Nicole Greenbaum won "Best in Show," as selected in voting by attendees, at the opening of the Batavia Society of Artists Winter Show at the Richmond Memorial Library. Her painting, a watercolor, top right, is entitled "Silent Observations."
Madeleine Rusch is the featured artist in the show. Rusch has been painting for about 15 years and is mostly self-taught though attended classes with John Hodgins and Dennis Wood. Her main interest is acrylic paint. She has participated in many art shows and recently won Best in Show at the Alden Art Show.
Performances of the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by the BHS Drama Club will go ahead as scheduled on Saturday and Sunday (7 p.m. and 2 p.m.) with Friday's postponed performance being moved to 7 p.m., Sunday. Tickets for all three shows are still available here.
Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel has announced the lineup for their fifth Rockin’ the Downs concert series, presented by Pepsi, which will take place outside on the racetrack, with ten Friday dates, starting in June and running into August.
Kicking off the series on Friday, June 17th will be a double bill of rock with Tommy DeCarlo and Rudy Cardenas. Tommy has been the lead singer of Boston since 2007 and performs all of Boston’s hits from the ’70s and 80’s including More Than a Feeling, Peace of Mind, Hitch A Ride, and more! Opening the show will be Rudy Cardenas, a season 6 American Idol finalist and who will perform a full set of Journey’s classic hits.
Next up, on Friday, June 24th, Batavia Downs welcomes Canadian Rock Band Finger 11. Originating in Burlington, Ontario in 1990, the band has gone on to release 7 studio albums. The Juno Award-winning rockers will be performing hits such as One Thing, Paralyzer, and others.
Friday, July 1st will see Get the Led Out perform at Batavia Downs. This group of professional musicians are passionate about their love of the music of Led Zeppelin, making it their mission to bring the studio recordings of the Mighty Zep to life on stage. These musicians were fans first and strive to do justice to one of the greatest bands in rock history by touring all across the US and Canada. Songs performed by the band will include Led Zeppelin hits like Black Dog, Immigrant Song, Stairway to Heaven and more!
Returning to Batavia Downs on Friday, July 8th is Theory. Hailing from Delta, British Columbia, the band also known as Theory of a Deadman has turned their hard rock/alternative sound into nine top 10 hits on the US Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks, including four number one tracks in Bad Girlfriend, Lowlife, Rx (Medicate) and History of Violence.
Performing on Friday, July 15th is another double bill of great music, this time with Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone. Peter Noone is a multi-talented entertainer, who achieved international fame as Herman, lead singer of the legendary Sixties pop band Herman’s Hermits. His classic hits include: I’m Into Something Good, Mrs. Brown, you’ve Got A Lovely Daughter, I’m Henry VIII, I Am.
Earlier that evening The Grass Rootswill take the stage having originated in the Mid-60s and charted with such hits as; Midnight Confessions, Let’s Live for Today, Sooner or Later, and Temptation Eyes. The current Band Line up of Mark Dawson, Dusty Hanvey, Larry Nelson, and Joe Dougherty rocked Batavia Downs last summer with an inspired performance.
On Friday, July 22nd, Batavia Downs welcomes back Southern Rock legends Molly Hatchet. Originating in Jacksonville in 1978, the band has gone on to release 14 studio albums. They’ll be performing hits such as Flirtin’ with Disaster, Dreams I’ll Never See and Whiskey Man. Opening for them will be American Southern Rock Band Blackfoot, who will beplaying such hits as Train, Train, and Highway Song.
Rocking the stage on Friday, July 29th is the legendary band, 38 Special. After forming in Jacksonville in 1974, they have currently achieved over $20 Million in sales. Their signature blast of Southern Rock is unmistakable with such arena-rock pop smashes as Hold On Loosely, Rockin’ Into the Night, and Caught Up in You.
America’s top Pink Floyd Show, The Machine returns to the Batavia Downs stage on Friday, August 5th. For over 30 years they have extended the legacy of Pink Floyd, while creating another legacy all their own. Over the years, The Machine has touched the hearts and souls of many with their stellar musicianship, dramatic lighting and video performances. Last year’s performance at Batavia Downs was well received by one of the largest crowds of the summer.
