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



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.

Inductee Joe Locke performs during the first segment of the Rochester Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony Sunday.


Hall of Fame President Karl LaPorta gives some opening remarks at the start of the ceremony.


Rochester Music Hall of Fame announces 2016 inductees:

Pee Wee Ellis, Howard Hanson, Joe Locke,

James Rado, The Rustix, and Wendy O. Williams

Fifth annual induction ceremony is April 24 at Eastman Theatre; guest artists include

The Cowsills, Christian McBride, Cherie Currie, Florence LaRue, James Brown horn section

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The Rochester Music Hall of Fame announced today its Class of 2016 inductees — the most musically diverse inductees in a single year, spanning many genres, from classical to jazz and funk and from musical theater to rock and punk rock. The inductees are:

  • Pee Wee Ellis, acclaimed saxophonist and musical director/band leader
    or James Brown and Van Morrison
  • Howard Hanson, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and
    40-year director of Eastman School of Music
  • Joe Locke, world-renowned vibraphonist
  • James Rado, Grammy winner and rock-musical pioneer as creator of Hair
  • The Rustix, Rochester’s blue-eyed soul band signed by Motown
  • Wendy O. Williams, Grammy-nominated punk rocker and performance artist
    and leader of The Plasmatics

During a press event this morning, RMHF board members unveiled photos as the inductee names were announced and their music and legacies shared. Also announced were the guest artists who will perform during the induction ceremony and new information about the Douglas Lowry Award — which in its second year is now being presented to two high school seniors and is supported by the Gibson Foundation. Canandaigua National Bank & Trust continues as the ceremony’s generous presenting sponsor and returning as the ceremony’s popular house band is Prime Time Funk.

The all-volunteer board — of which most members are musicians themselves —have modeled this event after the other world-class music awards shows such as the Kennedy Center Honors, the Grammy® Awards, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. “Rochester has a rich and diverse musical heritage and those being honored deserve the best possible representation,” said Karl LaPorta, chairman of the RMFH board of directors. “The audiences have been amazed at the show that is put on and the shared musical experience is intensely entertaining.”

The first four ceremonies have drawn near sell-out crowds to Kodak Hall at the Eastman Theatre. The fifth annual induction ceremony of the Rochester Music Hall of Fame (RMHF) will take place at 7 p.m. Sunday, April 24 at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre. Tickets are on sale now at the Eastman Theatre box office or at (585) 454-2100.  Tickets are priced at $35 to $60 — with specially priced $20 seats for students and educators. More ticket information is online at

The inductees and the live musical performances

Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis is an acclaimed saxophonist and composer who was the architect of James Brown’s era-defining soul classics of the late 1960s, introducing the dynamic arrangements and rhythm that would define the emerging language of funk. Ellis is considered the inventor of “funk jazz” and together with Brown is credited with giving birth to funk, melding together his jazz influence with Brown’s R&B roots. Born in Florida, Ellis’s family moved when he was a teenager to Rochester, N.Y., where he studied at Madison High School and collaborated with fellow fledgling jazz musicians (and past RMHF inductees) Chuck Mangione and Ron Carter. He was given the nickname “Pee Wee” by older jazz musicians with whom he used to jam.

At age 24, he began working with James Brown and was his bandleader from 1965 to 1969. He co-wrote and arranged several songs with the Godfather of Soul, including “Cold Sweat,” “Licking Stick,” “Mother Popcorn,” and “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud,” and he also performs on many of Brown’s most notable recordings. Other artists Ellis has worked with and composed and arranged for include George Benson, Dave Liebman, Aerosmith, and Van Morrison. Today Ellis lives in the UK where he leads his band The Pee Wee Ellis Assembly, is writing his autobiography, and is developing a project chronicling the history and impact of funk on popular music and culture.

Performance: Pee Wee Ellis will perform jazz alongside bassist and 2016 Grammy winner Christian McBride. He also will be joined by Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley, who together with Ellis were the magic behind the famed James Brown horn section, to perform some of the hits Ellis co-wrote with Brown.

Howard Hanson (1896-1981) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer who has been called the dean of American composers and spokesman for music in America. He served as director of Eastman School of Music — by invitation of George Eastman himself — for 40 years from 1924 to 1964, taking office shortly before his 28th birthday. The Eastman School under his leadership developed into an institution in which students could receive a well-rounded education while concentrating on their professional studies. Also during this tenure, Hanson became one of the country’s most influential music educators and championed American classical music, premiering at the school 2,000 works by more than 500 American composers, through the American Composers Concerts and an annual Festivals of American Music, thus providing opportunities for commissioning and performing American music. When Hanson retired, the University of Rochester named him the director of a newly created Institute of American Music, which operated from royalties on compositions and recordings executed during his tenure at the Eastman School.

In addition to earning 34 honorary doctorate degrees, Hanson also earned recognition for his original works — his 1934 opera Merry Mount is considered the first fully American opera and his Symphony No. 4 earned a Pulitzer Prize in 1944. Hanson’s Symphony No. 2 “Romantic” is the featured piece during the closing credits of the 1979 film Alien.

Performance: A classical-music string ensemble of students from Eastman School of Music, featuring piano and flute, will perform original works by Howard Hanson.

