UB Provides Showcase for Local Musicians, Artists

Release Date: December 1, 2006

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Music Is Art Live @ The Center wrapped up another successful season on Nov. 14. The series provides great exposure for local artists.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Local musicians and artists are getting invaluable exposure and networking opportunities through the highly successful Music Is Art Live @ The Center program hosted by the Center for the Arts (CFA) at the University at Buffalo.

The weekly series has featured 58 musical artists from more than 20 different musical genres, as well as 100 visual artists working in more than 20 different mediums since it began in February 2005.

Held in the CFA's atrium and broadcast on CW 23 WNLO, as well as across New York State on cable television, Music Is Art Live @ The Center offers an intimate, coffeehouse setting for artists to present their work, as well as an opportunity for local music lovers to see cutting-edge performers and artists, free of charge.

The series wrapped up its fourth "season" on Nov. 14; the fifth will begin next semester.

"It's a great thing for musicians and visiting artists to get that sort of exposure," says Thomas B. Burrows Jr., director of the CFA and executive producer of the series along with Buffalo native Robby Takac, founding member and bassist with the Goo Goo Dolls. There are many "good bands and musical groups in the community," Burrows said.

The opportunities the series presents to local musicians and artists in terms of exposure and networking are huge, says Takac, who also serves as president of the Music Is Art Foundation, a privately funded organization dedicated to keeping the arts in education alive in the Buffalo Public Schools. Each week's events are captured with multiple cameras and state-of-the-art sound equipment to create a half-hour television episode featuring the two musical groups and up to seven visual artists showcased that week.

Performances are broadcast on the new CW 23 WNLO -- sister station to top-ranked CBS affiliate WIVB-TV Channel 4 -- at 10:30 p.m. on Sunday nights. Season three performances will run through the end of this year. Organizers estimate Music Is Arts Live @ The Center has been seen in 500,000 households in Western New York.

Episodes also reach more than a half million cable TV homes across New York State on the New York Network and SUNY students through distribution to all 64 SUNY campuses. Think Bright TV, sister station of PBS affiliate WNED, will begin broadcasting Music Is Art Live @ The Center in the new year.

Moreover, participants receive a DVD of the television episode in which they appear, providing invaluable documentation of their performance.

"You had best believe if it were even possible, it would be a huge expense for the artists to arrange something like this for themselves," Takac says.

A musician who performed recently agreed. "This is definitely a big deal in terms of my career," says John Schmitt, a South Buffalo native and acoustic guitarist who recently signed with the independent record label El Train Entertainment. "It's going to go out to a substantial audience.

"It's very professionally done," he says.

Adds Colleen Darby, a children's illustrator from Snyder whose work was featured Nov. 14, as well as last season: "I was thoroughly impressed with the camera work and art direction. It's beautiful."

The cozy, intimate performance space—audience members crowd beneath the stage on couches and pillows, plus small tables and chairs are scattered about the atrium—creates a familiar atmosphere, notes Schmitt, who started out playing local coffee shops in Buffalo, such as Spot Coffee and Caz Coffee Café.

In fact, he says he received an invitation to participate in the series after a UB student intern—one of more than 60 who have gotten real-world production experience working on the series during last two years—caught him in a recent local performance.

Burrows says organizers also learn about local talent from insider sources such as Takac, whose activities in Buffalo keep him in touch with the local music scene. Moreover, "We're receiving solicitations from bands all the time," he says.

In addition to significant UB student interest in the series, Burrows says Music Is Art Live @ The Center attracts people from throughout the community.

"I got such a good vibe from (attending a performance) last year I wanted to come back," says concertgoer Mary Francis Lasota of Lackawanna, noting she has urged her teenage son and daughter to check out the series.

"I think it's a great experience," she adds. "I like that it's a free event and I like that it's local; it's from Western New York."

Another audience member, Mark Weber of Tonawanda, says he came to the Nov. 14 performance because of a personal connection to the second act. One of the members of the Maelstrom Percussion Ensemble, Bob Accurso, taught him the vibraphone in grade school.

"For me to come 22 years later and see them finally was a trip," says Weber, noting Music Is Art Live @ The Center offers the chance to experience a unique, free performance. "I've heard about this band for decades," he says, "and I've finally seen them live."

Burrows says Music Is Art Live @ The Center, a collaboration between UB and the Music Is Art Foundation, developed after he met Takac at an event at the Irish Classical Theatre in 2004. The idea, Takac explains, was to bring a scaled-down version of the Music Is Art Festival, held each summer in Allentown, to UB.

The idea developed from concept to completion in less than a year, adds Jamie Enser, supervising producer of Music Is Art Live @ The Center and director of operations at the CFA. The inaugural performance, which Takac attended, was held in February 2005.

"It's such a cool scene," Takac says. "It's a lot of fun to see the show, but equally as entertaining to see the entire army assembled by UB put it together."

More than 55 professional staff and student interns are involved in the production of a single installment of Music Is Art Live @ The Center.

For more information, visit http://www.ubcfa.org.