Find more info and show announcements at cellardoormusicgroup.com.