A native of Southeastern Minnesota with a lifetime of music-related experiences, Adam Wiltgen is immersed in the music culture of the Driftless Area. From time spent running a record store and leading a community radio station to experiences gigging with bands and attending or organizing countless live shows, his passion for independent music spans genres, generations, cultures, styles, levels of notoriety, and (of course) geographic boundaries. Adam’s career as an arts administrator also affords him opportunities to present, support, and connect with musicians and artists from across the Driftless region and throughout the world. He resides on the big river in Red Wing, Minnesota with his wife and daughter.
Formative Music Moments
Connecting with “local music” for the first time (the song Other by Rearview Mirror) (2001) & attending all-ages rock shows at the Warehouse in La Crosse and other venues (2002-2004).
Picking up a guitar for the first time (2001) & eventually forming a rock trio (2004) that recorded at the legendary Sun Studio in Memphis, TN (2006)
Learning from longtime First Avenue general manager Steve McClellan, booking & promoting shows, as a volunteer with D.E.M.O. (2007-2010)
Working as manager of both 89.1 FM KPVL, a community radio station in Iowa (2010-2012), and Mister Groovys, a used record store in Winona (2012-2013).
Anderson Center, Red Wing, MN
(2020 – present)
Role includes coordinating the organization’s international artist residency program and presenting music at the Tower View Barn, as well as at outreach events. Appointed by the Mayor to serve on the City’s new Arts & Culture Commission.
Lanesboro Arts, Lanesboro, MN
(2015 – 2020)
Role included programming, promoting, and managing a full season of concerts & performing arts events at the St. Mane Theatre. Booked musical guests for an all-volunteer live variety show (broadcast on KQAL), as well as other outreach events like Art in the Park. Managed emerging artist residency program and launched a performing artist engagement program. 2016 fellow of the Salzburg Cultural Innovators Forum. 2017 graduate of the Blandin Community Leadership Program.
Page Theatre, Winona, MN
(2013 – 2015)
Role included managing FOH and box office, and eventually hospitality and outreach, for concerts, performing arts events, and a classical music festival. Encouraged by supportive director to launch the original run of All Lights Off from campus radio station KSMR.
Mid West Music Fest, Winona, MN
(2012 – 2014)
Heavily involved in the booking, promotion, fundraising for the 2013 festival. Also involved in promoting live music at Sum Some Studio & Eds No Name Bar. Played occasional solo gigs under the pseudonym Marv Wilt. Wrote music articles, album reviews and musician interviews that were published on The Noisy Neighbor website.
Mister Groovys, Winona, MN
(2012 – 2013)
Manager role at an independent music, games & movies store naturally afforded a ton of time to listen to, talk about, and research music. Organized several in-store performance events and passionately maintained the store’s “local” section. Also helped with events at the nearby Cloud 9 Union Theatre in the building’s upper level.
89.1 FM KPVL, Decorah, IA
(2010 – 2012)
Bit by the radio bug and developed a deep love for the medium. Somewhat in over his head as General Manager at only age 24. Made the best of challenging situation as the station had just moved its main studio to Decorah from its city of license in Postville, where a 2008 U.S. immigration raid (the largest ever at the time) negative impacted every dimension of community health.
Trained, supported and managed a diverse group of over 40 on-air volunteers. Programmed a deep, eclectic and subversive weekly music & talk schedule. Recorded dozens of in-studio performances and interviews (many aired as part of All Lights Off precursor the Driftless Music Radio Podcast). Organized and/or promoted concerts at the Elks Lodge, the Steyer Opera House, and Club Pyramid. Was able to attend the 2010 National Federation of Community Broadcasters conference a month after starting the job.
(2009 – 2012)
Catch-all umbrella for a music blog, concert booking/promotion work (including a regular showcase at Acadia Cafe) and freelance music promotions work. Frequent collaborators at this time include Michelle Lynn, Brahman Shaman, Brilliant Beast, Imaginary Jack, and John Black.
Hosted a Driftless Music Showcase at the Acoustic Cafe during the very first Mid West Music Fest in July, 2010. Played bass guitar for over a year in the original folk-rock incarnation of eventual shoegaze band Brilliant Beast. Briefly played keyboard in Brahman Shaman, as part of a five-piece ensemble.
Worked closely on promotions with singer-songwriter Michelle Lynn. Laid out and edited “Modes of Being,” Michelle’s 120-page book of lyrics and Q&A. Did graphic design for 2010’s Sundial Tree and received liner note mentions on 3 of her 5 records.
Diverse Emerging Music Organization, Minneapolis, MN
(2007 – 2010)
Helped book and promote shows at Loring Pasta Bar’s Red Room, Nomad World Cafe, 7th Street Entry, Acadia Cafe (both current & old locations), Club Underground, Station 4, Varsity Theater, and Saint Paul Eagles Club. Helped promote a 2007 Patti Smith gig at the State Theatre, a 2008 K’naan show at First Avenue, and a 2009 Dan Wilson concert at Acadia Cafe. Learned so much from D.E.M.O. founder and longtime First Avenue general manager Steve McClellan, a true visionary and perhaps the most honest person to ever work in the music business. Started as an intern and eventually served as a board member. Wrote first successful grant application in 2010, a $4,624 award from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council for the organization’s ongoing showcases.
