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Your local backstage pass to Northeast Ohio’s music scene. Get to know the talented musicians and community influencers in our backyard. Hear the stories that inspired them, the music that they play, and how they impact our world. Join us, and celebrate the local talent that lifts us all.

/ HIGHLAND SQUARE PORCHROKR MUSIC AND ART FESTIVAL

The popular Highland Square PorchRokr Music and Art Festival, celebrated annually during August in Akron, has been postponed until 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The large, in-person festival was reimagined this year as a virtual event called CouchRokr. The concert will be available to view on Facebook Saturday, Aug. 15 starting at 1 p.m.

Backline Cleveland, a gener8tor program made possible by the City of Cleveland and The Finch Group, launched in June to grant local musicians the chance to elevate their careers. The 12-week accelerator offers coaching opportunities with industry professionals, as well as the chance to connect and collaborate with other artists.

a photo of musicians in Mourning [A] BLKstar
MICHAEL KENT

Mourning [A] BLKstar is a diverse collective of Cleveland-based artists with layered identities. Its members aim to blur the lines of gender and genre while expressing their individual realities through music.

The collective’s 2018 album, “The Garner Poems,” takes on a new relevancy, with the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery sparking protests and new conversations centered on police brutality and systemic racism around the world.

A photo of the Kent Stage
THE KENT STAGE

Across the state of Ohio, local music venues are struggling as the coronavirus pandemic has forced these entertainment hotspots to keep operations at a standstill. Local musicians who rely on live performances to earn a steady income have suffered with planned concerts canceled or postponed indefinitely.

As the COVID-19 stay-at-home order remains in place, earning wages through live performances and new album releases has been put on hold for many live musicians. 

Electric Company, an Akron-based recording studio, creative collective and record label, released an album called "Solo" to support local artists during this time. The album contains nine tracks recorded by participating solo artists in their own homes.

Luke Donaldson / Agape Photography

On what would have been the 12th annual celebration of Record Store Day on April 18, local music shops remained dark, empty and closed. The event is an annual celebration of independently owned record stores and brings crowds of music fans to these local businesses to buy exclusive or new music releases.

Local record stores are experiencing the difficult effects of the COVID-19 pandemic—not only on sales, but also in missing the camaraderie that often comes hand-in-hand with small businesses and their regular patrons.

Wuling Music Faculty

With widespread social distancing measures in place due to the COVID-19 outbreak, classical music performances have shifted from concert halls to virtual platforms. Piano Cleveland, a local organization that supports performing artists through education, competitions and outreach programming, has launched The Quarantine Concerts.

A photo of a musician
MORGAN PASSEK

With the recent closure of bars, restaurants and venues that serve more than 10 patrons, the local music scene is facing challenges. Scheduled concerts, festivals, album release shows and other events have been canceled or postponed to a later, unspecified date.

Musicians and artists who rely on touring or otherwise playing out for income or exposure are faced with a new reality with the local community being unable to congregate in the presence of live music. Weekend plans and evening socialization may have changed for audiences, but for many local artists, their livelihood has all but vanished.

/ Courtesy of PHONG NGUYEN

World-renowned Vietnamese musician Phong Nguyen has dedicated his life to studying Buddhist music. He can play more than 20 instruments and has done extensive research on chants that he's performed in concert all over the world. Back home in Stow after studying abroad for the past few years, Nguyen is putting on a rare concert at Standing Rock Cultural Arts in Kent on March 14, and is reflecting on the 50th anniversary of the May 4 shootings at Kent State University.

a photo of the band Coby and The Prisoners
COBY AND THE PRISONERS

Indie-rockers Coby and The Prisoners latest album is showing off the band’s talent at producing homegrown recordings that are polished and radio ready. WKSU contributor Brittany Nader talked with frontman Coby Hartzler about the band’s sound and his roots in the Dover/New Philadelphia area.

Archie Green

Cleveland hip-hop artist and mental health advocate Archie Green is taking his message to new audiences. His project, My Violin Weighs A Ton, aims to bridge the gap between the inner city and classical music.

Five Mansfield siblings are blending each of their musical styles to create their own brand of electronic, jazz and hip hop. The Trio says its latest album, Two, is a true reflection of how the family band has evolved to create a unique, unified sound. 

a photo of musician Anthony LaMarca
DAVID POKRIVNAK

After touring the world with indie-rock darlings St. Vincent and The War on Drugs, local artist Anthony LaMarca returned home to record and release his own deeply personal new album.

MAURA ROGERS AND THE BELLOWS

This story was originally published April 25, 2019.

Cleveland singer-songwriter Maura Rogers is out with a new album this week, seven years after her bandmate donated a kidney that saved her life. 

It was a year of discoveries in local music, as bands who had been dormant for several years returned with new albums. WKSU's Amanda Rabinowitz and contributor Brittany Nader picked their favorite music of 2019. 

Philip Williams

It’s no secret that classical music has a diversity problem. Major symphony orchestras around the country are primarily white, as are their audiences. And as these audiences continue to shrink, more conservatories and orchestras are getting serious about becoming as diverse as the cities they serve. 

Peter Larson

When local rocker band Welshly Arms released its song “Legendary” in 2017, which has surpassed more than 100 million streams on Spotify, new doors were opened to reach audiences far beyond Northeast Ohio.

Photo courtest of Jul Big Green

Julien Huntley, a.k.a. Jul Big Green, will release his 13-track album “5AM to Midnight” Nov. 15. The release will be the first in a two-part musical concept series, with the former focused on a nighttime theme, and his upcoming follow-up centered around daylight, with more upbeat, pop features.

A photo of a vinyl record with a colorful design
Wax Mage Records

Heath Gmucs has worked as a press operator at Cleveland’s Gotta Groove Records for about nine years. Now, he's turning the mostly automated process of making vinyl into customized, hand-crafted works of art. 

THE SCENIC ROUTE

The Canton pop rock band The Scenic Route is a family business that’s picking up steam. The six-piece is fronted by 23-year-old founder, Rachel Crozier, and managed by her dad, Brad Crozier, who's been preparing his daughter for big stages for most of her life.

KOFI BOAKYE

This story was originially published on Jan. 31, 2019.

At 15 years old, Kofi Boakye was the youngest black pianist to be enrolled at the University of Akron School of Music's jazz program. 

Now, at 19 years old, he's starting his journey to the Berklee College of Music in Boston.  

Canton Symphony Orchestra

A concert in Canton on September 28 pairs two unlikely genres – indie-folk and classical. This is the fourth time Kent-based band The Speedbumps will perform with The Canton Symphony Orchestra. The collaboration has given many other local musicians a new audience.

Jenn Kidd

Akron recording artist Gabriel Schray, who releases music as G S Schray, has been active in the local music scene for more than 20 years.

The Jam Company

Saxophonist and Kent State University music teacher Chris Coles has spent the past two years creating a performance piece that he hopes will raise awareness about racial injustice. Nine Lives Project tells the story of the 2015 shooting in Charleston, S.C., where a white supremacist killed nine black parishioners at Emanuel AME Church. Coles says it was a turning point in his life.

The eighth annual PorchRokr festival is Saturday in Akron's Highland Square neighborhood. This year 170 artists and bands will perform on porches and stages. The free festival rotates each year among four sections of Highland Square. The music begins at 11 a.m. and concludes with headliners Nathan-Paul & The Admirables at 8 p.m. followed by a silent disco at the Mustard Seed Market and Cafe.

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