The Sweet Sounds of Music

By: Nicole Caldwell

There is nothing on earth like North Country summers. People up here lumber out of their winter hibernations ready to get on the river and lakes, reunite with their snowbird friends, and most importantly, get out to any number of festivals, events, concerts and fairs.

The tri-county delivers on all these fronts, and 2017 is no exception. NNY Living has compiled here for you a rundown of many of the who, the what, and the where of live entertainment coming your way this season:

Spotlight On: DPAO

The Disabled Persons Action Organization (DPAO) provides community and personalized services to developmentally disabled children and adults throughout Jefferson and Lewis counties.  Services are primarily geared toward helping families cope with the stress of caring for their disabled loved ones. To raise funds for its work, the organization each year hosts a concert series. Over four decades, the DPAO has brought hundreds of concerts to the north country that include big-ticket names such as Alan Jackson, Journey, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Merle Haggard, Meat Loaf, and Huey Lewis & the News.

This year’s series features acts Daughtry (July 14), Chris Young (July 23) and Jeff Foxworthy (Aug. 14). All performances this year are held indoors at the Watertown Fairgrounds Arena.

“The DPAO serves more than 500 families in the community,” says Tim Dermady, DPAO’s foundation director. “Just a couple of years ago, a big portion of the money went toward putting in a playground specifically designed for individuals with developmental disabilities. The summer series is primarily sourced to give back as much as we can.”

Much of this valuable work is also in thanks to DPAO’s sponsors, who include the Car Freshner Corp., FX Caprara and Watertown Savings Bank.

For more information, visit

Spotlight on: Keith Fest

Keith Brabant, a musician/composer born in Clayton, believed that introducing children to music early in life during their school years, was important for the appreciation of music throughout a person’s life. He also believed that financial constraints should not prevent interested young people from pursuing their musical dreams.

Keith died at age 33 in 2010. To honor his memory, a musical scholarship was created to ensure his legacy continues. To raise money for that scholarship, an annual Keith Brabant Music Scholarship Festival is held. This year’s event, held June 3 at Cerow Park Pavilion in Clayton, features the following acts:

12 p.m. Sarah Parker Ada
1 p.m. The DT’z w/David Scanlin
2 p.m. Tough Luck w/David Scanlin
2 p.m. Tim Robinson and Jay Seymour
3 p.m. Minus Mike(Keith’s First band) w/Melvin Calhoun
3 p.m. Terry Jones
3 p.m. Toby Obrien
3 p.m. John Spence
5 p.m. Doc Yukon w/Mark Getman
5 p.m. Andrew Willis
5 p.m. Brian Beyer
5 p.m. Andy Wendt
6 p.m. Rachel Hunter

Keith Fest is a family friendly community event that celebrates the importance of music in our lives. This is a major fundraising effort with proceeds going to the Keith Brabant Music Scholarship administered by the Northern New York Community Foundation.

For more information

Spotlight on: Clayton Opera House

The Clayton Opera House took one year to build, with construction completed in July of 1904. Power and heat were drawn for the building from a pumping station along the St. Lawrence River. In August of 1905, Broadway actor May Irwin and her troupe performed at the opera house, drawing almost 1,000 people—the largest number of people to have ever attended a performance in the space. Other Broadway actors who have since performed in the space include

James Hackett, William Danforth, Lillian Russell and Lester Vail. Local talent such as the Clayton Band, the Darou Minstrels, Solar’s Orchestra, and the Kings and Queens of Rhythm have also performed there.

As a community space (and at one time Jefferson County’s largest performance space), the Clayton Opera house offered much more than theater and music. The space was used for annual fireman’s balls, youth and radio clubs, museum space (Thousand Islands Arts Center, Thousand Islands Museum) and even a basketball court for the Clayton High School during the 1920s.

But by the turn of the 21st century, the opera house was almost useless, with no heating, air conditioning, bathrooms, proper seating or modern sound system.

The Thousand Islands Performing Arts Fund in 2004 commenced a campaign to raise $3.2 million to turn the opera house in to a year-round, performing arts and community center.

The renovations were completed in 2007. In 2009, more than 170 events ranging from small business meetings to sold-out rock concerts took place in the hall. Each year, the diversity of events and the number of people who visit and use the space continues to grow—and this year continues that mission.