Joe Locke is a renowned vibraphonist who is heralded internationally as one of the major voices of his instrument, earning a top spot on Jazz Week album charts, the title “Mallet Player of the Year” several times from the Jazz Journalists Association, and the Ear Shot award for “Concert of the Year.” Locke has more than 30 acclaimed recordings to his credit and has performed with a diverse range of musicians, including Grover Washington Jr., Cecil Taylor, Dianne Reeves, Ron Carter, The Beastie Boys, and the Münster Symphony Orchestra.

Locke has mastered an instrument that has catapulted only a handful of players to the forefront of modern jazz. The Times of London has said he is “set to become the pre-eminent vibraphonist in jazz” and the Penguin Encyclopedia of Jazz stated, “In the select group of contemporary vibes players, Locke has claims to head the list.” He is an Honorary Associate of the Royal Academy of Music in London, where he holds the position of International Vibraphone Consultant. Locke’s latest album, Love is a Pendulum, has been featured in a number of  “Best of 2015” lists, including those of DownBeat Magazine, Jazz Times, and critic Jack Garner in the Democrat and Chronicle. Locke’s family moved to Rochester, N.Y. from California when he was young. While he is a self-taught improviser, he mastered his craft while in high school, studying classical percussion and composition at the Eastman School of Music.

Performance: Joe Locke will perform two songs from his repertoire, backed by
members of Prime Time Funk and featuring vocalist Tessa Souter.

James Rado is an American actor, writer, and composer who is best known for his groundbreaking American rock-musical Hair. He won the Grammy Award in 1969 for Best Score, alongside Hair co-creator Gerome Ragni and Galt MacDermot, as well as a Tony Award nomination for Best Musical — and 30 years later stood on the Tony’s stage in 2009 when Hair won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. The music charts were dominated by songs from Hair in 1969 — many seen as anthems of the anti-Vietnam War peace movement — with The Fifth Dimension releasing the medley “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In,” which topped the charts for six weeks and won Record of the Year. Other hits that reached the second, third, and fourth spots on the Billboard charts, respectively, were The Cowsills’s recording of the title song “Hair”; “Good Morning Starshine” as sung by Oliver; and Three Dog Night’s version of “Easy to Be Hard.”

Rado (born James Alexander Radomski) grew up in Irondequoit and his dream as a teen was to write a Broadway musical. He began writing Hair 50 years ago and performed the role of Claude in the original Broadway production when it was staged in 1968. The theatrical show ran for nearly 2,000 performances in both London and New York and set up for years at a time in major cities around the globe. It was made into a hit movie in 1979 and revived on Broadway in 2009 and is currently playing at an Off-Off-Broadway theater in New York. Rado has authored and composed other stage shows since Hair and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2009. Rado’s immense influence on musical theater is evident today, with Hair featuring the first-ever racially integrated cast and also defining the genre of “rock musical.” Proof of that influence is in 2010 all four Tony nominees for Best Musical were rock musicals. In his words, in regard to the intensity of it all: “My mother was so enthralled with her son singing “Where Do I Go” at the end of Act I, she didn’t even see the nude scene that accompanied it. Can you say YOU were there!? Fortunately, I can.”

Performance: The Cowsills will perform their hit “Hair” on the Kodak Hall stage, joined by original Hair cast members Ula Hedwig and Peppy Castro (who played the roles of Burger and Woof) singing “Good Morning Starshine.” Lead vocalist with The 5th Dimension, Florence LaRue, will sing “Aquarius.”

The Rustix (active 1966 to 1972) was an R&B/blue-eyed soul band based in Rochester that was one of the first rock bands signed by Motown. The Rustix recorded three albums and generated the hit songs “Come On People,” “When I Get Home,” “Hard to Handle,” “Free Again,” and “Can’t You Hear the Music Play?” The band drew big crowds at the Varsity Inn in Rochester and also at the Brighton Bowl on East Avenue, where the owner offered to a build a new club to accommodate the band’s growing fan base, naming it Club 45. Their fame grew as they played summers in Lake George and recorded original songs with labels Columbia Records and Chess Cadet.

In 1969, to support their “Bedlam” album — recorded on Motown label’s for white bands called Rare Earth — they toured the country and opened for the Jimmy Hendrix Experience, The Rascals, The Four Tops, Grand Funk Railroad, and Emerson Lake & Palmer. The album reached the Top 100 Billboard List. The band reunited in 1979 for an anniversary concert and they now will reunite again for the 2016 induction ceremony. The members being inducted on April 24 will be Chuck Brucato, George Cocchini, Ron Collins, David Colon Jr., and Vince Strenk, as well as posthumous inductions for late members Bob D’Andrea nad Al Galich.

Performance: The surviving members of The Rustix will perform their hit songs live on the Kodak Hall stage at Eastman Theatre.