Making his Batavia Downs debut on Friday, August 12th is Mike DelGuidice - Recording Artist/Singer/Songwriter who is currently on tour with Billy Joel.
Mike DelGuidice now lives a dream come true. In October of 2013, Billy Joel was so impressed with Mike's singing, Joel personally hired Mike to join his band.
And now you can see Mike on tour with Billy Joel all over the US & world in major arenas and stadiums including every month at the iconic Madison Square Garden. Mike and his band play all of Billy Joel’s big hits. They will also perform a few astonishing renditions of other classic rock hits, plus some of Mike’s own original work.
Closing out the series on Friday, August 19th is the Dire Straits Experience. With former Dire Straits member Chris White, this stellar collection of professional musicians has been paying homage to one of the greatest songbooks of all time with tours across the world. They will be playing all Dire Straits’ major hits, in all their ambition, grandeur and aching beauty. These songs are once again presented live for the fans that that have kept them alive.
“We are looking forward to hosting what we feel is the best Concert Series Line-up we’ve ever had,” said Henry Wojtaszek, President, and CEO for Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel. “We’re appreciative to the folks at Pepsi for being our headline sponsor this year and excited to welcome back charities like Make-A-Wish Western New York & Volunteers for Animals who raise funds for their organizations through the chair rental and guitar raffle.”
Tickets for all ten concerts will be available at www.BataviaConcerts.com only beginning on Thursday, December 2nd at 10am.
Tickets this year will be $15 for General Admission, $30 for VIP, $50 for Premium and debuting this year, limited tickets for $75 will guarantee a front row spot. All tickets can be redeemed at Player’s Club at any time in the three days following the concert for $15 Free Play to be used on one of Batavia Downs Gaming’s 800+ gaming machines.
Season Tickets are also back and will also go on sale for General Admission, VIP, and Premium Sections. A Season pass for General Admission will be $100 (a savings of $50) and purchasers will receive a $50 Free Play Voucher valid to be used within one month of purchase. Season Passes for VIP tickets are $250 (a savings of $50) with the purchaser receiving $100 in Free Play Vouchers. A Premium Season Pass is $450 (a savings of $50) with the purchaser receiving a $150 in Free Play Vouchers. Season passes may only be purchased online.
For the month of December until Christmas, tickets purchased online for the General Admission section will be only $10. Concert goers will still receive $15 in Free Play on show day with this ticket.
Suite Packages for the Hotel at Batavia Downs are available for $500 and include 10 Lawn Tickets. To book a suite package, contact Sara Tenney at 585-344-6155.
As the 75th anniversary of Genesee Symphony Orchestra quickly approaches, the planning of its concert this weekend has been anything but rushed.
In fact, Conductor Shade Zajac has been thinking about the event for the last few years.
“I’ve been so looking forward to this particular season for so long, not for any personal reason. I just want the orchestra to be celebrated, for people to know that this incredible thing exists,” Zajac said during an interview with the Batavian. “I am not the same guy I was when we started … and the orchestra is not the same. GSO will always be part of my history and part of my family.”
The 75th celebration concert titled Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow is set for 4 p.m. Saturday at Genesee Community College’s Stuart Steiner Theatre, 1 College Rd., Batavia.
Years in the making ...
Zajac, whose first season was in 2016, has been mulling the 2021 musical season “for a lot of years now,” he said. He had discussed it with Co-President Roxie Choate and had several ideas amidst a pandemic that had canceled many public events.
“It was touch and go whether or not we would actually be having a season,” he said.
Once venues began opening up, Zajac and staff plunged ahead with mapping out an agenda of nostalgic and meaningful pieces. History has been the focus of the orchestra’s return to the stage, exactly 75 years to the date it first debuted as Batavia Civic Orchestra.
A letter in Richmond Memorial Library’s archives demonstrates just how delicate GSO’s formation really was. Zajac stumbled upon it, he said, while scouring the vast relics for concert ideas. It was fairly early on after the orchestra’s 1947 founding, and it was an ominous musing about whether it was worth it to carry on.
