by Isaac Jahns
I’m not supposed to be writing this.
Not because I don’t have the writing ability or musical prowess (debatable), but because I was supposed to be a jock. Sports were my life.
This was never in doubt through my early years. I was throwing a baseball and kicking a soccer ball as soon as I could stand. I signed up for baseball, football, soccer, basketball, tennis, swimming, and even some golf lessons as soon as I could. I even decided to go to college to become a sports broadcaster (and that dream is still very much alive).
Slowly but surely, though, everything fizzled out.
I never had the killer instinct that the best athletes have: the drive to dominate an opponent. My high school athletic career ended as I sat on the bench for most of Mayo High School’s 2015 baseball season. My focus was quickly shifting to the arts, a move that started with two lines in Mayo’s fall musical and turned into a lifelong passion.
My musical journey began one nondescript fall day during my sophomore year at Mayo. I like to be alone for a couple hours each day, and as a kid I would spend that time in my room playing video games, looking at my baseball card collection, or things like that. That day, though, nothing interested me. I decided to unpack the acoustic guitar my parents bought me when I took guitar lessons a few years prior - and I haven’t stopped teaching myself since.
Since that day, I’ve worked to improve my musical talent. I’ve never feared performing in front of large crowds (weirdly, it’s the opposite - I have a huge fear of talking to small groups), so I was itching to play shows the second I learned how to play and sing at the same time. This has made my performances part laboratory and part showcase. I put on the best show I possibly can, but also try new things to see what does and doesn’t work.
As a high schooler, I was becoming aware of the Rochester music scene, led by fellow Spartan (and first baseman!) Sam Butterfass, as well as the dynamic pair Dylan Hilliker and Kevin Andrews. Sketches and Progression piqued my interest in making original music, even functioning as a paradigm shift - if these people could successfully release original music, why not me?
Like everything else in music, I dove headfirst into the scene, while bringing five of my friends along for the ride. The subconscious mentality of trial-by-fire continued through the saga of six Mayo graduates with little to no prior music experience, with the added bonus of a heavy social media presence and lots of interest from friends and family. This was the beginning of Younge Park.
ROCKchester’s core vision resonated with me and my bandmates. We played the first ROCKchester against all odds (college - mono - broken guitars - the works), and it was the most fun I’d ever had on stage. Over that summer, I got closer to Dylan and Kevin, while the band started to musically drift apart. After releasing a subpar EP and playing a couple more shows, we stopped making music.
Younge Park was one of the worst bands to play shows in Rochester.
We also broke the fire code (twice) at Cafe Steam because so many people showed up to watch us play.
This dichotomy revealed six things about the people in our area that I will always believe:
People in Rochester care about the arts.
People in Rochester don’t have enough time to support the arts in the ways they wish they could.
People in Rochester need constant reminders about art and music, because they have a million other things happening and it’s hard to prioritize your free time when it’s so scarce.
If you (respectfully!!!) pester people from Rochester to come to your show, they’ll do it.
People in Rochester desperately need and want dedicated spaces for artists and musicians to write, create, perform, collaborate, and thrive.
People in Rochester want these spaces and events to happen, but no one has had the time, money, or direction/vision to successfully create and develop these spaces.
After taking a semester off from music, I started a project called Greentop, based in Younge Park’s target sound of anthemic indie-rock, but with additions from my personal influences in the blues, folk and soul world. One EP is already released to the world, and I’m working on a full-length record to release late this summer. I’ve also partnered with Kevin as co-social media and marketing directors for ROCKchester. High school me would be speechless.
This festival is a microcosm of what I want to see happen in Rochester’s future. I truly believe that the majority of Rochesterites want to see art thrive here - all it’ll take is a concerted effort from community leaders to win people over. Free time is hard to come by here. Work does not necessarily run 9-5. It runs from sunup to sundown, morning to night, day by day, on-call shift to on-call shift. When work life is so hectic, free time must be well-spent. It must be cherished. It can’t go to a bad show in a bad venue.
Let me speak directly to you, the average Rochester citizen. Maybe you’re a doctor, or you’ve never worked for the Clinic or OMC. Maybe you’re just finding out who you are and what your passion is. Maybe you’ve always had a secret passion for music, but haven’t ever done anything about it. Maybe you love art. Maybe you’ve never seen a show in your life.
I am here to tell you that Rochester’s musicians and artists are the real deal. If you give us a chance, you will not be disappointed. I personally guarantee it.
Give us a shot. You won’t regret it. Music is people, and in our minds, the more the merrier.