GJS1GEVA“The Show Must Go On”: A Tribute Concert for Larry Swist – 8/6, Buffalo, NY – See more at:



Best Wishes from The Cowsills
do ss 7cowsills ********************************************************
The RMHF welcomes new Board member,
Micheline DeFranco

Micheline DeFranco is the Director of Stewardship Communications at the University of Rochester, where she created and manages a donor-centered stewardship communications program across the University, including managing the strategy for recognition and stewardship of principal gifts (commitments of $5 million and more). She previously was Director of Advancement Communications for Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and also owned a writing and consulting business for more than 12 years after working at several local ad agencies as a copywriter and account executive.

Micheline has helped plan and execute successful campaigns of $1.2 billion for the University of Rochester and $160 million for Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and consulted with non-profit organizations and corporations to strategize and achieve fundraising, training, and communications goals.

As a member of the Mary M. Gooley Hemophilia Center’s Board of Directors, and its fundraising committee chair, she played a key role in creating the first greater Rochester area’s Bleeding Disorders Walk, which has become an annual event for the Center, netting more than $13,000 this year, an increase of more than 270 percent over last year. In honor of her work to establish and successfully implement the Walk, she was recognized with the Center’s first Dorthea Golemb Volunteer Award in 2016.

Micheline graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor’s degree in environmental sciences and concentrations in neurobiology, music, and English, and was awarded a Cornell Tradition Fellowship in honor of her outstanding academic achievement, campus and community service, and significant work experience.

Micheline has loved music since she was old enough to walk. She began playing the piano by ear at 18 months, when she could finally reach her mother’s upright piano by standing on her tiptoes, and has continued to play piano as well as clarinet, which she picked up at age nine. She has taken lessons and theory classes at Eastman School of Music and Cornell University, and played in the Cornell Wind Ensemble under the baton of Mark Scatterday, now Professor of Conducting and Chair of the Conducting and Ensembles Department at Eastman School of Music. She was also a member of the Cornell Symphonic Band and Chamber Orchestra with Emeritus Professor Marice Stith, who premiered works by Karel Husa and Robert Palmer among others.

She has subbed for several local groups in the greater Rochester area, including the Finger Lakes Symphony Orchestra, before joining the Perinton Concert Band in 1998, serving as a member of its board, and performing with the band until 2008. She continues to enjoy playing for community events and organizations. Micheline lives in Brighton with her husband, Gary, and their son, Christian.  

Florence LaRue of 5th Dimension fame sends note
to RMHF expressing sincere thanks

Ms. LaRue performed the song “Aquarius/Let The Sun Shine In” at the RMHF 2016 induction ceremony held in April at Eastman Theatre’s Kodak Hall in honor of Class of 2016 inductee James Rado (co-author of the Broadway musical HAIR).

The pop vocal group, 5th Dimension, of which LaRue was an original member,  recorded the song which peaked at number one for six weeks on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart in the spring of 1969.



Fernando Laires, renowned pianist, dies at 91
(Democrat & Chronicle)

Fernando Laires, who reached the summit of piano virtuosity as a teenager before dedicating his career to performance, promotion and teaching, including at the Eastman School of Music, died last month in Rochester at age 91.

Born in Lisbon, Portugal, Laires performed the entire cycle of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas by memory in a series of concerts when he was just 19 years old. At that time, only one other pianist under age 20 had ever accomplished that feat.

He came to the United States in the 1950s to teach at the University of Texas and remained here for most of the rest of his life. He first came to Rochester in 1987 when his wife, Nelita True, took a job at Eastman as a piano professor. Laires joined her on the faculty in 1992 and taught until 2004.

 As a performer, Laires was distinguished by his wide repertoire, including all those Beethoven sonatas and the Chopin etudes. He recorded nearly 100 different works in his career and performed as a soloist with orchestras around the world, including in China.

“He played pretty much everything,” said True, his wife of 44 years. “He learned very fast and had spectacular technique, and he had such respect for the music.”

He is equally well known for his efforts to promote both Portuguese music — he founded an organization dedicated to that cause and oversaw the production of a 20-volume recording set of contemporary Portuguese music — and the works of Franz Liszt, which had fallen from favor by the time Laires came to the United States.

“The critics wouldn’t accept Liszt, and one colleague at the (University of Texas) even told me that I wouldn’t be allowed to play his music,” Laires said in a 2003 interview. “Well, I played his music anyway, and nobody fired me. … Virtuosity has always interested me, (and) for pianists, Liszt offers a way to achieve the highest level of technique.”

Laires founded the American Liszt Society in 1964 and was responsible in part for the re-emergence of Liszt’s music in concert halls around the country.

“Fernando Laires’ musical artistry and humanitarian outlook inspired students, colleagues, and all those who knew him,” Douglas Humpherys, chair of the piano department at Eastman, said in a an obituary on the school’s website.  “As an international ambassador for music, his work with the American Liszt Society and his pioneering musical activities in China had a profound influence on the development of our current global world of pianists.”

Laires died Sept. 9; True said he had been ill for several years. Besides his wife, he is survived by three daughters.


RMHF Remembers John Ellson

John Ellison 1952 - 2016

John Ellson 1952 – 2016

The Rochester Music Hall of Fame and its board members wish to extend our deepest sympathies to the friends and family of Mr John Ellson who passed on the 17th of September.
John was a tireless ambassador, promoter, and producer for UK Jazz, and an integral part of the Rochester International Jazz Festival.
He was a wonderful human being, capable of lifting the spirits of all those near him and he will be sorely missed.
The RMHF shares in the sadness of his unexpected death.



Giant Panda debuts at # 1 on Billboard chart

Giant Panda Guerrilla Dub Squad - photo by JOSUE RIVAS

Giant Panda Guerrilla Dub Squad                       (click on image to hear song)                                                   photo by JOSUE RIVAS

Democrat & Chronicle 10/2/16

Giant Panda holds top reggae spot
Rochester band debuts at No. 1 on chart


Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad doesn’t obscure the message in Make it Better. In fact, the jam band and reggae crowds are already on board with the Rochester band’s beautiful, brilliant, brand-new release, which debuted this week at No. 1 on the Billboard magazine reggae chart.

“This album was influenced by the pressures of the world around us,” the Pandas write in the CD booklet, “as well as the creative fires that burn within. We hope that the outcome of expression will help make it better.”

That mix of artistic expression and desultory subject matter – a planet sorely in need of healing – has given us a wonderfully upbeat sixth studio album from lead singer and bassist James Searl, singer and drummer Chris O’Brian, keyboardist Tony Gallicchio and Dylan Savage and Dan Keller on vocals and guitars. And they do not go this road alone, with a hefty group of accompanists on percussion, horns, reeds and additional guitar.

Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad tends to roam the sonic landscape, with recent releases drifting toward country, even. Very good Americana, by the way. But Make It Better veers back strongly to reggae.

The opening title track with its persistent horns is lyrically simple, allowing the sentiment to be loud and clear: “Don’t make it bad, go make it better.” How? “Live and Travel” the Pandas advise on track two. Experience a wider world, “drink from the water.”

That wider world is also expressed in the cover art by Iranian-born artists Icy and Sot. Searl became familiar with the duo when they worked on Rochester’s Wall Therapy project, creating outdoor art in the city.

Make it Better is consistently strong throughout its 10 tracks, both musically and in its insistence that activism is found in even the subtlest of actions. While adhering to reggae’s syncopated beat, Make it Betterloads up on rock flourishes and unusual keyboard sounds, as evident in the love song “Really True.” The urgent “Walk Right Talk Right” advises, “Concentrate on insight, learn to hold your cards tight, and if you walk right, you’re gonna talk right or you’re gonna die trying.”

Midway through, the band asks tougher questions. “What kind of world are we living in?” the Pandas want to know. “Under the sun, some living plenty, while many hungry, pockets are empty,” punctuated at the end by a crazed guitar hoedown.

It’s followed by “Gotta Make a Living,” a powerful, wide-ranging, intense indictment of artists at work in a country whose attention is misdirected. “Keep em’ hooked on the bomb. Keep em’ running round running round like a clown.” A society willingly blind to those in need, “Homeless on the street living life in a toilet, while you pay for your own fence.” That message continues with “Trouble Deep.” The fact that these guys are from Rochester and not Kingston, Jamaica, and borrowing its syntax and Yoda-like sentence structures such as “So many people, they’re in trouble deep” doesn’t disqualify the words. But the overwhelming tone is optimism and hope. Is “Greatest of Days” written from the viewpoint of a newborn child? “First days just trying to lift my head up off the bed, next thing you know I’m off and running.” And there’s the closing “Gone,” a whimsical, philosophical ballad. “Time, I take all I can but I don’t believe when it’s gone.”

Now could be the Pandas’ time. It’s sharing the Billboard reggae chart with established stars such as Beenie Man (whose Unstoppable debuted this week at No. 5) and albums by two of Bob Marley’s sons, Ziggy and Stephen. An album debuting at No. 1 is a testimonial to the power of social media, the value of building a diverse audience, and a band that’s done the roadwork to earn the honor.

