WXXI Local Stories
Fri July 2, 2010
Free Summer Concerts Benefit the Community
By Peter Iglinski
Rochester, NY – Rochester has a reputation as being a "music city". A listing of the many free summer concerts throughout the region pretty much confirms that sentiment. WXXI's Peter Iglinski takes a look at who's benefiting from the free music scene.
Krypton 88 brought their own brand of rockabilly to Village Gate on a recent Friday night. The band plays at a variety of venues, including clubs, festivals and car shows. Singer and guitarist Jim Via says Krypton 88 approaches outdoor concerts a little differently since the audience tends to be a little older.
"I'm just trying to be a little considerate of who the audience is. You know, maybe we'll throw a little more swing into it because they're more familiar with it and stay away from something that's a little more contemporary and edgy. On the other hand, if they're getting into it, we'll edge it up a bit."
Much of the crowd showed up specifically for Krypton 88 or for the music series--or both; the pros bring their chairs.
The concert series was organized by Tom Kohn who owns the Bop Shop. Kohn does it for several reasons.
"Personal pleasure. A little advertising for the store. You know...just feeling good about being where we are in the city that we're living in. You know, a philanthropic view, I suppose."
The concerts don't hurt business. People occasionally find their way into the Bop Shop or other establishments to spend some money. Kohn does pay the bands. He gets help with the costs from restaurants in Village Gate, the City of Rochester, and public donations.
It appears the effort is appreciated. It's no surprise that people gathered in the courtyard find free concerts worthwhile and important.
Carolyn Smith-Hanna: "Absolutely. I don't know, there was some concert in Highland Park that was, you know, that was $47 a person, and that's a hundred bucks just for, you know, the music, and I'm sure it's worth it, but..."
Fran Davis: "The way things are right now, people can't afford to pay $20 or, you know, $10 to go in every week. This way they can come for two hours and they get some enjoyment."
Ron Pinto: "I'm here for the band. I love Krypton 88 and it's free. So, you can' beat that."
Fans of outdoor music get plenty to choose from at Village Gate. One week features rockabilly, another week--folk blues, Celtic, or rock.
If the schedule or the offerings at Village Gate aren't to your liking, there are options--many of them. Freetime Magazine lists more than two dozen free outdoor summer concerts throughout the region.
On a recent Thursday, about 50 people spent their lunchtime with Fem Vindar. The woodwind quintet was playing at Hochstein at High Falls, a summer-long concert series. It's sponsored by the High Falls Business Association, the Hochstein School of Music, and WXXI.
Rachel Rosen is president of the business association. She says the idea was to do something for employees in the neighborhood and to attract outsiders to High Falls.
"I know that people come from outside because I'm often asked for directions. I'm standing on a corner and someone says, 'Where's the concert?" I say, 'Down that way. Two blocks and take a right.' "
The concerts are usually held outdoors, but when there's a threat of rain, as there was with Fem Vindar, the show moves indoors. Any good lunchtime series requires someone to provide lunch. That's where Neil Doran comes in. He's the manager of Max at Eastman Place. He's on hand every week to sell sandwiches and salads.
"Oh, it's been great. Real steady. The same people every week, rain or shine. And we probably do 30, 40 people every week for lunch. Real easy; sandwich, salads."
Doran figures Max makes a few hundred dollars each week on the concert series.
Clearly, no one is getting rich off the many outdoor concerts in the region. Vendors and nearby establishments make a little extra and the sponsors make nothing on attendance. Little, if any, money comes in from outside the community, so there's no real economic benefit. The driving force is quality of life. Just ask Mike Spang. He's the Director of Parks and Recreation for Irondequoit. That town has been doing a series at the Gazebo for at least 15 years. Spang says the music series enhances the quality of life in the town.
"It's something that is put on by the town. It is a free activity for those who wish to take advantage of it. And it offers a diversity of music for music lovers."
Attendance can reach 400 or 500 at a concert, depending on who's performing. The cost of the Gazebo series comes to about $3,000. There's some help from sponsors, but the town picks up most of the tab.
While free outdoor concerts aren't a gold mine for anyone, there is an indirect benefit that can't be ignored. Economists and business leaders talk about the importance of a region's quality of life. The more attractive a community is, the better the chances are that a business would want to locate there. One indicator of attractiveness is what brings people together. And Kate Denny, the oboist with Fem Vindar, says that's what music has always done.
"That's really what we want to do, too. Bring people down to the High Falls area, see what's going on down there--someplace new that they might not have been in the city, or new now that there's more businesses and better structures there, and bring us together. I mean, that's really what it's all about."