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Niagara Q&A: Musician adds restaurant partnership to he repertoire

YOUNGSTOWN – Claudia Andres has “a lot of irons in a lot of fires,” by her own admission. She is a performing musician, high school teacher, church choir director, business owner, community volunteer and a great promoter of her hometown.

But she is quick to point out that there are many people out there doing many important things. One of her latest endeavors is a partnership in the Mug and Musket, 418 Main St., Youngstown.

“We’ll have music every night the restaurant is open – Wednesday through Sunday – through the summer and into the fall, and that’s a big deal to me,” she said.

“We also have special events planned, like our Pirate Fest, King Henry the Eighth Night, Tavern Night and a Celtic Night once or twice a month,” she said. “There’s an awful lot going on. We also try to tie in with such things as the community street dances, Mermaid Fest in August and Arts and Music Fest in October.”

How does she keep all of these irons in all of these fires at once?

“I wish there was more time in a day – more time to spend with my family,” she admitted. “I couldn’t possibly do all of this without the support of my family, especially my husband, (Dr. Jerome Andres), and our children, who are so helpful.

“It’s fun to start new things, and even though these things go in different directions, there is a lot of crossover,” she said. “For example, with our concerts at the First Presbyterian Church of Youngstown, those musicians often stop at the restaurant after and do a few tunes and then have dinner.”

Andres has been married for 18 years to her husband, another active member of the local community, and they have six children. She recently took a few minutes out of her very busy schedule to chat.

What’s your background?

I was raised on a farm outside of Youngstown and went to Lewiston-Porter schools. I went to Niagara County Community College – they had a great music program – and received my music education degree from the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam. I received my master’s degree in piano performance from Arizona State University.

Did you always know you’d pursue music?

I started playing piano at age 5. I played clarinet and organ, too, but mainly stick to piano and keyboard now. I now do a lot of directing and playing in bands.

Whom would we hear you perform with?

I play in my husband’s band, the Jerry Andres Band, which is more rock and jazz, and for the past few years, I’ve been in the Ladies First Big Band. That’s a 17-piece band and we rehearse at the Colored Musicians Club of Buffalo.

I was trained in classical music and play for recitals and shows and direct shows and musical theater. I’ve been playing for the Niagara University musicals for the past couple of years.

What sort of musical events do you direct?

The students and staff at Wilson High School are wonderful and I’m lucky to be able to do two shows a year there, along with regular concerts, and one or two shows at the First Presbyterian Church of Youngstown each year. I’ve been a member there 40 years and have worked there for about 30. I direct choirs and oversee the other music and I run a free concert series, which is open to everyone. We have music once or twice a month. My concert series is just one small thing my church does. It’s very proactive in the community, and I can’t say enough about it.

Your restaurant opened last Labor Day Weekend – how has it fared?

This is only the first year we’ve been open, but we’ve received a lot of positive feedback. We have culinary arts students from NCCC and they are doing an excellent job and are very creative. Our kitchen manager and head chef, Grant Stella, is doing an excellent job. We are working with more local foods, more farm-to-table. We’ve brought in Leonard Oakes Estate Winery wines (from Medina) and Woodcock Brothers Brewery (from Wilson) and we’re hanging local artists’ work in our dining rooms.

I know a lot of musicians and they did me a lot of favors through the winter performing here and started a good following. We offer quite a spectrum of music. We have a banquet room in the basement, so we’d like to branch off even more.

How long have you been teaching?

I’ve been in Wilson 10 years now, and was in Niagara Falls for 10 years before that, and at NCCC for four years before that.

What else keeps you busy?

We have six children, ages 17 to 29. Three are married and we have four grandchildren.

I belong to the Chromatic Club of Buffalo, and at 115 years old, it’s the oldest organization for classical performers in this area.

We live in Youngstown, but my husband and I also own a farm on Creek Road, with chickens and sheep and gardens. We’ve also restored an old 1820s house in Lewiston – these are a couple of our projects.

What’s up next?

The Jerry Andres Band will be playing the Can-Am Challenge Regatta Street Dance in Youngstown on July 23.

It’s great to be able to share that love of music with my husband. He’s a wonderful musician and it’s a lot of fun. We also love to travel. So, after all of our hard work this year, we’re headed to Europe next.

Know a Niagara County resident who would make an interesting question-and-answer column? Write to: Niagara Weekend Q&A, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240, or email niagaranews@buffnews.com.