“I am very excited about the upcoming season,” says Julie Garnsey, Clayton Opera House’s executive director. “We have quite a diverse season. I am excited about the Gin Blossoms [Aug. 10]—there is a unique opportunity with this performance. They are doing a VIP solo acoustic performance, and we are raffling a Fender acoustic guitar that is autographed by the band. Also, ‘Bob Eubanks’ Not-So-Newlywed Game’ [Aug. 16] is going to be a fun evening. Bob will pick couples from the audience. This should be a fun evening of entertainment.”

For more information on events at the Clayton Opera House, visit

Spotlight On: Black River Brew & Music Fest

Local business owner Patrick Robbins (Black River Cattle & Livestock Co.) met Jason Price, general manager of Maggie’s on the River, through some local events they had both worked on. “We discussed how there was a certain synergy between local, New York state-produced food, craft beer and, for that matter, music,” Robbins says.

“We wanted to provide a platform to merge those and allow the community to come together to experience and enjoy those entities under one umbrella in the backyard of our beautiful natural resource, the Black River!” The two joined forces with fellow Maggie’s manager Mike Ricca, and from there the Black River Brew & Music Fest was born.

“From my time living in Atlanta, combined with Mike and Jason’s travels around the country, we had experienced neighborhood, community, or city brew and music fests in other areas,” Robbins says. “We thought, why not here?”

Last year’s inaugural event, the Black River Block Party, was a huge success. But with anything,” Robbins says, “it’s a learning experience. We wanted to up the ante this year, and not only rebranded the event, but brought in a major national headliner and prominent New York state breweries and food trucks to further add to our marketability and exposure for the local artists and breweries.”

The event is scheduled for July 8 and features musical acts Rusted Root, Harrison B, the Old Main, Waydown Wailers, Beaver Nickel, Quince, Adapter, Hot Kogan, My Manic Mind, Savannah Harmon, and The Northmen. In conjunction with Paddle New York Whitewater and the Black River Festival, there will be rafting and kayak river races and demonstrations.

Breweries and distilleries attending include:

Empire Brewing
Shmaltz Brewing
Barkeaters Craft Brewery
Woodboat Brewing Company
Beak and Skiff Cider and Distillery
St Lawrence Distillery
Life Of Reilley Distillery and Wine
Garland City Beer Works
Adirondack Brewing Company

Sponsors for the event include Granger Nursery, Shawn W Granger Landscaping & Snow Removal, Granger Paving, Grimsley Agency of New York, Davidson Auto Group, Pier Sound & Data, Watertown Savings Bank and Jason Smith-Cooperative Real Estate.

“All of us love to have fun and want to provide an outlet for Watertown and the surrounding area to experience the great music and craft beer being produced locally and around New York state,” Robbins says. Learn more at

Spotlight On: Buskers in the Bay

Busking, busker and busk are slang words for a person who performs in public for donations. Buskers are often portrayed as “street musicians,” but can encompass just about anything that a person wants to do publicly (typically for money). Impromptu poetry, living statues, jugglers, puppeteering, snake charming, pantomiming, caricature drawing and sword swallowing can all be considered busking.

The Alexandria Bay Chamber of Commerce has scheduled its second season of “Buskers in the Bay” from July 13 to16, with performances beginning at 6 p.m. Thursday and continuing throughout the weekend along Market Street in Alexandria Bay.

Spotlight On: Better Festival

betterArts, a Redwood-based nonprofit whose sole mission is to increase access to the arts, put on the first “Better Festival” in 2011. That first event featured live musical acts, performances, an art gallery, and real-time art installation for visitors to participate in. Since those times, betterArts has partnered with its parent organization, Better Farm, to expand the event to include more music, more workshops throughout the day, and more dynamic programming.

This year from 1 to 11 p.m. Saturday, June 17, visitors are invited to participate in farm tours on Better Farm’s property, take a spin in the bouncy house, sample local craft beers and wines, make art, watch live music, enjoy art work from local artists, work on a group art installation and even participate on-air with betterArts newest project Better Radio, a low-power, community FM station being broadcast in Redwood. Better Radio’s hosts will be on-site broadcasting the events and performances throughout the festival.

This year’s musicians include Mark Mason, Dead Flowers, Hot Kogan, and The Bad Husbands Club. Tickets are $10, and camping is available. For more information, visit