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A study in gratitude: WNY musicians, artists and writers name their biggest influences

Robert Creeley (Sharon Cantillon/News file photo)

I asked the Buffalo contingent of my Facebook friend group to tell me who, in the world of local music and the arts, has been a major influence on their approach to their own art, and on their lives in general.

The response was immense, informative, and often, deeply moving.

As I had hoped, dwelling on those major influences brought out the respondents' better natures, as reflecting on one's life with a sense of gratitude so often does.

Here are a few of the hundreds of responses I received, all of which reminded me just how culturally rich our region is:

Laurie Dean Torrell, executive director, Just Buffalo Literary Center

The poet Robert Creeley inspired Debora Ott to found Just Buffalo Literary Center and his poem, "Love Comes Quietly," inspires us still: "Love comes quietly, finally, drops around me, on me, in the old ways/What did I know, thinking myself able to go/alone all the way."

Melanie Klaja, musician/teacher

I was influenced by my teacher Larry Albert at Frontier High School. He introduced me to playing guitar, taught me how to express myself as a performer and helped me to open up my big voice!

Tom Calderone. (Derek Gee/News file photo)

Brian Pattison, writer/musician

I would think Tom Calderone during his time here during WBNY's infancy surely had a large impact on many Buffalo musicians and on Buffalo music as a whole.

Peter O. Clarke, musician

DJ Eric Van Rysdam, at the Old Pink Flamingo. No single person I know has turned me on to more great music, and I don't know anybody in my life who knows more about post-1950s pop music. And that's saying something. He is a local treasure and basically flies under the radar because he likes it that way. (Sorry Eric.) He's also a great guy to share a stage with.

Nancy J. Parisi, photographer

One of my photo mentors/professors at UB, Marion Faller. She was a nurturing teacher who taught me solid composition, technical skills regarding light, and she passed one of her freelance gigs to me – a folk art series for the Castellani Art Museum. I was already working with UB Communications, but this sent my work in a different direction, where art meets journalism.

Rob Lynch, musician, artist and teacher

Mark Freeland, for his sense of fun and adventure. Mike Meldrum, for his encouragement to so many younger performers.

Michael Meldrum. (Sharon Cantillon/News file photo)

Steve John, musician/actor/theater tech

Chuck Mancuso, professor at Buffalo State College. His jazz/rock foundations class was a must! He was so knowledgeable about so much, especially the Buffalo musical landscape and its rich history.

Thad J. Komorowski, journalist

Chuck Mancuso at Buffalo State. I took several of his music/history classes: jazz/rock foundations; modern jazz; folk music; etc. Although I had been a serious student of rock before that and went on to review albums and concerts for local papers, the exposure and explanation I had in his classes created a lifelong addiction to and fascination with jazz.

Chris "Bulldog"  Parker, musician/WGR sports radio personality

I’m all in on the Chuck Mancuso train here. That class set the template for a lifetime of musical exploration.

Chuck Mancuso in 2004. (Robert Kirkham/News file photo)

Ethan Weissman, musician/recording engineer

I attended (musician/educator) Marc Hunt's 2-year TV and sound program at Erie BOCES Harkness as a junior and senior in high school. In addition to his teachings in the curriculum, he helped me do my first recording session ever — with an all-star Buffalo lineup, I might add, featuring Jim Beishline, Stu Weissman, Janice Mitchell, Bud Fadale and Bobby Price. Marc let me borrow equipment to do location recordings of Random Abstract and Miller and the Other Sinners, all for my audition tape for SUNY Purchase. He has also helped my budding career along by hiring me for audio/visual gigs and has always been a source of recording advice when I have asked.

John F. Kennedy, actor

Marty Boratin's the most influential guy when it comes to promotion of music in Buffalo. He and (late wife) Susan Tanner brought many national artists to town and put them up in their own home, going back to when I lived with him at (Boratin's home) the "Death Ranch" in the late '80s and early '90s.

Beth N. Rosner-Kew, music lover

Marty Boratin used to comb the world for vinyl 12-inch singles from other countries for me when he was managing at the New World Record location in Williamsville in the early '80s. He is still positively the most knowledgeable guy in Buffalo, and a friend, 35 years later.

Marty Boratin at New World Record in 2000. (Sharon Cantillon/News file photo)

Kevin Gaynor, musician/IT worker

Rodney Appleby. I used to go see him play on Thursday nights on Allen Street, until the bar booted me out for not being old enough to drink. I had heard a lot of different bassists, but I knew that his playing and his attitude represented the kind of musician I wanted to be.

Rich Hendricks, musician

Studying music composition with William Kothe at UB opened me up to digging as deeply as possible into mining my own inner voice – that it’s worth going off the beaten path to speak my own unique truth as an artist. He believed in what I had to offer. He also showed me that music could be a technical affair, but that most importantly, it was a spiritual endeavor.

Jen Taylor, music lover/environmental research analyst
Artist, educator and writer Bruce Adams. If you are familiar with his work, you will understand why. He taught at my high school (Tonawanda High School), but was never my teacher. After I graduated, I was introduced to his work and his style directly influenced mine. He's a brilliant, talented man.

Bruce Adams. (Sharon Cantillon/News file photo)

Tori Daye, musician

Locally, musician Blair Simmons has always encouraged me to work hard and make more of a footprint in bands. Russell Kidd has inspired me to take it to another level and let loose live. Nationally touring with Christopher Volz has shown me what hard work and dedication on the road gets you!

Rob Gerke Jr., writer/account executive

For my writing, my biggest local influence has been Dr. Richard Simpson at St. Bonaventure University. The writing courses I took with him where he sat with me one-on-one and not only critiqued my work, but also shared his own with me, were what made me want to be a better writer. He was one of a kind.

