Black River Brew & Music Fest Taps Watertown

PHOTO BY JASON BONE Rusted Root

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The Sweet Sounds of Music

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Fifth annual KeithFest June 28 at Coyote Moon Vineyard in Clayton honors a musical legacy

In addition to a musician, Keith E. Brabant was an avid cyclist and hiker. This photo of him was taken in Arizona in 2010. He and his girlfriend took a cross-country driving vacation there and back, returning just about two weeks before he died. RACHEL BORAWSKI

In addition to a musician, Keith E. Brabant was an avid cyclist and hiker. This photo of him was taken in Arizona in 2010. He and his girlfriend took a cross-country driving vacation there and back, returning just about two weeks before he died. RACHEL BORAWSKI

When a group of musicians gathered to celebrate the life and music of Keith E. Brabant five years ago, his mother figured it would be a one-time event.

“It was such an outpouring of love and music,” said Melody A. Brabant, Keith’s mom. “People then kept saying, ‘Let’s keep doing it.’ So that’s what we did.”

The fifth annual KeithFest is from noon to 8 p.m. Saturday, June 28 at Coyote Moon Vineyards, 17371 County Route 3, Clayton.

Those who perform at KeithFest share his passion for music. In a letter he wrote to his mom in 2006 from Colorado, Mr. Brabant expressed his love of music and the path it was leading him on. “The only thing that I want to happen is for the music to get created,” he wrote. “And that’s been happening from day one. All small pieces of ‘fabric’ over the course of my life — that will be a ‘quilt.’”

Mr. Brabant was the victim of a shooting in April 2010 in the town of Alexandria. The Keith Brabant Music Scholarship Foundation was formed shortly after his death.

Mr. Brabant was a musician and composer who performed in numerous bands all over the country and in Seattle and Breckenridge, Colo. He also loved the outdoors and studying history, religion and government.

The music scholarship in his name, administered by the Northern New York Community Foundation, has awarded $8,000 to young north country musicians since 2010. Applications are reviewed each year by the KeithFest panel. Five scholarships to students in Jefferson County will be presented at this year’s festival.

Because the festival is on June 28, graduation day for several local schools, admission will be free for any 2014 graduating senior with school identification.

The music kicks off at noon with local musician Sarah Parker Ada playing ukulele. The scholarships will be presented at 12:20 p.m.

The music continues from 12:40 until 2:15 p.m. with Mark Mason and friends Gary Walts, Sam Hopkins, Jim Burr, Lisa Forshaw and Jim Wiley. Up next will be Dave Scanlon and the DTZs, followed at 2:45 by Coyote Moon’s own Foggy River Band.

At 3:30 p.m., the acoustic trio Define Normal will take the stage.

“The Keith Brabant Experience,” an annual tribute session to Mr. Brabant by Justin Reynolds and friends, takes the stage at at 3:50 p.m.

“That is very close to my heart,” Mrs. Brabant said of the annual session. “It’s Keith’s original music and a lot of the cover songs that he enjoyed playing. It takes a lot of devotion from the musicians to put it together. Musicians come from all over who get together and learn Keith’s music, which can be quite complex.”

The band Casey Street Shuffle will perform at 4:30 p.m. followed by The List at 4:50 p.m., Sonic Buzz at 5:35 p.m., Root Seller at 5:55 p.m. and Ian Wagner at 6:40. At 7:10 p.m., Minus Mike, the group Mr. Brabant started out with during his teen years, will wrap up the festival.

The festival also will offer activities for children throughout the day, including a bounce house, craft tent and an “instrument petting zoo.” The instrument zoo will include an acoustic guitar signed last year by KeithFest participants. In a new tradition, an acoustic guitar will be signed by participants of each KeithFest for display the following year.

An assortment of food, ranging from fried cheese curd to wine slushies, will be offered.

■       ■       ■

The 2014 Keith Brabant Music Scholarships honorees:

$600 to Sonja Lara-Gonzalez, Theresa, a student at Indian River Central High School. Funds will go toward music lessons and/or the purchase of a violin.

$600 to Trenton Service, LaFargeville, who attends Alexandria Central School. Funds will go to his attendance at the University of Massachusetts summer music camp.

$600 to Jahara Green, Calcium, a student at Indian River. Funds will go to the purchase of a violin, and/or to attend the Crane Youth Music Camp at SUNY Potsdam.

$400 to Rachelle Johnson, Alexandria Bay, a student at Alexandria Central. Funds will go toward Camp Electric in Cedarville, Ohio, and/or Orangehaus music camp in Anderson, Ind.