Wendy O. Williams (1949-1998) was an American singer, songwriter, and actress who was known as the “Queen of Shock Rock.” While remembered for her stage antics, she is also heralded for her talent, for which she earned a Grammy nomination in 1985 for “Best Female Rock Vocal” for the album WOW (the first of her three solo albums and one in which she collaborated with Gene Simmons and members of KISS and released the hit song “It’s My Life”). Williams first came to national prominence as the lead singer of the punk-rock band The Plasmatics, a controversial group known for wild stage shows that broke countless taboos. They were popular in the underground punk scene in New York City, performing at famed CBGBs, and released five albums that featured the singles “Doom Song,” “Butcher Baby,” “Monkey Suit,” and “Dream Lover.”

The band’s focus was always on Williams, whose infamous stage theatrics included using sledgehammers and chainsaws to destroy television sets, guitars and even a Cadillac, all while wearing eccentric costumes that allowed for partial nudity. She was arrested on obscenity charges for her live performances that went too far, according to local authorities. In 1979, the same year she was asked to front The Plasmatics, she appeared in the adult film Candy Goes to Hollywood. Throughout her life, Williams remained a vocal advocate of her rights to self-expression. “We’re not out to pick fights,” Williams said in a 1981 Rolling Stone interview. “But then the essence of what we do is shaking up the middle class; I think if you don’t do that with your music, you’re just adding to the noise pollution.”

Williams grew up in Webster, N.Y. (full name Wendy Orleans Williams) and died at age 48 from suicide. In her performance career, she also dabbled in film and television acting, with roles in Reform School Girls in 1986 and MacGyver in 1990.

Performance: A band honoring Williams’ music legacy and music will be led by Wes Beech, lead guitarist of The Plasmatics, and Cheri Currie, former lead singer of The Runaways, on lead vocals.

The Douglas Lowry Award presented by Gibson

The Rochester Music Hall of Fame introduced in 2015 a new award for graduating high-school seniors named for the late Eastman School of Music Dean Douglas Lowry. This year RMHF is selecting two award recipients, and applications are being accepted now through March 4. The honor recognizes two students who have excelled in music and plan on continuing their music education in college. The inaugural recipient was Sage Melcher of Honeoye Falls, who performed at the 2015 ceremony and is currently a music student at Pace University.

The Douglas Lowry Award presented by Gibson is being underwritten by the Gibson Foundation and 2015 inductee Henry Juszkiewicz, chairman and CEO of Gibson Guitar Corp. and Rochester native. The 2016 winners will be invited to perform at this year’s ceremony in addition to earning a $1,000 award for college expenses. Dean Lowry advised and supported the RMHF from the beginning and was instrumental in the induction ceremony having a home at the Eastman Theatre. The Douglas Lowry Award application is online at

About the 2016 poster artist

Sarah Pearlman Ventura of Rochester is the winner of the 2016 RMHF poster-design contest, which was open to artists of all levels and ages from December through February. She is a professional artist and owner of Pearlman Graphic Design. The second place winner is William Shera and the third-place winning designed by Margery Pearl Gurnett. Ventura’s winning poster will be on display at the front entrance of Eastman Theatre and throughout the community to promote the April 24 induction ceremony.

Attn. Media

An electronic press kit with high-res photographs of the inductees; links to video clips and sound files; and the 2016 poster is online at

Media Contact:
Dresden Engle
Dresden Public Relations
585) 319-1812

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 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


Congratulations to RMHF 2014 inductee WDKX


Independent station ends WBEE’s run atop rankings


The phone lines fill with callers anxious to share thoughts on the Rochester City School District over an alleged case of violence. ? Someone blames the parents. Another says the district is turning a blind eye. Others share in formation on where to go for help. ? In the middle of the morning talk is WDKXFM (103.9) host Tariq Spence, guiding the on-air discussion from a studio on East Main Street inside Rochester’s newly named No. 1-rated radio station, according to latest Nielsen figures. ? “In order to find out and decipher what’s really going, you have to hear what people have to say,” Spence said after a recent a show. “They all need to be heard… so we can get the dialogue going of fixing the problem.”

‘D.J. Reign’ Reign Shakur, left, and Tariq Spence laugh over what resident Talent Harris, right, said during a segment of a recent morning show on WDKX-FM (103.9).


An urban contemporary format, periods of talk radio with listeners on trending topics, and an involvement in a variety of community-based events have helped vault the independently owned station back to the top. The station traces its roots back to 1974, and is one of the oldest minorityowned radio stations in the country. WDKX ended WBEEFM’s (92.5) nearly fouryear run on top of Nielsen’s Topline ratings, according to Rochester-area audience data of those 12 and older released earlier this month. “We don’t exclude the community from this station,” said Andre Langston, station operator and son of Andrew Langston, who founded the station in 1974 and died in 2010. “They are family. If it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t be here. We are not kidding. We want you to get a laugh (and) learn something.” Nielsen reported that WDKX had a 9.3 percent share of the local audience last fall, compared to WBEE’s 8.1 share. News talk WHAM-AM (1180) came in third with a 7.3 share. It’s the first time since the spring of 2012 that a station other than WBEE has held the top spot. The No. 1 station at that time was also WDKX, the only locally owned station in the top 13 spots of the rankings, according to a spokesman for Nielsen.

