Monday, June 6, 2016

SHERRILL SUMMER CONCERT SERIES 2016

2016 City of Sherrill Summer Concert Series
Sponsored by the Gorman Foundation

The 2016 concert series brings a wide variety of regional entertainment to the Silver City, kicking off on Tuesday, June 28 and running through Tuesday, August 30. The free concerts begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Reilly-Mumford Memorial Park gazebo. Be sure to bring lawn chairs and blankets and an umbrella in the case of light rain. Come out and enjoy the beautiful summer evenings with your neighbors.

June 28 Fritz’s Polka Band
Verona’s polka princes return to the Sherrill stage for a night of their upbeat and fun music, featuring modern polkas, a little bit of country, and even some oldies rock ‘n’ roll.

July 5 Party Nuts
It’s always a party when the Party Nuts come to town, with a family-fun evening of golden oldie rock ‘n’ roll sing-alongs that encourage plenty of audience participation.

July 12 Free Ice Cream Night with Dan Elliott and the Monterays
The number one oldies group and longest running band in Central New York brings to the Sherrill stage all the favorites from the 1950s to the 1980s. Plus there’s a special bonus treat … free ice cream for all kids and kids at heart.

July 19 Classified
The premiere dance band in the Central New York area makes their own premiere on the Sherrill stage. Classified combines hot brass with infectious grooves to create cool sounds sure to get the audience on their feet and moving along with the music.

July 26 Coston
The Oneida-based father-son team of virtuoso guitarist Roy Coston and 18-year-old prodigy drummer Gunnar Coston lead this classic rock band in high-energy renditions of rockers from Poison, Ratt, Ozzy Osbourne, and some originals, too.

Aug 2 Southern Grace
It’s a night of electric female vocals-driven modern country when Southern Grace makes their very first appearance on the Reilly-Mumford Memorial Park stage.

Aug 9 Causeway Giants
This Syracuse-based Celtic rock band has a flare for the sounds of the Irish, putting new spins on traditional music, adding in some originals and covering bands like Flogging Molly, The Dropkick Murphies, and The Young Dubliners.

Aug 16 Grupo Pagan
Diverse backgrounds create a high energy blend of sounds guaranteed to grab the ear, featuring their own originals plus covers by the likes of Santana, Sade, and Shakira.

Aug 23 George Wesley
It’s a trip to an exotic summer vacation paradise far away -- without ever leaving Sherrill -- as the sounds of reggae return to the Reilly-Mumford Memorial Park.

Aug 30 Chief Big Way
Taking a break from his world tour with Anthrax, Joey Belladonna teams with musicians extraordinaire Joe Precourt and Dave Mickelson in a power trio playing the best classic rock, featuring the classics of Journey, Pink Floyd, Bad Company, and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

ADVENTURES IN BABYS SITTING



Some of my favorite memories are set to the music of the Babys, and hearing those classic tunes of the late 1970s and early 1980s even now always takes me right back to those great times. I bought their third album "Head First" on one of my first dates with my first love, and now it serves as a soundtrack to happy reminiscences. On the other hand, their later hit single "Turn and Walk Away" could have been written just for me, as I was listening to it right in the midst of one of my (many) not-quite-so-well-thought-out romantic disasters. The band might have broken up back in 1981, but their five studio albums, a greatest hits compilation, and a few bootlegs haven't left my record/tape/CD players since then.

Imagine my surprise when, some 30-plus years later, I read that the reformed group of original members Wally Stocker and Tony Brock, plus new Babys cohorts John Bisaha, Joey Sykes, Eric Ragno, and Babettes Holly Bisaha and Elisa Chadborne, were coming to town for a June 26, 2015 concert at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, NY. I immediately started scheming to find a way to be involved in this reunion -- to give a little something back for the more than three decades of pleasure -- and I figured a good place to start would be writing a story to promote the show for the paper.

I sent the band a message through their website, leaving my name and phone number but not really having too high expectations at first. Surprisingly, the very next day I had a message on my machine from their new singer John Bisaha himself calling from California to leave his own cell phone number. Now, I've written many stories on famous bands since I started working for the Oneida Dispatch newspaper in 1983, but this was definitely the quickest response I'd ever gotten, and I don't know if the lead singer has ever been the one to return the message. Usually there is a whole bunch of red tape and hoops to hurdle through ... but not this time. I called him back, and we chatted about the new version of the band and shared our own personal remembrances as fans ourselves during their heyday. I got a great interview, and ended up with enough material for stories in both the Oneida Dispatch and the Mid-York Weekly papers.



