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Shannon
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Music Is Art: Rocking the Fair
« on: Aug 9th, 2007, 9:26am »
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Music Is Art: Rocking the Fair
Robbie Takac moves his festival out of town
By Rachel Dobiesz - NeXt Correspondent
Updated: 08/08/07 9:23 AM  
 
When Robby Takac started the Music Is Art Festival, he sought to create an atmosphere friendly to local artists and musicians, a feeling that he felt was lacking from the nearby Allentown Arts Festival.  
 
Five years later, the Festival is thriving and the Music Is Art Foundation, an offshoot of the event, now offers programs in 80 schools and has spawned several programs, including an instrument drive, a "Live at the Center" collaboration with UB, a Battle of the Bands program, and a collaboration with the Big Easy program, bringing New Orleans artists into the area.  
 
Due to what Takac calls "logistical and political reasons," the festival will be held in Hamburg during America's Fair this year. We spoke to him while he was on the road with the Goos.
 
NeXt: Do you feel that the new venue will help or hurt the festival, and how did you come to choose it?
 
R.T.: I think that the scope of Music Is Art has grown unbelievably over five years. And this is a roundabout way of answering your question, but I'll get there in a couple of seconds. We have programs that have run in 80 schools. We have a curriculum that we're been developing with Performing Arts.  
 
We have a television show that we do with UB. We have a Battle of the Bands program that runs throughout schools.
 
We're partnering on the Big Easy program, bringing New Orleans artists into the Buffalo area clubs and schools.  
 
It's turned into an unbelievable amount of programming all based around a festival that was just a party that we had during the Allentown Arts Festival something that we all loved; it was in our neighborhood every year.
 
So I'm a little disappointed that all that stuff was born from this festival and they finally succeeded in alienating us to the point where we're not in our neighborhood anymore.  
 
I'm hoping to change that again next year. ... But the situation being what it is, that wasn't going to happen this year because of the logistical reasons and political reasons at the same time.  
 
It was getting more and more difficult for us to find an infrastructure that was able to hold what we needed this event to be and also include that synergy with mainstream Western New York, which was the idea from the beginning, with bringing odd-ball artists and less main-stream musicians and dance and such into a more mainstream forum. ...
 
When we started speaking with the Fair, the Fair really seemed to provide a lot of that. They had the infrastructure, they had the cross-section of mainstream people that we wanted to talk to, but at the same time it wasn't in the city and that was a little disheartening.
 
But as I said, it seemed to match with that broadening scope, so I think it's going to be a good venue. It's going to be ... like bringing a chunk of the city out into the country rather than bringing our little unique portion of the city to people in the city.  
 
So, after saying all that, I think it's going to be an exciting event and I think it's going to be, hopefully, an eye-opening event. I know that a lot of parents are probably a little bit more comfortable with their kids wandering around the Erie County Fair than they are with their kids wandering around downtown Buffalo, so I'm hoping that the youth are represented a little bit more this year in an all-day, casual fashion.  
 
And, you know, we were part of the downtown scene, so people came from all over to the Allentown Arts Festival, but they were people who were interested in art. ... I mean, we're going to be showing some pretty interesting and different things to people who might be interested in knitting and sheep. It's going to be their forum.  
 
To me, it feels like it's serving that purpose exactly like we wanted it to, but at the same time I'd really like to be able to, next year, hopefully make this rural version of Music Is Art perhaps a permanent thing, but still try to do something in Allentown because that's really where the heart of this is.  
 
(cont'd)
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Re: Music Is Art: Rocking the Fair
« Reply #1 on: Aug 9th, 2007, 9:29am »
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NeXt: The first festival was five years ago and you mentioned that it was a casual "let's have a party" type of thing. Was there a catalyst for that?
 
R.T.: Well, we as local artists always had although we loved the [Allentown Art festival] we always had a bit of a gripe that it was sort of an unreachable place for a lot of very creative people. It was an unreachable forum, and probably the best forum, for the artistic community to get to, which seemed weird to us.  
 
Like, why is the biggest art event in the city so difficult for local artists to be involved in? Well, there's a reason for it. Because it's a huge retail festival of artists from all over the country who travel together and there's some local folks represented as well.  
 
But, hey, it draws 100,000 people and that's amazing because people obviously like it. But we thought that there was an underrepresentation of a lot of the creative talent that was out there, so we found some businesses and some private parties and a whole bunch of volunteers who felt the same way and we sort of put together a little army of people to go in. And we applied for some permits and we had some amazingly strong allies in City Hall at the time and we were able to pull the whole event off and not lose too much money the first year.  
 
So every year after, the ideas have gotten a little stronger and have grown in a lot of different directions, so I'm really happy with the way it's gone.
 
NeXt: On one of the press releases it says that Music Is Art as a foundation was conceived "as a grass roots movement to keep music and arts alive in the Buffalo schools." Are you a product of the Buffalo schools? Was it something that you wished you had had as a kid?
 
R.T.: Well, I did have music in my life as a kid. I grew up in West Seneca and actually my trombone teacher when I was a little kid was my dad's trombone teacher, interestingly enough, because he grew up in West Seneca, too.  
 
I always had music in my life; it was important to my family. Once they saw that I had an interest in it, I was able to nurture that, so I was lucky in that way. But I had a guitar around my house.  
 
The foundation was actually born from the idea that we would collect instruments at the festival, and since we started collecting instruments and we refurbished them and put them back into the schools, we've put about $300,000 worth of instruments back into the schools from people's basements.  
 
That's sort of how the foundation grew. All of a sudden we were like: "Wow, we can do this, can't we!"  
 
It was funny, we gave some instruments to a school and they came to us and said: "Hey, does Music Is Art have any assemblies or anything that they do?" And I said: "Yeah, sure!" And then I turned around and I said: "Guys, we've got to come up with some sort of assembly."
 
