I arrived in Buffalo, NY for the first time July of 2008 with Chaela Herridge-Meyer and Whitney Henry-Lester. We were working for StoryCorps, a national oral history project in partnership with the Library of Congress and National Public Radio. Our mission was to record roughly 150 stories over the course of six-weeks. During our time in Buffalo we ate our weight in pie, beef on weck, Buffalo wings and pizza. On our days off we heard a lot of music: home town heroes on stage at Thursdays In The Square, banjo players and beat boxers on the street corners, the sound of saxophone drifting through the air during the Queen City Jazz Festival and all-night jam sessions at Nietzsche’s.
We noticed that the music found its way into the stories of the people we heard during our weeks of recording for StoryCorps. One woman from Tonawanda talked with her college-bound son about one of the first real Rock concerts she remembered attending. Another woman came in with her daughter and remembered her sister who didn’t just fight for her life in the shadow of illness but who danced for her life in the good and bad times. Some folks recounted stories of ballroom dancing on the boat to Crystal Beach. One thing was certain, for people in Buffalo, music wasn’t just entertainment, it was a touchstone, a thread that connected families and communities.
Our six-weeks in Buffalo flew by and we realized that, despite the generosity of Buffalonians who opened their homes and shared their lives and stories, we had barely scratched the surface of the city. We vowed to return one day and delve just a little bit deeper. We made good on that vow two years later in July 2010. This time though, we had some help from our friends Carl Scott and Nina Porzucki. The five of us came up with the idea of using the musical culture of the city as a springboard for exploring the personal stories of its citizens. The stories we found convey a lot of the things we loved about Buffalo from those initial six weeks in 2008, and more things we’ve come to love with each visit since.
We hope Sounds & Echoes: A Musical Portrait of Buffalo, NY conveys the themes of love, loss, community, legacy, and of course, hospitality that we identify with this great city and its people. The six stories that make up Sounds & Echoes still barely scratch the surface but that’s okay. It’s great to know a place that will always have new songs to sing and new stories to tell. Its great to always have more reasons to come back and listen.