Perhaps because the interview process went so well and we seemed to hit it off, I was motivated to really push my luck even further. For the last decade or more I had often worked with local Oneida radio station MIX 106.3 promoting my own band Coston, our local Sherrill Summer Concert Series, and other activities, and I figured it would be nice to give them a little payback for their hospitality. I asked John if he might consider coming to Oneida before their Turning Stone show for a live on the air interview. He said it would be no problem. That really blew me away, although I tried to keep my professional edge and not sound too surprised. Of course, I really didn't have the authority to ask anyone to come to the radio station for a live interview, but I figured the powers-that-be would never turn down the chance to have a world famous band they regularly play on the air in the studio. Especially when it wouldn't cost them anything and I was taking care of all the arrangements. John said he would check to see how many bandmates he could convince to come to the radio station, and I contacted the station's program director to tell him the good news.

I was absolutely stunned by his reaction.

Here I wanted to share my good fortune with them and bring them into the fun, likely even making some excitement for the station as well. The program director responded that he was working his other job that day and wouldn't be there, asking if the Babys might be able to come some other day? I thought I heard wrong, so I explained it was the Babys themselves -- famed for classic songs like "Every Time I Think of You," "Isn't It Time," and "Midnight Rendezvous" -- coming in for a concert on their tour from their California home base. There would not be a different day they would be available. He still said that date was impossible, so I called John back with my incredulous bad news.

But his response brought me back from that deflation ... John graciously offered to do whatever he had to do to make the interview happen. At that point, of course, another date was really out of the question as they were traveling from state to state on the tour. I wasn't about to ask them to come back to Central New York for a radio interview. Luckily, I told MIX 106.3 radio show personality Todd Emanuelli of my plight, and he pulled the strings at the station needed to make the show happen. We scheduled it for the noon interview the day of their Turning Stone show.

The show was on a Friday, and Wednesday evening I got another call from John saying the band was in dire need of a banner with their logo on it for the drum riser. This turned out to only be a minor challenge since I had the cell number of my buddy Duane DeFrees at Oneida Printshop. I called him at home, and he ended up going back to his shop to design that banner using a logo John emailed him. The expected arrival time back from the banner maker was shortly after noon on Friday -- plenty of time to get it to the show!



The big day finally arrived, and I was equal parts excited and nervous. It turned out the entire band was coming to town on their tour bus, so I told them to park in the plaza next to the radio station so they would have the space for their massive transit. As I waited for the bus, my high school pal Lisa McClenthan stopped by to see what I was up to just standing around the parking lot. I told her I was waiting for the Babys, and she quickly joined the fun and snapped numerous photos of their arrival and our first meeting.

Then, the bus was finally visible coming up the street. But we watched as it drove right past the entrance to the plaza. I couldn't imagine what that 50-foot tour bus was going to do now on the busiest street in Oneida, but suddenly the driver stopped and backed in the driveway alongside the radio station. I wouldn't have tried that maneuver in my little Ford Focus. Once my jaw was off the ground, I composed myself enough to quickly head over there to greet the band.



Introductions were made all around, and we continued into the radio station for more with their crew before settling in for the noon interview. Sadly, one of the acoustic guitars I borrowed for the band wasn't really up to their professional standards ... it hadn't really occurred to me beforehand that a world-traveling band might expect instrumentation a little higher quality than what I had. My bad. But once again John impressed me by not blaming the guitar but blaming the early morning hour for their shortened live on the air musical performance. That was some kind of class!



Check out my video of the Babys and Todd chatting here:

Babys live on MIX 106.3

They joked with Todd and played an acoustic version of "Head First." Afterwards they got on the bus and headed back to the venue for the final sound checks, and I left for the printshop to pick up the banner. It was finished on time and delivered without a hitch, and I even got to watch a bit of the sound check to see how the pros do it.



The concert that night was incredible. I shared the experience with my old college friends George and Sue Riley -- George was the lead singer in our St. Bonaventure University band back in the 1980s -- while current Coston guitarist Roy Coston and his wife Deb were there as well for a true then-and-now moment. And wasn't that really what this show was all about?

The Babys members and I still keep in touch via Facebook, and our meeting has paid dividends by introducing me to Joey's solo material which is great stuff in itself. Unfortunately, the radio station has been sold, so it doesn't look like we will ever have a repeat engagement, but this day will live on forever in my memory as a great time with some great folks. The Babys still rock, and it was my pleasure to do my part in spreading the word of their reunion!



