Thursday, August 23, 2012

Who is Northeast Ohio?

The question of which artists “belong” to Northeast Ohio is not as simple as it sounds.  Depending on the yardstick we use, we can extend the possible number to extremes or narrow it to the point of triviality.  At one end of the spectrum, for example, place-based musical organizations are prime targets:  The Cleveland Orchestra, the Akron Symphony, and the Ohio Light Opera should be unquestionably included.  At the other end, many artists come to the region to record for Telarc, Azica, or some other record label who have no other connection to the region.  It seems appropriate to exclude them entirely.  Others fall in between, and reasonable people can disagree about where to draw these lines.  For example, is it appropriate to include an artist such as Marilyn Manson, who left the area after tenth grade (although members of his family still live in the region)?  We needed a classification scheme to guide us. Forgive me, I am a librarian, and I love to classify.

1. Place-based entities:  Those that by definition are associated with the region.  Examples include the above-mentioned organizations as well as the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, the Mahoning Valley Button Box Club, and Burning River Brass.

2.  Artists associated with Hiram College or the village of Hiram and nearby vicinity.  These include faculty members who record (Randall Fusco, piano), as well as alumni such as Michael Stanley, and very local artists such as Crypts of Paris (rock) and Foster Brown (folk/children’s music).

3.  Artists who were born in the region, attained regional popularity, and have stayed largely within the region (except to tour).  Examples include Ernie Krivda (jazz), Alex Bevan (folk), and many bands such as Hillbilly Idol (rock), Yiddische Cup (klezmer), Brigid’s Cross (Irish), and the Hank Haller Ensemble (polka).

4.  Artists who were born in the region and attained fame elsewhere, but live locally, maintain roots in the region or who regularly return to play locally.  Examples include Joe Lovano (jazz), Sean Jones (jazz), and Chrissie Hynde (the Pretenders).  These are included in the collection, and are likely to be reviewed.

5.  Artists who were born or achieved some fame in the region, but left for greener pastures.  Their continued connection to the region is unknown.  Examples include Anne E. DeChant (left for Nashville), and Mystery of Two (left for Brooklyn).  These have been included in the collection, but future releases may not be included, depending upon circumstances.

6.  Artists who were born in the region, left before they achieved fame, but whose continued connection to the region is tenuous or unknown.  These are often artists who are touted as “from Cleveland” or “from Canton,” but who seldom perform in the area.  This category includes a wide variety of artists, including Nine Inch Nails, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, and Tracy Chapman.  These are included on a case-by-case basis.  In the words of one student, “If you leave out all the famous musicians, all you have left are the ones nobody cares about.”  While we disagree with the facts, we also sympathize with the “favorite son/favorite daughter” thinking implied in the statement.  

7.  Artists who were born elsewhere, but who live and are employed in the region.  These include members of area orchestras, faculty members of universities and colleges in the region, and occasional other individuals.  Examples include Richard King, Principal Horn for the Cleveland Orchestra (born in New York), and Robert Lockwood, Jr. blues artist (born in Arkansas).  

8. Deceased artists who people may no longer associate with the region, such as Henry Mancini or Vaughan Monroe.
Some other artists are simply difficult to categorize.  Joe Walsh is a excellent example.  Born in Wichita, Kansas, he began playing in bands while attending Kent State University.  His initial fame came with the James Gang, then Barnstorm, both Northeast Ohio bands.  He joined the Eagles in 1975 to considerable success.  Both Kansas and Ohio could claim him, as well as California to some extent.  We include his James Gang and Barnstorm output, as well as solo albums, but would not include his Eagles-related material as germane.

We'll keep working on it.

Jeff Wanser

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