Western Massachusetts is home to several vibrant music scenes and one local nonprofit’s mission is to support and help advance the careers of the area’s talented musicians.  

The New Music Alliance is dedicated to showcasing creative local musicians who write original music, as well as promoting our region as a destination for original music writing, production and performances. 

Zydalis Bauer spoke with Executive Director Mark Sherry, Assistant Director Mark Ramone, and Board member Miriam Sirota to learn more about the organization, its events, and initiatives. 

This interview originally aired on Sept. 24, 2021.

Read the full transcript:

Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Western New England is home to several vibrant music scenes, and one local non-profit’s mission is to support and help advance the careers of the area’s talented musicians. The New Music Alliance is dedicated to showcasing creative local musicians who write original music, as well as promoting our region as a destination for original music writing, production, and performances.

I spoke with executive director Mark Sherry, assistant director Mark Ramone and board member Miriam Sirota to learn more about the organization, its events, and initiatives.

Mark Sherry, New Music Alliance: The local music scene is just so incredibly rich in this region, and it’s not necessarily well known anywhere out of the area. And musicians traditionally get attention much more so if their somewhere around, you know, either a major city or a music hub, like Nashville or Austin or something like that. And around here, it’s much more difficult for really good artists to get the kind of attention that they deserve.

There’s an amazing amount of music here, and a lot of people do go to New York City eventually, but a lot of people stay and a lot of people come back here. And I just felt like we needed to do something to give them the kind of attention and also foster young musicians and try and help them assist their careers and to help them advance their careers.

Zydalis Bauer: You recently launched the Essential Western New England Songbook that contains one hundred and fifty one songs written by artists from this region.

Talk to me about why this was an important project and what makes this songbook so essential.

Mark Sherry: I thought that with the songbook, what we can do is show what’s the best stuff that people have been able to do, and show that it’s as good as anything that they could hear on the radio. In fact, it’s a lot of what you do hear on radio.

When you look at that and you see the breadth and the quality that’s there, and you say, “you know, I can go out and listen to some of these people on the weekend.”

Zydalis Bauer: And let’s talk a little bit about the breadth of the range that is included in this essential songbook, because I’m sure there are names that will surprise people that are included from this area that they listen to all the time.

So, what can people expect from these, from this songbook?

Mark Sherry: Well, it goes all the way back to the 1950s. There are people on it, like the Five Satins and Gene Pitney, who are just icons from back then and produced some great stuff. Bill Flagg as well, he’s the inventor of rockabilly.

But then you go to people who are around us right now: Taj Mahal from Springfield; Arlo Guthrie from out in the Berkshires; a band like Staind from Springfield, which was, you know, a mega selling band; Avery Sharpe, a legend in the jazz world. We could go on!

Miriam Sirota, New Music Alliance: But there also … what I really enjoy about it, too, is that there are a lot of young bands coming out of here. I

‘m going to give an example if I can, Who’d A Thunk It, who are great! They’re a women’s band. They’re very young. They’re very original. There’s like nothing derivative about what they do. Yes, it’s funk music, but they are in the songbook.

Zydalis Bauer: Now, there are several ways that you work with local artists, including offering workshops that are available on your website, as well as having the new Music Alliance Radio Hour that the three of you are DJs for. And it airs on several local stations.

Now, two years into this show, what have you enjoyed most about it and has there been anything that has surprised you about doing this radio show?

Mark Ramone, New Music Alliance: I just think that it’s great that there are alternatives to a large companies and nationwide commercial stations are feeding us for entertainment. We can listen to local talent on small commercial radio stations, see bands at local venues and listen to songs that were produced by local recording studios.

I think it’s an alternative that people will find very pleasing and something different, if they just go out and make an effort to try something different.

Miriam Sirota: It’s a lot of fun. The way it’s done is that every week, somebody puts together the playlist, and then you have one of the other DJs as a guest and usually Violet — who who’s fantastic and does our editing.

And so putting together the list itself is is so much fun. I tend to go for themes. Everybody has their their own thing. We all — and it’s wonderful to see people’s taste, their point of view, what they — you know –what draws them to certain artists like, I know, you know, we work with this person, they might bring in some classical or jazz music that we’ve never heard before.

Mark Sherry: The music that we bring in, we have a huge choice of. So, what we bring in, is all really excellent quality music.

You know, when I first started this, one of the things that amazed me is that, I thought eventually we were going to run out of really good songs from artists from this area. And, you know, because I’m very, very committed to only, you know, showing like, really what the best of music can be. So, people can say, “Wow, you know, I want to I want to support this.”

So, we haven’t even come close to running out of all this stuff that people are producing and have produced from this area, that is really great stuff.

Zydalis Bauer: Well, I wanted to talk to touch on also because Miriam and Marc Sherry, you’re both originally from New York but have relocated to this region. Mark, you have always lived in the western New England region.

What has been your favorite thing about music and artists that come out of this region, specifically?

Mark Ramone: Well, there’s a lot of colleges in western New England, and that’s usually a great hub for listening to new, young, local talent.

Mark Sherry: You know, there is a very collaborative spirit of creating music here. And I think that’s really important. And one thing I want to just reiterate is that just remember, everything that we play is original music by local artists. So, it’s all original music by local artists.

Zydalis Bauer: Now, for any local artists out there, how do you encourage them to be a part of the new Music Alliance?

Mark Sherry: , and you’ll be able to get a hold of us. Or just go to our website; I think all that information’s there, too.