“Do you want the Civic Orchestra to continue? If so, will you work for it?” the letter began. “It will be a sad loss to the community to end the orchestra. It seems better, though, to end it quickly than to drag on to a slow death.”
Written by then-President Virginia Trietly, the letter ended with a hopeful encouragement to “muster up enthusiasm — lasting enthusiasm” that would allow the group to survive longer than 11 years. It’s safe to say that community members rallied to carry on and endure the next several decades.
“And here we are 75 seasons later. Yeah, through this horrible pandemic where many orchestras haven't been able to do a thing, and we've been fortunate enough to continue to make music. That's a really incredible thing,” Zajac said. “And it's a testament to the musicians, of course, to all the people that have worked on the board of directors and also to this community that continues to support us through tough times, and through great times. Without all of these components … we wouldn't be having this conversation.”
As for the music, a concert lineup is chock full of classical compositions, a guest performance, and a piece of freshly crafted work. Mikhail Glinka’s “Overture to Ruslan and Ludmilla” is not unfamiliar to orchestras, as it has been performed “many, many, many times” by GSO and others, Zajac said.
“Because it's just a complete fireworks spectacular showcase for the orchestra,” he said. “It’s breakneck fast, and then it gets even faster at the end. It’s a statement to start a program with that piece.”
“Prelude to Act III, Dance of the Apprentices, Final Prelude and Intermezzo,” from Cavalleria, was featured in the very first orchestra performance. Zajac discovered the musical score in library archives labeled with the group's original name. Considered a “classical repertoire,” the prelude is “just gorgeous,” he said.
“I really wanted to do something different, something from the very early season … the librarian gave me the score. And the coolest thing is, stamped on the cover is the Batavia Civic Orchestra, which is, of course, the name before,” he said. “So that is a cool find. And that's a really great piece.”
Then and Now ...
Guest soloist Mia Fasanello will also become part of the orchestra’s history by performing a concerto 75 years after her own grandfather, Sebastian Fasanello, played one during the first concert. No stranger to the GSO, Fasanello won its Young Artist competition for her oboe performance and was a featured soloist with the group for “Concerto for Oboe and Strings” in 2017. Currently studying with the Juilliard School, Fasanello’s talent prickled the judges’ ears from the very first tuning note.
“Oboe is a really tricky instrument to play. And for such a young person to have such a mature sound, it was a no-brainer that she had to be the winner,” Zajac said. “So it's really great for us to have her come and perform, and to work with us in this collaboration. And it just plays into the whole idea that this is a generational thing.”
From the past of a musician’s grandfather, the concert also includes the present with a “world premiere” of Nancy Pettersen Strelau’s original piece, “A Simple Beautiful Idea.”
Zajac wanted someone connected to the orchestra to compose a piece for the celebration but wasn’t initially sure who that should be. He chose Strelau for her role as his teacher, mentor, and sounding board throughout his education at Nazareth College School of Music. She even nudged him into applying for the conductor position when it became vacant in 2015.
“I owe so much to her, she’s an incredible human being; she’s always been there,” he said. “It’s a really beautiful piece … the idea of back when they first wanted this orchestra, how daunting it must have been. It’s a very special piece to me.”
A majestic and lively “Hungarian Rhapsodies no. 2” ends the lineup with a melody often heard during popular cartoons Tom and Jerry, and Bugs Bunny. Don’t be surprised if your mind conjures up a sneaky little rodent wreaking havoc during portions of the song, Zajac said.
The program includes proclamations from state Assemblyman Steve Hawley and Genesee County Legislator Rochelle Stein; and a display that highlights “certain aspects of our history,” said GSO librarian and second chair clarinet Joanne Tumminello. A GSO calendar will be available for purchase to support the orchestra and provide a cherished collection of photos across the decades, she said.
A member since 1995, Tumminello has been in charge of gathering and preserving tidbits of time in the form of news articles, photos, videos and other materials. This year has brought with it a sense of celebration to the wide assortment of members young and old and from all walks of life, she said.
“It’s definitely brought excitement to the orchestra,” Tumminello said. “It has brought us together.”
