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Music

In modern media, success usually means following up with the same thing that brought success. Music, television -- think about why the characters on Friends only became caricatures of themselves. But 25 years ago, a band went against the popular grain.

R.E.M. had found massive commercial success with their 1991 hits like "Stand" and "Shiny Happy People." Suddenly, just as popular as Madonna, the band had a chance to fire off more and similar hits. But their 1992 album, Automatic for the People, is one of the darker pop albums of the era. Songs about suicide prevention and tragedy were not exactly what the producers were hoping for, but the band stayed with their vision. Is there a lesson there? We examine with our guests:

What would it sound like if a number of local musicians all wrote their own versions of a song with the same title? Music fans will be able to hear more than 20 original takes on the title "How Did We Get Here" during a special concert next week at Hochstein Performance Hall. It's part of an event appropriately titled, "If All Rochester Wrote the Same Song."

We preview some of those versions and talk about the song writing process with our guests. In studio:

It's Christmas...in October! It may seem early to be listening to Christmas music, but perhaps it would be something George Eastman would do. The philanthropist is known for his love of music and often listened to his pipe organ while eating breakfast, reading newspapers, or meeting with business associates.

A new album called "An Eastman Christmas" includes 24 holiday tunes played on Eastman's Aeolian pipe organ. It's part of the upcoming holiday celebrations at the Eastman Museum.

We listen to some music and discuss how Eastman's legacy continues to impact the Rochester community. In studio:

  • Jack Garner, retired national film critic for Gannett Newspapers, passionate Eastman supporter, and recipient of the Eastman Medal
  • Bonnie Garner, president of the George Eastman Museum Council and museum trustee
  • Joe Blackburn, George Eastman Museum volunteer organist featured in "An Eastman Christmas," and leading authority on the Aeolian pipe organ
  • Kathy Connor, curator of the legacy collection at the George Eastman Museum

The Rochester Gay Men's Chorus is celebrating 35 years of performances and community activism. The group promotes social change and LGBTQ pride through the choral arts.

We listen to some music and talk to members about how the group has fostered change through its grassroots efforts.

  • Ted Smith, board chair for the Rochester Gay Men’s Chorus
  • Thomas Warfield, Rochester Gay Men’s Chorus alumnus    
  • Robert Strauss, artistic director of the Rochester Gay Men’s Chorus
  • John Williams, longtime supporter of the Rochester Gay Men’s Chorus

The winner of NPR's 2016 Tiny Desk Concert is a remarkable musician from Duluth, Minnesota named Gaelynn Lea. Lea is a classically trained fiddler whose music includes Celtic and American fiddle traditions. Her submission, Someday We'll Linger in the Sun, was the judges' unanimous choice. If you watch Lea's video, you'll notice that she plays her violin in a style that you might not expect -- she holds it in front of herself, like a cello.

Lea has brittle bone disease, and when she fell in love with the cello as a young student, it was difficult for her to hold it. A teacher noticed, was inspired by Lea's gift for music, and helped her learn how to play the violin in the same style. Now, Lea plays solo shows and with her band. She's also a teacher and an advocate for people with disabilities. 

We talk to Lea about her music, her success, and about how to make all stages accessible to everyone.  She'll be in Rochester for a performance and talk at Nazareth College, but first, she joins us on Connections. Our guests:

Rock legend Tom Petty died on Monday, and this hour, we talk about his life and work. Petty has been acclaimed for his “rootsiness,” even though he performed in sold out arenas. His songs have been praised for being soaring and sad. 

How should we define Tom Petty's musical legacy? We listen to some of his music and discuss that question with our guests:

  • John Covach, director of the Institute for Popular Music at the University of Rochester
  • Dave Drago, producer and owner of 1809 Studios
  • Saby Reyes-Kulkarni, music journalist
  • Sarah Hart, Tom Petty fan and “American Girl”

NPR recently released its list of the top 150 music albums by women of all time. Joni Mitchell's Blue topped the list, inspiring the Smith Opera House in Geneva to celebrate with a tribute concert. One of the themes of Blue is women's reaction to the issues of the countercultural 1960s.

We discuss those themes and debate which albums deserved higher billing with our guests:

It has been 20 years since Radiohead released "OK Computer." The album was a departure in certain ways for the band, and today, it seems like everyone is writing think pieces about both Radiohead and that record. In the New Yorker, Amanda Petrusich wrote that Radiohead essentially saw the future, and the band's songs reflect the loneliness that comes from isolation -- isolation due to political malaise, celebrity culture, and addiction to technology. We talk to Radiohead fans about these ideas, the music, and more. Our guests:

  • Dave Chisholm, educator, composer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and comic artist
  • Matt Witten, director of the University of Rochester Percussion Ensemble, and faculty member at Rowan University
  • Mona Seghatoleslami, host and producer for Classical 91.5

As a child, singer Bethany Yarrow was surrounded by a family of activists who loved folk music. That's because her father is Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul, and Mary. As an adult, her musical tastes drifted to other genres, but eventually, she went back to her roots and was inspired by how folk music can convey important messages.

She and her partner, cellist Rufus Capadoccia, have performed and participated in demonstrations all over the world in support of causes like the environmental movement, the Dakota Access Pipeline, and more.

Yarrow is in town for a performance in the Finger Lakes, but first, she's our guest on Connections. We talk to her about her activism and music with meaning.

From the One Love Peace concert in Jamaica, to the Concert for Bangladesh in New York City, to the song, "We Are the World," music has played a role in uniting people from different backgrounds and raising awareness and funds to support a variety of causes. The upcoming United with Music concert in Rochester aims to do the same. Local musicians with ties to the international community will perform traditional and contemporary music to benefit Refugees Helping Refugees, a non-profit that assists refugees in Rochester as they settle in their new homes.

Our guests discuss how their music has helped unify people around the world, and how music can help bring peace during tumultuous times. In studio:

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