Social media has come to feel like a necessary evil, with the emphasis increasingly on evil. It offers the illusion of connection and communication, but the reality often involves further divisiveness, an increase in nasty rhetoric and a “bunker down on your own plot of land” mentality.
But for one Buffalo musician, a post on Facebook that resonated deeply with the area’s music community was as a direct call to positive action.
The original post, by Lamont J Musiq – aka Buffalo musician Tyler James - was strongly worded and direct in its criticism of what the author sees as a lack of dedication to musicianship and a one-dimensional, “stay in your own musical lane” approach.
“There is no versatility in Buffalo,” the post begins. “There are a lot of unskilled musicians here.”
James’ post was largely directed at the Buffalo gospel music community, of which he is a deeply talented and respected member. But when my son, a longtime friend and sometime collaborator of James’, shared the post and added the caveat “There’s a reason Buffalo isn’t considered a big-time music city right now... 1.) Nobody knows how to properly compensate musicians. 2.) Everything Lamont J Musiq just said,” the responses came fast and markedly furious.
The consensus among a majority of the responses suggested that these two young musicians just hadn’t been around long enough, hadn’t paid enough dues, to harbor such critical opinions.
I quickly removed myself from the thread, because what parent doesn’t feel the inclination to defend their child, even when that child is grown? But I raised my son to believe that his opinions mattered in our home, that he should consider them, share them and back them up, and that having the courage of your convictions is both necessary and honorable. So I stayed out of it, even when it got ugly.
Rhodes, however, didn’t. He took the outpouring of divisive rhetoric as an opportunity for all of us in the music community to learn something - about ourselves, about each other, and about our scene. By the end of the day, he’d launched “M.U.S.I.C. – Musicians United Socially Impacting Community,” and announced a meet and greet/musician's mixer, to be held at the Historic Colored Musicians’ Club on Sept. 4.
“Knowing Tyler personally, I knew that this post was nothing more than him venting some frustration,” Rhodes said. “Tyler is predominantly a gospel/church musician and I totally understood his stance and dissatisfaction with his peers. Declan is from the so-called ‘other side of Main,’ but has played on both sides and he’s attending a prestigious music school and making some waves, so he’s seen some things. However, both are young, and so I think a lot of older musicians saw this post as the words of people who haven’t yet paid their dues.”
Rhodes saw beyond the rhetorical fall-out, however.
“The post, and the dialogue and comments that came after, struck me as profound. These ideas were a continuation of a conversation that I had earlier that same day with another musician in town. We both agreed that ‘There is no music community, just a bunch of us scrapping and busting our humps to get the best gigs and to fill our calendars.’ I take this personally. Being a musician who has played on all sides of the tracks, I feel I’m charged with the responsibility to do something. So we got together with our resources and creative juices and put together a musician’s mixer.
“This is our endeavor to unite musicians and artists of all genres, all styles, all ages, all walks of life, all skill levels. We all believe that it takes all of us to do it. So here’s our chance.”
[Related: Toney Rhodes on his musical influences]
And though his original post was born of frustration, James now sees the good that is attainable in a music community eager to overcome the divisiveness that often feels like its birthright.
“Overall, I love the music scene in Buffalo, but I hate how divided the people are,” James said. “I want there to be a community of musicians who can reach out to each other and rely on each other. So I am amazed at the way all of this is happening, since the post.
"It really is heartwarming seeing the community come together like this.”
Story topics: Toney Rhodes