JSPEVAK@gannett .com


Rochester’s own, singer, songwriter and meditation Guru, Alana Cahoon, releases new CD

Click on image to learn more

Click on image to learn more


Greece PostUpstate recording studios and local businesses support music production tax credit


Supporters of New York is Music, a coalition of more than 200 music-related organizations, gathered at Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Rochester and GCR Audio Recording Studio in Buffalo to call on the New York State Senate and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to pass the Empire State Music Production Tax Credit (A10083A/ S7485A) and support the creation of jobs in the music production and recording industry in New York state. Courtesy Photo
By Submitted to the Post

Posted Jun. 20, 2016 at 2:57 PM

Supporters of New York is Music, a coalition of more than 200 music-related organizations, gathered at Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Rochester and GCR Audio Recording Studio in Buffalo to call on the New York State Senate and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to pass the Empire State Music Production Tax Credit (A10083A/ S7485A) and support the creation of jobs in the music production and recording industry in New York state.

“The positive influence of music on our communities, culture and in education is widely recognized, but its economic impact is what makes the music industry especially critical to New York state,” said Justin Kalifowitz, co-founder of New York is Music and CEO of Downtown Music Publishing. “More than 100,000 New Yorkers work in music but their job opportunities are dwindling as cities like Toronto, Los Angeles and Nashville lineup to offer new incentives and recruit entrepreneurs in the industry. We urge the legislature to enact this bill and support New York’s talented and diverse music workforce.”

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Martin Golden and assembly member Joseph Lentol, will provide a 25 percent tax credit for eligible production-related costs for downstate music businesses and a 35 percent tax credit for production-related costs for upstate music businesses, similar to the state’s film tax credit. To be eligible, costs must be related to job creation, including studio rental fees; instrument and equipment rental fees; production session fees for musicians, programmers, engineers and technicians, mixing and mastering services; local transportation; expenditures directly related to music production and provided at or to the site for the production of music videos. The program is capped at $25 million per year.

“Diminished intellectual rights values, rising real estate costs, and technological recording advancements all contribute to the cost of doing business in New York,” said Tony Gross, president of GFI Productions in Ontario. “While great music can find its way to the surface, without the creative and nurturing process led by qualified producers, engineers, musicians, studios, A&R and proper exposure, we will ultimately see a decline of unique artistic expression. Much of the infrastructure that made New York the pinnacle of the music industry still exists. The Empire State Music Production Tax credit may be the economic stimulus we need to start on that path again.”

For decades, New York was the undisputed center of global music production, but the state’s share of the industry has drastically declined in recent decades. In downstate areas, pressure from a rising real estate market and other financial pressures have pushed some of the most storied and successful studios out of the metro area. Upstate, the industry has been largely disaggregated and lacked collective exposure. Most importantly, significant efforts by states and cities, including Toronto, Los Angeles, New Orleans and Nashville, as well as foreign countries, have lured away the industry.



Memmott: Dossenbach meant music in Rochester

Strike up the band. Let’s take some time to celebrate the remarkable and musical Dossenbachs in Rochester.

Their story begins in 1872 with a kind of star-is-born moment that seems straight out of the movies.

Henri Appy, a violinist and music teacher from Rochester, is fishing in Suspension Bridge, the village that would later become part of the city of Niagara Falls, New York.

A passer-by, Matthias Dossenbach, warns Appy not to get too close to the high banks of the Niagara River. They chat; they go to Dossenbach’s home. It is there that Appy hears 10-year-old Otto Dossenbach playing the violin.

The boy is clearly a prodigy, and Appy convinces Matthias Dossenbach to move his family to Rochester so young Otto can get more violin instruction.

Thus begins the wonderfully layered story of the Dossenbach family in Rochester.

“Their story is, in many ways, a story of Rochester itself, its growth, its promise, its burgeoning musical scene,” writer Lisa Kleman told a gathering at the Century Club last week.

Kleman, a native of Waterloo, Seneca County, is the great-granddaughter of Otto’s brother Theodore.

She lived in Massachusetts for many years, writing and teaching, and returned to this area two years ago to research her family’s history with the goal of writing a book on the Dossenbachs. She now lives in Charlotte, near Ontario Beach Park.

Otto, Theodore and their brother Hermann are central to the Dossenbach saga. The children of German immigrants, they each made a significant mark here.

Otto, who was born in 1862 and died in 1936, was a soloist with Appy’s orchestra in Rochester at age 11. He traveled widely giving concerts and was the leader of the Utica Philharmonic Society at age 16.

