Monday, February 18th, 2019

Bucks for Buskers

Posted on November 12, 2016 in Arts & Culture
By USM Free Press

By Dionne Smith, Free Press staff

Portland isn’t as big as New York City or Boston, but Portland has talent too! There are a lot of buskers in Portland who like to just sit outside and play their instruments, and people who like the music will give the players money. I had the pleasure of interviewing a few people who feed into the flavor of Portland by busking.

The first person I had interviewed is someone in my own house! He describes me as his quasi-adopted big brother, and I see him as my older god brother (he’s older than me by two months). His name is Ben Rooker. He’s 18 and goes to SMCC. Ben is currently listening to alternative music, shoegazing and other kinds of out-there music. He says he has a very wide variety of what he listens to, just not country music. In comparison to what he listens to, he plays alternative rock, indie rock and progressive music. Ben has been out busking a few times, and he says his motivation is that he enjoys performing for people and that’s why he started going out and busking. He also likes the idea of joining a band just so people can hear his music, not so much as a get-rich plan. Ben also likes to go busking with people because there isn’t a lot of pressure directly on him, and since he’s only done it a handful of time it can give  him support and be comforting. Ben has played at one open mic at Port Con and had done multiple performances at his high school. He says he intends to play in college the same way he played in high school. Ben believes that first-time buskers need to just go out and just do it but be be courteous of other players. I went and busked with Ben once about two years ago: He was on guitar and I was on drums and it was really fun seeing people turn their heads in their cars coming down Commercial Street, and getting money for it was satisfying.

` My next interview was not with just one busker, it was an entire band of four. On a First Friday Art Walk, my family and I were walking around, and we saw one of Ben’s friends playing. Later on I got in contact with him and was able to interview the whole band. The band’s name is Million Dollar Lounge and consists of Calvin Stanley, who is 20, goes to USM and plays guitar and does vocals; Kyle Ross, who is 19, goes to MECA and plays bass; Vinny Amoroso, who is 19, went to NC state and transferred to SMCC and plays drums; and Ansel Hoecker, who is 17, goes to South Portland High School and plays guitar. Their band’s name was put together because they were thinking of a name and Vinny suggested something with lounge to connect with the type of music they play, and when they were busking a homeless man who was speaking in Spanish thought they were millionaires because of all the money they had, so Million Dollar Lounge was created. Everyone but Kyle went to the same high school, and Calvin was into songwriting and making music, so Calvin and Vinny got together and started having jamming sessions, then Ansel joined later on. Kyle joined because Calvin worked with his girlfriend and Kyle’s girlfriend told Calvin that Kyle plays bass. First Friday on September 2nd 2016 was their first performance together as a band, but everyone else had busked before then. They play a form of indie-jazz pop. The jazz influences are from Calvin and Vinny, who were in a jazz band, and Calvin enjoys indie rock music such as Mild High Club. This band likes to be original. They enjoy watching people’s reaction and want their music to be heard. Their goal however is to one day be good enough to make enough money to live off their music so they can focus on practicing and getting better.

My next interview was with someone who goes to USM as well. His name is Cody Mason, and he’s 18 on Sept. 27th. He loves music so much that he is a music education major. He’s been playing since sixth grade, and he took such an interest in it back then that he taught his underclassmen music and he loved it, so he decided to make that his career. Cody played the saxophone for about eight years and the guitar for about two. He says he auditioned for the USM School of Music by using his saxophone, but then re-auditioned with the guitar and got into the classical guitar major. He also likes to listen to any genre of music, but he mainly listens to things that are heavier, or that are classical guitar pieces, which is also the type of music that he plays. He hasn’t gone out and busked in Portland yet, but he says that he plans to soon and is excited about doing it, and will be busking with his friend who  plays the fiddle. Cody plans on donating the money he makes from busking to help fund a trip to Atlantic City for the music education majors next semester. He has no form of publicized music out, but he plans on having some out in the future.

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