What: Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday; doors open at 6 p.m.

Where: Sisters High School auditorium, 1700 McKinney Butte Road, Sisters

Cost: Sold out

Contact: sistersstarrynights.org or sistersstarrynights@bendbroadband.com

After two years away, stars will light up the night in Sisters again.

The Starry Nights concert series and fundraiser for the Sisters Schools Foundation returns Tuesday for its biggest event in years: an acoustic team-up between longtime friends and collaborators, country singer Lyle Lovett and blues rocker John Hiatt, at the Sisters High School auditorium.

The Hiatt and Lovett show is a return in more ways than one. Lovett and Hiatt are veterans of the series: Hiatt performed in 2000 and 2005, while Lovett performed in 2006. The event also will move back to Sisters High School for the first time since country-blues singer/guitarist Keb’ Mo’s performance in 2013.

“This show has been brewing for years,” Starry Nights co-founder and co-chairwoman Jeri Fouts said. “Lyle and John are both good friends, and they do this partnership when they are not out with their regular bands. And so both of them have individually and as a group — when we’ve gone to see this show, they’ve taken us backstage and said, ‘You know, we need to come to Sisters.’”

Fouts’ name may be familiar to football fans; former San Diego Chargers quarterback and CBS analyst Dan Fouts is her husband. The Fouts moved from Southern California to Sisters in 1994 shortly after marrying.

While in California, Jeri Fouts helped produce a number of charity events, including remotely spearheading the Santa Fe Celebrity Ski Classic from 1987 to 1997, and developed relationships with musicians and management companies in the process. That experience came in handy in 1996, when the Sisters School District began looking for ways to raise money to make up for a state tax measure that limited school funding and left arts and music programs in jeopardy.

“Some people in our school district knew of my background, so they asked me to come to a community meeting just to come up with ideas for fundraising,” Jeri said. “Not knowing anybody really in town at that point very well, I go to this meeting with the idea for a concert series, because that’s what I do. It turned out everybody else had bake sale, car wash, things like that.”

The series, co-founded and co-chaired by Jeri, Susan Arends and Novella Swisher, launched at what is now Sisters Middle School with three shows in 1997, including Karla Bonoff and Kenny Edwards; Kim Carnes and friends; and frequent Neil Young collaborator Nicollete Larson with Kelly Rankin. When the new high school was completed, the shows moved there, starting with Kenny Loggins in 2004 and continuing over the years with The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Vince Gill, Kathy Mattea, Hal Ketchum and more.

“All of a sudden I had this on my hands with a 2-year-old in my lap,” Jeri said. “… And at that point, there was no Tower Theatre operating — it had not been renovated. There was no Old Mill District. I think really all that was going on musically was the Sisters Folk Festival was in its first year, and it was doing shows at our high school auditorium; it wasn’t like it is now. And Munch and Music and some of Cameron Clark’s productions, and that was pretty much it. So when we came on board, it was kind of a big deal that these well-known artists were coming to Sisters, Oregon, and playing in what was — they called it the cafetorium — of our middle school.

“… They all loved coming here because it’s such a fun area to visit,” Jeri continued. “We’d get them cabins on the Metolius River, and they’d bring their families and stay. It was very low-key and it was not just like a regular gig, and the word spread.”

The series began to slow at the start of the 2010s as the music industry evolved away from physical music sales into downloading and then streaming.

“(Artists) weren’t selling CDs and they had to tour more and they didn’t have as much free time,” Jeri said. “It changed the availability of these artists to come do freebies for me and our schools. They loved the concept of doing it for the schools, but then suddenly I was kicked into management, and management was saying, ‘Why would they come all the way there and do this for this little, small-town school district?’”

To combat this, Jeri turned to other events around Central Oregon under the Starry Nights moniker, including a production of the two-person play “Love Letters” at the Tower Theatre in 2010. In more recent years, Starry Nights moved to The Belfry for smaller events such as 2014’s Wine, Women and Song show featuring songwriters Suzy Bogguss, Matraca Berg and Gretchen Peters; and 2016’s show featuring Karla Bonoff and Nina Gerber.

Since 1997, Starry Nights has raised more than $1.3 million for the Sisters Schools Foundation. The money has helped fund classroom and extra-curricular programs in music, drama, art, technology, math and more, as well as purchasing textbooks, library books, new technology for classrooms such as interactive SMART Boards and more.

The upcoming Hiatt-Lovett show will be the 40th Starry Nights event in 22 years, and will kick off the songwriters’ joint tour that runs through early March. Hiatt will support his 2018 release “The Eclipse Sessions,” while Lovett, last seen in Central Oregon with his Large Band at Les Schwab Amphitheater in 2015, hasn’t released a new record since 2012’s “Release Me.”

In past years, audiences could count on at least two, sometimes three Starry Nights shows each year. Don’t expect that level of frequency to return, Jeri said.

“With our unique format, which is based upon the tremendous generosity of our performers who have donated their time for this series since 1997, we do not plan our events on a regular schedule,” she said via email. “We look forward to producing future Starry Nights events when artists are available to make the journey to Sisters and are willing to give their time to support the Sisters Schools Foundation.”

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