The data do not include information for such stations as WARM-FM (101.3) owned by the Stephens Media Group and other stations that do not subscribe to Nielsen, said Scott Fybush, editor of Northeast Radio Watch, a Brighton-based trade publication. “It is still a tremendous achievement for any independently owned station that’s aiming at a minority community,” Fybush said. “To be No. 1, you don’t see that many places. WDXK is one of the great local radio success stories anywhere in the country. They are the community voice. If all they did was sit there and play music, they might get half the ratings that they do. They have such a deep community connection.”

Fybush said WBEE’s drop of 2.2 percentage points from the summer to the fall of last year might be partly due to staffing changes at that station and gains by WARM.

“You can sort of read the numbers by subtraction,” he said. “If you look, nobody got double digits this time out.”

Same voices, new places

The fall was the first full period with WBEE talk host Terry Clifford out of her old morning slot in favor of a 10 a.m.-to-3 p.m. shift. It was a move similar to Scott Spezzano’s jump a year earlier between Entercom’s WPXY-FM (97.9) to WBZA-FM (98.9), Fybush said. Both moves, he said, were designed to put personalities in spots with the largest audiences. “There is good reason to believe that the changes they have made, at least in the short term, are at least (partially) responsible for what you are seeing there,” Fybush said. “They are playing a strategic game there where I think the goal has been to try to make shows appeal to younger audiences without losing too much of the older audience.”

All five of Entercom’s local stations are on the Nielsen rankings, with classic rock station WCMF-FM (96.5) holding the largest audience with a 5 percent share. Seven of the top 13 most listened to stations, according to Nielsen, are operated by IHeartRadio. Its top station is WHAM-AM (1180)with a 7.3 share. IHeartRadio has worked in recent years to bring popular hosts Brother Wease and Kimberly & Beck to WAIO-FM (95.1) in an effort to boost ratings. Recently, it moved sportscaster John Ditullio from his early evening talk show on WHTK-AM (1280) to join Bill Moran for a 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. show on 95.1. The team debuted earlier this month with Dan Moriarty taking Ditullio’s slot on WHTK.

“Anybody can play the same music, but to me the difference is the people,” said Joe Bonadonna, program director of WHAM and WAIO. “People connect with people. You put Ditullio and Moran together, this is just exciting radio. You have a friend sitting next to you in the car. They are engaging and it’s fun and you don’t know where it is going.”

Ditullio and Moran also are getting some help.

Broadcasters from WHAM provide news updates on their show, a move that’s part of a larger strategy to share talent among the two stations. Kimberly & Beck, booted off Entercom for some off-color remarks, joined IHeartRadio about 18 months ago. Listeners can hear them on both WHAM and WAIO at various times. WAIO was ranked sixth by Nielsen with a 4.3 share in the most recent data. “We share everybody,” Bonadonna said. “You would think that people would say, ‘This is my station, go away.’ But everybody helps everybody out. And that is for the great benefit of the community.”

Fybush said some of the moves at WAIO are likely being made to preparefor the day that Brother Wease retires from radio, even if it is simply to have another team in place that could potentially move into his morning time slot. Bonadonna said the long-running morning radio host still has two or three years left on his current contract, adding that nothing is in the works to replace Wease. “We are not making changes like that,” he added. “Everybody speculates about everything in radio and my job is to live in the moment because I have to win day-by-day, moment-by-moment.”

New leader

Andre Langston, who has his own show at WDKX, said the station spends a long time listening to what its audience wants and that includes music, talk and trending topics. Area politicians and community leaders have been on-air guests, including Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, who appeared on the station during her run for office against Tom Richards. Warren won that race, to the surprise of many. “We helped her,” Langston said. “Without this station, I don’t think she would have been elected. Maybe I shouldn’t say that, but there was no place else that warmed up to Lovely except us. We had the door open so she could come in and be heard. “I can’t say I’m a fan of anybody, but I respect her. I am the kind of guy that sits in the back and kind of watches everybody.”

The black-owned station currently employs about 25 people and has another studio in the works at its headquarters on East Main Street nearNorth Union Street. Despite the loss of general manager Marietta Avery, who died last April and was involved in a dizzying number of community activities, WDKX and its staff remains nearly as equally involved. Andrew Langston was recently honored by the city with a street named after him to recognize his community involvement.

The station has helped pull off workshops to assist residents in finding jobs, and supported debates for political candidates, Black History Month events, free concerts, senior dinners and several other events. “Radio should listen,” said Andre Langston. “Radio has a heart (and) that heart is the community itself, so you need to know what is in the community and be a part of it.”


Several platinum albums awarded to WDKX-FM (103.9) hang on the walls inside the station on East Main Street.

Tariq Spencer listens to a caller during a recent Feedback Friday segment.


Congratulations to RMHF 2015 Inductee Ron Carter

Ron Carter earns world record as the most recorded jazz bassist in history

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Democrat and Chronicle


Hall of Fame tickets on sale

Tickets are now on sale for the fifth annual Rochester Music Hall of Fame induction concert, 7 p.m. April 24 at Kodak Hall at the Eastman Theatre, 60 Gibbs St.

All four of the previous events have been near sell-outs.

Inductees and performers at the show will be announced Feb. 24. Rochester’s Prime Time Funk will return as the house band.

