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Music is Art board chairman gone too soon

The Buffalo music community lost one of its most vibrant members on Saturday, when Music is Art board chairman Ryan Casullo was killed in a motorcycle accident as he was getting on the I-190 at Niagara Street. He was 34.

Casullo’s death leaves a void in Music is Art and by extension, in the entire local music community. Much more significantly, he leaves behind a wife and two young children.

“Ryan came to MiA with grand visions of growth for the organization and motivated us all to strive for greater things,” writes MIA founder and Goo Goo Dolls bassist Robby Takac in a statement published on the Music is Art home page. “We will surely miss his upbeat attitude, his love for loud guitars, and his willingness to give of himself for the benefit of others. He was truly a special person.”

In my many encounters with him, I found Casullo to be a tireless champion of our area’s music scene, as well as a man whose love for music seemed to know no bounds. We bonded over our passion for live music, and our love for our kids. Casullo adored his family, and spoke often of how blessed he felt to have them. His enthusiasm not just for our area’s arts and culture, but for life in general, was relentless and infectious. I offer my love and deepest condolences to his family. He was a beautiful guy.

No ‘Better Man’

“We’ve done over 6,000 shows ... and I was here for most of them, and I can tell you a pretty high percentage of those shows just absolutely sucked,” David Letterman told the audience during Wednesday night’s “Late Show” episode, his final appearance as the show’s host after 33 years in late-night television. “And also, in light of all of this praise, merited or not, do me a favor: Save a little for my funeral.”

Well, Dave, an awful lot of those shows didn’t “suck,” as you so self-deprecatingly put it. Many of them were pretty epic. And, as your final week of shows made plain, you, Paul Shaffer and the gang had impeccable taste in music, and were responsible for welcoming an incredibly broad array of musical guests to the show.

The Foo Fighters were the final act to perform on Letterman’s “Late Show,” capping a week that saw everyone from Bob Dylan to Eddie Vedder stopping by to bid Letterman musical adieu. In keeping with the tradition of the last 33 years, some of those performances were transcendent, some were just plain surreal, and all were well worth seeing and hearing.

Vedder’s version of Pearl Jam’s “Better Man” was an emotional highlight of the final week, and performances by Dylan, Tom Waits and the Foo Fighters also offered fitting farewell to late-night television’s greatest – and with the exception of “Saturday Night Live,” first – musical envoy.

Over the years, I caught some killer performances courtesy of Letterman. Some of the most memorable include the Beastie Boys, Future Islands, Todd Rundgren, several from Waits, A Tribe Called Quest, Rage Against the Machine, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, R.E.M., Sonic Youth, X, Al Green, and the unforgettable final performance by Letterman pal Warren Zevon.

Dylan’s final week performance of “The Night We Called It A Day” deserves separate mention – it may have seemed an odd choice for Dylan, but it was simultaneously strange, sad and beautiful, and so, completely appropriate.

Letterman was late-night television’s musical champion. He’ll be missed.