Talent Scouting with Carrie Lazarus
Music writer Jessica Novak uncovers the good news behind the Channel 9 anchor’s Extraordinary passion project
Carrie Lazarus doesn’t play music but she certainly understands the value of the arts. “I don’t think you need to be musical to appreciate music and have it in your life,” says the news anchor for WSYR-Channel 9.
Last year she started the Carrie Lazarus Fund for Extraordinary Talent, which supports talented teens who face financial obstacles when it comes to pursuing their passion. “My feeling is that talent is unlimited, so opportunity should also be unlimited,” she says. “No young performer should be held back because of what their parents can or can’t afford.”
The fund is supported by the annual “Extraordinary. . . Live” event, to be held Sunday, Nov. 16, 3 p.m., at downtown Syracuse’s Landmark Theatre. The show will feature some of the performers Lazarus has spotlighted on Channel 9’s Extraordinary Talent of the Week segment.
“It’s like the Athlete of the Week (news segment), but 30 years later,” she says. “Athletes get all the love and attention around here. But there are a lot of talented performers who are only known in their schools and communities. They deserve the exposure and attention athletes get. We should all know what they’re doing.”
Several featured talents are already riding the wave that Lazarus has helped create. Twelve-year-old violinist Shen Dai Wei has been recognized as a child prodigy. Syracuse dancer Tevin Johnson spent the summer with the Alvin Ailey Dance Company in New York City.
Nick Ziobro and Julia Goodwin both won Michael Feinstein’s Great American Songbook competition, while Goodwin has also been featured on NBC’s America’s Got Talent. Ziobro and Goodwin were also featured during last summer’s M&T Syracuse Jazz Fest, impressing audiences on a main stage bill that featured Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Trombone Shorty.
“People would have seen America’s Got Talent, heard Julia was from Baldwinsville and thought, ‘Why didn’t I know about her?’” Lazarus explains. “But they did because she was on my show. Kids who rise from here are good for all of us.”
Other talents are making their marks in dance competitions around the world or impressing audiences regionally in musicals and marching bands. “These kids deserve to be known for their talent,” Lazarus says. “And it raises exposure for the arts in the community. Arts have taken a hit. But if they’re in front of the public, they’ll have more of an appreciation for the arts and how passionate these kids are.
“I interview them and ask, ‘What does your music mean to you?’ And they say, ‘Music is my life. I don’t know what I would be without my music. It’s how I get my feelings out, how I express myself.’ What a gift it is to have that in your life. I’m just trying to share the good news.”
Just the Facts
Carrie Lazarus presents Extraordinary. . . Live
Landmark Theatre, 362 S. Salina St.
Sunday, Nov. 16, 3 p.m.
Tickets are $10, in support of the Fund for Extraordinary Talent
Mark Doyle Gets in the Mood
Music writer Jessica Novak profiles the triumphant return of Mark Doyle’s evocative Guitar Noir music event
Mark Doyle’s Guitar Noir project has enjoyed a banner year, with a sellout performance last May at the Auburn Public Theater followed by an impressive set on the main stage of the M&T Syracuse Jazz Fest in July at Onondaga Community College.
Doyle is more than ready to keep the fire burning behind his moody conceptual work, even though he hadn’t planned to reprise the show until next year. Yet talks between Doyle and Jazz Fest founder and producer Frank Malfitano led to the idea of an additional 2014 performance.
“He asked what’s next and I said there wasn’t another Guitar Noir date until next April (at the Auburn Public Theater),” Doyle recalls. “I said it was feeling so good, it would be awful to have to wait that long. We hadn’t done an intimate show in Syracuse, just the big stage at Jazz Fest, even though it’s really suited for an intimate space with lighting.”
Doyle believed that Eastwood’s Palace Theatre was too big and the Redhouse Arts Center’s space too small. But a slot within Malfitano’s Legends of Jazz Series, part of OCC’s Arts Across Campus initiative, was just right. The series has already featured Chick Corea and The Vigil and the Heath Brothers (both of which Doyle attended), and will host Cecile McLorin Salvant and the Rebirth Brass Band in early 2015.
Most of the Legends of Jazz performances take place at Storer Auditorium, yet Doyle’s Guitar Noir will go on at the new Recital Hall. “It seats 150 people, which is perfect,” Doyle says.
And those who attend will get to see a very different kind of show. “It’s the only gig I’ve ever done where you want the audience to fall asleep,” Doyle jokingly says, especially regarding the extremely surreal “In Dreams” set featured in the project.
