Jonathan Smalt

November 7, 2015
Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of the passing of my good friend and Lynchstock Music Festival partner, Jon Gregoire.
As I write this, one year later, I am filled with a heaviness that I can’t quite put into words. Though loss is never expected, Jonny’s passing was shocking to all. After a year of dealing with this loss, I think my understanding, though incomplete, is more full:
Jon’s death was so shocking because of the fervor and energy he exemplified in life. He is one of the most radiant, expressive, and optimistic people I’ve ever known. When he walked into a room, everyone knew it. They were drawn to him. They wanted to be around his light.
I want to tell you a story about this picture and why it means so much to me. When Jonny and I agreed to partner again for Lynchstock 2014, we faced a series of setbacks. Here were a few of them:
1) We couldn’t find a venue.  2) We had no money.  3) We were both full-time students, and planning a festival demands a serious commitment of time and energy.
There were several moments when we wanted to quit, and on one of those nights, I reassured Jonny, “Just wait till this whole thing comes together. We’re going to sit in the middle of it and watch the community come together in a way it never has.”
Though I didn’t mean sit “literally”, I think he took it that way. I’ll never forget his response: “Great idea! We should have a place to sit! Can we put a couch in the middle of the festival with a reserved sign? That way we can be in the middle of everything! This will be OUR couch!” I told him the idea was ridiculous, and that we wouldn’t have a second to sit down, but he insisted.
On the morning of the festival we were running around like madmen trying to tie up all of the loose ends, but sure enough, Jonny pulled a couch out to the middle of the festival and hand drew a “reserved” sign. I kept teasing him that I wasn’t going to sit on the couch, but after we saw the hundreds and hundreds of people come in celebration of our community and art, I couldn’t help but sit for a second to take it all in. Jonny and I looked around, with full hearts and tired hands. We knew this was something special. We knew this was bigger than any one person.
The weeks after he passed, I wasn’t sure if I could continue growing Lynchstock Music Festival without him. His heart for people, the arts, and the city of Lynchburg were so inspiring, and was the impetus for our growth.
But I’ll never forget when that moment changed. I was home for Thanksgiving with my family, and after sharing my grief with my parents, I walked into my bedroom and flipped on the light switch. In a split second, light filled the room—the miracle of electricity we so often take for granted. For some reason, the light hit me in a way I didn’t expect: I was reminded that though Jonny is no longer with us, his light is still here. His legacy carries with each one of us, in our hearts, in the positivity we give to others.
People often ask me why I continue to work on this festival, and here’s the reason why:
Lynchstock is more than a music festival. It’s an idea, a belief that if a community of people works together, they can create something lasting and beautiful for their city—not just for us, but also for the future. It’s the belief that the arts give meaning to the human experience and that we must work to support artists and musicians. It’s the belief that collaboration is truly better than competition.
This is one part of Jon Gregoire’s legacy, and I am honored to carry a small beacon.
—Jonathan Smalt
jon smalt