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Head of the class; Music Hall of Fame honors Buffalo's class of 2011

We spend much of our summer welcoming national and international musicians to the area. Nothing wrong with that. One might reasonably feel pretty lucky to be presented with so many choices during the summer months, from free outdoor shows to ticketed arena gigs. The fall is the time to celebrate some of our own, however. And the yearly Induction Gala for the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame gives us a chance to do just that.

This year's gala is at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Tralf Music Hall (622 Main St.) and the 28th annual event finds a diverse, eclectic mix of folks being honored with induction. All are a testament to the artistic virility of the Buffalo music scene.

A tip of the hat, then, to R&B outfit the Exoutics; saxophonist Sam Guarino; guitarist Bobby Lebel; jingle composer/session musician David Helfman Lucas; songwriter/producer/drummer Rob Lynch; revered rock photographer Bob Mussell; guitarist/songwriter Charlie O'Neill; opera singer Valerian Ruminski; guitarist and tenured bluesman Willie Schoellkopf; polka bandleader Ron Urbanczyk; and Legacy Award winners Bob & Gene and Morton Feldman.

The HOF celebrates all aspects of the music business in Western New York, and thus, we see "behind the scenes" contributors like the celebrated photographer Mussell sharing induction honors with jingle composer Lucas. Both have contributed to the cultural fabric, and both have been driven to excellence by their love of music.

The same must be said for Lynch, who has earned the sobriquet "hardest-gigging man in Western New York" through his various recording studio and concert engagements -- gigs that cover such diverse genres as indie-rock and bluegrass, soul and blues. Lynch is also a one-man, home-studio maverick, whose solo albums are gorgeously left-of-center affairs that deserve attention.

Lebel, as guitarist and vocalist with the Headers, brings an eloquent blend of rockabilly, blues and "chicken pickin' " to the Buffalo music scene. He's a killer player.

The late O'Neill spent some 40 years as a first-tier guitarist and songwriter melding folk, blues and rock styles; saxophonist Guarino has been a major presence in our scene as a jazz, R&B, soul and funk player, both on stage and in the recording studio; Schoellkopf, known to so many of us as guitarist and singer with Willie & the Reinhardts, is a blues-rock player nonpareil.

It speaks to the depth of our music scene that we might boast of virtuosos in fields as seemingly disparate as polka and opera -- bandleader Urbanczyk and Nickel City Opera founder Ruminski afford us the opportunity to do just that.

The Buffalo R&B and soul scene has always been a deep well of funkified talent, and happily, this year finds two legends within the genre being welcomed into the HOF. Bob & Gene offer us a perfect snapshot of the late 1960s soul scene in Western New York, and the Exoutics do the same for our region's late 1970s and early '80s sound.

Feldman, who will receive the HOF Legacy Award along with Bob & Gene, brought the edgy brilliance of the New York School of 20th century composers right to our doorstep during his tenure as a professor at the University at Buffalo.

Together, these folks comprise a class with some serious class.




Buffalo Music Hall of Fame Induction Gala

WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday

WHERE: Tralf Music Hall, 622 Main St.



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