But in 1889, he was declared insane. He would spend much of the rest of his life in state institutions. However, Kleman notes that he would reappear from time to time.  He played at least once at the Batavia Opera House. Later he appeared with the Rochester State Hospital Orchestra.

Hermann, who was born in 1868, was a violinist and conductor, as well as a teacher of music. In 1900, he started the Dossenbach Orchestra. George Eastman, the founder of Eastman Kodak Co., supported the group. Later, he also arranged to have a quartet led by Hermann Dossenbach play weekly at his home.

In 1912, the Dossenbach Orchestra became the Rochester Orchestra, and it performed until 1919, when it made way for a new group to play at the Eastman Theatre.

In addition to leading an orchestra, Hermann Dossenbach was the co-leader of the D.K.G. Institute of Musical Art, a precursor to the Eastman School of Music.

While Hermann Dossenbach was leading his orchestra, his younger brother Theodore was conducting the Rochester Park Band, which he founded in 1901. It played throughout the area, leading parades, and holding concerts.

In 1924, Theodore died and Hermann took his place with the Park Band, serving as its conductor until his death in 1946. Thus ended a story that had begun many years before when a 10-year-old boy made beautiful music on the violin.

On Remarkable Rochester

Retired Senior Editor Jim Memmott reflects on what makes Rochester distinctively Rochester, its history, its habits, its people. Contact him at: (585) 278-8012 or or Remarkable Rochester, Box 274, Geneseo, NY, 14454.

Remarkable Rochesterians

For their contributions to music in Rochester, these two brothers deserve to have their names added to the list of Remarkable Rochesterians found at

Hermann (1868-1946) and Theodore (1870-1924) Dossenbach: Brothers of German immigrant parents, they settled in Rochester with their family in the early 1870s and went on to become prominent figures in the music scene here. Hermann taught music, and he founded the Dossenbach Orchestra in 1900. It became the Rochester Orchestra in 1912, continuing as a group until 1919. He also founded a music school that was the precursor to the Eastman School of Music. Theodore began the Rochester Park Band, which he led until his death in 1924, after which Hermann led the group until his death in 1946.


Orest Hrywnak dies at 59, ex-local radio promo guru 



There are two things friends will remember always about Orest Hrywnak: He was a promotions wizard in the local radio marketplace, and he loved to laugh.

As WBBF-AM’s Captain Cash in the 1970s, he was paid to do both.

“If you had your WBBF bumper stick on your car, then Captain Cash might pull you over and give you $95,” recalled Dino Kay of Stephens Media Group in Rochester, one of Mr. Hrywnak’s best friends and a long-time onair personality. “And he’d be driving around in the Happy Honker. That was the name of the car.”

Mr. Hrywnak, who underwent openheart surgery on Feb. 18, died early Thursday morning. He was 59.

Dr. Sev Hrywnak said his brother died of a heart attack in his sleep.

“I just saw him and my mom (Tamara), she’s 94, last night,” Sev Hrywnak, owner of the Rochester Razor-Sharks basketball team, said Thursday by phone from his home in Chicago. “I came back to Chicago and got the call this morning.

“He was everybody’s friend. Half of Rochester knew him.”

And they all knew his smile and laugh.

“There is a very rare person who touches the life of every single person they meet,” Debbie Chartrand of Mendon wrote on Facebook today. “Orest Hrywnak is one such person.”

Mr. Hrywnak was a 1974 graduate of Jefferson High School and studied at SUNY-Potsdam. He spent a good part of three decades in Rochester radio, primarily in promotions. He also worked for his brother’s basketball team.

“He put the RazorSharks on the map,” Sev Hrywnak said.

Kay said Mr. Hrywnak was his first boss in radio, hiring him as an intern in 1981 before giving him a full-time job the next year. Mr. Hrywnak is the godfather of Kay’s youngest son, Dean.

“He knew everybody,” Kay said.

Arrangements are pending with the Paul W. Harris Funeral Home in Irondequoit.


Orest Hrywnak worked for more than 20 years in promotions for Rochester radio stations and also worked for the Rochester RazorSharks. He died early Thursday.

Orest Hrywnak worked for more than 20 years in promotions for Rochester radio stations and also worked for the Rochester RazorSharks. He died early Thursday.


Music Hall of Fame Inducts six

Democrat and Chronicle

Hall of Fames are, by nature, celebrations of the past. And there are certainly different degrees of the past in the fifth class of the Rochester Music Hall of Fame. Jazz vibraphonist Joe Locke, there’s still plenty to come from him. Saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis is 75, but still active. James Rado, he’s still working on musicals at age 84, celebrated as creator of the iconic flower-child musical Hair.