The Hall is also accepting applications for two awards. The Douglas Lowry Award, named for the late dean of the Eastman School of Music, recognizes a graduating high school student in music who plans on pursuing it in college. The deadline for application is March 4, with the winner invited to perform at this year’s ceremony in addition to earning a $1,000 award for college expenses.

Entries are being accepted through Feb. 15 for the 2016 Poster Design Competition now through Feb. 15. The winning artist receives a $300 prize, two tickets to the April event and a mention in the printed program. Second place receives $100, third place $50.

Tickets ($35, $50, and $60) at the Eastman Theatre box office, (585) 454-2100.  For more on tickets or entry applications for the Lowery Award and Poster Design Competition, check

Gene Cornish, left, and Lou Gramm perform at last year’s induction ceremony for the Rochester Music Hall of Fame. Tickets for this year’s event are on sale.


PaulCatch the spirit of gospel music in Rochester
Aenon Baptist Church to host King songfest


The 2016 Martin Luther King Jr. Gospel Songfest is a spiritual explosion of gospel music in Rochester.

This year, Aenon Baptist Church, 175 Genesee St., will host the annual family-friendly event starting at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Highlights include a 200-voice choir — which will sing again at Monday morning’s MLK Community Celebration at Eastman Theater — and a full band, featuring flag and dance routines by a 40-member youth group. The concert brings together a collaboration of 30 musicians and parishioners from dozens of area churches.

Julius Dicks leads the way

For more than 25 years, Julius Dicks, music director for Baber AME Church, has partnered with Colgate-Rochester Divinity School’s Black Student Caucus to chair and sponsor the annual citywide MLK concert.

Dicks, who has been active in the Rochester music community for many years, has done televised productions and professional recordings. Most, if not all, of the musicians performing during songfest have worked with him in one way or another throughout the decades of coordinating gospel music workshops and community programs.

Now, his son, Frederick Dicks, attends Colgate- Rochester Divinity, and was selected by members of the School’s Black Student Caucus to step into his dad’s role as chairperson of the event.

“The gospel songfest is important to Rochester, because it matters to people in a day and age where we have very little hope,” Frederick Dicks said.

“A lot of terrible things are happening in our communities, such as poverty, violence, and poor education,” he added. “We need something to pull us together and remind us why we are here? What we are meant to do? And what we are supposed to do? It starts with us coming together.”

He believes it is important to bring events to the public as reminders. Paul Boutte, 103.9 WDKX-FM gospel music director and radio personality, believes the songfest unifies people.

“Folks from churches of all religious denominations and racial backgrounds come out to this event every year,” he points out. “You will experience praise and a great community atmosphere. It’s a gospel songfest and a celebration of Dr. King’s legacy. Frederick has picked up where his father left off, and has continued to bring those two spiritual components together.”

Each year, the gospel songfest honors individuals within the community who demonstrate the values for which King stood, particularly in activism and leadership. Two honorees will be announced.

To coincide with the 2016 gospel songfest, Colgate- Rochester Divinity’s Black Student Caucus will present a Black History Month Series themed as, “Blackness Restored” at 4:15 p.m. Wednesdays in February, in the campus chapel. Speakers include Rev. Anthony Trufant, Christopher House of Ithaca, Sharon Hunter of Macomb, IL, and Rev. Johnny Ray Youngblood of Brooklyn. Proceeds from the 2016 gospel songfest will go toward running different student caucus programs throughout the year to benefit the community.

“We’re able to pursue top-level speakers, and workshop leaders to come in and discuss urban issues, cultural issues, race issues and other important concerns of the day,” Frederick said. “It’s very personal for me, because now more than ever, we need to recognize where we are as a people and become unified, not just with ourselves but also with all people,” he said. “I believe the greatest cause we have is to serve one another. Dr. King said we all could be great because we all can serve.”

Rodney Brown is a freelance writer.

Frederick Dicks and Paul Boutte.

PROVIDED  Copyright © 2016 Democrat and Chronicle 1/16/2016


Tickets go on sale TODAY
for Rochester Music Hall of Fame 2016 induction ceremony

Lowry Award student application and poster-design submissions are now being accepted; fifth annual ceremony is April 24 at Eastman Theatre — inductees to be announced Feb. 24

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Tickets go on sale today for the fifth induction ceremony of the Rochester Music Hall of Fame — the 2016 inductees will be announced Feb. 24 for an entertaining, music-filled ceremony this spring at Eastman Theatre.

Tickets can be purchased in person at the Eastman Theatre box office by phone at (585) 454-2100 or by going to the RMHF website: . The ticket prices are $35, $50, and $60. More ticket information is online at

The first four ceremonies have drawn near sell-out crowds to Kodak Hall at the Eastman Theatre. The fifth annual induction ceremony of the Rochester Music Hall of Fame (RMHF) will take place at 7 p.m. Sunday, April 24. Canandaigua National Bank & Trust continues as the ceremony’s generous presenting sponsor and returning as the ceremony’s house band is Prime Time Funk.