Involvement with D.E.M.O. led to an internship and freelance work with Ozzy Dahlstrom of Limerick Records. Worked on promotions for indie-rock act Capitol Jay, earning a mention in the liner notes of their 2008 record “Strangers in My House.” Served as personal chauffeur in 2008 for actor Taylor Negron and musician Logan Heftel while in the Twin Cities (during the RNC) for two intimate stagings of their music-comedy-storytelling show Satellites – The Unbearable Lightness of Being Taylor Negron at the Bryant Lake Bowl (promoted by Limerick Records).
Role with D.E.M.O. also provided an opportunity in to participate in the initial 2009 planning meetings inside the Exchange Building in downtown Saint Paul that led to the establishment of the Minnesota Music Coalition.
Lastly, assisted the stage manager backstage in 2010 for the third annual The Best of Midwest Burlesk Festival, produced by Lili’s Burlesque Revue at the Ritz Theater in northeast Minneapolis.
Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
& Hennepin Theatre Trust
(2008 – 2010)
Formative post-college entry-level work experiences that offered opportunities to learn about the business as well as listen to music and support musicians. Working for the SPCO and interacting with its musicians with was especially rewarding; Fueled passion for classical music and contemporary avant-garde music.
Music Industry student at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
(2004 – 2008)
Participated in Jazz Workshop Ensembles with John C. Paulson and Eric Heukeshoven, Batucada Nossa Senhora Percussion Ensemble with Denny McGuire, and Concert Choir with Patrick O’Shea. An Arts Administration course with late Larry Gorrell was especially impactful. Partnered with Blue Heron Coffeehouse during an internship with campus station KSMR to help promote concerts with (and interview on-air) Pat Donohue, Dan “Daddy Sqeeze” Newton, and Tony Zobeck.
As president of the Music Industry Club, booked and promoted a concert at Rock Solid Youth Center in Winona that featured Thru the Static & local bands, as well as a concert at the Root Note in La Crosse (known in 2008 as the Bluffland Bloom & Brew) that featured First Communion Afterparty & local bands. Also booked and promoted an short independent live music series at the Hei n’ Low Tap
Accident Waiting to Happen
(2004 – 2008)
Played guitar and helped write songs in a rock power trio. Alexandra (Alex) Johnson provided lead vocals, played accordion and keyboard, and also wrote songs. Alex previously sang in bands called Minor Deity and They Do Exist. Eric Whalen played drums in the group. Eric went on to play drums in a number of bands including the Prizefighters, The Cult of Lip, and Brilliant Beast. For better or for worse, Accident Waiting to Happen proudly had no bass player.
Over the years the band played around 40 gigs, including shows at all-ages venues like the Warehouse (La Crosse), the Green Lantern (Winona), Studio Academy (Rochester), the Garage (Burnsville), the What’s Up Lounge (Mankato) and TC Underground (Minneapolis), as well as at Twin Cities clubs / bars like the 7th Street Entry, Turf Club, Varsity Theater, Club Underground, Station 4, Big V’s and Stasiu’s Place.
Accident Waiting to Happen (or “AW2H” for short) shared live stages and performed on bills with bands / artists such as Ben Lee, ZibraZibra, First Communion Afterparty, theStart, My Way My Love, Lusus, Awesome Car Funmaker, Screaming Mechanical Brain, Capitol Jay, Teague & Ian Alexy, Aquafox, Corpse Show Creeps, Claire (Taubenhaus) de Lune, Bridge Club, and more.
Thanks to the kindness and generosity of Eric’s uncle, Dr. Len Whalen, the band traveled to Memphis, TN in September 2006 to record at the landmark Sun Studios. Three songs were fully recorded and mixed over two days with producer & engineer James Lott, who had been mixing the room for all of the famous acts that had passed through the studio since its reopening in the 1980s. Those three songs, Alright?, Rock God, and No More Joy, were released on AW2H’s 2007 album The War Over Who Loves Who More, which can be streamed here along with the band’s entire catalog of recordings.
CD Reviews in
Rochester Post-Bulletin Teen Beat section
(2003 – 2004)
Paid music criticism gig in a regional newspaper with a circulation of more than 40,000 at the time. Mostly enjoyed the attention as a small town high school senior with a column in a big city newspaper, but the weekly deadline was rough at times. Relished the free music and access to the PR drawer at Post-Bulletin HQ. Overall, an amazing experience. Complete archives were recently (re)published on the newspaper’s website. Reviews of releases by independent local bands Rearview Mirror, Lusus Naturae, and Sold Separately stand out and are totally worth a read today. Experience was instrumental in getting a job at Rochester’s Face the Music record store in spring 2004 as it began the process of closing and liquidating its inventory.