The soul-rock band The Rustix, with two members having passed on, are now a sweet regional memory. Composer and director of the Eastman School of Music for four decades, Howard

Hanson died in 1981. Wendy O. Williams, anarchyhowling lead singer of the Plasmatics, died in 1998.

But even before it got around to honoring the new inductees at Sunday’s ceremony for a little more than 1,800 people at the nearly four-hour show in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre, the Hall of Fame looked back in yet another manner, through the eyes of a former inductee. Bat McGrath, class of 2013.

Perhaps we should have known something was up; it’s not unusual for McGrath to make the trek from his hilltop home in Nashville to play a gig in his old hometown, as he did Saturday night at the Lovin’ Cup. But the timing… So here he was, Sunday night, opening the event with a new song he’d written, “Beauty.” “Take a moment to remember, we’ve been through this before,” McGrath sang, as behind him played video of scenes from Rochester and — let’s assume this wasn’t Rochester — bombs falling from the sky. “Intelligence and beauty, trump ignorance and war.”

A far more somber, and thoughtful, opening than slam-bang Hall of Fame shows of the past. In this confrontation- heavy political climate, McGrath’s use of the verb trump may or not have been an accident.

Then on to the inductions. Locke, a California native, raised in Rochester, graduate of the Eastman School of Music. “I’ve always been jealous almost when musicians have a sense of place and identity in their music,” he said. “I didn’t think I had that, and I wanted that.” It took a long time for him to realize that he deed indeed have it, Locke said. In fact, it came to him last year while playing the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival. “I do have a sense of place and identity in my sound,” he said, “and it’s Rochester, NY.”

Then it was time for Locke to pick up the mallets and get to work, joined first by vocalist Tessa Souter on a lovely ballad, and then hooking up with powerhouse house band Prime Time Funk for that slam-bang Hall of Fame moment, a swinging Latin number called “The King.”

Hanson is the man who built the Eastman School of Music, yet somehow found time to compose as well, winning a Pulitzer for his Symphony No. 4 in 1944. Current Eastman School of Music Director Jamal Rossi accepted in Hanson’s place, noting that both school founder George Eastman and Hanson insisted that music serve “the Rochester community and the world beyond.”

Pianist E-Na Song played Hanson’s “Slumber Song,” then a seven-piece ensemble from the Eastman performed his Serenade for Flute, Harp and Strings, Op. 35 .

Then, a turn from the past to the future. Natalia Hulse, a Penfield High School senior, and Jonathan Madden, a senior at Fairport High School, were introduced as winners of the Gibson Lowry Award, named for the late Eastman Director Douglas Lowry, backed by the Gibson Guitar Corp. and its Chief Executive Officer, 2015 inductee Henry Juszkiewicz. Both performed — Hulse singing, Madden on piano — and received a $1,000 scholarship.

Rado, who co-wrote the Grammy- and Tony-winning Hair, confessed he was overcome by a bit of heart-thumping anxiety, he called it “Rochestermania,” upon returning to his hometown. He recalled seeing a production of Cinderella as a 9-year-old, and the magenta spotlight shining on the curtain before the start of the show, and how “I caught the theater bug right here in this very theater.”

“I’m really happy I’m from Rochester,” Rado said as he took a seat in one of the loges at the side of the theater, singing along and snapping his fingers while Hair was celebrated with an ambitious and exuberant “Good Morning Sunshine” by Pepe Castro. “James Rado, you changed the face of musicals,” Castro said. And “Easy to be Hard” by Ula Hedwig, like Castro from the original Broadway cast of Hair. The Cowsills, who had a hit with the song, brought on a fun version of “Hair.” The Fifth Dimension’s Florence LaRue, resplendent in a red gown and boa, led the way on “Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In” as Rado made his way back to the stage to sing along, a handful of suspiciously young flower children dancing in the aisles and handing out flowers.

Ellis moved to Rochester as a teenager and attended Madison High School, joining James Brown’s band at age 24 as a saxophonist. He quickly became Brown’s musical director, helping to add funk to some of the Godfather of Soul’s best-known hits, and later became Van Morrison’s musical director. “If it weren’t for you,” he told the audience, “there would be no reason to do this.”

And then they did it, with 2016 Grammy winner Christian McBride and Ellis’ horn pals from the James Brown days, Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker. After a jazz number, “There is No Greater Love Than What I Feel For You,” Rochester’s Danielle Ponder and Chaz Bruce joined them for a selection of Brown songs that Ellis had a big hand in. That included “Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud),” with Ponder turning Brown’s world upside down with “It’s a Man’s World” and Bruce with a slow-smoldering “I Feel Good,” with Ellis even throwing in some vocals.

