Freeland Hall, 110 years old this year, is experiencing a renaissance as the center of music for Freeland and Whidbey as a whole.

I visited the iconic wooden building on the equinox, March 19, to see the Freeland Hall Music Club, which is part of the Holmes Harbor Activities Club (HHAC).The First Thursday Club has been meeting at this location since 1902, HHAC has managed Freeland Hall since 1999.

While the HHAC traditionally booked events and ran potlucks, the HHAC board created a ‘club within a club’ to increase community involvement at the Hall. Members pay a $25 fee to join HHAC.

“We created a ‘club within a club’ to empower people to bring their joy and passion to the hall,” said Roger Cohen,  vice president and trustee of HHAC. “We started with the Music Club, as music can connect emotionally and build community. We are very pleased at the Music Club’s success as a foundation for the further membership growth and to stage fund raising concerts.”

Roger Cohen, vice president and trustee of HHAC. Photo shared by Roger Cohen

The Freeland Hall Music Club (FHMC, which meets Tuesdays between 6 pm and 10 pm), has been ongoing since May 2023. The Music Club has both electric and acoustic members: Electric Band upstairs on the main stage and Acoustic Jam downstairs. According to the HHAC webpage, “FHMC quickly gained momentum and membership, now boasting a community of 40 music lovers, each contributing $25 per year to support the club’s activities.

Electric band playing favorite tunes on stage Tuesdays at Freeland Hall. Photo shared by HHAC

John Ficalora, president of HHAC and  founder of the Tuesday Night Music Club, leads the Electric Band sessions. He greeted me on March 19, wearing a bright tie-died shirt. An energetic man who talks fast, John said he came to the island to relax, and pursue his love of making music.

“Music is my passion,” said John, “It keeps me going. It’s my prayer, and it’s brought so many people together. I am proud of how the hall has become a community support group of/for local musicians around Freeland.”

John Ficaloro, president of the Holmes Harbor Activities Club, enjoys jamming with buddies on Tuesdays at Freeland Hall. Photo by Kate Poss

Downstairs in a small wood-paneled room, Karen Fay, a FHMC member, hosts a couple dozen people gathered for an Acoustic Jam.. Artists with mandolins, guitars and drums sing and played favorite tunes by a fireplace. The mood was intimate and enjoyable.

Singing and playing favorite tunes at Acoustic Jam Tuesdays at Freeland Hall

The Music Club is supported by the Stewards of the Hall, a dedicated group of volunteers who meet weekly to support activities at the Hall. Marc Juneau, Freeland Hall’s technology expert and marketing manager, specializes in creating websites and growing companies. A born promoter and technical wizard, Marc moved to the island in 2022, and told me nothing but good things has greeted him since his arrival.

Eddie Zarate plays mandolin Tuesdays at Freeland Hall. He can be seen busking weekends at the Whale Park in Langley

He built a new website for Freeland Hall, freelandhall.com, which features the clubs latest activities, a signup page for new members, and a page for donating to support Freeland Hall. He ran a web development company in New Orleans, before moving to Whidbey, and with a partner, has since created Whidbey Island Web Design.

“We’ve created a box office revenue sharing system,” Marc explained, describing a win win where musicians get a venue to play in, and Freeland Hall earns a percentage for hosting the performance.

“Our goal is to encourage our community to ‘Bring your Joy to the Hall’”, added Roger Cohen. “We want to replicate the success of the Music Club by enabling the community to form a club around their passion. Dancing is up next.”

In addition to forming a club, here are other ways you can support HHAC and Freeland Hall and keep it a vital asset of our community:           :

    • Join the HHAC- $25 per year for an annual basic membership
    • Form a Club- bring your joy to the hall
    • Participate in fundraisers- come to our events and generously contribute
    • Volunteer- Join the Stewards of the Hall, become a director or officer and contribute your time and talents
    • Book an event-rentals pay for the operating costs and upkeep of the Hall and support community event. 

      For more information, visit Freeland Hall’s webpage.

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