Applications and submissions are now being accepted for the Douglas Lowry Award and the annual poster-design competition:

The Douglas Lowry Award

The Rochester Music Hall of Fame introduced last year a new award for graduating high-school seniors named for the late Eastman School of Music Dean Douglas Lowry. Applications are being accepted now through March 4. The honor recognizes a student who has excelled in music and plans on continuing his or her music education in college. The inaugural recipient was Sage Melcher, who performed at the 2015 ceremony and is currently a music student at Pace University. The 2016 winner will be invited to perform at this year’s ceremony in addition to earning a $1,000 award for college expenses. Dean Lowry advised and supported the RMHF from the beginning and was instrumental in the induction ceremony having a home at the Eastman Theatre. The Douglas Lowry Award application is online at

The RMHF 2016 Poster Competition

The RMHF is accepting entries for its 2016 Poster Design Competition now through Feb. 15. The winning design will be selected by the RMHF Board of Directors and used to promote the 2016 induction ceremony. The winning artist will receive a $300 prize, two tickets to the April event, and a special mention in the printed program. The second-place winner will receive $100 and the third-place winner will be awarded a $50 prize. All ages and all skill levels are eligible. Guidelines and specs are online at

About the Rochester Music Hall of Fame

The Rochester Music Hall of Fame, which celebrated its first inductees in 2012, recognizes those with ties to Rochester whose talents, efforts, perseverance, and creativity have contributed to the creation of musical excellence. It is the realization of a dream long had by musician Karl LaPorta, RMHF’s chairman of the board. Each year new members are honored through ceremony and celebration and their achievements memorialized to promote an appreciation for the Greater Rochester area’s rich and diverse musical history and culture. More than just an annual ceremony, the RMHF’s Board of Directors works with area schools throughout the year to present programs about Rochester’s rich musical heritage. Goals of the RMHF include being a community resource for musical education and research and to inspire and encourage current and future generations to explore their own musical potential. Learn more about RMHF at


Rochester Music Hall of Famer, Gene Cornish of the Rascals to appear at the House of Guitars for their Annual Nonperishable Food Drive on Nov. 28th at 5:00pm

Hog w Gene*************************************************************

VetAdvGuitarRaffle 5Layla




Searching for Son House this week in Rochester



Journey to the Son: A Celebration of Son House: The four-day festival weaves together music, theatre, film, audio recordings, storytelling and lectures to celebrate Rochester’s adopted son, Eddie “Son” House. Aug 26 to 29. Various times and venues. Geva Theatre Center, 75 Woodbury Blvd. $100, 4-day pass. (585) 232-4382 or www.gevatheatrecenter. org. Details:



Audio Blues: Sound designer Lindsay Jones takes a journey through Son House’s music, by layering it with covers by artists of diverse generations and musical styles. Part of “Journey to the Son: A Celebration of Son House.” 4 to 5 p.m. Aug. 26.

Fielding Nextstage at Geva Theatre Center, 75 Woodbury Blvd. Free, tickets required. (585) 232-4382 or

Journey to the Son: A Celebration of Son House: Four-day festival weaves together music, theatre, film, audio recordings, storytelling and lectures to celebrate Rochester’s adopted son, Eddie “Son” House. Aug 26 to 29. Various times and venues. Geva Theatre Center, 75 Woodbury Blvd. $100, 4-day pass. (585) 232-4382 or www.gevatheatrecenter. org.

Revival: The Resurrection of Son House: Concert- style reading by Keith Glover. Followed by talkback with the playwright. Part of “Journey to the Son: A Celebration of Son House.” 8 p.m. Aug. 26. Mainstage, Geva Theatre Center, 75 Woodbury Blvd. Free, tickets required. (585) 232-4382 or


John Hammond in Concert: Part of “Journey to the Son: A Celebration of Son House.” 8 p.m. Aug.

27. Mainstage, Geva Theatre Center, 75 Woodbury Blvd. $40. (585) 232-4382 or

Son in Popular Culture: Two presentations, facilitated by John Covach, investigating the context around Son House’s music and U.S. popular culture. Presentations by Dave Headlam (Eastman School of Music) and Lauren Onkey (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum). Part of “Journey to the Son: A Celebration of Son House.” 2:30 to 4 p.m.

Aug. 27. Fielding Nextstage at Geva Theatre Center, 75 Woodbury Blvd. Free, tickets required.

(585) 232-4382 or

Son’s Life in Mississippi: Panel discussion with Jim O’Neal and Dan Beaumont, moderated by Literary Director/Resident Dramaturg Jenni Werner. Part of “Journey to the Son: A Celebration of Son House.” 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Aug. 27. Fielding Nextstage at Geva Theatre Center, 75 Woodbury Blvd. Free, tickets required. (585) 232-4382 or

Son’s Style: Demonstration by award-winning blues guitarist John Mooney. Part of “Journey to the Son: A Celebration of Son House.” Noon to 1 p.m. Aug. 27. Fielding Nextstage at Geva Theatre Center, 75 Woodbury Blvd. Free, tickets required.

(585) 232-4382 or

The Role of Mississippi in the Blues: Presented by Jim O’Neal, co-founding editor, Living Blues Magazine and research director, Mississippi Blues Trail. Part of “Journey to the Son: A Celebration of Son House.” 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Aug. 27. Fielding Nextstage at Geva Theatre Center, 75 Woodbury Blvd. Free, tickets required. (585) 232-4382 or


John Mooney with Joe Beard, Brian William and Fred Vine: Part of “Journey to the Son: A Celebration of Son House.” 8 p.m. Aug. 28. Mainstage, Geva Theatre Center, 75 Woodbury Blvd.

