The warmth of a late summer evening with just a hint of fall in the air, and you can feel the rhythm of summer shifting.  So this month we shift our focus from the local painters (see August Newsletter) who have been painting gloriously outdoors this summer to our musicians and their challenges coming into the Fall season.
But first, not willing yet to let go of summer, we visit in an artist’s garden and home, followed by three pieces digging into the local conversation with in the music world. 
The Newsletter is here to be a gathering place for the arts, a place of conversation and local creativity.  CazArts is an alliance of artists, cultural organizations and supporters, working together to build a nurturing community. 

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Our Community
It was Monet who said,
“I perhaps owe becoming a painter to flowers.”

There have been other artists who found a synergy between creating works of art and cultivating a garden. Frida Kahlo, Emil Nolde, Paul Cezanne, and Pierre Bonnard were all avid gardeners who moved between studio and backyard garden with ease.

Cazenovia is also home to several artists who garden, with the most recognized being Mill Street resident Roger Demuth. The  professor emeritus from Syracuse University has been cultivating and expanding his gardens since he and his wife, Naomi, moved into their home in 1987. What began as a part time hobby and a way to clear his head after hours of teaching or working in the studio has evolved into something far greater.

 “It’s a hobby gone berserk.”
“The gardens kept expanding because I had the summers off from SU”

This year’s gardens are particularly powerful because Demuth was stuck in the house in February and March, during the COVID-19 quarantine; a time when he and Naomi would usually be traveling.  He had time on his hands, and time to think about the upcoming season, so he began some plantings indoors.

The most noticeable addition to this year’s garden palette are the exquisitely graceful Amaranthus plants, begun from seed, which add a pop of purple and soft texture throughout the gardens. Surrounding the Amaranthus are banana plants, castor beans, coleus and myriad other varieties of flowering and leafy green plants. There’s a lot to look at.

A visit to the garden store for Demuth is a lot like a kid visiting a candy store.
 “I would like one of everything”

In addition to the main garden in the front of the house, Demuth also has a shade garden with a small pond behind the house and a series of apple trees scattered throughout the grounds, which he is training on espaliers. Positioned throughout the gardens are ceramic totems and bowls created by Naomi. A few years ago, he purchased a one-acre parcel of land across the street from his house, which has since been cleared with another garden installed in the center of the greenspace.

"The Garden of Great Quotations”
He’s named that garden “ and has embedded, at various points along the gravel pathways, 35 sandblasted stones bearing quotes by famous people that struck his fancy.

“Once you stop learning, you start dying,” is one by Einstein.
There are a lot of quotations by Woody Allen.

At the center of this smaller, round garden is a McDonald’s-styled bird house, which Demuth built himself. He also built the benches that are situated at various points around the perimeter of the lot.

This acre of land is less planted than the main garden. While the more densely planted main garden on the west side of Mill Street is an exercise in color, pattern, and texture, this side of the street offers more green space and a clear view from the street to the back of the property.
“I wanted this to be an open space on the street,” Demuth explains.
At the back of the lot is a wooden trellis he designed and built that serves as a gateway to a short wooden boardwalk leading into the marshy area adjoining the lot. The trellis is lush with blooming Scarlett Runner Beans, Orange Trumpet Vine, and Dutchman’s Pipe.

While so much of Demuth’s gardens look effortlessly composed and maintained, he says it’s a tremendous amount of work from conception, through execution to cultivation.

“I first plan, draw, and sketch the gardens,” he explains. “I made 30-40 drawings for the pond in the shade garden.
He says how the garden looks when when viewing it from inside of the house is as important as how it will look all year round.


In terms of maintenance, well, that’s an endless challenge. Demuth spends an hour and a half every day watering everything. He has someone who helps him a few hours a week, but these gardens are largely the result of his own blood, sweat, and tears. When you spend time talking with him, it’s clear he garners pride from his efforts…pride in the beauty he’s created, pride in the joy they bring others, and pride in the hours of hard work.

“This is not for wimps,” Demuth states. “This is a major amount of work. I forgot why I do it.”

Take a drive down Mill Street and you’ll see why he does it.

Katherine Rushworth, of Cazenovia, is a free lance writer,  former director of the Michael C. Rockefeller Arts Center (State University College at Fredonia) and of the Central New York Institute for the Arts in Education.  Photos & article by Katherine Rushworth,

Nelson Odeon invents
“Cedar Grove Music Stage”

Ten years ago, cross roads, empty buildings, for sale signs, the four corners of Nelson was sliding away.  Linda and Jeff Schoenfield purchased the 150-year-old Grange Building to save it.  The Nelson Odeon, a unique music hall, was born with its first show in May of 2010.  Jeff booked the shows & ticket sales, Linda managed the volunteers and baked two cakes as refreshments for every show, and slowly over the years, others were inspired, worked hard, and the four corners of Nelson reenergized and became alive.     
Two hundred forty shows and 480 cakes later, the pandemic struck and the Nelson Odeon closed its doors and the music died. 