The Rustix, who were together from 1966 through 1972, recording three albums and sharing stages with The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Rascals, The Four Tops and Grand Funk Railroad, recording for Motown, Colombia and Chess Cadet. Two members of the Rustix, Bob D’Andrea and Al Galich, have died, although some of Galich’ s ashes did make it to the show. But Chuck Brucato, George Cocchini, Ron Collins, David Colon Jr. and Vince Strenk were on band for “When I Get Home,” “Come on People,” “Hard to Handle,” “Free Again” and “Can’t You Hear the Music Play.” They were joined by Brucato’s son, Joe, on vocals and guitarist Mike Gladstone, with once again members of Prime Time Funk and a trio of backing singers.

Closing the night was the celebration of Williams. Born and raised in Webster, Williams joined Rod Swenson to create the Plasmatics. “There was an explosion,” he said of Williams’ arrival in New York City; Williams took her own life in 1998, so Swenson was here to accept her induction into the Hall of Fame.

The explosion was a band whose uncompromising vision of non-conformity was expressed in punk, then increasingly metal, with a stage show built around destroying whatever was at hand.

The musical tribute included two ex-Plasmatics, guitarist Wes Beech and drummer T.C. Tolliver, and singer Liz O’Brien of Rochester’s The Cheetah Whores. The selection of former Runaways singer Cherie Currie on vocals might be seen as particularly inspired. Just as Williams often used a chainsaw onstage, Currie knows how to operate one, as an acclaimed chainsaw sculpture in her post-Runaways days. She gave us “Butcher Baby” but, alas, no chainsaw. Anarchy is just a memory.


RMHF 2012 Alumni Performers to put on a Variety Show

Democrat and Chronicle

GJS1Groove Juice Swing teaches and performs locally.


Local dance group parties like it’s 1939. Its Sweetheart Ball is a chance to get in on the action.


Way back in the ’30s and ’40s, people looking for a fun night out would find a dance hall where they could step, kick and spin to the era’s jazz and big bands. Not so way back, in the late ’90s, a new generation of enthusiasts found swing dancing, and the music and the moves jumped and hopped again in films and on the airwaves.

Since 2004, Rochester-based Groove Juice Swing has kept swing-dance culture kicking through dance instruction, social dances and events. Other local groups do it, too, including Rochester West Coast Swing and the Rochester Swing Dance Network. But Groove Juice has an added element: An annual variety show and Sweetheart Ball (this year on Feb. 13 at the German House in the South Wedge), showcasing the kind of dance-fueled spectacle of a bygone era: from chorus girl routines to solo jazz dance.

The Valentine-themed variety show, “Dream of You,” will include with Rochester performance troupe the Flower City Follies and others, plus several musicians. A dance lesson and the Sweetheart Ball dance party will follow — a full night out, circa 1935.

Swing is the thing.  You can’t talk about swing dancing without talking about the music, and swing music’s foundation is jazz.

“Jazz is basically old pop music that is played with an improvisational spirit,” says Mark Bader of the Swooners, a well-loved Rochester band who will provide the live music for the event. “Parts can be manipulated, melodies and rhythms can be changed. With swing dance music, we’re still playing the same songs, but we’re not taking as much artistic liberty with them.”

The Swooners, who play between 30 and 35 weddings a year, have a varied repertoire that includes funk, disco and, of course, swing, featuring “a big steady pulse,” says Bader. “We’re making it very rhythmic and driving for the dancers.”

The band’s plan for Saturday’s Sweetheart Ball is a wide range of jazzy numbers, “from Irving Berlin to Duke Ellington, Sinatra tunes all the way up through rockabilly, Buddy Holly. Even some modern stuff: Queen, some Outkasts, possibly Maroon5.”

Along with the music, most swing dance styles can trace their origins to African-American communities. Lindy Hop, perhaps the most enduring form, began in Harlem in the 1930s. Charleston and Balboa are other popular vintage styles that fall under the “swing” umbrella. What they all have in common is the ability to get people moving.

Rochester revival

It was during the 1990s that Groove Juice Swing founder Mike Thibault, then an RIT undergrad in information technology, got his first taste of swing. At the time, a confluence of media was rekindling interest in the swing era’s music and dancing into a full-fledged national revival, fueled in no small part by a Gap television ad that featured killer time-slice video effects of khaki-wearing dancers who Lindy hopped to Louis Prima’s hit “Jump, Jive an’ Wail.”

