Special to The Leader
Each year at its annual induction gala, the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame recognizes and honors natives and residents of Western New York who have proven invaluable to the local music scene. This year’s event will take place on Oct. 2, when 18 new members will be granted membership to this prestigious organization. Amongst these numerous inductees are four Fredonia alumni: Gary Keller, Jeff Miers, David Musial and the late Anne Fadale.
Three of the four alums share a common nativity in Western New York — Keller from Buffalo (raised in East Aurora), Musial from Buffalo and Fadale from Lackawanna. Miers’ beginnings were in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts, but he was raised in Buffalo.
Regardless of their original loci, each of these remarkable individuals has made an indispensable impact upon the music industry, both inside and outside of WNY.
Anne Fadale graduated from Fredonia in 1944, having studied music education during her time here. While her degree did earn her a teaching position in the Lackawanna schools, she resigned and departed after a year in order to commence her career as a professional musician. Paying increasing attention to the incorporation of jazz stylings into her piano playing, Fadale began performing with multiple groups and at multiple venues. Perhaps most notable were her many performances with her sons Bud (bass) and Charlie (drums), during which she enthralled audiences with her skillful and effortless piano capabilities.
Bud has been quoted as stating, “Playing was just as natural to her as breathing.”
Fadale became a regular performer at E.B. Greene’s in Buffalo and was commonly sought after as an accompanist for music acts that had tour stops in Western New York. While Anne’s untimely death in 1990 cut her career short, the musical notes of her many keystrokes float on in the hearts of those that she touched with her music. As she once said, “I think our playing is very genuine and sincere … whatever we play is very straight-ahead and honest.” And, indeed, it was.
Attending Fredonia to study music education, Gary Keller graduated with a Bachelor of Music in 1975. His passion for music was catalyzed during his early years, as music in the media (television, radio, live concerts, etc.) impacted him greatly.
Keller became increasingly involved in the numerous available elementary and high school bands, while his influences — which included Duke Ellington, B.B. King and Count Bassie — continued to shape his jazz and big band swing interests. As time progressed, he branched out from the scholastic music scene, participating in out-of-school bands, as well. However, it was not until his junior year of high school that Keller definitively dedicated his life to music, soon after which he selected his major at Fredonia in accordance with his expectation of becoming a future high school band director.
Keller cites the fact that Fredonia had (and maintains) “an excellent reputation as the top SUNY music school” as one of the central reasons for his choosing to enroll there. After graduating, Keller moved on to attend the University of Miami in Florida, where he participated in one of the first jazz programs in the nation.
Nowadays, Keller accredits his musical interests and involvements — which include Professor of Jazz Studies at the University of Miami and freelance professional musician — to “my fellow students and our group passion for music” at Fredonia. He also attributes his numerous successes to his time spent at Fredonia, in that “it was the right place at the right time for me — [it] challenged me but did not overwhelm my limited musical experience at the time.”
Jeff Miers graduated from Fredonia in 1989, having majored in English and minored in music — two skills that have proven instrumental in shaping his career. Knowing early on that he aspired to be a successful musician, Miers cites the Beatles’ “Let It Be,” Miles Davis’ “Greatest Hits” and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” as the three quintessential albums that provided the true impetuses for his musical passion, which permanently set in in his early teenage years. With regard to his current interests and involvements in the music industry, Miers credits Fredonia with shaping them.
“I met so many fantastic musicians while at Fredonia, learned a lot about sound recording and made friends with musicians who are still key collaborators today … If not for Fredonia, I never would have moved to Buffalo,” said Miers. “My life would be nothing like it is today if not for my time at Fredonia! I learned how to be a writer and how to be a musician while I was there.”
Since then, Miers has performed with a touring band known as The Tails (which he was invited to participate in by close friend and fellow Fredonia alum Nelson Starr.) He has also participated in many other musical ventures and managed a Record Theatre in New York City. He currently serves as a well-known and well-respected music critic for the Buffalo News while also performing with his band Random Abstract, regularly sitting in with numerous regional artists, working with young musicians in the area and much more.
“Music needs to be a passion first and a job second … Integrity is everything. If you lack it, that will show in the music you make,” Miers advises for those seeking a career in music. “I highly recommend studying music theory; it helps to uncover your true musical personality. I recommend playing with as many musicians as possible, preferably ones who are more advanced or skilled than you are at any given time. Listening to music often and being open to a wide variety of music is so helpful, too.”
A member of the Class of 1984, David Musial attended Fredonia as a part of the sound recording program. His first significant musical involvement came when he began studying the organ at seven years old and, by age 10, he had been hired as the full-time organist at his church. From there, Musial’s career exploded.
Despite having attended Erie Community College, SUNY at Buffalo (where he produced his first album), Fredonia, Juilliard School of Music (from which he received a full artistic sponsorship) and New York University (from which he received a full teaching fellowship), Musial states, “Ten years of college full-time, and Fredonia was my favorite! Seriously — I tell everyone this.”
When reflecting upon his time spent at Fredonia, Musial recalls, “I loved every minute of it. Great teachers and students who wanted to be there surrounded me. My classmates were incredible musicians.”
To date, Musial’s numerous accomplishments include (but are not by any means limited to) designing “Daybreak TV Productions” for the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo as its Technical Director, composing the scores for numerous television commercials, performing with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, executive producing “Project 11” (a tribute from the youth of America to the soldiers who have served our country), founding “Smart Trax ®” (which has allowed Musial and artists he has trained to perform in multiple well-known venues) and founding the Music Technology Bachelor’s Program at Stevens Institute of Technology.
When asked what advice he has for the younger generations who wish to pursue a similar career path as his, this seasoned veteran of the music industry simply says, “Follow your musical dreams.”
There is something to be learned from the experiences and words of each one of these exceptional human beings with regard to the Fredonia experience — one must not only learn from his or her classes and professors, but also from the talented and knowledgeable individuals that exist in the form of peers. Keller, Musial and Miers each noted the positive influence that their fellow students had upon them — an occurrence that cannot be mistaken as a coincidence.
The Fredonia community has the ability to nurture each and every one of its members in incredible ways, but it must be allowed to do so. All of the aforementioned individuals did just that, and, apart from everything they have already accomplished, they are now receiving a great honor as part of the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame Class of 2014.