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Penn State alum to perform July 16 at Community Arts Center

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The concert was ultimately canceled.)

Pennsylvania native Eric Ian Farmer, who returned to his Centre County roots three decades later to earn a doctoral degree in educational leadership from Penn State, will bring his homegrown musical talent to the Community Arts Center stage at 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 16.

“Along this journey, I have learned to embrace live music’s uncertainty whereby the music comes out and moves through a space doing whatever it intends: Maybe it bears witness, potentially it disturbs, hopefully it heals,” Farmer said. “Right now, I want it to encourage. “

Bridging the twin passions of education and song, his travels have brought him full-circle.

State College native Eric Ian Farmer will perform at Williamsport’s Community Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 16. (Photo by Dylan John Western)
State College native Eric Ian Farmer will perform at Williamsport’s Community Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 16. (Photo by Dylan John Western)

“During a 1970s State College winter, I was born to Barbara and Edgar Farmer,” he said. “My father was pursuing a doctorate, my older brother was navigating preschool, and my mother was making sure they would both succeed. By the time I was a toddler, we moved out of Pennsylvania, off to New Jersey and then to North Carolina, where my younger sister would join the family.”

Growing up in the South, he was involved in sports and Student Council, along with choirs, musicals and vocal groups.

“Loved it all,” he said, “but sometimes I wondered how it feels to live in the same town you were born in.”

In his 30s, he would find out.

After several years of teaching high school, he came back to Central Pennsylvania, and in 2016, he completed a doctorate in the same College of Education from which his father graduated. During his upper-level studies at University Park, Farmer said, he had “naïve dreams” of starting a school. However, life outside the classroom took a deeper turn toward music.

“And thus began an odyssey of artistic and community collaboration, making epic mistakes and performing in spaces as small as my bathroom (i.e., virtual performance for WPSU’s Metronome) and in roomier venues like The State Theatre (in State College) and the Atrium stage at Bucknell’s Weis Center for the Performing Arts,” he said. “Even got the chance to open for Bettye LaVette and Rusted Root.”

Farmer earned a doctorate from Penn State in 2016. (Photo by Jeni Kocher Zerphy)
Farmer earned a doctorate from Penn State in 2016. (Photo by Jeni Kocher Zerphy)

Although no longer teaching, Farmer views music as an extension of his role as an educator: entertaining audiences, but also drawing sharp attention to critical issues in today’s society. He also travels to schools, where he uses music to explore and discuss social concerns.

“After more than a year of folks enduring heightened chances of illness and death, amplified racism and conflict, and the frantic reinvention of school and work, I hope the music encourages each listener to feel that there is hope in the voice they carry in their hearts,” he said. “Especially when that voice connects with the voice of a person, and then connects with the voice of another, and then another and another.”

Farmer appears mostly in Central Pennsylvania, embracing enthusiastic audiences with songs about relationships, social awareness and finding one’s path. The singer-songwriter garners inspiration from such well-known artists as Bobby McFerrin, Otis Redding, Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley and Marvin Gaye.

He will perform songs in both English and Spanish, accompanied by Venezuelan singer/songwriter Ady Martinez on cuatro and vocals. Farmer’s lineup also features veteran musicians on the regional scene: Andrew Jackson (percussion), Josh Troup (drums), Mickey Klein (electric bass), and Mary Ann Cleary and Elizabeth Webb (vocals).

Tickets, priced at $25 each, are available at the Arts Center website.

For more about Penn College, a national leader in applied technology education and a special mission affiliate of Penn State, email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

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