Between a Roc and a Hard Place: Follow The Bouncing Ball

Hello Rochester! The Xerox International Jazz Festival is nearly done. It is always a fun time and one of the many reasons I love being part of this community. Really the love comes not from the festival itself, but why a city our size even has it.

Rochester, to my way of thinking is the real music city USA. We have, of course the Eastman School of Music, one of the finest in the country, if not the world. Lou Gramm of Foreigner fame is from our town, as is the incomparable, if way under appreciated, Chuck Mangione. The big two, however, are Cab Calloway and Mitch Miller.

“Follow the bouncing ball”, that Mitch Miller. I say they are the big two because they brought something relatively unheard of to the music scene. Before these gentlemen audience participation was something that was left to dingy clubs and saloons, if even then. At least in the West, in the modern world, it was the prerogative, and the mark of shame, of the lower classes. Only the poor and disenfranchised carried on by singing along with the musicians.

Suddenly Cab, one of the first African-American performers to gain success with white audiences, and Mitch were encouraging people to join in. It made music more accessible and it made us just a little more equal and it was two Rochestarians who brought this to the world.

Maybe it was our existing musical tradition that prompted these two. I think it was an idea ready to be tried because we have been a naturally mixed income city, with mixed income neighborhoods, for a long time, so of course the proclivities of the poor were going to rub off on the rich, and vice-versa. This is probably why, and if you spend much time in Rochester you will notice this, so many people across so many demographics have fairly diverse musical tastes. It is not a hard and fast rule, but it is generally more true than of what I have seen in other cities. Elsewhere people make a special event out of enjoying music outside their usually limited range, in Rochester someone will have Mozart, Mos Def, and Metallica all in the same playlist on their iPod.

So get out there this weekend Rochester folk! Get out there and celebrate your diverse musical heritage with one of the most diverse musical forms, and follow the bouncing ball!


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