Shirts with the new GSO logo — selected from entries of a prior logo contest — have been made for members to wear during rehearsal, she said, noting that the 75th will be removed for next season and beyond. That’s a sign that “we can endure anything,” she said.
“The community has a love of history and enjoys supporting us, and that tells us to keep going,” she said.
Zajac emphasized that although he may be the “face” of the orchestra, it takes the whole body of musicians, board of directors and community support to make a concert, and this celebration, happen. One musician in particular has become part of the 27-year-old conductor’s future: his wife Nicole. Before they were married, she filled in as a pinch-hitter for a vacant French horn seat. The late Bob Knipe, heavily active in the GSO and local music scene, had also “invited her to come and play” in the group. She eventually became a permanent member of GSO.
“I was in the thick of my first season with GSO and knew I needed a sub for Horn. And she turned me down, and we kind of kept talking,” he Zajac said. “And then as that particular concert approached, we needed an extra horn player last minute. So she stepped up, played, and then they kept inviting her back.”
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Tickets are $15 adults, $10 seniors and free to students with a student identification card, and may be purchased at Holland Land Office Museum, YNGodess or online at www.geneseesymphony.com.
Photos: File photos from previous seasons' rehearsals. All photos by Howard Owens. Top photo, S. Shade Zajac in 2019. Videos below from 2019.
Kent R. Ewell, Proprietor of O’Lacy’s Irish Pub has fulfilled one of the items on his “bucket list” by recording a CD titled Another Round for my Friends. This is a compilation of 15 original songs all written by Kent himself. On Monday, November 15th there will be a CD/Listening Party at O’Lacy Irish Pub, 5 School Street, Batavia, NY from 6pm-9pm. This is open to the public.
Being a local business owner in downtown Batavia for almost 25 years, giving back to the community has always been incredibly important to Kent. The CD will be sold for $15 each with 50% of each sale ($7.50) being donated to Crossroads House, a local comfort care house here in Batavia.
The CD was engineered by Kirk McWhoter of McWhoter Records, Attica NY. The CD will also be available online with 50% of each sale being donated to Gateway House, a local comfort care house in Attica, NY.
The Batavia Society of Artists will host Artist Shauna Blake on Tuesday, Nov. 9th at Go-Art/Seymour Place, 201 E. Main St., Batavia at 7 pm. Shauna will demonstrate Acrylic Pour Painting on an ornament. Everyone who comes gets to make one of their own to take home. Please call or text Teresa Tamfer to reserve your spot at (585-506-2465. Non-Members welcome for a $5.00 fee.
BIO: Shauna Blake, Artist
Shauna Blake started painting in her early teens and has devoted her entire working life to her artwork. She has a love for nature and the outdoors and uses the inspiration and energy it provides to create her art.
She paints in a wide variety of mediums including, watercolors, acrylics, pen and ink, and silk dyes.
In 1994 she graduated from The Art Institute of Pittsburgh with a major in Graphic Design and Illustration. She worked in the Graphic Design field for 7 years before joining her husband, Brendan in his glass art business in 2001. Here she expanded her art by studying and creating lampwork glass beads.
Shauna currently sells her hand-painted silk scarves, silk ribbons, and art prints worldwide on her website. www.QuintessenceSilk.com and on the popular Etsy handmade crafts site online.
Western New York Singer Marsha McWilson was 6 years old when she learned the ropes of performing. Her brother Roger was choirmaster at a large church, and he was a stickler for accuracy.
“I had to hit every note and look presentable … he groomed me,” McWilson said during a phone interview from her home in Niagara Falls. “It hit me when I picked up the mic, and everyone started clapping.”
That prep in St. John’s AME Church paved a musical path for her to follow, she said. She attributes the 100-voice choir, led by Kathy Jordan Sharpton (former wife of Al Sharpton), and pianist Bruce Parker, and related teachings for her gradual rise in the music industry.
McWilson plans to dazzle spectators during her first appearance at Batavia Downs Gaming and Hotel. The show goes on at 7 p.m., Oct. 14 at 8315 Park Road.