This performance will also highlight the string section throughout both the first and second set. “I love writing for and playing with strings,” he says. “Nobody else is doing this. It’s its own thing and the people who get it, really get it.
“It’s turning into a really cool thing,” Doyle says about Guitar Noir. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. In a way, it’s almost like vindication. I started this thing in 1999. To have that feeling that things are falling into place, the times are coming around for this, it makes me feel like I’m on the right path.”
Doyle, who has been active in the local and international music scene for years, also performs with his own blues-rock band, The Maniacs, and singer-songwriter Mary Fahl. “With The Maniacs, I’m an extrovert,” he explains. “And then I get to touch the introvert side (with Guitar Noir). And with Mary, it’s all about versatility. People will say, ‘You don’t even show any chops!’ But it’s not about that at all. It’s about being a good music director, playing piano and acoustic guitar. I get to express a bunch of sides I don’t get to elsewhere.”
Doyle is also honored to be a part of Malfitano’s programming once again. “Frank’s such a good presenter,” he says. “Whoever he presents, you know it’ll be great.”
Just the Facts
Mark Doyle’s Guitar Noir
Onondaga Community College’s Recital Hall
Saturday, Nov. 22, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $20 in advance, available at Sound Garden, 312 W. Jefferson St.; $25 at the door
Directions to Recital Hall
Patrons should enter via the college’s north entrance on Route 173 and follow signs at the third left for Parking Lots 6 and 7. Academic II is the large white building on the right located across from the parking lot. Recital Hall is directly inside the building’s entrance.
Guitar Noir musicians include:
Terry Quill, guitar
Bill DiCosimo, keys
Edgar Pagan, bass
Joshua Dekaney, drums
Ally Brown, Shelby Dems and Leila Dean, violins
Claire Marie Wilcox, viola
Kate Wilkinson, cello
By Women and For Women
Top CNY performers pay tribute to those who inspired them
By Casey Fabris
It’s ladies night.
At least, it will be on Thursday, Nov. 13, at the Palace Theatre.
Eighteen female musicians from Central New York will take the stage to pay tribute to the women who inspired them to pursue a career in music. Each woman will perform two songs by artists they admire.
Narrowing it down to just two songs was “not an easy task,” said Ashley Cox-Sullivan, one of the performers.
The women are coming together for Respect: CNY Celebrates Women in Music, which will benefit The Centers at St. Camillus. The event was created by Joanna Jewett, the center’s director of marketing, communications and public relations, who will also join the women on stage with a performance of her own.
“I think we have a really dynamic, diverse pool of female performers in Central New York, and I think that’s really what makes it interesting,” Jewett said.
Though Jewett said she wished she could say the event was years in the making, it was really an idea that she woke up with one morning.
She shared her idea with others at the Centers for St. Camillus in February. She then called the Palace Theatre, got Laci’s Tapas Bar to provide the food for the after party and started reaching out to CNY female artists on Facebook. The website for the event went live at the beginning of April and, by the end of the month, the first tickets had been sold.
The event will feature artists representing every genre, including country, jazz, rock and folk, Jewett said. Nearly every person that she reached out to – many of whom she didn’t know before – said she’d participate in the event.
Though most of the performers won’t reveal which artists or songs they’ve chosen to pay tribute to, Jewett promises that they’ll be just as diverse as the performers themselves. She teased to classics like Etta James, Cyndi Lauper and Aretha Franklin, among others.
“It’s really just an interesting, eclectic list of songs that will be performed,” Jewett said. “And women rock. That’s the other part of this, too.”
Jewett was surprised by some of the selections that the women made. She thinks the audience will be, too. Jewett said it’s exciting to hear the songs that inspired each of the artists.
For Robyn Stockdale, it was tough to narrow her list of about 10 artists down to only two. But one of the women she’s representing was a “no-brainer” selection, Stockdale said. She remembers when the artist released her first album, an album that said everything Stockdale was feeling at the time.
“She was just an artist that really made me know that I could do this: I could sing, I could get out in front of people and say what I’m thinking,” Stockdale said.
Stockdale praised the Central New York music community, calling it “chock-full” of talent, with both emerging talent and well-established artists. She is excited to take the stage with her peers.
“I think it’s good to show all these women in our scene,” Stockdale said. “We see them kind of split up in their bands and doing their thing. You pull them all out of their usual bands and their usual projects and you put them together, there’s a sisterhood thing that happens.”
When Joanne Perry was growing up, she didn’t think she could sing. That is, until she got her hands on a Polly Bergen album. She would sing along to Bergen and, soon, she realized she could sing.
