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Arts Council awards given to songwriters, others Seldom Herd among the groups that receive grant money

NORTH TONAWANDA -- More music lovers can enjoy the sounds of the Seldom Herd because of the 2006 Arts Niagara Decentralization Grant awarded to the group of performing songwriters earlier this month at the Carnegie Art Center.

The Seldom Herd was among 19 other county arts organizations that learned they would split $32,752 from the New York State Council on the Arts. The money is being channeled through the Tonawandas Council on the Arts/Carnegie Art Center.

Each organization received amounts that ranged from $317 to $3,150.

The Seldom Herd is a group of singer/songwriters who range in age from 17 to 50. The group formed about two years ago with the intention of providing a performance outlet for original songwriters.

"A lot of the clubs want you to play cover music," said Sam F. Conjerti, who co-founded the organization with fellow Lockport resident Rick Heenan. "Songwriters don't have an equal outlet."

The group, which has performed in the Palace Theatre in Lockport, Higher Grounds Cafe and on LCTV, offers a diverse combination of work that includes folk rock and country music. The group plans to use the grant money to pay for the Seldom Herd Song Writing Showcase May 13 in the Palace Theatre.

"When we did play at coffee houses, we'd take most of the money and put it into a fund [for the showcase performance]. The grant is going to help us a lot this time, hopefully," Conjerti said.

Grant money also will be used to help Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara provide professional art instructors for art courses offered to the community and adults with developmental disabilities. The organization hosts a Consumer Art and Fine Craft Show every year.

At the previous event, the organization, based in the Town of Niagara, showcased about 75 entries.

"Some were individual projects, and some were group projects," said Roxanne C. Albond-Buchner, spokeswoman for the organization. "Our individuals with developmental disabilities used a variety of media like chalk, sculpture and quilting."

Albond-Buchner said the professional instructors will help students sharpen art skills for the event.

"It really broadens their horizons and gives them access to the community, and that's part of what we try to do here: bring the community in or bring our individuals out into the community," she said. "This is an incredible opportunity to bring professional instructors to our students. It's going to bring that extra dimension to their ongoing education."

Other organizations that received grants include the Lockport Chorale, the Niagara Experience Players, the Niagara Interfaith Chorale, Middleport Free Library and the Middleport Community Choir.

"We're really happy to have the two groups from Middleport this year," said Claire E. Aubrey, a member of the Carnegie Art Center. "It lets people know that we know they're there and there is a need for arts funding in the county."

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