WXXI AM News

Jeff Spevak

Arts & Life Editor

Jeff Spevak has been a Rochester arts reporter for nearly three decades, with seven first-place finishes in the Associated Press New York State Features Writing Awards while working for the Democrat and Chronicle.

He has also been published in Musician and High Times magazines, contributed to WXXI, City newspaper and Post magazine, and occasionally performs spoken-word pieces around town. Some of his haikus written during the Rochester jazz festival were self-published in a book of sketches done by Scott Regan, the host of WRUR’s Open Tunings show.

Spevak founded an award-winning barbecue team, The Smokin’ Dopes, and believes Bigfoot is real. His book on the life of a Lake Ontario sailor who survived the sinking of his ship during World War II will be published in April of 2019 by Lyons Press.

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cmacevents.com

While festivals fall by the wayside, the promoters for Constellation Brands-Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center say the venue just outside of Canandaigua will have a substantial season to announce shortly.

Three country shows are already on the schedule, holdovers from last summer, when all CMAC concerts were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. As was the case in 2020, Luke Combs will do two shows this year, on Aug. 5 and 6 at 7 p.m. Thomas Rhett will play Aug. 22 at 7:30 p.m.

Fred SanFilipo / WXXI

After an attempt to save this year’s edition of the CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival by moving it back a month and changing the location to Rochester Institute of Technology, the event’s producers announced Monday morning that the event will be postponed again.

The new dates are June 17-25, 2022. But it was not immediately clear where the festival will be held. 

Aaron Winters

I had my coming-out from COVID-19 about a week and a half ago.

My first indoor concert in more than a year. Two solo acoustic performers: a ridiculously talented young guy, Max Doud, then Tommy Brunett, scratchy-voiced scenester and Fairport whiskey baron. It was a night at The Penthouse at One East Avenue, 11 floors up in the downtown Rochester skyline. It’s a spacious room, and the tables seemed separated enough. All four of the people at our table were fully vaccinated.

Provided by Caroline Losneck and Christoph Gelfand

A handful of framed gold records lined the otherwise mundane hallway of the Rochester Presbyterian Home, and then on to the walls of the one-room apartment of Ethel Gabriel. She was 91 years old then, but she remembered. 

“How could I forget Elvis?” she said. “I made him famous.”

That was eight years ago, before dementia swept away so many memories of Elvis Presley and of the estimated 2,500 albums -- probably more -- that she produced over the course of a career that began in 1940, when the recording industry was a man's world. 

Megan Leigh Barnard

Hanif Abdurraqib left Connecticut in the spring of 2017, after a painful breakup. Now he was back in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio. A wounded writer. Perfect. Anger and bitterness have filled many, many library shelves.

Except, it was too easy to be bitter, he says. “I don’t really write well when I’m bitter. And so I needed to figure out something for myself that served my writing.”

Catherine Rafferty

One of the final acts of John Borek, one of many acts of his life, was to send 5-foot-tall cardboard cutouts of chocolate rabbits to friends in celebration of Easter, one of his favorite holidays.

Borek, a man of many hats known for his zany theatrics and serious commitment to the Rochester arts and cultural scene, died Saturday. He was 71 and had been ill with leukemia.

He was many things to many people in the city.

provided photo

In the midst of downtown Rochester’s new Innovation Square development is an ambitious plan to resurrect the former Xerox Auditorium, creating a new performance space for the city. Natalie Fuller and Karl Stabnau plan on having the Theater at Innovation Square up and running by early summer.

“We’re really hoping to give back to the community,” Fuller says, “and provide a space here for groups to come in and either do shows at limited capacity at whatever the guidelines are from day to day and week to week.”

Aaron Winters

With New York giving the OK for capacity-limited openings of entertainment venues throughout the state starting on Friday, the KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival confirmed that it is moving ahead with plans for the fall.

But with caveats.

“Everything changes on a dime from week to week, so we are staying flexible,” says festival President Erica Fee.

Provided by Abilene

Danny Deutsch is watching the charts. Not the Billboard magazine charts. But The New York Times charts, tracking the new COVID-19 cases. And the COVID-19 deaths.

“It’s not something to trifle with,” he says.

Deutsch is the owner of Abilene Bar & Lounge, the tiny downtown Rochester club that’s offered a stage to local musicians -- and small but intriguing national acts -- for more than a dozen years now. But Abilene has been open and closed and open again throughout this coronavirus pandemic year. And closed again since November.

Provided

The Rochester Music Hall of Fame class of 2020 is on hold once again. 

Last year’s induction ceremony and concert was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic and had been rescheduled for April 25.

“Right now, obviously, we can’t have it in April because of the protocols,” says Hall of Fame President Jack Whittier. “I think right now the number of people we can have at the Eastman Theatre is 150, that obviously doesn’t work for us.”

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