Music is their ‘agenda’: Inspired by loss of friend, musicians come together

Wagner’s Agenda performs during the 2013 KeithFest at Coyote Moon Vineyards, Clayton. The music festival is a benefit concert for Keith E. Brabant, a Clayton resident and lifelong musician who died at the age of 33 in April 2010 and a friend of the members of Wagner’s Agenda. Now in its fourth year, KeithFest raises money for the Keith Brabant Music Scholarship for students who live in Jefferson County. Courtesy Melody Brabant

Wagner’s Agenda performs during the 2013 KeithFest at Coyote Moon Vineyards, Clayton. The music festival is a benefit concert for Keith E. Brabant, a Clayton resident and lifelong musician who died at the age of 33 in April 2010 and a friend of the members of Wagner’s Agenda. Now in its fourth year, KeithFest raises money for the Keith Brabant Music Scholarship for students who live in Jefferson County. Courtesy Melody Brabant

In the past three years, rock band Wagner’s Agenda has made a rapid rise to fame in the north country, now a mainstay at such popular venues as O’Brien’s Restaurant, the John Hoover Inn and Time Warp, and a frequent face at benefit concerts, known for their energetic and lively performances.

The band formed after a benefit concert for friend Keith E. Brabant, a Clayton resident and lifelong musician, shortly after his death at the age of 33 in April 2010. Wagner’s Agenda still performs at the summer benefit, now called KeithFest and in its fourth year, which raises money for the Keith Brabant Music Scholarship for students who live in Jefferson County.

Wagner’s Agenda was originally composed of Ian Wagner, who left shortly after its inception and now plays acoustic guitar locally under the name Ian Wagner Unplugged, Robert Perkins, still the band’s guitar player and violinist, Tom Contino, Justin Reynolds and Gino Cappuccetti—all members of the jazz fusion band Queen August, through which Mr. Cappuccetti and Mr. Perkins have been playing together for about six years. [Read more...]

A sound all their own

Fred & the Eds perform at the Paddock Club, Watertown, while the crowd dances on a recent Friday night. The band has been playing for nearly 20 years. Amanda Morrison/ NNY Living

Fred & the Eds perform at the Paddock Club, Watertown, while the crowd dances on a recent Friday night. The band has been playing for nearly 20 years. Amanda Morrison/ NNY Living

North country favorite Fred & the Eds stands test of time [Read more...]

Crane front and center on music education stage

Dean of the Crane School of Music Michael Sitton

Dean of the Crane School of Music Michael Sitton

Dean Michael Sitton on the school’s unique learning approach

Julia Crane founded SUNY Potsdam’s renowned Crane School of Music in 1886 as one of the first national institutions dedicated to preparing students to teach music in public schools. Crane continues that mission of superb music instruction today, with 590 undergraduate and 30 graduate students and a faculty of 70 teachers and professional staff. The campus hosts more than 300 vibrant recitals, lectures and concerts by faculty, students and guest artists each year at three prestigious concert venues.

We sat down with Crane’s Dean, Michael R. Sitton, who was appointed to the position in 2009, to find out how the school continues to attract high-caliber students and performers and position students to be at the forefront of the music world as educators and performers. Mr. Sitton previously served as dean of fine arts at Eastern New Mexico University and as a faculty member and administrator at Hollins University in Virginia.

He is also an accomplished pianist and composer who holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in piano performance and literature from the University of Illinois, a master’s degree from the University of Kentucky and a bachelor’s degree from Mars Hill College, in his home state of North Carolina.

NNYL: What percentage of Crane students are studying to be music educators versus performers? How much do those curriculums align? What about music business?

SITTON: Crane began as “the birthplace of music education in America,” and continues to hold the preparation of music teachers as critical to its mission, while it has added other programs over the years. Roughly 60 to 70 percent of our students are pursuing degrees in music education, with the next highest percentage, in the 20 to 30 percent range, in performance. Music business is next, a growing program now that well over 10 percent of our students are pursuing. Those numbers may not seem to quite add up correctly; that’s because a significant number of our students choose to double major, for example in music education and performance or in performance and music business. Music business has been at Crane for almost 15 years and it is enrolling, through different major and minor options, an annually increasing number of students. Many students in the music education or performance majors are recognizing that business skills are to their advantage in the competitive marketplace, so are adding music business as a double major or as a minor. [Read more...]

