danielle ponder

How about a little music? "HomeStage at the Little" is a new concert series produced by WXXI and the Little Theatre. The pandemic has changed the landscape for local artists, but the series gives them an opportunity to perform live sessions (audience-free) that can be watched by the community. The episodes include music, interviews, and more.

We preview the series with some of the artists:

Jason Milton/WXXI

Danielle Ponder and her band -- Avis Reese, Derek Bennett, Levi Bennet and Jonathan Sheffer -- are on the stage at The Little Theater. In front of them are 280 seats, virtually all of them empty.

This is not the gig from hell. This is the COVID-19 reality.

Jeremy Moule / CITY Newspaper

Shaq Payne was 17 when he got involved with Slam High, a slam poetry program for Rochester youth run by future Avenue Blackbox Theater founder Reenah Oshun Golden, and Cypher, a drop-in after school program where students learned rap music production and dance.

That was 10 years ago and Payne is now an educator at Vertus High School, as well as a poet and a rapper.

“I would not be on the career path that I am on right now and honestly I do not know where I would be if it were not for those programs,” Payne said.


Rochester's powerhouse soul singer, Danielle Ponder, has already emerged from thousands of hopeful entries to catch the ears of National Public Radio's Tiny Desk Concert song contest.

Her song, "Poor Man's Pain," is one of eight video performances chosen by NPR to highlight this week as the competition's Sunday-night entry deadline nears. Ponder's performance, wrote NPR's Elle Mannion is, "anthemic while compassionate, soulful while bold and strong."