Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have most definitely heard about McDonald’s Gospelfest. Well let us introduce you to the man who continues to make that happen. A. Curtis Farrow has received many honors for his business experience. including a commendation from the Newark Mayor and City Council, two Emmy awards for producing McDonald’s Gospelfest 2000 and 2001 and five nominations in 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007and 2008 He was honored by the Christian Times as Person of the Year for 2002 and received the Public Advocate Award for New York City in 2000.
Mr. Farrow had an illustrious career on Wall Street. He was the Assistant Mutual Fund Manager at the Bank of New York. In 1984, Mr. Farrow was Bank of New York’s Employee of the Year. He later became Manager of Mutual Funds at Smith Barney. In 1986 Mr. Farrow left Wall Street to pursue a life-long dream of owning an entertainment company. In that year he started All Four Fun, currently a subsidiary of Irving Street Rep. All Four Fun specialized in providing quality entertainment in colleges, private parties and municipal concerts. In 1987 and 1988 All Four Fun were awarded the National Association of Collegiate Activities Entertainers of the Year. They also won a New York State contract to provide entertainment at various prison facilities.
In the fall of 2000, Mr. Farrow directed and co-produced The Paul Robeson Gala “Voice of the Millennium” at Newark’s Prudential Center and it was the season’s must-see event. The star studded cast included Whitney Houston, James Earl Jones, Lynne Whitfield, Branford Marsalis, Avery Brooks, The Dance Theatre of Harlem and many, many more. The multi-media Gala included song, dance and film clips of the legend as well as a 3-D presentation and a live via satellite musical finale.
Mr. Farrow has successfully partnered with many local sports franchises to create new promotions and enhance existing ones. His work with the NY Knicks, Giants, Jets and NJ Nets expanded their reach into the community by bringing such marquee players as Alan Houston, John Starks Kareem McKenzie, Nate Robinson and Marc Jackson directly to the people in meaningful ways, organizing charity events and appearances and infusing them with one on one interaction.
Taking advantage of the unique access to celebrity talent the NY area provides, Mr. Farrow leverages every event with star power to insure maximum media exposure. He conceived a Black Media Legends event during Black History Month which has for the past four years honored such luminaries as Soledad O’Brien, Harold Dow, Bernard Shaw, Roland Martin, Rolanda Watts, Bryant Gumbel, Janice Huff, Greg Gumbel and the legendary Hal Jackson.
In the range of industrials Mr. Farrow’s services have been used again and again by the Dupont Corporation in their Consumer Affairs department. He has conceptualized and produced award shows, such as the Plunkett Awards for two consecutive years in Tucson, Arizona and new product meetings for Corian, Suva, Dupont X-ray film and Selar OH, in Puerto Rico, Canada, Florida, Texas, Delaware and New York. Some of Mr. Farrow’s other clients include McDonald’s, Citibank, Entenmanns, Bloomindales, The Museum of Natural History, City Meals on Wheels and The New Hope Baptist Church of Newark, New Jersey.
Mr. Farrow has continued to bring McDonald’s Gospelfest and many other McDonald’s PR and Marketing Programs to the forefront as McDonald’s agency of record for the African American Consumer market. Since taking over Mr. Farrow and Irving Street have become the leader in African American Scholarship numbers and awareness of the McDonald’s brand and its dedication to the African American Community. Beyond the African American Community, Mr. Farrow makes sure all his program have a broad appeal and has crossed all racial barriers with this revamping of the McDonald’s Gospelfest which, since his stewardship, has gone from a 90% African American event to a 50% African American event opening its doors to Hispanic, White and Asian markets as well.
Mr. Farrow is a veritable powder keg of energy and talent whose directing credits span the US and abroad. His directing and producing credits include national tours of; Ain’t Misbehavin’, Smokey Joe’s Café, Sophisticated Ladies, Five Guys Named Moe, Your Arms Too Short to Box With God, Godspell, Forever Plaid and Eubie, as well as original works The Nat King Cole Songbook, The Elegance of Ellington, Gospitality, The Cotton Club Review and Rhythm. His productions are constantly met with rave reviews and he is always credited with bringing the best of African American Broadway talent to regional theatres, universities and nightclubs.