.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

HOPE FOR OUR CHURCH

HOPE

What is my hope for the future of Cochran Memorial Presbyterian Church and the Three Voices congregation?

As I look around the church on any given Sunday, it’s obvious that I am one of the youngest persons attending. At 52 years old, that seems to imply little hope for the future of new generations coming in to assume our places. In just a few decades, most of us will be gone … hopefully just to our new, more exotic southern homes somewhere that is warm year-round. Who will take our places?

But expanding my vision beyond our church walls, I find this is not a problem that is facing only our Three Voices of Oneida Castle, Verona, and Vernon folks. When I do my newspaper stories on Sunday mornings, it often entails attending other church services. I find we are far from unique -- quite often, I am the youngest one at these other churches as well. Where are their future generations?

Let’s look at the world situation. Here in the United States, murders on college and high school campuses are getting to be so commonplace we almost have started to expect them. They are barely even news anymore. And they are coming closer and closer, as we saw last week in Geneseo. Our presidential race this year has become more of a media spectacle than a search for the leader of the free world and concentration on the common good. Our social media and Internet, rather than being vehicles to convey education and information, now deliver drama, propaganda, and overwhelmingly bad news constantly.

Sadly, our lives here in the U.S., for all of these flaws, are still better than much of the world. In many places, war-torn families might not know if their sons and daughters will survive to the next day. People of impoverished nations fear for their futures without the means to provide for their families. Natural disasters also seem to be more and more in the news.

Religious zealots are at odds with each other, with many claiming their own beliefs are superior to all others. And some are willing to kill over it.

Some might wonder why God has failed us. But that’s the exact opposite of my view … I think we have failed God.

The separation of church and state, for example, has become a hotbed of discussion as our leaders seem to try to push God further and further away. Rather than embracing the soothing compassion of religion, churches are emptying. People are not reaching out to God in their time of need. But He remains there for them. God hasn’t deserted the people, even as they have deserted Him.

In a short-term view, I see things getting worse in the world as chaos reins. Long-term, however, I have all hopes that there will soon be a glorious turning back to God. Whether it takes an incredible cataclysm will remain to be seen, but I think that the evil we see all around us today will soon be transformed to a renewed vigor within the churches -- ours included -- that will unite the people once again under God.

That is my hope for not only Three Voices, but all of Christianity as well.

Friday, May 3, 2013

VOTERS DENIED THEIR VOICE

With all the furor over "three men in a room" in Albany deciding things for all residents of the state, I can't believe the people are sitting for this case of seven board members deciding the future of two school districts without taking it to the residents' vote.

The scene is the Stockbridge Valley and Madison Central School districts in Central New York, where a three member advisory committee of former superintendents from across the state plus a few dozen local residents recently spent countless hours and who knows how many state-funded dollars devising a plan for a theoretical merged district combining academic offerings and student and faculty populations of both. 


I had the pleasure of covering the first of two information sessions, as the advisors released their projections to the public at the Madison school ( see  http://www.uticaod.com/mid-yorkweekly/x2082719178/Roadmap-to-possible-MCS-SVCS-merger-revealed for the full story) and was impressed by the work that went into the research. The three advisors stressed repeatedly that they were neutral on whether or not the merger was beneficial to the districts, telling the residents it should be up to them to decide that.


It was announced the next step would be a vote by the respective boards of education whether they wanted to take the prospect to the voters in each district, and I was even more impressed when MCS board of education member William Langbein stood before the audience to then and there reveal his intention to send the decision to the residents, as he felt it was not a decision their board should make for them.


The MCS board of education agreed unanimously 6-0 with him at their vote.


That same input was not welcomed from residents of the SVCS district, however, as their board voted 4-3 at their April 30 meeting to kill the prospect before it went further. You can read editor Carolyn Godfrey's story on that decision here:

http://www.uticaod.com/mid-yorkweekly/x1506803180/No-SVCS-MCS-merger

So, thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of work just went down the drain. I'm not saying the merger was a good or bad idea, but at the very least that should have been brought to the tax payers for their say, yes or no. It's their district too, and the merger feasibility study wouldn't have been done if there weren't financial concerns that needed to be addressed.


I applaud the Madison Central School's board of education for their intentions to take it to their folks, though. That's the way things should be done ... they are representatives of the residents of the district, and should take into consideration the will of those residents by hearing their concerns through a vote. SVCS residents, unfortunately will never have that voice, and now neither will the MCS families, because four persons destroyed what took so many hours to create. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

A TAXING EXPERIENCE

It was inevitable as death and taxes, and this year figuring my income taxes nearly meant the death of me.