Perry will pay tribute to Bergen, an inspiration not just for her musical talent but also for her endeavor starting her own cosmetic company.
It’s not often that artists talk about their influences, Perry said, and this event gives them a platform to do so.
“Being able to pay respect to women performers by women performers is really an honor,” Perry said. “I’ve never done anything like it before, and I love the fact that we’re calling attention to women that may have been overlooked.”
Though many performers will be representing well-known musicians, Perry said she hopes some audience members will be exposed to new artists and investigate them further.
Cox-Sullivan, who will be joined on stage by her father and husband, said she hopes highlighting so many female performers will encourage young girls to pursue careers in music, as well.
All of the songs that will be performed that night are great choices, Cox-Sullivan said, and create a “choice playlist” of songs that could easily have appeared on someone’s iPod.
“I loved the choices that all of my peers up there chose,” she said. “I would’ve picked out at least half a dozen of them myself, whether it was the artist or the song.”
Though the event focuses on the respect that these CNY artists have for the women who inspired them, it’s also about the respect that each of these artists has for the other.
“It’s not a contest, but yet, here I am with a bunch of other singers that I respect very much. There’s so many ladies that are going to be on that stage that I admire, that I look up to, that I adore,” Cox-Sullivan said. “The excitement that I feel just being categorized with them, I feel that the pressure is on to be as good. I do want to be my best that I can be.”
Just the Facts
Respect: Central New York Salutes Women in Music
Thursday, Nov. 13 at 7:00pm
Eastwood’s Palace Theatre
Another Waltz at the Palace Theater
By Michelle van Dalen
Syracuse’s Salt City Waltz returns to the Palace Theatre on Nov. 29 for a pinnacle performance recreating The Band’s Last Waltz, filmed on Thanksgiving Day in 1976 as the music group’s farewell appearance.
Stacey Waterman, who has organized the show since its first run in 2012, describes it as creating a vibe unmatched by any other local music event.
“It’s not a tribute. We’re paying homage,” Waterman says. “It takes on a life of its own. The room becomes alive.”
A slew of talent joins the show this year, including Sean Michaels, Miss E and Syracuse’s local-turned-national musician Jonah Smith, who gained fame when his band made it to the semi-finals in the summer season of America’s Got Talent. But Gary Frenay, the event’s music director and a performer in both previous shows, insists Salt City Waltz’s biggest coup was getting the Levon Helm Studio Horns to perform.
“These are seasoned players who shared the stage with Levon for years, so having them on our stage, for our version of the Last Waltz, is a real thrill,” Frenay says.
The show sold out two years in a row, and Waterman expects the same this year. The performances lend a lot to audience members getting on their feet, dancing and singing along to the music. But the highlight of the show remains to be seen.
“You never know which number, or performer, will catch fire with the audience. And every audience is different. That’s the beauty of live music,” Frenay says, citing past fire-catching performances as Joe Whiting’s performance of The Band’s “Caravan” and Mike Ryan’s performance of The Band’s “Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”
Frenay most enjoys interacting with all the talented people involved.
“As a musician who does this for a living, I rarely get to see other friends play — the musician’s lament — so this is a real treat for me,” he says. “I think the show is rightly viewed and talked about as the musical highlight of the year for most concertgoers.”
For the first time, Salt City Waltz will be broadcast live on WXTL-FM (105.9, The Rebel) for Soundcheck’s 35th anniversary. David Frisina, the radio station’s program director, describes Salt City Waltz’s music offerings a “classic rock home run” that fits the personality of 105.9 The Rebel and acts as the perfect tie-in to the anniversary celebration.
“The combination of artists and their interpretations of the music is a tremendous showcase for the musicianship that the local talent in this area has to offer,” Frisina says.
Those interested in listening to the broadcast can tune in to therebelrocks.com or download the 105.9 The Rebel phone app. The station will feature the Last Waltz’s three records on “Rebel Vinyl” at 7 p.m. Thursdays leading up to the 29th.
The musical event continues its tradition of kicking off the holiday giving season with a food drive for St. Lucy’s Food Pantry.
“This is a pinnacle year for the show,” Waterman says. “I don’t know how it can be topped.”
Just the Facts
When: Nov. 29. Doors open at 7 p.m., show starts at 8 p.m.
Where: The Palace Theatre, 2384 James St., Syracuse
Tickets available at: The Palace Theatre, Sound Garden (310 W. Jefferson St., Syracuse), and upstateshows.com