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Suffering For Their Art

By Linda "L J" Fullerton
© 2002 Linda "L J" Fullerton. All rights reserved

I am writing to call your attention to a very sad situation in our community that affects a sizable segment of our population whom are grossly ignored and disrespected. Many of them work two jobs - one during the day to pay the bills and one at night or on weekends, which is their true passion in life. Those brave souls who devote their full time to their art often suffer greatly as a result - lacking health care, proper nutrition and live meagerly or in poverty. Those who have chosen this route and have not taken on the second "conventional" job are very often viewed as "slackers" and treated as social outcasts. Too often they are asked to work without getting paid to get exposure/promote their art. Would you go to work for several hours without getting paid? I highly doubt that and in most cases it is illegal to be asked to do so. Yet when asked to participate in charitable events they are often first in line to offer their services. After the attack on the World Trade Center disaster they banded together in cities all over the world including our own and raised millions of dollars to help the victims families - many of them barely able to afford to survive themselves. When the world is hurting their art provides comfort and solace. In the Sixties their art changed the world, as we know it. Though a vital part of everyday life this art form is often taken for granted, yet a world without it would be devoid of one of it's greatest treasures.

In case you haven't guessed yet, I am speaking about the musicians in our community. In a city that is world renown for the Eastman School of Music and is more than worthy of the praise, those who do not fall into the classical genre of music are very often not considered to be serious musicians and worthy of our respect and attention. Government funding and grants are unheard of for these people. I am extremely saddened every time I hear a musician say "I can't take it anymore! I have to leave this town because there is no music scene here and nobody cares about what I do!" Except for a few rare cases most of these musicians are virtually unknown except for their fans. If they do manage to play some high profile shows people are shocked to find out that they are from Rochester. They should not have to move to NY, LA, Nashville or Seattle as we have as much, if not more talent right here at home. Labels, managers, producers etc should be flocking to our city to check these people out and setting up branches of their companies here. Local government is quick to promote and spend money on the physical structures, building around the lakes, parks, rivers, downtown etc (not that those areas don't deserve attention) but if everyone moves away what do those things matter? The greatest natural resource Rochester has, are the talented people of all walks of life who struggle to live and work here. We should be doing whatever we can to keep them here and get new people from all over the country to want to live here as well.

Over the past few years I have been involved with some incredible musicians known as the Gregory Paul Group and as a result I have had the pleasure to meet many other musicians, club owners, promoters and music critics. I am President/Founder of an organization called the Rochester Music Coalition and a member of the Arts & Cultural Council of Greater Rochester. The following is a list of ideas/proposals/goals that have arisen out of my brainstorming with all of them on how to build a thriving music community here in Rochester, NY:

Support and promote the art of music and the musicians who create it providing a creative environment where musicians can live and work, making a decent living from their art regardless of genre, and are recognized for the valuable contribution they make to the community's life, vitality and growth.

Airplay - We do not need to hear the same three songs played in heavy rotation on our commercial radio stations. We need to start giving local artists airplay on ALL radio stations throughout the whole 24 hour broadcast day not only at some extremely late time slot when only a very small part of the population is even awake. It is time for all radio stations to help out the community that they are a part of. If local artists got the same amount of airplay as national acts it would be a win-win situation for all involved. Festivals, clubs and other musical events in the area would be much better attended creating additional revenue for the bands and the venues that hire them since their music would now be familiar to the community. The complaint has always been that people want to hear what they are familiar with - they want to see "cover bands" because that is the music they hear on the radio. Remember though that every cover tune that is played was once an original song that someone took a chance on and started to give it radio exposure. The commercial radio stations would also benefit because they would increase their listening audience, which is defecting in large numbers to Indie, college and Internet radio or not listening to radio at all. Advertising dollars, which is their main source of revenue would also increase as venues that hire these bands would be more profitable spending more money in advertising on their stations and in the papers as well. Establish a liaison position at each radio station that works with the musicians or their agents to get proper bios, demos etc to submit for airplay consideration. Use existing cable access stations to create local music video programs - our own Rochester version of MTV/VH1.

Work to develop new and/or expand musical resources and venues throughout our city, including our residential neighborhoods. Create a series of cross cultural music events at local clubs that would feature artists performing several different types of music at each event, showcasing the diverse talent we have and promoting unification of the music community.

Concerts and Festivals - be more open to having local artists that play ORIGINAL music at city/county-funded events and open for national acts that come through Rochester. Create a series of festivals or weekly concerts featuring local music of all genres bringing music events and arts in general to ALL areas of the city not just certain sectors. Establish a "Floating Festival Tent" using different parks throughout the county and vacant areas throughout the city for new musical events.

Work with the tourism board to bring major record industry recognition to our city - create city or corporate sponsored free artist showcases for record labels and other music related businesses to come and see the talent we have on a regular basis. This will eventually bring new business and citizens to the area.

Form musician, government and business partnerships to create community spirit, pride and growth opportunities, while utilizing our resources, musical heritage and current assets as an economic development tool. Encouraging musicians and our musical institutions to work together in establishing our community as a "world class" musical center.

In closing I ask you to support your local musicians - they are your mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children, friends and neighbors. Our cultural future depends on it. I can't tell you how many times over the years I have been told that I am fighting a losing battle by trying to change hundreds of years of narrow mindedness in this community. Change will never happen if someone doesn't stand up for what they believe in. With a blood clot in my brain and several autoimmune disorders for which there are no cures (after effects of major brain surgery), every day of my life is spent fighting a losing battle. Building a healthy, well-respected music community in Rochester is one battle I will fight till my death trying to win!

About the Author: Linda "L J" Fullerton is the President/Founder of the Rochester Music Coalition and a member of the Arts & Cultural Council of Greater Rochester. She also manages the Gregory Paul Group from Rochester. She can be emailed at and her Website is at

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