$35. (585) 232-4382 or

Celebrating Rochester’s Blues Roots: Hear from some of Rochester’s most exciting blues musicians influenced by Son House, including The Crawdaddies and Steve Grills and the Roadmasters. Part of “Journey to the Son: A Celebration of Son House.” 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Aug. 28. Mainstage, Geva Theatre Center, 75 Woodbury Blvd. Free, tickets required. (585) 232-4382 or www.gevatheatre. org.

Open Mike: Sharing Stories about Son in Rochester: Son House touched the lives of many in Rochester and throughout the world. Geva’s Director of Education and Artist in Residence Skip Greer emcees this opportunity to share these stories with each other. Part of “Journey to the Son: A Celebration of Son House.” Noon to 1 p.m.

Aug. 28. Fielding Nextstage at Geva Theatre Center, 75 Woodbury Blvd. Free, tickets required.

(585) 232-4382 or

Son House on Tour: Photos of a Second Career: Dick Waterman, Son House’s former manager and one of the three men who found him living in Rochester in 1964, documented his relationship with Son through photographs. Waterman will share a decade’s worth of striking images through stories. Part of “Journey to the Son: A Celebration of Son House.” 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Aug. 28. Fielding Nextstage at Geva Theatre Center, 75 Woodbury Blvd. Free, tickets required. (585) 232-4382 or


Chris Thomas King: Part of “Journey to the Son: A Celebration of Son House.” 7 p.m. Aug. 29.

Mainstage, Geva Theatre Center, 75 Woodbury Blvd. $30. (585) 232-4382 or

Son House Looking Forward: Panel discussion led by Steve Grills with Edward Komara, author of

The Road to Robert Johnson, and Jeff Harris, host of Big Road Blues on Jazz 90.1. Part of “Journey to the Son: A Celebration of Son House.” 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Aug. 29. Fielding Nextstage at Geva Theatre Center, 75 Woodbury Blvd. Free, tickets required. (585) 232-4382 or

Son House’s Extended Family: Dan Beaumont, author of Preachin ’ the Blues: the Life and Times of Son House, presents a lecture/demo connecting Son House’s songs with those of newer generations – songs that have become classics in their own right. With special guests John Mooney and Joe Beard. Part of “Journey to the Son: A Celebration of Son House.” 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Aug. 29. Mainstage, Geva Theatre Center, 75 Woodbury Blvd.

Free, tickets required. (585) 232-4382 or www.gevatheatre. org.

Story of a Life in the Blues: Led by blues harapist Jerry Portnoy. Part of “Journey to the Son: A Celebration of Son House.” Noon to 1 p.m. Aug.

29. Fielding Nextstage at Geva Theatre Center, 75 Woodbury Blvd. Free, tickets required. (585) 232-4382 or




Rochester Lyric Opera turns 10 with music and a gala for fans of ‘something fun to do


So you want to start an opera company. You’ll need unwavering dedication and the ability to navigate a quagmire of artistic, logistical and financial considerations. Susan Cotroneo knows this well, after founding Empire State Lyric Theatre — now known as Rochester Lyric Opera (RLO) — a decade ago with her husband, Anthony. But she has had good reason to make it work.

“I love to sing, I love opera, and I want to share it,” says Cotroneo, a Rochester native.

To celebrate its 10th anniversary, RLO will present Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s short opera, The Impresario, on Friday, Aug. 28, in RLO’s new home, the magnificent and historic Lyric Theatre at 440 East Ave. in

Rochester. The evening will also include selections from other well-known Moz-art works, The Marriage of Figaro and Cosi Fan Tutte. And a pre-concert gala reception will take place in the theater’s Cabaret Hall, beginning at 6:30 p.m. The curtain rises at 8 p.m.

That gala is an important part of Cotroneo’s vision for RLO, whose motto is “Opera for everyone.” The idea is to provide a festive atmosphere that appeals to new audiences. RLO’s model, says Cotroneo, calls for a “a social affair connected to the opera, so that opera becomes part of a complete evening.”

Opera as a social event is nothing new, says the performance’s musical director, Eric Townell. Historically, opera-goers “ate and drank, talked to each other, waved to friends, and shouted across from balcony to balcony.”

Mozart, known as someone who liked a good time, no doubt would have approved. And The Impresario, written in 1786, was meant to amuse audiences. The showy, comedic one-act opera depicts a competition in which two singers battle to see who can hit higher and higher notes. 

The Lyric Theatre will provide a fitting backdrop for Rochester Lyric Opera’s performance of Mozart’s The Impresario and several other popular selections by the composer.
That plot line holds an intriguing parallel to real life, and even more so to the Hollywood version seen in the film, Amadeus . Viennese Emperor Joseph II had ordered a competition between Mozart and court composer Antonio Salieri, and The Impresario was Mozart’s entry. (See sidebar to learn more about how it played out.) “There’s nothing really safe about The Impresario. It’s a very flashy show,” says Townell. “It has everything you can enjoy about an opera experience in a small framework.” 