The music man: WHS music director Russell Faunce leads dynamic, successful program

Members of Watertown High School’s Select Choir rehearse their production of “Forbidden Broadway” under the direction of Russell J. Faunce, who has been a powerful force in students’ success for more than 30 years. Amanda Morrison/ NNY Living

Members of Watertown High School’s Select Choir rehearse their production of “Forbidden Broadway” under the direction of Russell J. Faunce, who has been a powerful force in students’ success for more than 30 years. Amanda Morrison/ NNY Living

It’s almost impossible not to smile in the presence of Russell J. “Russ” Faunce, director of music at Watertown High School and a stalwart of musical and theatrical productions both in the district and in the community for the past three decades. Maybe it’s because he himself seems to be perpetually smiling. Or that, even carrying a stack of Scantrons and a red pen through the music department on a recent Friday afternoon, he seems easy going and exudes his philosophy, with an encouraging yet serious demeanor: that, simply, with hard work and dedication, success will come.

And come it has to the students in his choirs, though Mr. Faunce himself is quick to self-deprecating laugh off almost every mention of his role in it. In his 32 years of teaching at the high school, he’s never not had a student make it to the New York State School Music Association All-State Conference for choir, the most prestigious and competitive competition for a high school band, chorus or orchestra student. Selection requires a near perfect score on the highest, most grueling level of NYSSMA solo — even three points below 100 usually doesn’t make the cut.

And it’s not just one student. In 2003, he sent a record eight. Last year, he sent four. [Read more...]

A quarter century of classical brilliance

Crane School  of Music professor Kenneth B. Andrews has conducted the Orchestra of Northern New York for all of its 25 year history. Courtesy ONNY

Crane School
of Music professor Kenneth B. Andrews has conducted the Orchestra of Northern New York for all of its 25 year history. Courtesy ONNY

ONNY maintains vibrancy after 25 years of performances [Read more...]

Piano opportunities abound for youth

Belinda Chen, 20, Bellevue, Wash., practices before her performance at the 11th Annual 1000 Islands International Piano Competition for Young People this September at the Maple Grove Estate in Cape Vincent. Justin Sorensen/ NNY Living

Belinda Chen, 20, Bellevue, Wash., practices before her performance at the 11th Annual 1000 Islands International Piano Competition for Young People this September at the Maple Grove Estate in Cape Vincent. Justin Sorensen/ NNY Living

Performers travel to Thousand Islands for elite international competition [Read more...]

Music from around the world and more at the 2013-14 Community Performance Series season

Traditional Irish band Danu is to perform at the SUNY Potsdam concert series on March 17. Photo courtesy Colm Henry.

The Community Performance Series will continue its tradition of hosting a diverse lineup in the 2013-14 season, bringing in acts ranging from global music ambassadors of hope and “A Symphony of Dinosaurs” to a popular Canada-based radio show.

CPS is a college and community partnership that presents performing artists and arts education opportunities. It has been in residence at SUNY Potsdam since 1989.

The CPS Guest Artist Series opens with the Jerusalem Quartet at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 4 in the Helen M. Hosmer Concert Hall.

The quartet, celebrating its 20th season, has emerged as one of the most in-demand string quartets of its generation. It will perform works by Mozart, Dmitri Shostakovich, Antonin Dvorak and others.

Members of the quartet are Alexander Pavlovsky, first violin, Sergei Bresler, second violin, Ori Kam, viola and Kyril Zlotnikov, cello.

Other shows in the CPS series:

Oct. 20.

14th annual Ranlett Organ Recital

The recital will feature Nathan J. Laube, a star among young classical musicians. His creative repertoire spans five centuries and his virtuoso transcriptions of orchestral works have earned high praise. He is an assistant professor of organ at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester.

The concert is at 3 p.m. in Hosmer Hall.

Oct. 30

Idan Raichel Project

Mr. Raichel created the Idan Raichel Project in his native Israel. The group comprises artists from several countries and is known for its cross-cultural collaborations.

Since the release of their first album in 2006, members of the Idan Raichel Project have become global ambassadors representing hope as they break down cultural barriers.

The project’s latest album, “Quarter to Six,” released this year, features guest appearances by Portuguese fado music star Ana Moura singing the genre’s sad, mournful songs, Palestinian-Israeli singer Mira Awad, German counter-tenor Andreas Scholl, Colombia’s Marta Gómez and Vieux Farka Touré and a selection of some of Israel’s up-and-coming singers and musicians.

The concert is at 7:30 p.m. in SUNY Potsdam’s Maxcy Hall.

Jan. 23

Jazz vocalist Gregory Porter

National Public Radio has called Mr. Porter “the next great male jazz singer.” He wields one of the most captivating baritone voices in music, with soul that conveys the emotions and intellect of the songs. In a cover story, the upcoming October issue of Downbeat magazine calls the singer “The Soul Poet.”

The Brooklyn-based singer released his debut album, “Liquid Spirit,” on the Blue Note label this month.

The concert is at 7:30 p.m. in Hosmer Hall.