College students across the U.S., including here, formed swing dance clubs. Thibault and some friends joined one at RIT and attended classes with the Rochester Swing Dance Network. A group called Lindy Jam held weekly social dances, so Thibault and his friends decided to go and try out the steps they’d learned.

“Once we got to our first dance, we were hooked,” says Thibault, now a programmer at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “I knew then I was going to do it forever.”

By 2004, the national fad had slowed and, locally, participation in the Lindy Jam dances had waned. Thibault, reluctant to let all that swinging fun wither away, formed Groove Juice Swing.

“We knew that if the scene was going to come back and be healthy again, we needed to teach people to dance,” says Thibault.

So Groove Juice Swing, with Thibault at the helm, took over the Lindy Jam weekly dances and began teaching classes. The group also hired jazz musicians to play at monthly events, usually held on a Friday or Saturday night.

Groove Juice Swing really took off in 2009, the year Rebecca Berman joined the group as a publicist and instructor. Berman, now a graduate student in optics at the University of Rochester, had met Thibault while a UR undergraduate. Berman joined UR’s ballroom dance club, which rotated through instruction in several dances. Thibault taught the club’s swing portion. Before long, Berman and some friends had caught the swing bug and were taking private lessons with Thibault for two hours a week.

“Now I’m really happy to teach alongside of him,” says Berman.

Berman got the word out about their old-time activities through the very contemporary LivingSocial, Groupon and social media outlets. “A struggle for a long time was just letting people know we existed,” Berman explains. But eventually, Groove Juice had an influx of new students. “People started talking and telling their friends.”

The group now enjoys a steady stream of dancers of all ages, from high schoolers to senior citizens, and of all abilities.

“Our weekend events are very well attended,” says Berman. “People who have never been before take a onehour lesson and stay for the party.”

Groove Juice makes it easy to take lessons. Dancers don’t need experience or, contrary to what many believe, a partner. Participants show up and, customarily, they rotate through different partners. “You don’t get used to one person’s habits, so you’re ready for anything,” says Thibault.

Groove Juice can also take credit for spawning the Flower City Follies, a female, vintage-jazz dance troupe that performs at Groove Juice Swing’s events as well as the Fringe Festival and other Rochester venues. In 2014, the Flower City Follies won first prize in the Chorus Girl Competition at the Ultimate Lindy Hop Championships in New Orleans.

Besides the Follies, Saturday’s “Dream of You” show also features Stila Dance, a dance company and instruction studio in Scottsville run by Amy Sullivan and Jena Morey, with Sullivan also as artistic director and company performer. Stila will perform modern dance.

The evening’s festivities include a photo booth, souvenir dance cards and — for revelers who work up a thirst or appetite — a cash bar and light fare offered.

“We knew that if the scene was going to come back and be healthy again, we needed to teach people to dance.”


What: “Dream of You” variety show, free beginner swing dance lesson with Groove Juice Swing instructors and sixth annual Sweetheart Ball

Where: The German House, 315 Gregory St., Rochester When: 7 p.m. Saturday (dance lesson at 8 p.m., Sweetheart Ball 9 p.m. to midnight)Tickets: $20 for the show, $20 for the Sweetheart Ball; or discounted pre-ordered tickets for $30 to attend both the show and dance, available through

GJSThe Flower City Fellas are part of the Groove Juice Swing Family


King of airwaves dies at 93

Nick Nickson, WBBF voice


Nick-11-e1362087777957-258x300 Nick Nickson at WHAM 1180, where he retired from the radio industry in 2007.

Nick Nickson, a familiar and popular voice on WBBF radio for two decades,has died. The Rochester Music Hall of Fame member celebrated his 93rd birthday in December.

Shows with the “Ole’ Professor” on WBBF-AM during the 1950s and 60s had, at times, the attention of at least 60 percent of the listening market, a mega-share in the radio industry.

“The way he approached his job, he not only wanted to talk to people on the air, he wanted to meet them off the air,” Hockey Hall of Fame broadcaster and son Nick Nickson Jr. said. “I think that mindset made him popular.

“People could see the face behind the voice.”

Mr. Nickson’s 20 years on air was just the beginning in a career that spanned six decades. The Brighton resident was inducted into the Rochester Music Hall of Fame during 2013, with a class that included performers Lou Gramm, Bat McGrath and Don Potter.

Jack Palvino, another hugely popular figure in Rochester radio, wrote to Dan Guilfoyle after he received the news of Mr. Nickson’s death. Guilfoyle, a longtime board member of the Rochester Press-Radio Club, called Mr. Nickson a mentor.