OK, maybe that's a little too extreme, but it was pretty tense there for a bit as the accounting software initially rejected my daughter as a dependent. That meant not only losing her deduction but also the college credit I was expecting -- bumping me up to owe $2,000 more than I thought I would. Ouch! It's been nearly 20 years of constant outpouring of cash, even more so now that she's in college. She's definitely a dependent, Mr. IRS.gov.

Luckily, whatever I did wrong was soon changed -- although the tax forms still say she was convicted of felony drug possession but I think that is an easy fix (unless she really was convicted of felony drug possession ... darn college kids!). I figured how much I will owe come April so I can plan on having the funds available. I'm not dumb enough to send it in now, though. Let 'em wait.

Yeah, I said "owe." I'm watching all the people around me getting their refunds like it is a big windfall, and I can't help but wonder what they think that refund is benefiting them. Isn't that your own money the government has had for months while you could have been earning interest? Aren't you actually losing money by getting a refund?

I opt for paying a little at the end of the year. Unfortunately, New York State felt my "little" was excessive and fined my $29 for owing too much, but still that's a small price to pay for having access to my own cash.

Anybody else have a fun, or not so fun, income tax story to tell?

Friday, November 9, 2012

WHEN WILL THIS BE OVER?

I don't think I've ever seen so many viscous attacks during an election season as I did this year -- and most of them were not from any candidate but supporters airing their views on Facebook.

Maybe it's just because I wasn't on Facebook during the last presidential election, but I was stunned at how vindictive the postings became, especially towards the end. And it wasn't by any one side; people of both parties in the election were just as adamant that their candidate was the one to save the earth while his opponent was the one who would destroy it.

I can see having a passion towards the person you support in an election, but seriously I can't imagine why anyone would feel they need to make such nasty and often personal attacks on people who don't agree with them. Isn't that what America is all about? The freedom to have your own opinion? I felt like posting the number of Facebook friends I had and then announcing who I voted for, just so everyone could watch the number dwindle as I was un-friended by people who voted contrary to me.

So the election has come and gone, and I'm figuring the vitriol will come to an end. Wrong! Now the posts are starting that it's time to flee the country before it's too late and how the end is near. And those are two of the nicer things that were posted.

Can't we just all get along and work for the common good? Or is that something that has been lost in this time of Internet turmoil?


Thursday, October 11, 2012

KNOW YOUR ROLE

There's probably nothing that perturbs me more professionally than when someone insists I should do a big expose article on some scandal.

Mainly because anyone thinking I'd be interested in relating such a thing has obviously never actually read any of my stuff.

Political discord? School administration salaries? Governmental shenanigans? Drugs in the water? Sure, there's plenty there you can probably get steamed over. But that's not my thing -- I see my role as the opposite of the conveyor of the bad news. I want to bring to light the good news as much as possible instead.

There's certainly enough people who excel at reporting the bad news ... the world doesn't need me to do that.

It isn't always easy to be on this mission. Sometimes when I'm looking for stories while laying out the wire service pages in the paper there isn't a lot offered by the Associated Press with anything good to say. Often I have to come up with five or six different ways to say someone is dead just so all of the headlines on a single page have varied terminology if not a varied theme. Many of the pages lately have made me queasy with the abundance of vile news, and if you think the news that is printed is bad, you should read the stuff we don't put in because of our all-ages audience.

Obviously, it is the bad news that attracts people to read any paper. If there's a huge calamity I expect my stuff to be bumped for the hotter news, because I would make that decision to ax my stuff as well. Sales increase when there's a major disaster, and again I'm just as guilty because that's when I'm also more interested in reading the paper, too. It's like driving by the scene of a car crash -- you can't help but look. You probably aren't glad the crash happened, but at the same time find it oddly intriguing. Likewise, if you are reading a novel there's got to be some kind of a conflict or it will be pretty boring.

Luckily, the majority of our local stories are usually good news about good people. But once we get into the wire service accounts of the goings-on in New York City, Washington, and overseas that ratio is invariably skewed towards evil.

So in an effort to compensate for all of that bad news, I strive to relate the good news. That's what I perceive to be my role in the world.

It doesn't matter what you do, whether you write, build bridges, teach school, wait tables, or crunch numbers ... taking some time to define your own role is a great organizer and a great motivator to your own endeavors. Give it a try!