$400 to Brady Towne, Fort Drum, a student at Carthage Middle School. Funds will go toward Crane Youth Music Camp and/or purchase of a double bass.

 

The details

WHAT: Fifth annual KeithFest

WHEN/WHERE: Noon to 8 p.m. Saturday, June 28 at Coyote Moon Vineyards, 17371 County Route 3, Clayton.

COST: $10 for ages 12-65 and $5 for those under 12 and over 65. This year, the festival has been designated a Yellow Ribbon event. Soldiers and their family members will be admitted at half price with military ID. Free admission will be given to any graduating high school senior with school ID. There is a family rate of $25.

ON THE WEB: www.keithfest.com

 

By Chris Brock, Times Staff Writer

Tug Hill Bluegrass Festival expands lineup, kicks off with top act

The Grascals, one of the most popular bands in bluegrass, is the premiere act of the ninth annual Tug Hill Bluegrass Festival. The band performs two sets Thursday night. From left: Danny Roberts, Jamie Johnson, Kristin Scott Benson, Terry Smith, Adam Haynes and Terry Eldredge. KIM LANCASTER-BRANTLEY

The Grascals, one of the most popular bands in bluegrass, is the premiere act of the ninth annual Tug Hill Bluegrass Festival. The band performs two sets Thursday night. From left: Danny Roberts, Jamie Johnson, Kristin Scott Benson, Terry Smith, Adam Haynes and Terry Eldredge. KIM LANCASTER-BRANTLEY

The ninth annual Tug Hill Bluegrass Festival will kick off with a bang Thursday night to go along with its banjos.

The premiere band of the festival, The Grascals, performs at 7 and 9 Thursday evening.

Building on the success of past festivals, organizers have added more than six hours of stage performance time to the 2014 event. Bands will be traveling from New England and as far away as Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia to perform at the three-day festival held at Maple Ridge Center.

The Grascals are among the most renowned bands on today’s bluegrass scene, having won the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America’s bluegrass band of the year award in 2010, the International Bluegrass Music Association’s emerging artist of the year award in 2005 and earning the association’s entertainer of the year honor in both 2006 and 2007.

The Grascals consist of lead singer and guitarist Terry Eldredge, guitarist and award-winning songwriter Jamie Johnson, mandolin player Danny Roberts, bassist Terry Smith, fiddler Adam Haynes and four-time IBMA banjo player of the year Kristin Scott Benson.

The band’s latest album, “Life Finds a Way,” was released in 2012.

The Grascals are part of an extended lineup of entertainment at the festival this year, something that caused budgeting concerns for concert promoter Keith Zehr. But the board of directors of the Adirondack Mennonite Camping Association, which governs activities at Maple Ridge Center, told him not to worry.

“The board feels that the festival is a great showcase for the type of family activities that are described in the mission statement of the Maple Ridge Center and that the festival will be a success,” Mr. Zehr said.

The Lindsey Family also will do its part to make this year’s festival a success. The band, which has performed at six Tug Hill Bluegrass festivals, returns after an absence last year. The band, formerly of Remsen, but now residing in Kentucky, will give two performances on Saturday.

“They are probably one of the most popular bands we’ve had,” said Mr. Zehr.

The Lindseys first sang publicly in 2003 when they were asked by an Oneida County bluegrass association to play for an event called “Utica Monday Night.”

The band’s latest album, ‘What I Have,” was released last year. The band performs at 12:40 p.m. and at 6:20 p.m. Saturday.

Another festival favorite, Audie Blaylock and Redline, also returns this year and will perform two shows on Friday.

“We’ve kind of adopted Audie as our home national band,” Mr. Zehr said. “The band plays with such hard-driving force that the crowd asks them back every year.”

Jeanette Williams from Virginia was the first national act to perform at the festival, which began in 2006. Since then, she has been the recipient of a number of awards, including the 2012 and 2009 SPBGMA female vocalist of the year award in the traditional category. This year she returns with husband, vocalist and guitarist Johnnie Williams for a pair of Saturday concerts. The duo is joined by Scott Freeman on mandolin and fiddle.

The title track of Ms. Williams’s last solo album, “Thank You for Caring,” is a duet with country music legend George Jones, who died last year.

Other festival highlights:

Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers along with Darin and Brooke Alridge on Friday, the Crowe Brothers on Saturday and soloist Mike Compton on Friday and Saturday.

Barb Heller, announcer at North Country Public Radio and host of the Canton-based station’s “String Fever,” heard at 3 p.m. on Thursdays, will help to emcee the festival on Saturday.

“We’ve been trying to get Barb for the past several years to help us,” Mr. Zehr said. “We’re thrilled that it worked out for her this year.”

 

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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…]