Expect glitz, glamour, a combination of jazzy blues, country, and Motown, plus assorted diva costumes. A full band, backup singers, and everything from Etta James and Tina Turner to Patsy Cline and Aretha Franklin will be featured.
“I’m bringing Vegas to Batavia,” she said. “Tell ‘em just get ready.”
The licensed beauty salon owner knows many facets of the industry, so the audience will get the full package of presentation, she said. Is there a connection between her beauty business and entertaining? Well of course there is, she said.
“That’s the biggest part of everything; I have the foundation already,” she said, adding a bit of snap to her voice. “I am the total package. I sing, write, produce, do hair, make-up and pick the clothes.”
The concert will be dedicated to her sister Vanessa, who succumbed to COVID, and to her high school music teacher and longtime friend, Marva Frails, for whom McWilson just sang during her funeral this past Thursday. Frails taught her young student the ABCs in music, which are the words Every Boy Does Fine and FACE to cover the musical notes on a staff. Frails also instilled the importance of being on time and not complaining, which McWilson intends to honor.
“She taught me so many things,” McWilson said. “I’m going to stop complaining.”
After losing many friends and family members to COVID, the energetic vocalist penned a song, “Rona Mae Blues,” which can be heard on her website. Accompanied by son Cameron Connor, she genuinely sings the blues with lines such as “If only I knew it was going to be the last time I saw you” and “You tore our lives apart.” Of all the uncertainties of the pandemic, she knows one thing for sure: “You won’t believe about coronavirus until your family dies,” she said. “My sister died Christmas Day. She didn’t think she had the virus.”
It’s hard to imagine McWilson being down, given her vibrant personality, but she has definitely walked through the blues, she said. Losing six family members in a short period of time, struggling with obesity, and knocking on doors that just wouldn’t open for her could have beat her down for good. But she got back up with a mission to benefit others, she said. She advocates getting the Covid vaccine and has an undying trust that she can do all things “through Christ who strengthens me.” As for those venues that wouldn’t book her, she believes, for being a black entertainer, she knows that better objectives are in her future.
“It’s not about the money; the message I have is to uplift them,” she said.
McWilson recalled seeing her brother Larry on the living room floor after he had died from a heart attack. Her brother Maurice tried to nudge her into reality.
“He said that if I didn’t change my life, it could be me,” she said, noting that other siblings had died of heart attacks. “I prayed, and I walked. I called it the mind, body, and soul program. I began to get up every day and walk around Hyde Park and I prayed that God would help me.”
She prayed for help to lose weight, gain inspiration to write and sing songs and forge a path toward a successful musical career. Two hundred pounds lighter, she hit a local pinnacle as the first black female inductee for the 2020 Niagara Falls Music Hall of Fame and has performed in jazz and blues festivals, at Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino, fundraisers and for a yearly 10-day Tom Joyner Foundation Fantastic Voyage cruise.
Had she not lost weight, McWilson knows she would have missed out on so much, including flying because she couldn’t squeeze into an airplane seat and giving birth to long-awaited “miracle” children. As one of a dozen siblings, she had a tight-knit family, though McWilson has been determined to do the work all by herself, she said. She was told that her gospel couldn’t be played on the radio and that she would never be able to fly in an aircraft. She found a way.
“I’m morphing through the pain … pain is what gets us through life,” she said. “My mother inspired me to go after what I want. She had 12 kids and none of them got in trouble. She’s my role model.”
Her favorite genre is Gospel, though she admits “the blues is getting me to the green.” She has appeared in three movies and sees herself doing more television work. Actually, her visual is much more specific than that.
“I see myself winning Grammys and Emmys … being so wealthy that I’ll be a blessing to help someone else,” she said.
For more about McWilson, check out her website at www.marshamcwilson.com. Concert tickets are $10 and may be purchased at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/marsha-mcwilson-tribute-performance-at-batavia-downs-gaming-hotel-tickets-170476676328
To help celebrate its 100th Anniversary, the Stafford Country Club invited members of the Batavia Society of Artists to paint pictures of the club grounds, and tonight those paintings were sold to members. Twenty percent of the proceeds go to the club's scholarship fund with the remainder of the sale price going to the individual artist.
