When I was 14 years old, the unimaginable took place. It started out as your normal, average day. I reluctantly dragged myself out of bed and got ready for school. As usual, I spent the day sitting in class just waiting for that moment when I could get home and put my hands on the piano. Yesterday, my idol Dave Brubeck was in town for a concert and I was more inspired than ever.
Gosh, I feel like I am seeing Syracuse in a whole new light since graduating from LHS and moving away for college. After 7 years away, getting jazz degrees from Univ of Mich and Juilliard and freelancing in NYC, I’ve come back with a new little family member, a debut album, and a new job working at the Red House Arts Center. I love the community here, especially what is happening with the big band at Suds, John Rhode at Pastabilities, and the various vocalists at BC on Fridays so I try to hang whenever I can find the time. Aside from that, I’ve been working as a bandleader playing trombone and debuting my voice with Andrew Carroll on piano.
We play on Friday, October 12 at Syracuse Stage, Friday, October 26 at Sitrus at the Syracuse Sheraton and Sat November 10 with All That Jazz at the Oncenter. I am also subbing at Syracuse Stage for White Christmas this winter and have done some work with Merry Go Round Theater in the pit orchestra not too long ago. You can check out the latest and purchase my album at http://www.melissamaymusic.com. Thanks for your support!
I am excited to tell you that we have launched the brand new, first ever CNYJAF Alumni Association! Our goal is not just to keep in touch with alumni, but to form a strong community where music lovers can keep in touch and make new friends.
We now have a group on Facebook called CNYJazz Alumni, and this group is open to all alumni of our educational programs, including the Summer Jazz Workshop, Scholastic Jams, and others. If you are an alumnus, please contact me and let me know if you’d like to be in the group!
Parents – please contact me as we want to keep in touch with you as well!
IMPORTANT – Keep your schedules open on the afternoon of Saturday, July 28th. Though the exact time is yet to be determined, we will be hosting an alumni reunion for all parents and alumni at the Northeast Jazz and Wine Festival in one of the pavilion tents.
Thank you and I look forward to meeting you all in person!
We often forget how lucky we are to have such incredible jazz educators in Central New York. This is why the Central New York Jazz Arts Foundation established the CNY Jazz Educator of the Year award, which will be going to a wonderful CNY based educator and saxophonist, Joe Carello.
Great educators are not easy to come by, so when you have a wealth of local teachers working diligently to educate our younger generations of artists, you know that one of two phenomena is occurring:
In early December, when the tree tops were just beginning to glisten and the children were barely beginning to listen, Joe Carello and Frank Grosso, two CNYJAF veterans, were making a trip out to East Tennessee State University to be featured as performers and educators after working with the ETSU Jazz Orchestra. The event was called “Sax-aholics Anonymous” (Names of sax-aholics are confidential and will be released in this article.)
I had the privilege of speaking with Frank about himself, his long-standing connection to CNYJazz, and his experience in Tennessee.
NK: How long have you lived in CNY and how long have you been part of the CNYJO? What experience lead to your becoming part of the CNYJAF?
FG: I’m a lifelong resident of Central NY and have been part of the CNYJO since its inception.
NK: Who are your biggest influences musically and artistically?
FG: There are really so many…On the baritone I heard a Gerry Mulligan record and was completely blown away! That had to be around 7th grade for me. After a while, I found myself drawn to the ABC’s of the bop school (Adams, Brignola, & Cuber). There are so many younger guys out there that sound so wonderful but those would be the baritone influences when I was growing up. Of course Dexter, Johnny Griffin, and Jug are as influential but in another way.
NK: Describe your experience at the residency and why it was important to you personally, and to the community in Tennessee.
FG: Joe and I had a wonderful experience down in Tennessee! Joe gave a saxophone master class & lesson, while my master class was on instrumental music education in the public schools. A significant portion of music majors at East Tennessee state are matriculating in music education. I feel a personal responsibility to pass on knowledge and experiences as they were passed on to me.
As a music educator, in every school setting you will encounter a wide range of student experience and abilities. I believe it’s important for anyone entering the teaching field to be aware of, and have a plan set in place to address that wide range of abilities. To be honest, my class focused not on jazz, but rather on instrumental education techniques along with how to reach special needs children, making their experience with instrumental music more meaningful. We addressed general ideology and then discussed specific situations I have encountered in the past. Boy, we really only scratched the surface!
NK: What were the highlights of the residency and the concert?
FG: For me the highlight was making music and interacting with the young adults of the East Tennessee State jazz ensemble. I enjoy meeting people from other locales. It’s interesting to get their perspective and influences. Every time I play or teach, I pick up a kernel of knowledge to bring home.
NK: What makes the CNY Jazz community so special? In your experience, how is it different from other jazz communities?
FG: Many other communities don’t have the long history of jazz music and musicians like we do here in the central/upstate New York area. Johnson City TN. for example, has a very strong tradition of ‘blue grass’. East Tennessee State actually has the only ‘Blue Grass’ playing degree available in the U.S. The jazz legacy is really just emerging, thanks to folks like Dr. David Champouillon who heads up the Jazz department at ETSU (East Tennessee State University).
I think we have a storied history here in Central New York. Folks like Peanuts Hucko are our icons of the swing era. Of course, Hucko also played regularly with Louis Armstrong, so he has a cross over thing happening. The next era you see guys like Sal Nistico, Joe Romano, and later, Danny Dimperio. And today, of course, we have another current stable of greats like Joe Magnarelli & Walt Weiskopf keeping up the tradition…maybe the next greats will be Collin DeJoseph, Nick Frenay, and this Kellman guy I keep hearin’ about!
Here’s a short list of a few places I love to go to check out live music regularly in CNY. If you have any more suggestions for places that have live music, please leave them in a comment!
1. Go to Pastabilities on a Wednesday Night – Pastabilities is a well-known restaurant in Syracuse for more than one reason. First of all, you CANNOT miss their amazing hot-tomato sauce. People travel from all over town just to get a taste of this secret recipe. Then on Wednesday nights you can catch the John Rohde trio playing a beautiful blend of songs during dinner. It’s always a fun crowd and guests often sit in with the band.
2. The Syracuse Suds Factory – On the first Wednesday of each month, this venue hosts the Salt City Jazz Orchestra, a high-energy big band that keeps everyone on the edge of their seats the entire night. If you head there at 6pm, you’ll also make it in time for Jazz Happy Hour. The Suds Factory also hosts other bands and events.
3. The Dinosaur Barbeque – Dinosaur Barbeque is already a famous place just for their delicious food, but you can also often catch great live music. Check out the schedule here:
4. Funk n’ Waffles – If you’re looking to catch a good show, Funk n’ Waffles attracts a great young music scene. They have all types of bands playing there, and they also happen to serve some of the most interesting waffles you’ll ever have.
5. The SITRUS Lounge – Located in the Syracuse, NY Sheraton hotel, the SITRUS Lounge is hosting a new Jazz@SITRUS series that will be featuring jazz vocalists from CNY. You can check out the schedule here: