Five jobs. One goal. Zero free time: The JJ Sheffer story, part 4
JJ Sheffer has found her longtime obsession with music and skill of networking can work hand-in-hand as an economy-building tool — and she works multiple jobs to help promote downtown York as a desirable destination.
"I love the idea of a couple thousand strangers getting together in a room who don't know if they have anything in common, but while they're there, they have that in common," she said, describing the concert atmosphere. "That one thing that's only existing right then. I love that."
Sheffer has pushed into the York music scene as director of Kable House Presents, a concert series held at Central Market.
She recently attended a concert in Lancaster before leaving for Newport Fest, a weekendlong music festival in Rhode Island.
It will mark the sixth time she's attended the festival, and she wouldn't consider skipping it because of her recent health problems.
"Oh gosh no," she said, scratching the poison ivy blotches that have marred her skin for going on two weeks. "Not an option."
Concerts: Music has played a huge role in Sheffer's life; at one point she was attending live shows three or four times a week. She quit her last "9-5 job" at Downtown Inc, she said, because it got in the way of her concert calendar.
Her original dream was to write for Rolling Stone magazine, a publication she's no longer interested in because her tastes have strayed from Top 40 music.
She's not a musician — though she has learned four chords on the guitar this year. Sheffer isn't exactly sure why she's built her life around music but knows she loves the community aspect of it.
She allows musicians to stay at her house while traveling through York, which she says serves as a great music hub because of its close proximity to common tour stops, including Philadelphia, Baltimore and Harrisburg.
Eric Menzer, president of the York Revolution and a local music enthusiast, said the music scene in York is "night and day" from where it was seven or eight years ago, and that Sheffer has been a "driving force" in that transformation.
"She's a pleasure," Menzer said. "She sees something that needs to be done and just does it."
Next step: That "driving force" might soon drive away, though.
With her son just three years from graduating high school, Sheffer has begun thinking about the next step in her life.
"I had Carter young enough that now he's getting ready to finish school, I'm still young enough to go do whatever I want," Sheffer said. "That's (going to be) the first time in my life I've ever had that, so that's exciting and terrifying to be able to say I can choose the course of my life."
And while Sheffer loves her hometown, her friends and family are predicting a change of scenery.
Friend Jared Ferraro is predicting music venue manager in Philadelphia. Sheffer's son, Carter Grimm, is predicting downtown promoter in Harrisburg. Missy Jones, Sheffer's college roommate, is predicting a nationwide tour to make up for not traveling in her early 20s.
Sheffer isn't even positive she wants to leave York, but she now feels comfortable her hometown is in good hands.
"When I got back to York and started working on promoting downtown 15-16 years ago, I felt like I had to say yes to everything I got asked to be involved in," she said. "It didn't feel like there were many people working on the things I cared about, or working together. We're much better as a community than ever before, and now I feel like I can say no to everything.
"This town doesn't need me anymore. There are enough people that care about it, and that's a really cool evolution to have watched."
— Reach David Weissman at firstname.lastname@example.org.