Cotroneo, a soprano, will star in the performance along with Mitchell Hutchings (baritone), Brittany Mrucek (soprano), Grant Knox (tenor) and Allyn Van Dusen (mezzo soprano). The concert will also feature an as-yet-unnamed guest in the role of the the impresario. Lindsay Warren Baker directs the performance. 

“We have very gifted singers,” says Townell, “and they’re from the area, which is important to us. We have the best players in town.” 

RLO staged The Impresario as its inaugural performance a decade ago. That 2005 event updated the opera’s setting to one taking place in the 1940s. This month’s anniversary performance returns The Impresario to its original late-18th century timeframe. 

That original setting of The Impresario seems tailor-made for the Lyric Theatre and its grandeur, which evokes a bygone era. 

“The building is so gorgeous, so oldworld,” says Cotroneo. “We’re doing full period costumes and powdered wigs. It’s so fitting for this space.” 

The Lyric Theatre, built in 1915 for the First Church of Christ, Scientist, before its recent sale to RLO, “has that stepback- in-time feel about it that’s just magical,” Townell says. “It’s like you took a European opera house and planted it in Rochester.” 

“It’s absolutely breathtaking,” echoes Agneta Borgstedt, M.D., president and treasurer of the Opera Guild of Rochester, a not-for-profit group that supports area opera. “George Eastman came over and looked at the ceiling. … (Subsequently) he got the same artist to do the ceiling at Kodak Hall.” 

Besides being visually superb, the Lyric Theatre offers another perk to concertgoers. “The Christian Scientists, one of their priorities was excellent acoustics in all of their facilities,” says Arthur Axelrod, vice president of the Opera Guild of Rochester. “The acoustics are great. This theater is going to be a major cultural resource.” 

One that RLO fans want to see appreciated by many. Pittsford resident Tina Mattia, who enjoys RLO performances, but says, “It’s not just about opera. Whether its the jazz festival or an opera, you don’t have to be a jazz fan or an opera fan to enjoy it.” You just have to be “a fan of something fun to do.” 


When George Eastman saw the ceiling of the 28,000-square-foot Lyric Theatre, he hired the same artist to design the ceiling for what is now Kodak Hall at the Eastman Theatre. 


Brittany Mrucek


Mitchell Hutchings


Susan Cotroneo, in a past performance.


Ready to perform as stars

More than 30 area kids in six bands rehearsed Thursday as part of Camp ROC Star, which is in its seventh year under the direction of Elvio Fernandes, a member of the Grammy-nominated band Daughtry. The campers will appear in their final performance at 4 p.m. Friday at the Lyric Theater, 440 East Ave.
Denton Cottier and Daniels

Sundays with Steinway


Sunday April 19th   3 pm

Presented in the Denton Cottier & Daniels Showroom
349 West Commercial St, East Rochester, NY 14445
A benefit concert for the Rochester Music Hall of Fame.  $10 donation accepted at the door.
Limited Seating Event RSVP (585) 586-3020 or


The Rochester Music Hall of Fame
“Class of 2015”

Ron Carter – Jazz bassist

Henry Juszkiewicz – Gibson Guitar Corp. chairman and CEO

Gap Mangione –  Jazz keyboardist

William Warfield – bass-baritone concert singer

Wilmer Alexander Jr. & The Dukes – The legendary R&B band

The Induction Ceremony will be held on Sunday, April 26th,  7:00 pm at Eastman Theatre’s Kodak Hall.  Tickets are on sale now.  You can purchase them on this website or at all local area Wegmans and at the RPO box Office at Eastman Theatre.   Prices range from $65 to $35 and with the Student/educator discount you can get up to FOUR $35 balcony seats for just $20 each. (enter the code FAME to receive the student/educator discount).




I Bros


Buffalo remembers an award winning studio and monitor designer with ties to Rochester

Remembering a World-Class Studio and Monitor Designer – See more at:

“The show must go on”  A tribute concert for Larry Swist.

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



Denton Cottier and Daniels 


Presented in the Denton Cottier & Daniels Showroom
349 West Commercial St, East Rochester, NY 14445
A benefit concert for the Rochester Music Hall of Fame.  $10 donation accepted at the door.

Limited Seating Event RSVP (585) 586-3020 or


The Genesis Piano Project Returns

Here’s your chance to catch the renowned Genesis Piano Project.  They will be performing at Denton Cottier & Daniels, 349 W. Commercial St.  East Rochester on February 20th at 7:30PM.  Tickets are $10. For reservations call Denton’s at 585-586-3020 or email them at  Proceeds go to benefit the Rochester Music Hall of Fame, a non profit organization . Genesis Piano Project 2



Axis Armada teams with Grammy Award

winning producer, Matt Marrin


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)


The Landfill Harmonic Orchestra

of Cateura, Paraguay


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.

Renee Fleming to receive National Medal of Arts

July 3, 2013

Jars of Clay

RMHF Charter Inductee, Jars of Clay will release their new album Inland on August 27, 2013.  The album’s first single, “After The Fight” is now available for download on iTunes.  (View Video)

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