Feb. 23

Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet

Many critics have said this ensemble has succeeded in virtually redefining the sound of the classic wind quintet. Its repertoire covers the spectrum of wind quintet literature and also covers works for enlarged ensembles. It has appeared throughout Europe, North and South America, Israel, Australia and the Far East.

The concert is at 3 p.m. in Hosmer Hall.

March 17

Traditional Irish band Danú

Hailing from County Waterford, Danú is one of the leading traditional Irish ensembles. For more than a decade, these virtuosi players have performed around the globe and recorded seven critically acclaimed albums. The band is known for its high-energy performances and a mix of ancient Irish music as well as modern numbers.

The concert is at 7:30 p.m. in Hosmer Hall.

April 5

“The Vinyl Cafe With Stuart McLean”

This show is co-produced by North Country Public Radio. Mr. McLean is known as “Canada’s favorite storyteller.” His “Vinyl Cafe” is heard by 1½ million people each week. It’s broadcast on CBC Radio in Canada and on close to 100 public radio stations in the U.S., including NCPR.

In 2012, “The Vinyl Cafe” was named the best audio podcast in Apple’s “Best of the Year” awards.

The show is at 7:30 p.m. in Hosmer Hall.

April 29

Pilobolus Dance Theatre

Now in its 42nd year, Pilobolus Dance Theatre assembles groups of diverse artists to make inventive, athletic, witty and collaborative performance works on stage and screen, using the human body as a medium for expression.

In keeping with the energy and spirit of its biological namesake — a phototropic fungus that thrives in farmyards — the company has continued to grow, expanding and refining its methods of production.

The performance is at 7:30 p.m. in Sara M. Snell Music Theater at SUNY Potsdam.

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The annual CPS Meet the Arts Series offers programming focused on youth and families. There are four programs in the series for the 2013-14 season.

Jan. 17 and 18

Swazzle presents the “Dream Carver” puppet show

Based on the children’s book of the same title by Diana Cohn, “Dream Carver” is a 45-minute bilingual musical puppet show that tells the story of Mateo, a boy growing up in Oaxaca, Mexico. Coming from a family of traditional woodcarvers, Mateo has aspirations to carve the colorful animals he sees in his imagination, but meets resistance from his father. Recommended for grades K-6.

The shows are at 9 a.m. and noon Jan. 17 and at 3 p.m. Jan. 18 in Snell Theater.

March 7

Orchestra of Northern New York presents “A Symphony of Dinosaurs.”

This concert will feature Bruce Adolf’s celebration of “Tyrannosaurus Sue” and her other friends from the dinosaur kingdom as they are depicted by various musical instruments. It will feature music from the movie

“Jurassic Park” and Tchaikovsky’s “Capriccio Italien.”

The concert is at noon in Hosmer Hall. It’s recommended for grades K-6.

ONNY will repeat the concert at 8 p.m. March 8 in Hosmer Hall as part of its regular 2013-14 season.

March 28

Glenis Redmond Tributary Poetry Project

As part of Mr. Redmond’s residency at SUNY Potsdam, he will lead this creative-writing initiative on regionally centered poetry, encouraging participants to reflect on the stories, facts and myths of their families and community.

Recommended for students in grades 4 to 8. Two sessions will be offered, at 9 a.m. and noon, in Snell Theater.

May 9

American Place Theatre’s “Black Boy”

This program, performed by actor Tarantino Smith, is a verbatim adaptation of the classic American autobiographical work. It dramatizes Richard Wright’s journey from childhood innocence to adulthood in the

Jim Crow south. The issues addressed in this novel still resonate today. It’s recommended for grades 8 to 12.

The performances are at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. in the new Performing Arts Center, to open in the spring.

-Chris Brock, Watertown Daily Times

A variety of cultural events this fall at JCC

Acclaimed pianist Isaac James, Champion, will present an evening of classical piano music Dec. 6 at SUNY Jefferson. Photo courtesy Isaac James Piano Studio

A variety of talent, ranging from plate-spinning, foot-juggling acrobats, a classical Indian dancer, a classical pianist and a former child star of the television show “Diff’rent Strokes” will highlight cultural events this fall at Jefferson Community College.

The events include shows hosted by the Student Activities Center and three shows that are part of the Campus Activities Board’s Cultural Arts Series.

All events are free. Unless noted otherwise, they take place at 7 p.m. in the Robert R. and Jean S. Sturtz Theater, McVean Center.

The lineup:

Sept. 20: An Evening of Dance

This show, part of the Cultural Arts Series, will feature a classical Indian dancer and a Russian dance-and-song ensemble in separate performances.

Bharati Jayanthi was born in Bombay, India, and when she was 8 began training in classical Indian dance. She graduated from Bombay University with a master’s degree in fine arts, majoring in bharata natyam, one of the classical Indian dances.

