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Michael John Heagerty

Syracuse’s Music and Arts Enabler

When people think of music scenes, naturally they think of musicians, singers, bands bustling to share their music. And that is the right focus. However, there is more to the scene than meets the eye. Lurking in the shadows, behind the curtains, or even in plain sight among the crowd are catalysts that make a scene go. While they, themselves are not necessarily musicians they are often time exactly the grease that musicians and music scenes need. They perpetuate they scene. They help you experience new things in new, fresh ways. We call these people promoters, movers and shakers … I call them instigators.

These instigators help you —yeah, that’s right you the reader— citizens of your community do something else. Something exciting from the usual expectation you manufacture from your (yawn … ) comfort zone.

Being a catalyst for more music in Syracuse has been a rewarding experience. Coming up with new ways to promote musicians and artists is something I’m constantly thinking about.

Michael John Heagerty is one such fellow. He’s out there. Right now. Making it go. No whining, no excuses and probably receiving more skepticism than cooperation. And in the face of that, he figured out how to make his city a little more exciting by creating ways to make the arts and community thrive together. I haven’t really worked with him, yet, but I will simply because I know we both share the notion … “Ask not what your community can do for you, ask what you can do for your community.” While many bitch or comment from their safety of their armchairs ­—which, sorry folks, is useless— he’s doing something.

Pinning him down to chat is impossible, but, I did it.

Chuck Schiele: Hey Michael, thanks for taking a minute for Table Hopping. You’ve created a unique purpose for yourself in Syracuse. How would you classify your presence and purpose in the Central New York/Syracuse music scene.

Michael John Heagerty: Thank you for the opportunity to be interviewed. Although I’m not a full time promoter, my purpose is clear in the CNY music scene – create unique opportunities and programming for local talent to emerge and be showcased. To assist them in becoming better at the creative promotion/business side while they polish their skills and connect them with like-minded individuals.

CS: Tell us about some of the music-oriented events you create.

MJH:  Weekly series —consistency and accessibility are the big three things I think about when creating events locally. Live entertainment is always a factor.

CS: Such as …

MJH: Some events that have birthed from these beliefs include:

#overpassfest —A weekly Summer-long series that is all about uniting the community and creating collaborations of live #local art and music along the picturesque creekwalk, for all to enjoy. Artists of all sorts are invited to meet at the Onondaga Creekwalk and set up every fifteen feet or so and perform, create, collaborate and jam together.

#grillnchill —Utilizing the gorgeous outdoor space at Eleven Waters, local musicians get to perform 4-7pm Wednesday nights with a ‘Backyard BBQ’ vibe. There’s an outdoor bar, a big grill and modular patio seating. Simple but very cool space to use as a venue.

#infinitePOP —open free booking of musicians to perform at temporary POP-UP shop. Whether we create series like lunchtime live or guitar league performances with Max Puglisi or had musicians perform at after hour or specialty events. It was all about offering opportunities to local musicians to play in a unique setting and really get people around Syracuse to understand the primary goal is and always will be supporting the musicians and artists of this area to make the Music Scene Whole and therefore increase the primary music economy, making sure that if they play­­ —they get paid, properly.

CS: What inspires you to take on such tasks?

Michael John Heagerty is out there. Right now. Making it go.

MJH:  Every time you create something you are taking a risk. Will you put in all the effort and time and then watch it fail? I consider myself lucky to have many talented friends, most of which are musicians and artists and they understand the power of collaboration above everything else. What inspires me is collaboration. I am the person that connects everyone who wants to do something different in this city. I take that role seriously and truly believe that it is through collaboration and combining of resources that WE as a music scene move forward.

CS: Do you play music? If so, what, how, when etc.

MJH:  I enjoy seeing live music equally as I enjoy preforming with my friends in a band called ToTs and the Homefries. We make genre bending songs exclusively about potatoes and my role as the MC is to create crispy lyrics for all to enjoy. Although the concept might seem silly the band is legit and all-star collection of local musicians.

CS: What are some of the highlights along the way?

MJH: The highlights are watching memories being made. Music is such an integral part of the cultural fabric here and when you bring local musicians together it’s always beautiful. There are simply too many specific examples to share!

CS: As a person who takes his community/city seriously, please share your thoughts on the arts and music in Syracuse. What it has … what it needs.

MJH: Being a catalyst for more music in Syracuse has been a rewarding experience. Coming up with new ways to promote musicians and artists is something I’m constantly thinking about.

Like any music scene, Syracuse has plenty to offer.  What it has is long running bands that have paved the way for up and comers to make a go as full-time musicians. What it needs is more support from area venues and just to be clear my definition of a venue is ANYWHERE! A bar, a stage, a park, a sidewalk you name it and music can transform that space. By learning from each other, showing up to each other’s gigs, filling in when a bandmate can’t make it, paying for photographer that documents your show, telling the audience to tip your bartender and giving the sound person credit and mostly being honest about how you were treated at said venue, so everyone can learn and progress together is what we NEED.

CS: What does a healthy art and music scene mean to you? Tell us why you think its important.

MJH: Art is a proven economic driver. If you invest in the arts that you are encouraging not only significant improvements and beautifications as well as appreciation, but also restoration, tourism and generation of new culture. A healthy scene is one that is treated equally as a public sector as it is an enhancer.

CS:  You must have an eight-page business card.

MJH:  The number one question I receive is “What exactly is it that you do?” My answer is this: “I love promoting our city and its culture. By doing what I love I hope to inspire and awaken the hearts of others to do the same.”

CS: How can we stay in touch with your activities and events?

​MJH: @republicof_salt on Instagram

Michael John Heagerty on facebook

CS: Thanks a lot for chatting with Table Hopping.

MJH: Thank you, Chuck.

Chuck Schiele
Chuck Schiele is an award-winning musician, art director, producer, editorialist, artist, activist, member of SaltCityChill.com and fan of the CNY music scene. To be considered for this column, please write chuck.schiele@gmail.com.