The words “Rochester” and “music,” when heard in the same conversation, might automatically conjure thoughts of the Eastman School of Music. While it’s true that Eastman has created a vibrant musical culture in Rochester on its own, there is a wide variety of musicians that associate themselves with the city as well. From rappers to jazz artists, from Gym Class Heroes to members of Sonic Youth and Foreigner, all have roots in the Rochester area.
But what makes the Rochester music scene any different from those in cities such as Syracuse and Buffalo? Recognition.
Both Syracuse and Buffalo have music halls of fame, and Rochester — birthplace of the great jazz musician Chuck Mangione and home of the world-renowned Eastman School of Music — does not. For years, the city had no building to honor potential inductees and no music awards. There wasn’t even an annual newsletter that mentioned the success of Rochester musicians. Until now.
Three years ago, founder and Board President of the Rochester Music Hall of Fame Karl LaPorta, a professional musician and local piano tuner, sent a letter to the editor of the Democrat and Chronicle in March 2009.
“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if Rochester had a Hall of Fame?’” he wrote. “It’s a great music city.”
And a great music city it is — almost immediately after his letter was published, a rush of support came in for the idea through letters, emails and phone calls.
With such a positive reaction, LaPorta convened an eclectic panel of sorts to expand on his idea — businessmen, politicians and musicians gathered together to work out the logistics. A board of directors was selected and the organization ﬁled for non-proﬁt status.
As the project began to move forward, a larger base of support became necessary.
“Coming from the social media perspective, it has been really difﬁcult creating a community in such a short period of time,” Victoria Soto, the social media executor at the Hall of Fame, said. “I think when I created the Facebook and Twitter [accounts] I just assumed everyone would start following and liking us because it is such a great event, but there is a lot that goes into getting the word out there.”
Soto has been working on the project for the last few months, drumming up interest and promoting the Rochester Music Hall of Fame’s upcoming induction ceremony on Sunday, April 29. She feels local students will beneﬁt.
“I feel many students don’t know much about [Rochester music], but would be very interested to learn. I think students will appreciate Rochester and all it has contributed,” Soto explained.
After logistics, the last, and arguably most important, step was to decide who should be honored in the new Hall of Fame.
Different genres, contributions and associations with Rochester all had to be considered. The Hall of Fame website describes its selection criteria as “recognizing those with ties to Rochester whose talents, efforts, perseverance and creativity have contributed to the creation of musical excellence.”
The decision was made to
honor not only musicians, but occasionally special venues or speciﬁc performances as well. In fact, Corinthian Hall and the performances of Mademoiselle Jenny Lind, a Swedish opera singer, made the inaugural list of inductees.
Also included on this list are jazz legend Chuck Mangione, opera star Renée Fleming, Lou Gramm — the drummer of Foreigner — and George Eastman, who was instrumental in establishing the Eastman School of Music.
To commemorate the ﬁrst set of inductees, the celebratory ceremony will include performances by and in honor of members from the Hall of Fame’s class of 2012. These varied and sometimes rare performances will include Chuck Mangione playing with The New Big Band, Charles Strouse conducting parts of his scores from “Bye Bye Birdie” and “Annie” and a reunion between Gene Cornish, founder of The Rascals, and former bandmate Felix Cavaliere.
The lineup has something for everyone and is a show that shouldn’t be missed.
For more information, and to purchase tickets, please visit the Rochester Music Hall of Fame website at rochestermusic.org.
Esce is a member of the class of 2015.