Mark Panfil. (Buffalo News file photo)

Kate Clark, musician/teacher

I’m sure hundreds of kids who had (Clark's father, retired Frontier Central School District teacher/musician) Mark Panfil as an elementary music teacher would agree with me that he was a big influence. The joy he takes in teaching and playing is an inspiration. He introduced so many to bluegrass, Americana and folk music through his youth fiddle and bluegrass clubs, as well.

Donny Frauenhofer, musician

I didn't study locally, but someone that did teach at UB long before I came around and had a profound effect on me was Morton Feldman. I studied his music in college – he was at the center of the abstract expressionism music and art movement in New York City alongside guys like John Cage, Jackson Pollack, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, etc. He taught at UB in the '80s. I've read all the collections of his personal writings. Fascinating views on music and art in general.

Matt Miller, musician/caterer

Scott Martindale. He was it. One of the best drummers to ever come out of Buffalo. I saw him and his band Bags at the Boys Club in East Aurora when I was a kid. He studied with the drummer from the Buffalo Philharmonic, and eventually went on to retire at Disney. And then there is Roger Nichols from the Jumpers.

Bud Redding, musician

David Kane (Them Jazzbeards, Celibates, Night Slaves) influenced me on how to do the electronic keyboard thing. I was originally influenced by Rick Wakeman of Yes, Keith Emerson, and Tony Banks of Genesis, etc. But to see a cool guy like David Kane do it locally? That really inspired me.

David Kane. (Derek Gee/News file photo)

Eric Tyrone Crittenden-Jones, musician/educator

My teacher, Joseph M. Baudo. Every bit of my career exists because he took the time to actually see me. Dave Schulz (of C.O. Jones). I wanted to play funk keyboards after seeing him rock the clavinet. And (drummer) David Wasik, for pushing me to be what I didn’t even know I wanted to be.

Jay Theodore McGurrin, musician

Ted Reinhardt (Gamalon).  His style and chops are like no other. I miss him.

Michael Swain, musician/systems analyst

Gamalon provided a free master class at Central Park Grill every Tuesday night, back in the day. I never thought "local" music could be so good!

Michael Oliver, musician/director of fundraising

David Watts and the Great Train Robbery. They were the local band that really caught my ear and made me think, "I'd like to do that."

Greg Meadows. (Buffalo News file photo)

David A. Moore, graphic designer

I learned how to be an art director by working for (graphic designer) Greg Meadows. He taught me how to not let my job kill my love for my work.

Toney Rhodes, musician

I was given a box of tapes by (teacher/musician) George A. Sailor Jr. when I was 15. I fell in love with jazz and Chick Corea in particular because of those tapes. Then growing up, throughout high school, I followed a guy by the name of Eric Reed all over town, trying to learn everything I could from him. While some of my friends were trying to be like Michael Jordan, I was trying to be like Eric, all the while being harassed by (keyboardist/composer) Walter Kemp Jr. – he used to force me to read the notes and teach music to the chorus. If it had not been for him, I would not be doing what I do today.

Jeff Hypnarowski, musician

(Musician/educator) Paul Weisenburger is the reason I started performing. Without his encouragement, I'd still be singing in my room.

Joe Dzialak, musician

I'd be nothing without Dick Bauerle, Dave Whitehill, Tony Scozzaro and Joe Mahfoud. They were my source of guitar knowledge in the '80s, while I was their student. More recently, being in the company of Terry Sullivan (the Jumpers) and John Lombardo (10,000 Maniacs) has provided me with vast information about music history, on both the local level and national scene.

Thomas W. Fenton, musician/teacher

Dr. Edwin Gordon spent his tenure at UB studying how humans learn music and creating music aptitude tests. But it was his colleague Robert de Yarman, from whom I took four semesters of ear training, who really changed my life.

Anthony Henry, musician

Jack Kulp (bassist, educator) is the greatest teacher I've ever had on any subject! And he probably doesn't know it, but Steve Baczkowski (musician, music director at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center) has always been a pillar, keeping me honest with myself and what music I produce. One could not exaggerate his significance in Buffalo's cultural fabric.

Ed Koban, musician/behavior intervention specialist

I took everything I got for Christmas back and bought my first guitar the day after I saw Talas at the Palace Theatre in Lockport, when I was in seventh grade. My very first gig a couple years later was on that same stage. Talas changed everything for me.

Jonathan Kasper, musician/teacher

Bassist Billy Sheehan certainly blew me away as a teenager attending Catholic high school dances. In fact, Talas is a giant reason why I’m in music.

Talas' Billy Sheehan. (John Hickey/News file photo)

CJ Solomon, musician/tap room manager

Tom Fenton taught me a few things about New Orleans music, and introduced me to (New Orleans funk legends) the Meters, before I ever knew I'd be moving and gigging there!

Mitch Hatch, music lover

Mike Gantzer (of Aqueous). In so many ways. He has inspired me and he's taken the time to give feedback, despite his chaotic schedule.

Katie Silvestri, musician/educator

My high school 12th grade AP lit/comp teacher, Ms. Cammarata definitely taught me how to weave an argument succinctly and coherently while still allowing my voice to shine through.

Kevin Kay, musician

Al Tinney helped open my mind to many musical ideas. I was lucky enough to have him for a few semesters of jazz ensemble at Buffalo State. We became great friends. I would give him rides home from school, get coffee, and fix his Wurliztzer electric piano for him. He taught me a few jamming tricks that I still use today, like chromatic fourths. He was a great human being.

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