After immigrating to the United States, she became active in cultural arts in this country and in Canada. Most recently, she has worked on a fusion of Eastern and Western performing arts by choreographing bharata natyam dance movements to Big Band orchestra music.

The ensemble Barynya presents Russian, Cossack, Ukranian, Jewish, and Gypsy Roma traditional dancing, songs and virtuoso performances on instruments including the balalaika, garmoshka (Russian folk button accordion) and balalaika contrabass.

Barynya has been invited to perform at some of the most prestigious cultural venues in the United States, including Carnegie Hall and the United Nations in New York City, the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, the Smithsonian Institute of America and the Russian embassy in Washington D.C. Eacch dance is performed in a different set of handmade costumes made especially for the numbers.

Each performance includes audience participation.

Oct. 4: Todd Bridges from the television show “Diff’rent Strokes.”

This former child star, best known as Willis Jackson on “Diff’rent Strokes,” shares the details of his struggles with addiction, brushes with the law and his fierce fight to carve a path through the darkness to find his “true identity.”

One of the first African-American child actors on shows like “Little House on the Prairie,” “The Waltons,” and “Roots,” Mr. Bridges, 48, burst to the national forefront on “Diff’rent Strokes” as the subject of the popular catchphrase, “What’chu talkin‘ about, Willis?”

When the show ended, he was overwhelmed by the “off-camera traumas” he had faced. Turning to drugs as an escape, he soon lost control.

But he never relented in his quest to fight his way back from the abyss, establishing his own identity — separate from Willis Jackson.

Mr. Bridges’s talk begins at 7:30 p.m. in Sturtz Theater.

Oct. 23: Frank Warren, founder of PostSecret

Mr. Warren is the creator of the blog phenomenon the PostSecret Project, a collection of personal and artfully decorated postcards mailed anonymously from around the world, displaying soulful secrets.
PostSecret is one of the most popular sites on the Internet and has been featured in USA Today, on “The Today Show,” “20/20,” CNN, MSNBC, CBC, National Public Radio and FOX News.

In 2009, Forbes listed Mr. Warren as the fourth most influential person on the Internet.

Since November 2004, Mr. Warren has received more than 500,000 postcards, with secrets spanning from sexual taboos and criminal activity to confessions. He has written several books on the project.

Oct. 24: Rock ’n’ roll painter David Garibaldi

Mr. Garibaldi had always combined his passion for music and color into his artwork. But it wasn’t until viewing performance painter Denny Dent’s portrait of Jimi Hendrix that he discovered how his passion for paint and music could be an inspirational experience for more than just himself.

He will strive to amaze the audience as he transforms canvas into a work of art — usually a 6-foot portrait of a pop icon — on the Sturtz Stage.

The show takes place at 12:30 p.m. in Sturtz Theater.

Nov. 22: Chinese Acrobats

Chinese cultures and customs will be narrated throughout this show while contortionists perform amazing stunts. Children will especially enjoy this high-energy acrobatic performance. The group will be accompanied by an interpreter.

The show is part of the Cultural Arts Series.

Dec. 6: An Evening of Classical Piano Featuring Isaac James.

Isaac James, Champion, has received acclaim from audiences throughout the United States. He made his Carnegie Hall debut last year. He is the founder of the annual P. Owen Willaman International Piano Competition, named after his late friend and Shapiro Award recipient of Watertown who died in 2009.

Mr. James’s performance is part of the Cultural Arts Series.

-Chris Brock, Watertown Daily Times

Preserving history’s high notes

Jill R. Breit, executive director for Traditional Arts in Upstate New York, with a CD of music titled “Songs to Keep.” The disc includes traditional Adirondack and north country folk music that Marjorie Lansing Porter collected and preserved played by contemporary Adirondack musicians. Photo by Jason Hunter/ NNY Living

TAUNY’s Porter project keeps north country folk songs alive [Read more...]

3rd annual Clayton Country Jam Aug. 29 to 31

Hotel California, an Eagles tribute band, will perform Aug. 29 at the Clayton Country Jam.

The third annual Clayton Country Jam is Aug. 29 to 31 at the Clayton Opera House. Featured will be tributes to the Eagles, Willie Nelson and Elvis Presley.

All acts will perform two shows each day.

The Clayton Country Jam raised nearly $20,000 for local charities in its first two years. The event was created by Clayton native Bruce T. (“Mac”) MacFarlane, who moved back to this area about five years ago. He has experience in organizing charity concerts in California, where he worked for a decade as special events coordinator at Interfaith Community Services in Escondido.

Mr. MacFarlane has continued a practice of donating jam tickets to local organizations. People can support these organizations by purchasing jam tickets directly from them. [Read more...]