Life » Culture



Age: 26
Occupation: Founder of The Local Sound Collaborative
Current residence: Rochester, NY
Hometown: Victor, NY

The Local Sound Collaborative was born in 2020 as the pandemic was silencing our venues and our musicians. But the need for community support has been bearing down on the arts for a long time.

Barely a year into its existence, Rochester’s Local Sound Collaborative, founded by 26-year-old Ray Mahar, has three goals: to advance musicianship as a career, to connect communities, and to amplify the concept of music as an agent of social change.

“What we’re trying to do basically is create more opportunity for local musicians, in the city of Rochester, in a lot of different ways,” said Mahar.

Mahar, who plays in the local folk-Americana band A Girl Named Genny, is the group’s executive director. The board of directors – all people with connections to the local arts scene – are Zahyia Rolle, Aubrey Baldauf, Kate DeLano, Geoff Dale and Elijah Flynn.

The Collective was born at the dining room table in Mahar’s Rochester home, evolving into a rolling series of conversations among local artists. “We talked to dozens and dozens and dozens, we had more meetings around that table, with a lot of musicians kind of sharing their experiences around it,” Mahar said. “And what everybody kept saying, the overlying theme of those meetings was, ‘it’s just really hard to make a living as a musician right now.’”

They wanted the talk to go beyond dinner-table conversation, so Mahar set up The Local Sound Collaborative as a non-profit, its first move the launching of an artist grants program, which awarded five artists a modest $200 a month for a year.

“I try and push back about it being a pandemic baby,” Mahar said. “But you know, when the shutdowns happened … the Rochester music community, we’re all very connected. We all might have some of our own individual circles and cliques that we tend to stay in, but when this happened it was kind of the big global thing that brought everybody together in different ways.”

Disparities existed in the past, but the pandemic made the connection.

“I don’t talk about our programs in a way that $200 is life-changing money for some of these folks,” Mahar said. “But for a lot of them who are receiving it right now, ‘oh, it’s that extra $200 that’s going to comfortably pay my rent or buy groceries or buy food for my kid.’”

Since launching, the group has also begun a music education program serving about 300 kids, mostly ages two to six, in 10 schools. It has organized pop-up events at venues such as Three Heads Brewing, of which Dale is a co-owner.

“It’s not a cliché when we call it The Local Sound Collaborative,” Mahar said. “It’s been so collaborative in terms of every program, every wording, every messaging that exists, is driven by a collection of voices. It’s not just one individual.”

Rolle said one objective for the Local Sound Collaborative is the elimination of trial and error on the musician’s path.

“The biggest thing that took me a long time to realize is, as a musician, you do have value,” she said. “For a long time, I devalued myself.”

A fundraiser for the group, the “Be Kind Festival,” is set for Oct. 14 at Three Heads Brewing, with non-profit organizations, a raffle and food vendors. For its first fundraiser last year, the goal was $12,000; the event ultimately raised $14,000.

“Creatives have value. The visual arts, music, writers,” said Rolle. “People don’t realize how important these creatives are until they’re gone.”