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Arts & Culture

A Day of Music, Mentoring and More at Kellish Hill Farms


Much may be accomplished at Kellish Hill Music Farm's new amphitheater in Manlius on Aug. 15. 

The Syracuse Sunrise Rotary Club will stage the second edition of its Youth Music and Arts Festival at the lovely spread run with love by Kathy Kellish. If it rains, no problem. They'll move the action inside the rustic Music Barn.

But Greg Hoover and his friends in the District 7150 Rotary are hoping, as the club's name implies, for sunshine. The grounds open at 10 a.m., and the plans call for tailgating as the young musicians use that music barn to warm up for their turns on the stage. The other Rotary Clubs in the district will set up concession stands to sell food and beverages.

Yes, this will be a competition of sorts. Sixteen performers -- solo or in bands -- between the ages of 13 to 24 are signed up.

"We're giving them a place to play," Hoover says. "A lot of the young talent can't go out to the clubs yet, not legally, anyway.

"It's not a battle of the bands, though," says Hoover, who is a singer-songwriter who hosts open mike nights around Central New York and has recorded albums of his original music. "We want to award them with things they need. A demo tape? They'll get time at a studio to record. A new instrument? We'll work with them to secure that." Hoover says members of Dick Ford's Signature Syracuse organization will be present to help.

Yes, this will be an educational situation for the musicians involved, and their family and friends who come to watch.

Syracuse-area performers have signed up to mentor the participants during their performances. The list of mentors and judges includes Todd Hobin, Dusty Pas'cal, Hoover, Loren Barrigar and Mark Mazengarb, potentially Syracuse Symphoria concert master and Rotary member Andrew Zaplatynsky, classical horns player Bill Boyd, and several others.

Also on the panel will be International Guitar Champion Tim Thompson and his performer son Myles, from Nashville,

The other Rotary clubs in the district were all encouraged to sponsor a young performer to get involved in the spirit of the educational component, Hoover says.

Youth scheduled to participate include Sarah Hilenbrant of Manlius, Maria Bentz
Dewitt, Taiward Wider of Hamilton, Ned Greenough of Phoenix, Rob McCall of Baldwinsville, Kill the Lights from Lafayette, Cuddlefish  from Onondaga, Danielle Evans of Syracuse, Greg White of Syracuse, MalizabethNarona of Liverpool, Kyle Micho of Clay, Joshua Groves of Morrisville, Sam Noldar from Syracuse, Rodney Apollo of Syracuse, MakaliaCourtwright of Chittenango, MadlineKroner of Camillus and Cecilia Vacanti of Baldwinsville.

Everybody also is invited to watch two concerts that promise jaw-dropping artistry.

At 3:15 p.m., sandwiched between two segments of youth performances, the father-and-son duo of Tim and Myles Thompson will perform.

"Myles is only 21," Hoover says. "This is far and away the best way for these young performers to learn."

At 6 p.m., the finger-style acoustic guitar duo of Barrigar and Mazengarb will be joined by versatile strings player Andrew Van Norstrand.

"We're fortunate to have talented players like this here," Hoover says. "They've been entertaining in Nashville and around the world."

The second component and driving force behind the event is fundraising.

The cost to attend is $10 per person or $20 per car load. Kellish Hill is located about four miles off Route 92, at 3191 Pompey Center Road. 

Every cent Syracuse Sunrise Rotary raises goes toward its many benevolent programs.

"Rotary has a long list of philanthropic items," Hoover says. "Each will do things you'd never really know about. Our little 20-member club is behind building the Erie Canal benches (at Cedar Bay Park in DeWitt. We put together Christmas dinner baskets for families in need. We help the Person to Person advocacy group for individuals with developmental disabilities."

The club has a far reach as well. It donates to an English literacy project in Chile as well as raising the funds needed to ship fire-fighting equipment that won't pass OSHA code for use by firefighters in that country. "They're doing it there in shorts and sandals," Hoover says.

They've had their hand in Zimbabwe clean water projects and sponsored students in Gambia and helped fund schools built in India.

Syracuse Sunshine Rotary is 30 years old and a proud member of the World Health Organization' eradicate polio program, too. "In 1986 there were 1,000 cases of polio found a day," Hoover says. "Now there are 12 cases (in the world).

"That's a big deal. That's good stuff."

Last year, Hoover says, the first edition of the fest was used as a quiet test case. This year everybody is ready to roll.