Keeping the music alive in Syracuse

Larry Luttinger in downtown Syracuse's Jazz Central.

Larry Luttinger in downtown Syracuse’s Jazz Central.

Talk about a tough job.

Larry Luttinger is executive director of Central New York Jazz. That’s an arts foundation in Syracuse that’s tied to public and private money. Government spending on the arts has dropped because of the economy. Corporate spending on the arts had dropped because of the economy.

Luttinger is convinced that the city of Syracuse and its surrounding counties need the festivals and programs CNY Jazz has presented the last 20 years. He’s also a professional drummer, playing for the organization’s flagship Central New York Jazz Orchestra — and the former Syracuse Symphony Orchestra. That’s just part of how and why he knows music and the arts is so important to the fabric of life.

The tale of the CNYJO and more are covered in an interview I had with Luttinger this week. You can read my Mark It Up column by clicking the link below.

below. (The Syracuse Symphony Orchestra went bankrupt, by the way, and was replaced by a leaner Syracuse Symphoria. But that’s a whole other tale, perhaps for another time.)

CNY Jazz, meanwhile, stages a three-day, free-admission Jazz and Wine Festival downtown, and many other events by forging partnerships.

One of the programs Luttinger is proudest of is a summer camp for high school and junior high school musicians fun at the New York State Fair. This will be its 15th year.

Here’s a YouTube video about CNY Jazz’s summer music camp.

What free music events are you aware of in your area, and do you know how they’re funded? Did you take music lessons in junior high or high school, or attend a summer camp, and if so, what did you gain from the experience? What’s the best free event you ever attended, and why?

22 thoughts on “Keeping the music alive in Syracuse

  1. Hmm, those are tough questions! I was a drummer one year in junior high. I can’t think of the best free event I’ve attended. And my city doesn’t have anything musically good that I know of. :/


  2. That photo of Larry really is great…. Sitting in the midst of the red chairs…. And he sounds awesome! The arts really are crucial to all cities and glad Syracuse has this… ๐Ÿ˜‰


  3. Syracuse and Onondaga County have a large number of free music festivals. I was actually surprised when I moved elsewhere and you have to pay to attend Jazz Festivals, etc. I also was unpleasantly surprised to find out other county library systems aren’t nearly as good as Onondaga. One of the perks of moving back home, I guess. ๐Ÿ™‚ I don’t like that a lot of the festivals have moved away from downtown, though. The city seems to have shot itself in the foot on a number of occasions by making it more difficult for cultural events (and let’s not even get into the monstrosity of the mall killing downtown commerce).

    Buffalo, NY also has some really good free concerts. We were thinking of making a trip out there for ArtPark’s Lindsay Sterling concert this summer.


  4. My son was just saying last night that he doesn’t want to go to any summer camps this year, unless it’s a jazz camp. I can’t find one anywhere close to us. Syracuse is pretty far, too. Good for Luttinger!


  5. I just love music and it’s so good for the brain if you can play it. I played the clarinet in fourth grade. Sadly, it didn’t last because my music teacher was mean and she scared me! She spit on me, Mark. Seriously, I was the dancer, but the rest of my family played music…the clarinet, trumpet, sax and flute all represented! We used to go all these band competitions. They were a lot of fun. Now my kids play the baritone and piano. I hope this program continues in your state.


    • That’s an awful teacher, Amy, spitting on a student! Can you imagine what would happen if a teacher did that today? Oh, my!! It’s great that you became a dancer, though, and the rest of your family played on, with band competitions. Sounds like it was great fun, and rewarding, too. Your kids carrying on is fantastic. My daughter played flute in band and marching band and sang in chorus. I’m so appreciative of that, too, my friend. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Gosh. Mark, free music events…not sure if I can come up with one although of course there are affordable classes and the Rock School Scholarship Fund, which I work with for my kids and others, helps. Hey, you know, I did take my son and his friend to a metal show last weekend that was totally free and really fun actually. I was expecting that cookie monster metal but it was all these young kids playing old school style, Iron Maiden type metal. It was great to see.


      • Thanks. Yes, funny enough there was a metal promotor who’s been around for years and I kind of knew of her but never knew her. Anyway, apparently she’s the one putting on the shows but I was just so happy to see it done old school style!


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