Well, not quite! The music had stopped but Nelson Odeon has been working.

Jeff Shoenfield says, “We have been pretty busy as of late planning for outdoor concerts this Fall at the Nelson Odeon. By the end of August we'll have the "Cedar Grove" stage setup behind the Odeon which will give the outdoor space needed for proper social distancing in a relaxed atmosphere.

We've contacted some of our favorite artists who have played the Odeon and have been successful in filling each weekend in the month of September with some fantastic live music that's really needed at this time.”

Tickets will be limited and sold in advance only. These can be purchased by visiting our website, Our Covid-19 protocol can also be found on the site. If any of you have any questions please email us at or call us at 315-655-9193.
Hope to see you all in September!
Upcoming Shows
Saturday, September 5th, 7:00 PM
Stephane Wrembel with his band
Sunday, September 6th, 3:00 PM
Stephane Wrembel with his band
Saturday, September 12th, 7:00 PM
The Cadleys
Saturday, September 19th, 7:00 PM
Christine Ohlman & Rebel Montez
Sunday, September 27th, 3:00 PM
The Jess Novak Band

Surviving COVID one note at a time...

The Jess Novak Band

Musicians are musicians for a reason.  For the love of the craft, for the love of being able to tell a story through their music, to relate to their audiences through the power of song and voice. 
The pandemic made a crash landing in March. Local musicians have felt the sting of the pandemic and have had to really dig into their creative sides to survive....literally.  

Colin Aberdeen is known for his work with Los Blancos and the Westcott Jug Suckers,. He is a great blues solo performer who has often been seen at the Brae Loch Inn. Catch him on CA's Saturday Night House Party live stream 8PM on Facebook Live.

“I was completely dead in the water when the pandemic first hit and the lockdown began...when my buddy pointed out that the ability to adapt was the hallmark of species that survive?...I accepted the kick in the butt and opened myself up to it as a possibility” said local musician Colin Aberdeen.   Colin, like many musicians, had to dive in, had to find ways to pay the mortgage and keep food on the table.

Jess Novak is a musical force to be reckoned with.  Voted Best Female Vocalist by the Syracuse New Times in 2018 she can be seen with her band at the Nelson Odeon September 27th. 
“When the pandemic started, I panicked.  I had no idea how I would survive without playing physical shows.  While I had used Facebook Live, I didn’t see how that could be a sustainable income source,” said Jess Novak.  Jess is now using Twitch to stream all over the world, meeting and playing with musicians she never would have met otherwise.  Jess has also been writing more and is releasing a new album!

Nancy O'Connor is an amazing young music director, singer, and pianist.  She directed and produced an original cabaret production at the Catherine Cummings Theater entitled  "Teenage Nobodies" and was scheduled to be the Music Director for the Bechdel Theatre Group at the Berklee College of Music. 

Nancy O’Connor organized fourteen Driveway Jams, performing in the driveway for the neighbors and live streaming her performances on Instagram.

Melissa Gardiner is a Jazz Trombonist of exquisite talent having won a string of awards, and worked with a range of national and international recognized musicians.

“Although uncertain times like this are definitely scary, I am glad that I am in the freelance industry.  We have always had to be creative about how to make ends meet and the result has made me incredibly resourceful.  This experience has been a bit of a roller coaster ride – some days I feel depressed and unmotivated, but the next day I’ll wake up and be ready to try a new project or business idea and find the excitement for it all over again,” said Melissa Gardiner.  Melissa is teaching virtual music lessons.  

 Matt Vacanti is a highly accomplished bass player and award-winning record producer. 

“The pandemic put an end to all of my gigs in the blink of an eye.  That came to between ½ and 1/3 of my yearly income.   I have in fact been practicing and writing more,  which is nice: but without opportunities to perform in public, it just feels like a big part of my life is missing,” said Matt Vacanti of the ESP Trio.

Chuck Lamb & Ria Curley last seen locally in Jazz n Caz, Chuck also is the pianist for the Brubeck Brothers Quartet, and Ria is known for her songwriting, singing, and composing of R&B and "nu-Jazz" standards. 