And that's sort of how we got into the schools to begin with and now we've partnered with a bunch of different local, non-profit organizations and community action organizations. Now we're involved with H.E.A.R.T. for Mental Health. We go into the schools and bring a little rock concert in and slide a message in there while nobody's looking and then they leave with a bag full of information that they can use if they like and they don't have to if they don't want to.  
 
NeXt: Do you have any specific stories about kids who have come back to you or kids you have heard about who have really been affected by this and really been helped by this in a positive way?
 
R.T.: Yeah, sure. We got a harp to a kid one time. Someone donated a harp and we're like: "A harp. What are we going to do with a harp?" And then we got a call from a kid that was going to school for a scholarship and needed a harp and we just happened to have one in our stash, and the harp ended up going to someone who actually needed a harp. That's just coincidence, right?
 
We had a guy one time come in and donate his trumpet. He was a trumpeter in the war and he had it in his basement. There's so many stories. ...
 
It was just amazing to us when we made the call for everything and all of a sudden we discovered "Oh my God, we have 60 clarinets!" It's like all of a sudden "Wow, oh my goodness." I think we still have clarinets that we don't even have a place for. And now that people know we're collecting, the stuff just keeps coming in.  
 
We felt like we wrang most of the basements out in the two and a half years we were doing it and so we took a little bit of time off, and we're going to start one up in Rochester with the NBC affiliate there and then we'll probably end up doing another drive next year in the Buffalo area. All you need to do is take advantage of what you have there already. You don't have to reinvent the wheel, you've just got to oil it up a little bit.
 
NeXt: The Goo Goo Dolls have been together 20+ years. After 20 years is it harder to come up with ideas, or has traveling and having shared experiences fueled that creative fire for you?
 
R.T.: It's probably not harder to come up with ideas, but it's probably harder to come up with ideas that you feel are your best ideas, because each time you do something you should challenge yourself a little bit more. So your critique of yourself and your critique of what you do, if you want to grow, becomes a little bit more refined. So I think, it's not harder to come up with ideas; it's harder to come up with the ideas that actually impress yourself enough to move on with.
 
NeXt: Can you describe a high point in your career and what precipitated it, or a low point and what turned the tide for you at that time?
 
R.T.: When horrible things are going on back home, if something in our family is going on and we're out traveling and you're feeling really crummy, when you're out on the stage playing and you look at some kid's face and the kid is singing something back at you that you wrote on your couch a year earlier, the completion of that cycle to me is amazing. I love it. .. No matter where I am, no matter what venue I'm at, no matter what part of the world I'm in, be it Buffalo or Osaka, I still get the same charge from it. That's the high point.  
 
The low point, I think life is full of disappointments. It's just what it is. But, I think at the same time you've really got to focus on the good things that happen ... and as long as you understand that there are good things happening to you then you can focus on the bad things. If you just focus on just the bad things, then a lot of times you're never going to get out of that hole.  
 
You really have to keep your eye on the fact that there's good things that happen to everyone and I think that people tend to look past that stuff sometimes.
 
(cont'd)
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Re: Music Is Art: Rocking the Fair
« Reply #2 on: Aug 9th, 2007, 9:30am »
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NeXt: You started your own recording studio and you have your own record label. Did you study business in college, or was it just a natural offshoot of what you were doing at the time?
 
R.T.: No, but perhaps I should have. The recording business is a business you get into because you love it, not because you want to make money. For me, I was able to do it because I have a business that makes money, and being Goo Goo Dolls.  
 
When I had a studio in Buffalo it was never a money-making venture.... John [Rzeznik] and I are now opening up a new place, actually in the exact same place that we did our first three records in, except that we're rebuilding the while building. It's on the corner of Franklin and North, instead of Franklin and Allen where the old place was.
 
So we're going to be moved in there and we're going to work there and it's going to give us a place to go and do our records. And then when we're done there's going to be probably the greatest collection of equipment that has probably ever been in a room in the city and it's going to be there for the city to use and the city to take advantage of, because we have a built in client, which is the Goo Goo Dolls.  
 
It feels good to know that we're going to be able to come home, in the place that we started to make our records, on equipment that we bought, in a building that we built from money that we made making rock music. It's going to feel pretty amazing to be in there working on our next record 20 years later in the same space that we worked on our first one in. It's going to be an exciting time coming up for us.
 
NeXt: Do you have any advice for young, aspiring musicians who feel maybe don't feel that their band is going anywhere or maybe don't feel that they have a chance to make it in the music business?
 
R.T.: Keep your heart in it. Do it for the right reasons: because you love to play music. Get good at that first and worry about everything else later on. Worry about being a rock star later. Worry about what you're doing first; writing songs, playing music, and being a good band. The rest of that will come later.
 
NeXt: Are there any new, local, up and coming bans that you're a fan of and you think people should hear?
 
R.T.: I actually just did a project called Amungus, which is myself and a friend of mine named Brian Schulmeister, he's from Venice Beach, California. We wrote a bunch of electronic music and recently we came to town and recorded about eleven vocalists over the top of it. They sang 11 songs on the record because we don't actually sing on the record, we just wrote the music.  
 
We have a whole slew of new singers that I had never even heard before in Buffalo. A girl named Alex Kelly and a girl named Ali Critelli. Another amazing soul singer named Nikki Hicks and a rapper named Milky D and this kid named Zilla and Terry Sullivan.
 
There's just so much talent in Buffalo and for us to be able to have worked with all these brand-new people... I was exposed to a whole bunch of talent that I didn't really know existed in Buffalo because it was sort of outside of that little rock and roll scene that I had worked in. So I was very excited to be involved in that.
 
http://www.buffalonews.com/entertainment/story/136660.html?imw=Y
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