By KYLIE POWERS
Saint Rose has been full of excitement for music students as of late. The last rounds of voting for the Rose Rock concert in spring are underway, and the Rose Record Label Gala in Jack’s Place of the Hearst Building was another success. However, one haven for Saint Rose music fans since the beginning of the semester, even before these, has been the open mics at Pauly’s Hotel, Albany’s oldest tavern and a local music venue. One Saint Rose student, Conor Walsh, is determined to keep the place buzzing.
Walsh is a freshman music industry student, initially hailing from Dutchess County, New York. He has a concentration in vocal performance, and plays guitar and some piano. With a catalog of 28 songs, Walsh has been known to perform almost anywhere, but has been working with Pauly’s Hotel on Central Avenue to keep their new open mics running smoothly.
Describing his style as pop rock or soft rock, Walsh began with his passion for music as early as the fourth grade, and later progressed to guitar lessons.
Like many young musicians, he began with school and community talent shows, even hosting small concerts in his school cafeteria that he and friends would call “Walsh Wednesdays.” With his friends and classmates cheering him on, the small, encouraging setting of the high school venue prepped him for performing later in Albany.
“You don’t get more intimate than a high school cafeteria,” he says with a chuckle. When reflecting on the songwriting skills he’s been honing since age 10, he said, “each song is your little baby, and you want to do something with it.” Although, he’s apparently written many more than 28, with some he may not play at a set just yet.
Walsh is one of the many devoted musicians here at Saint Rose within our flourishing music program.
What Walsh had the great opportunity to do lately is to work with a venue outside the Saint Rose community, no easy feat for a new freshman student.
Performing at a non-school or local venue is commonplace for someone like Walsh, who has worked other open mics, weddings and even opened for a political rally in the past. However, he stumbled upon Pauly’s Hotel through a Google search for new venues once he made it up to Albany.
When contacting the owner, Jon Mancini, he was hoping for maybe a chance to be an opening act at the local music venue. What came instead was a job interview, and then later, an offer to host and set up the open mics.
The goal was to bring in more Saint Rose students, with more exposure for the open mics on Sundays and Thursdays. While promoting this, Walsh is also able to get more exposure for himself, creating a two-way street for him to promote the venue as well as himself.
Walsh has seen this opportunity as part of his journey to adjusting to college life and life in Albany. Starting in October, he has been promoting Pauly’s Hotel. He manages and hosts Thursday and Sunday evening shows, with the Thursday night open mics being his main focus to bring more people into.
“We’re working hard with that,” he says on trying to get the Thursday night crowd growing, but he says he appreciates that he’s seen the Sunday evening shows growing as well.
It’s been a great opportunity for him to see whoever comes in and to learn from other musicians who perform.
When asked about the types of audiences who come in, he said, “We are getting people who are from different walks of life. We’re getting from seniors to freshman. All kinds of people, different majors…”
Music, he feels, has truly brought people together, especially in a creative area like Pauly’s Hotel, where open mics allow different voices and artistic ideas to flow.
“Music truly is the international language. Music can express emotions better than any other language on the earth. It’s impressive how it can bring people together and that’s what I’m really trying to do with my work there at Pauly’s,” he said.
Typically, what happens for Walsh as he manages a show is he opens the open mic session, with signups at 8 p.m. and then the actual show at 8:30 p.m.
After opening, he will typically play three to four songs of his own, and then introduce the other acts. “Pauly’s Hotel has a lot of different artists, a lot of good things come out of there. There is so much opportunity to go out there,” he notes. The excitement is contagious, he explains; everyone at Pauly’s Hotel can be part of the show and he feels that “you never know what’s going to happen. I always feel I have something new every time I go there.”
One of the artists Walsh could be referring to is Christine Bile, a sophomore social work major at Saint Rose with her own musical background.
Once a music minor as well, she dropped her minor so she can remain on track to graduate early, but still takes music classes. Like Walsh, she has been performing in talent shows and local open mics in her hometown of Pittsfield, Massachusetts since an early age.
Also similar to Walsh, Bile has hosted open mics in her hometown and interned as an events coordinator at a summer camp for musically gifted kids. She heard about Pauly’s Hotel from being associated with the Low Beat, another local music venue, and was contacted by Walsh for a Feb. 19 show.
With a background in voice, guitar, piano and ukelele, and a musical style that ranges from pop-rock to alternative, Bile has also found a home in performing at Pauly’s Hotel.
She feels shows like those at Pauly’s Hotel are experiences for artists to “expand their technique,” and that the venue is very open. She noted that it’s also a great experience to connect with others as well as observe fellow artists. As a solo act as of now, Bile said she feels inspired by those at Pauly’s Hotel when she watches a show.
One other performer working alongside Walsh and Bile is Don Ferlazzo, a communications graduate from Ithaca College and a member of the band Nick Sweet Six. Also invited by Walsh to be one of the performers on Feb. 19, Ferlazzo explained he had been writing songs on guitar and singing since high school, but was hesitant to play them for anybody.
Later, when he got the bug after college, he began writing music and producing his own songs while working also at the New York News Publishers Association.
Ferlazzo met Walsh recently by performing at Jack’s Place in the Hearst building, and the two kept in contact and later invited Bile as their third act for the gig.
Recognizing Pauly’s Hotel as a historically significant music venue, Ferlazzo said it was on his “bucket list” of local venues to play at and will be crossing that off with this upcoming gig in which he will be performing without his band.
What Ferlazzo appreciates about Pauly’s Hotel is that it is the kind of place that in which creativity can flourish, while opening variety for others to “check out new artists or their friends” as they perform. Similar to Bile and Walsh, Ferlazzo described his music style as pop-rock with a bit of a 1990s pop rock edge.
What has helped spread the word of Pauly’s Hotel recently has been Walsh’s presence on social media, specifically Facebook. He has been known to flood newsfeeds with event invites and posts in which he plugs the shows and asks people to come down for the night.
When asked about the importance of networking for musicians, Walsh noted that promotion is “critical” for emerging artists. It may, as he explained, make it or break it for either a fantastic artist or a mediocre artist. Bile, when asked, agreed, saying it leads to more connections for artists. Ferlazzo added that it is “critical and imperative” for musicians to be networking, especially at places like Pauly’s Hotel.
Although managing an open mic night as a freshman student may be a large workload to take on, Walsh is tackling getting ready for gigs for Pauly’s Hotel with flair. He said that initially it was hard for him, especially last semester, to balance work at the venue with his classwork as a student.
“As long as I can do my work with a smile and still go out with my friends, then everything is looking great for me,” Walsh said. And to anyone looking to perform or attend a show at Pauly’s, especially the upcoming ones, he said, “Hit me up!”
Pauly’s Hotel is located on 337 Central Avenue, and is open seven days a week. It is $5 for anyone 21 or up, and $8 for anyone 18 to 20. The concert being hosted by Conor Walsh, Don Ferlazzo, and Christine Bile will be from 5 to 8 p.m. on Feb. 19.