Geller’s volunteer spirit brought together Clayton community

Geller’s volunteer spirit brought together Clayton community
17 years ago, Howard Geller approached then assistant to the city manager Laura Hoffmeister with an “idear.” Last month, Geller retired as the city’s concert promoter and community builder, turning the popular events over to the city of Clayton. (Photo courtesy CBCA)

CLAYTON, CA (Oct. 23, 2023) — For 15 years, Howard Geller has strengthened the community through his volunteer contributions and revitalized the town center with the Saturday night concert series.

The Concerts in The Grove have brought thousands to the town center on warm summer nights. After running the biweekly event since its inaugural show, Geller stepped down at the end of this season.

He launched the concerts and sustained them with the help of former Mayor Julie Pierce and current Vice Mayor Jim Diaz. He says that when the concerts began, Clayton had failed to get major chains like Starbucks to come to the town center and the area wasn’t as lively on the weekends as it is now.

“It was like getting a booster shot when you could bring in 2,000, 3,000 people on a Saturday night,” Geller explains.

He says it positively affected every business in the town center.

“They come early, they need to go to the store. They buy food, they have dinner. And it really helped the stores at the beginning.”

These days, he says, you can’t get a reservation at Moresi’s Chophouse or La Veranda on concert nights.

“Village Market says concert Saturdays are the best days of the year for him,” Geller adds. “Ed (owner of Moresi’s and Ed’s Mudville Grill) came over to thank me for putting on the concerts. So, I know it helped him.”

Creating a meeting spot

Geller says that he wanted the concerts to connect the Clayton community through sharing live music.

“What I like to see is 2,000, 3,000 people having a good time. And that’s why they came to the concerts: to meet with their friends, to have a snack or a lunch or dinner.”

Part of the fun was that alcohol was allowed at the events, which was a boost to businesses on top of creating a relaxed environment. “They were able to have a good time. We never had any problems,” Geller says.

Pierce echoes Geller’s sentiments that the event was created for the sake of the community.

“We always envisioned that it would be a magnet for the entire community, where we could have kind of a town square like many other small towns have had,” she says. “It would be something that would pull the community together in a way that we couldn’t do before that, and it proved to be exactly that.”

A year-round commitment

Geller, Pierce and Diaz were never paid for their efforts, putting on the concerts through volunteerism and donations. It was a massive but rewarding undertaking, according to Pierce.

“Howard and I gave up our summer, basically, to run the concerts – and it was wonderful,” she says.

Truth be told, Geller worked on the concerts all year. “I would start right now (in October) booking the bands for next year.”

“Howard booked the ­concerts. He was good at that,” Pierce notes. “He found the agents and the bands, and he booked the concerts and acted as the MC.”

Geller’s black cowboy hat allowed him to stand out in the crowd every other Saturday for years. He said he felt a true sense of community in those moments. “I had a good connection with everybody. Everybody knew my name.”

City will now run the show

The city is poised to take over the concerts, led by Councilwoman Kim Trupiano. However, Trupiano says she is unsure whether they will continue to book bands personally like Geller did or if they will outsource it all to a promotion company.

Trupiano thanked Geller at the final concert of 2023. She looked back on all of Geller’s contributions, which go well beyond the concerts.

“Howard Geller, former councilmember of eight years and former two-time mayor, began the idea for this wonderful concert series 16 years ago,” she says of the consummate volunteer, who also helped launch the Art & Wine Festival and worked on events like Oktoberfest.

Trupiano said his contributions extended to the spirit of community that is alive in the concerts: “It’s been because of Howard’s extraordinary efforts of making sure Clayton has the best mix of music that he knows will resonate with all of you, get you up and dancing, having fun and giving back to the concerts, that has kept this series going for so long.”

Vince Martellacci
Vince Martellacci

Vince Martellacci is a somewhat new resident of Clayton who loves to spend time in the town center and in Concord. He represents musicians across the Bay Area in the media when he’s not writing. Contact him at