Top photo: Teresa Tamfer, one of the BSA's organizers of the event, with one of the paintings by a BSA member
When Genesee Community College’s Fine and Performing Arts Director first met Samara Brown, a theater student from the Bronx, she noted something different.
“She was very talented and quirky, and she didn’t know what to do with it,” Maryanne Arena said of that meeting in 2007. “I called her the sponge. She always wanted to learn, she wanted to do something with her life.”
Brown can check off that box. She’s been a featured singer on season 21 of The Voice Blind Auditions. Watched by millions of viewers, the show puts vocal hopefuls on the spot to perform with hopes of getting selected by a seasoned mentor.
Brown had wanted artist John Legend to choose her because “he’s probably my biggest inspiration,” she said during an interview Tuesday. Needless to say, she put in a lot of time rehearsing her song “over and over and over” for the audition. (When he turned around) “I was kind of frozen. I think I blacked out a little,” the 32-year-old said.
During her time at GCC, Brown was diligent about her craft, Arena said. She asked a lot of questions about the what and why of the art and requested solo coaching time. A “very shy” and rather modest performer, Brown absorbed every ounce of the experience and never wanted it to end, Arena said.
“I would have to say, ‘ok, it’s time to go.’ She worked really hard, she never thought she was great,” Arena said. “She never walked around like she was the star. I recognized her talent, but I wanted it to become part of her confidence.”
When Brown’s episode of The Voice aired on Sept. 27, Arena and her family were in their seats at home watching it unfold. Arena felt certain that John Legend would pick Brown and be able to lend his pop and jazz background.
Then it happened. After her impressive rendition of “Sweet Thing,” Brown’s work paid off. She was chosen by John Legend and Ariana Grande. Pause for that electric moment when Brown said “I pick John.” Arena has told her students that if, at the end of the year, their taxes list entertainer as an occupation, that’s success. And, for sure, most people don’t make it to this point, she said.
“We were all jumping around in my house,” Arena said. “We were really excited. It didn’t surprise me; I expected great things from her.”
The student and teacher have stayed in touch over the years. Ever since they met, Brown’s “quirkiness” spoke to Arena about the young woman’s gifts.
“We connected right away. She was alone because she lived in the Bronx and didn’t go home. She kind of became a second daughter to me; she spent Thanksgivings on the farm," Arena said. “I keep saying it, but I’m so proud of her.”
In August, Brown posted to social media "I auditioned for The Voice!" Since then, staff and faculty at Batavia-based GCC had been longing to see her performance, which is now available online. Her audition left judges John Legend and Ariana Grande fighting over who would get to be her coach this season.
Brown earned a Theatre Arts degree from GCC in 2009 with several musical roles under her belt, including a flying Peter Pan in Peter Pan-The Musical, as the Village Doctor in The Incredible Jungle Journey of Fenda Maria, Lady in Blue in For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf, a performance that was awarded "Excellence in Acting to the Ladies of Color for their Ensemble Work" and received the highest honor, "Best Long Play of 2009.”
A GCC Alumni Spotlight Story quoted Brown’s take on what she reaped from her two years at GCC.
"In my career specifically, you need two things; technique and talent, I think the technique is definitely what GCC gave me," she said.
Brown lives in Bushwick, a thriving art, restaurant, and bar community on the edge of Brooklyn. She has been busy performing live music at clubs in Manhattan and Brooklyn, cover bands at weddings, and working on her own original music. Yet, all of that face time with audiences didn’t quite prepare her for stepping on stage for her blind audition.
“The nerves were there, it was a lot of pressure,” she said. “Once I was on stage, the jitters were definitely there.”
Confidentiality agreements prevented her from talking about anything specifically show-related. She did acknowledge the “long journey” she has been on to become a professional singer. This latest feat has given her a well-deserved nod.
“It is the fruition of what I’ve been doing,” she said.
Each week, the singers with the lowest number of votes are sent home, until only one artist remains. The Voice winner will receive a recording contract and a cash prize. The NBC show is expected to air on both Monday and Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. Eastern and Pacific times.