20 Watts

ISSUE 21 | Features: Finding a Voice Pt. 4

Finding a Voice

star-struck by Rodgers at first. Weiss had been reading Acoustic Guitar for years, and here the man who had met all of his idols was asking him to play songs together. “It’s like being a Spanish kid and having (noted classical guitarist Andrés) Segovia as your neighbor and being able to go over and play with him. He’s that good,” Weiss says. “I’m like a kid in a candy store with them. I’m playing my three-chord songs and they are going all over the neck playing with it.”

Cooke agreed to take on the project, though he admits he didn’t think it would last. Part of the group’s strength comes with its attachment to both Rodger’s Showcase and a local organization of which Cooke is president, The Folkus Project. Folkus started in 2000 as a non-profit organization dedi­cated to bringing folk and acoustic music to Syracuse. Before then, Syracuse was not a city that drew many folk artists. To artists and promoters, there were not enough folk music fans in Syracuse to support concerts. Joe Cleveland, the organizer of Song Anon, wanted to form a group to prove there was an audience here. At the time, Cleveland worked for the now-closed Happy End­ings coffeehouse booking acoustic and folk acts. The coffeehouse and the organization suffered initially because folk music is not exactly a money-making endeavor. When Happy Endings closed, Folkus struggled to find a new venue. The music spaces avail­able in Syracuse tended either to be too large, like the Landmark Theater, or tiny, like Jazz Central. With a stroke of good luck and good timing, the May Memorial Unitarian- Universalist Society church approached Cooke. Housed in a church about the size of a high-school auditorium, the Society was looking to hold regular concerts. Folkus was granted a regular venue, all for free. Though the location seemed odd, it worked for the purpose. Churches have surprisingly good acoustics and can accommodate a range of audience members. Twice a month, Folkus Fridays presents a folk artist to an average audience of 40 to 60, and up to 150 people for a well-known act. “It’s very shoestring and very niche-y, but for the people in town who go for this kind of thing it’s invaluable,” Cooke says.

While the majority of Woodshed mem­bers are middle-aged professionals, it does attract some outliers. On a Saturday night in the Syracuse area, most 21-year-olds gather their friends and head out to the bars. Charles Marlowe, a Manlius native,



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