“Danny, the clouds in Florida are crying this morning,” Palvino wrote. “Now I know why. Nick was a true legend with a heart of gold. His BBF accomplishment will never be matched. I’m proud to have carried his record hop box (to play at dances).

“Rest in Peace Ol’ Professor.”

Mr. Nickson, born Nick Nickitiades in New York City, entered radio in 1944 during World War II. He was with the Army Medical Corps in New Guinea. After the war, Mr. Nickson went to work for a station on Long Island, before he arrived in Rochester in 1947. His lengthy stay here began at what was then known as WARC, the forerunner of WBBF, where in 1956 rock ‘n’ rollprogramming was in. “I was able to see him do his job,” Nickson Jr. said. “I used to go downtown after school in Penfield and I would watch.

“I grew up in the radio environment. It kind of stayed with me. It’s worked out.” Nickson Jr. worked at WBBF as a senior at Ithaca College. The Los Angeles Kings radio play-byplay announcer has broadcasted professional hockey games for more than 40 years. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November.

“He was a people-person,” Nickson Jr. said. “He loved to be aroundpeople.” Guilfoyle met Mr. Nickson, who sometimes would enter rooms all smiles and saying ‘Hey, Hey, Hey’, in 1964 after moving from New York City. It was not long after that, the veteran of radio pointed out how important it was to get out there and rub shoulders with people. “He taught me to give of yourself,” Guilfoyle said. “There were charities, like Saints and Sinners, where he would work not just as a member, but leading the charge for new membership and raising money.”

Mr. Nickson went off the air in 1967 and became WBBF’s sales manager. He later became general sales manager of WBBF and its FM sister station WBFB, where he also was the station manager.

An article by a Democrat and Chronicle music critic described Mr. Nickson as “a real pro,” aggressive, hard-nosed and tough. There was a battle among radio stations in Rochester during the 1970s, to be the place to listen to classical or “good” music.

“We’re trying to give the housewife something she can listen to during the day,” Nickson told writer Michael Walsh then “She’s getting damn sick of WEZO and WPXY, two ‘easy-listening’ stations.”

Times change, and Mr. Nickson was in a new radio home in 1985, when he became sales manager at WHAM and reunited with former WBBF co-workers Ed Musicus and Palvino. After Mr. Nickson retired in 2007, he told the Democrat and Chronicle

just maybe he would keep on going, keep on meeting people and keep on working, maybe in commercials.

Mr. Nickson, decades later, may still be a familiar voice on Rochester radio.

“If there is a commercial for Zweigles on the air, it probably still has his voice,” Guilfoyle said.

Mr. Nickson is survived by Janette, his wife of 63 years; Nick Nickson Jr., who lives in Los Angeles; and daughters Andrea Relyea, who lives in Fairport, and Jennifer Nickson, who lives in Los Angeles; two grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Calling hours are 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Richard H. Keenan Funeral Home, 7501 Pittsford Palmyra Road in Perinton. The funeral service is 11 a.m. Monday at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, 9623 East Ave in Rochester.

Copyright © 2016 Democrat and Chronicle 1/29/2016


Douglas Lowry, Eastman’s Dean Emeritus dies

Douglas Lowry                                                Photograph courtesy of ESM The Board of Directors of the Rochester Music Hall of Fame, would like to extend its most heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Douglas Lowry, the Joan and Martin Messinger Dean Emeritus of the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester, who passed away on October second.  A remarkable academic leader, conductor, composer and great friend to the Hall of Fame.   Douglas Lowry (1951 – 2013)

RMHF Board members visit The Children’s School #15

RMHF Board members visit The Children’s School #15

  Now it’s the Four Rs

Summer school for the kids at The Children’s School of Rochester, school No. 15  in the city offers instruction in the basic Three Rs—Reading, Riting and Rithmetic, but a new R has been added.  The fourth R is Rmhf as in, the Rochester Music Hall of Fame. RMHF president Karl LaPorta with Board members Tracy Kroft and Jim Richmond gave a history lesson on local music to the kids on July 24th at the request of  Curriculum and Instructional  Practice Specialist, Mary Frenzel.  The children thoroughly enjoyed the presentation which included discussion on local luminaries such Cab Calloway and Chuck Mangione, a short video of clips taken from the Class of 2012 hall of fame induction ceremony and live musical performances by LaPorta and Richmond.  Cab Calloway seems to have piqued their curiosity the most according to Frenzel,  “…We already have several kids wanting to research Cab Calloway further!” Hall of fame Board members are available for similar presentations for students of all ages.  Inquires can be made on the contact page of this web site.