For the tenth year Mr. Farrow is brining his directing and producing talents to make McDonald’s Gospelfest 2011 the most successful and well attended gospel events ever. This year epic production’s reach spans the entire New York Tri-State area and stars Kirk Franklin, Donnie McClurkin, Hezekiah Walker, Bobby Jones, Cissy Houston, Vickie Winans, James Fortune and Bishop TD Jakes.
Check out our FLY interview with Mr. Farrow…
1. What influenced your decision to transition? Money, fame, or a Higher Calling?
In my case those questions have one answer. God blessed me with an abundance of gifts and I knew I wasn’t using them all. Believe me, the money was great, but there was so much more I wanted to be doing, I knew it was time to move on.
2. What are some of the tools you learned from working on Wall Street that you are now able to employ in the entertainment business?
Number one, is be on time, if I could impart any advice to anyone, it would be to be on time. 90% of success is being present to receive your blessing. Don’t be angry when there’s nothing left for you when you show up a half an hour late.
3. How exactly did you gain partnership with a globally renowned business like McDonald’s?
Over the course of years I got a name for providing great reliable talent for events, especially gospel choirs. Hard work, perseverance and not accepting no as an answer!
4. Since your leadership began, you’ve transitioned the Gospelfest from a solely African American demographic, into a now broader spectrum. How has the crossover appeal helped or hindered the success of the Gospelfest?
The whole point of Gospel is to spread the good news. That’s a mission that goes beyond race and beyond borders. The bigger we make it and the more people that can receive the word, God is pleased. What I think we sometimes forget is that we all should be encouraging one another to make the world a better place.
5. Some people seem to believe that Gospel is the core of African American history so have you received any backlash for opening the door to other nationalities?
Not at all. Blacks are the most welcoming and accepting people on the planet and as a rule we like nothing better than to watch other nationalities try to adopt our culture. At Gospelfest, when the Japanese choir belts out Kirk Franklin the audience goes nuts, the same when a White choir pulls out their best dance moves, we love it. Look! We are a creative people, no one BUT no one will ever out create us so there is nothing for us to worry about. Besides imitation is the best form of flattery!
6. Besides the McDonald’s Gospelfest, what are some of your other notable productions?
Well my company has shows constantly on tour year round. We’ve been blessed to tour the Broadway musical Ain’t Misbehavin’ for over 15 years. We also send out productions of Sophisticated Ladies, Your Arms Too Short To Box With God, and Smokey Joe’s Cafe.
7. Who have been some of your favorite artists to work with?
1. Aretha Franklin, an icon but the most professional artist that I probably have ever worked with. Some female artists can be divas on their own time but I must say Aretha Franklin is a on-time diva. She showed up hours before her call time. Love her!
2. Whitney Houston, it’s amazing watching someone who knows that God has blessed them with an anointed voice. She stands on stage and shares the gift and leaves it all on stage. Love her!
3. Donnie McClurkin, what an anointed voice, what a great supporter. It’s amazing to watch someone so great at their craft. Oh boy, he can SANG!! He is truly anointed.
4. Kirk Franklin, ENERGY! ENERGY! ENERGY! And if you want to see him live come check him out at this year’s McDonald’s Gospelfest. In the past, I’ve witnessed him run through the arena to take his performance to another level. Putting it down for his fans is how he roles!
8. Who haven’t you had the opportunity to work with, in any genre of music, that you would love to be able to include in future Gospelfests?
Stevie Wonder, Chris Brown, Beyonce, R. Kelly, Diana Ross and Donna Summer
9. And lastly, any words of advice to our readers?
Don’t allow anyone to determine what gifts you focus on. I’m a big believer that God blesses each and every one of us with many gifts and you should use all of them.
We’re beyond excited to see what’s in store for this years Gospel Fest!
Take us to church!!