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Jack Bocchino: Present!

Jack was one of the first people to make me feel welcomed when I moved here and butted my way into the bustling music scene. As he approached me to say “hello,” and introduce himself, he had the look —yes there is a look— that told me he knew that I was new around here. We shook hands and chatted a bit. He had and still has the social grace of an ambassador.

Jack Bocchino

Then, I became aware that he was writing “this” column. And, I became a reader. And, by now as I see him out on the town —which is more than routinely— as a comfortable presence and positive energy in our scene. And that’s why I’m writing about Jack, this month.

As far as I’m concerned a music scene consists of two equal parts: Music makers and music lovers. Without either, the whole thing is just a great big “so-what.” And when my groups play out, the most important people in the room are not us guys in the band. It’s the people who come to see us. And I am very happy whenever I see Jack at shows. Hell, I bet if I went to five venues in one night, I’d see Jack at all of them.

You, again.

 It wouldn’t matter the style or genre … he appears to dig it all. He’s grown to be such a part of it that he was honored very appropriately in this past year’s SAMMYs with a Lifetime Achievement Award. I was particularly happy to see this happen because, even though Jack isn’t a musician Jack has been a contributing staple in the scene for a very long time. Thus, we owe a part of the success that the scene enjoys now to guys like Jack. And especially to Jack.

Chuck Schiele: Thanks for doing this interview, Jack. It’s good to see you back in this column.

Jack Bocchino:  Thank you, Chuck. In a way, I miss writing this column, but thought it could be better served being written by a musician.

CS: For how long have you been following and supporting Syracuse music?

JB:  First time … 1970. But, marriage and kids caused me to take a break around 1980 and happily spend time with the kids. Then I started to explore the local scene around 1995 with my 3 kids; each developing their own tastes in local and national musicians. I was able to get them access to shows that were not considered “All-Ages” events when they were teens. Again, this was a highlight for me, to be able to share the local music scene with my kids.

CS: Are you, yourself a
musician?

JB: No, Chuck. -Simply a music lover. ‘Had my opportunities to take lessons, but never took the leap.

CS: What are your favorite aspects about the music in Syracuse?

JB: Diversity. We have greats at every position in every genre. I’m happy to add that there seems to be an upswing in the diversity of venues as well. I love it all, but I do tend to gravitate to songwriters; especially younger ones. Give them a listen. They truly have much to say.

CS: (Yes! What Jack said. Everybody go and discover a new songwriter.) When you were the writer for this column, what did you enjoy most about it?

JB: The back stories. Musicians had so many reasons for wanting to do what they do, how they got there and the levels at which they chose to do it. I always felt that many musicians in this town could take it to the next level, but they had their own personal reasons for staying where they’re at. For some, music is a part time thing. One person even said he was told by his Dad not to quit his day job, even though his talent and work ethic could surely carry him through a career in music.

CS: Yeah, my Dad was a professional musician. He told me once, insightfully, how music was “a lousy way to starve.” (laughs) You recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2019 SAMMY’s. Tell us about it and what it means to you.

JB: I was totally in disbelief and tried to resist the award. They stressed to me that it was not “one-note.” Not just for photography. Not just for my time writing this column. Not just for my attendance and attentiveness. But, a spirit that embodies a positivity about Syracuse and the music community.

CS: Yup.

JB: That was overwhelming, to say the least.

CS: I’m always glad to see you out there, man. Even if you’re flirting with my chick. (laughs) Share with us a quick-list of the top ten artists from Syracuse that have become bookmarked into your brain over the years.

JB: Oh my. Only 10? Well, I was a Dove groupie in 1970. (Can I list Larry Arlotta, Howie Bartollo, Rick Cua, Dave
Hanlon, and Larry Serafini separately as 5 of my top 10?)

Jamie Notarthomas and the Karen Savoca/Pete Heitzman duo because they ushered me back into local music, having seen them open for Greg Lake at a concert to benefit the Sara Anne Wood Rescue Foundation and made me realize the talent level in this town.

Forgive me, but the rest of the list keeps changing, the longer I think about it. So here goes: Mike Powell, Sara Bullis, Stephen Douglas Wolfe, Colin Aberdeen, Maureen Henesey, Edgar Pagan And every damn musician that I’ve taken the time to see more than once. (First time might have been out of curiosity, but if I returned for a second listen, you are in my list of tops)

CS: Well, then, “Thank you.” I know you think music is important to our city and for our city. Why?

JB:  It’s a mood-altering escape for me. For the city? It’s culture. It takes place in ways and in venues that allow audience members to gather with friends and strangers alike and have a commonality for a moment. With summer on the way, the festival season is beginning. Some of these festivals have music as the main theme. And for some, the music is secondary. But, in any case, there will be no shortage of music lovers at the festivals.

CS: If you could play an instrument, which one would you choose to play?

JB: I mentioned that I had opportunities to take lessons. In one of those opportunities, my uncle offered to buy a sax from one of his good friends and my Dad offered to arrange for lessons. So, I’d have to say saxophone.

CS: What advice might you have for up-and-coming artists?

JB: Take it all in. You might be committed to a genre, but get out and listen to other styles of music. You might be young and want to seek out the knowledge and wisdom of the elders in the scene, but don’t discount the knowledge and wisdom of some of the younger musicians. They have much to offer.

CS: What advice might you have for up-and-coming music fans?

JB: Ha. Take it all in. Don’t get hung up on genre titles or that the age and life experiences of the musicians are similar to those of yourself. Take it all in.

CS: What’s in your music future?

JB: Being out most nights listening to music has worked well for me. So, I see no reason to change that in the future. Admittedly, I’ve been gravitating to earlier shows and fortunately we have venues that cater to that.

CS: Well, I will look forward to seeing you out there, my friend. And as far as I can tell, so will everyone else.

Thank you, so much, for the part you play in this music scene. And thanks for doing this interview.

JB: Thank you, Chuck. My pleasure. See you out there!

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.