"When Covid hit, we watched 100 plus concerts and gigs vanish like some kind of dark magic. Like most musicians and others, we were stunned and uncertain about how to navigate this sudden loss of our life’s work and income.
We also suffered the loss, due to Covid, of some very close family members and friends. So, like for so many others, it has been a financially and emotionally challenging time.
However, we have also seen some beautiful silver linings. With more time at home, we have experienced a different type of magic, with the outpouring and composing of new music, individually and together, nearly every day. Online exchanges with fellow musicians have turned into a full-blown recording project with Cuban pianist Jorge Gomez and several guest artists, including Ria Curley.
Live stream music performances have created new opportunities for us to share our music, with people tuning in and communicating together from all over the world. And online music teaching (which was challenging at first but is now embraced by both student and teacher) has allowed us to connect with new students near and far.
We trust that, working together and putting each other first, we can all bring Covid-19 to some kind of submission. When that happens, we feel that musicians will emerge with a heightened awareness and humility about the blessing and joy of making and sharing music with a live audience once again."

Musicians are musicians for a reason.
“I really miss packin’ em in and rockin’ the joint...but that’s gonna have to wait for now...Life is too short not to do something you truly love and rock a few butts along the way,” said Colin Aberdeen.

Well said, my friend.  Well said.  Until we all meet again, on the sunny side of the music street.

Respectfully submitted by:

Colleen Curley Prossner

Colleen Curley Prossner has been the theater director at the Catherine Cummings Theater, Cazenovia College for 29 years, is a jazz singer, and arts advocate.  
20th anniversary -  Jazz N’ Caz   
Sitting here, reminiscing about all of the incredible music presented on the stage at the Catherine Cummings Theatre at Cazenovia College over the last 20 years, I am truly humbled.   Being able to present and hear top-notch, world class jazz musicians in our wonderful historic town of Cazenovia, has been truly a gift. 

One of the greatest gifts has been to witness our ‘young’ jazz musicians grow up and flourish.  Remembering the 25 kids from the Rome YMCA youth jazz band, who studied during the day with the Brubeck Brothers, and opened with them for the evening performance. 

Colleen and the Brubeck Brothers

Dan Brubeck ended up giving his drum sticks to the amazing 8-year-old drummer!  Watching the CNY jazz youth orchestra, the Cazenovia HS jazz band and vocal ensembles performing many years, you could see the thrill they got, working in a setting other than a school recital or spring concert and instead sharing a venue with nationally known jazz musicians.    
Remembering Noah Kellman and Nick Frenay,  area musical prodigies on piano and trumpet respectively, invited to sit in at Jazz After Hours with pianist Henry Butler and the Brubeck Brothers, at the ripe old age of 16, playing until Noah’s mom pulled the plug at about 1:00 am. 

Fast forward 11 years, where Noah and Nick were then featured at 28 years old, opening  with the Brubeck Brothers at Jazz N Caz 2018 with ‘Take Five’, the famous Dave Brubeck quartet tune.    It has been really moving to witness the growth of these two teens who came to Jazz N Caz 14 years ago because they ‘grew up’ loving jazz, and ended up with successful jazz careers.  


Music nurtures the soul, and takes you back to places you haven’t been in years.   When those weekends of Jazz N Caz were over, there has always been a sense of amazing gratitude that we, as a CNY community, were able to witness some of the best jazz musicians in the world.   Right here, in our historic little town of Cazenovia…  

Colleen Curley Prossner has been the theater director at the Catherine Cummings Theater, Cazenovia College for 29 years, is a jazz singer, and arts advocate.  

Sadly Jazz n Caz has been cancelled this year.
In May all College events were put on hold.  After being reimagined Jazz n Caz was organized as a weekend of delightful outdoor dinner events in the local restaurants, it was cancelled in late August due to new directives from the State.  There are times where the needs and requirements for dealing with the pandemic in city environments do not translate across all NY communities.   Nonetheless, we are proud and thankful that NY has done and continues to do a good job in controlling the Covid virus.  The pandemic continues to be especially hard on the performing arts, artists and venues. 

Resources for Artists
New York Foundation for the Arts
NYFA is a nonprofit service organization that empowers working artists and emerging arts organizations across all disciplines at critical stages in their creative lives and professional/organizational development.  Web site is full of opportunities and tools.
Springboard for the Arts
Chock full of resources to help artists thrive and connect:

CazArts Newsletter:
Editor: Geoffrey Navias
Copy editor: Kristi Andersen
Production,  Shawn McGuire
Interviews & articles this month:
Katherine Rushworth ~ Geoffrey Navias ~
Collen Prossner
All inquiries, feedback, ideas for future articles: 
Creative Alliance

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