Rebuilding the community with music and lyrics

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Artists—and that includes songwriters—are often thought of as loners or introverts, and while that may be true for many, artists also crave connection and community. After all, the act of writing a song is a longing to communicate. Now, with the world starting to return to a new normal, we need to begin to rebuild the community that was lost. That’s why, as a singer and songwriter, I’m excited to be a part of the production team for a songwriting contest that will culminate in a live show.  It’s called: If All Rochester Wrote the Same Song.

For this contest, we invite everyone to write a song based on a common title that acts as a songwriting prompt. We’ve all missed out on quite a lot in recent years due to the pandemic, so this year’s title is: “What Did I Miss?”       

Fifteen winning songs will be performed at a live show next March 12.  Entries are due Sept. 30.

From left, Michael Tutino, Steve Piper and Dick Storms perform in If All Rochester Wrote the Same Song, 2020. (Photo by Julie Gelfand)

Prior to the pandemic, this contest and show ran for five years. The first concert, in 2015, was held at Bernunzio’s Uptown Music, a business known for generously supporting local talent. The songwriting prompt that year was “Don’t Go Drinking on an Empty Heart.”  It was such a huge success and we outgrew the venue. More recent concerts were held in the performance hall of the Hochstein School of Music. This year’s show will be held at the JCC Centerstage Theater.

The songs of 15 contestants will be chosen for the live showcase. Each of the selected songwriters will also receive $50.  Our panel of judges—professional songwriters well-known in Rochester’s music scene—will evaluate music and lyrics and confirm that the lyrics take inspiration from the prompt (“What Did I Miss?”). They’ll also aim to curate a balanced show that reflects the diverse talent in Rochester.

In terms of songwriters and songs, we encourage all styles, ages, and points of view. You don’t need to make a professional recording. Remember: the only requirement is that your song is entitled “What Did I Miss?”

Songs can be written for performance by a soloist or a group, with accompaniment or a cappella. Contestants do not need to arrange the songs with instrumentation. We’ll have an excellent house band—with three backup vocalists—and songwriters who are selected for the show will be able to work with the band to create an arrangement.

Lillia Woodbury, left, and Sarah De Vallière perform in If All Rochester Wrote the Same Song, 2020. (Photo by Julie Gelfand)

Finished songs should be sent to [email protected]. Please include lyrics and a demo recording with your submission. You can learn more at or visit us @rochestersongs on Instagram and Facebook.

It’s a long held belief that musicians write one truly great  song in their lifetime only to spend the rest of their time on earth trying to replicate its initial, visceral thrill and impact.

If everyone in Rochester wrote the same song started with a mental explosion in country crooner Jeff Rialles’ head when he got  the idea from king of the airwaves Scott Regan and singer/songwriter Sarah Long Hendershot— now living in Spain — to have Rochester musicians write the same song whether it was a single lyric or a tune straight down to its melody and guts.

The local music glitterati of all genres and stripes gathered  and the show titled “Don’t Go Drinking on an Empty Heart” and this tres cool event was born in 2002, opening the door of this year’s assignment, “What Did I Miss?” It’s not a battle of the bands, rather a hip, hip happening. So start writing and avoid being heard saying “What Did I Miss?” 

–Frank De Blase, Rochester Beacon music writer
Kelly Izzo Shapiro, backstage at If All Rochester Wrote the Same Song, 2020.
(Photo by Julie Gelfand)

As a singer and songwriter, I’ve always loved Rochester’s tight-knit music scene. In 2015, when I came back to Rochester from New York City, I was grateful to be warmly welcomed back into the local music community. I played open mics and coffee houses and met many other musicians (one of whom became my husband). In organizing If All Rochester Wrote the Same Song, my co-producers, Steve Piper and Sarah De Vallière, and I hope to expand that community and make its richness and resources available to even more local artists.

Standing ovation at If All Rochester Wrote the Same Song, 2019. (Photo by Julie Gelfand)

So, we invite you to participate in this year’s If All Rochester Wrote the Same Song. It’s a small but worthwhile step towards reinvigorating our songwriting community, facilitating artistic networking, and having a good time playing the music we love.

Feel free to reach out to us at [email protected] with questions or concerns.

Kelly Izzo Shapiro is a singer and songwriter.  For more of her work, visit She can be reached at [email protected] and [email protected].

The Beacon welcomes comments from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name.

One thought on “Rebuilding the community with music and lyrics

  1. While this effort cannot do any harm, it will not address the issues that require the “rebuilding” of the Rochester Community. I have to applaud the effort, but really,….the issues are not trivial, they are not easily resolved, they require a significant political will and from that standpoint,…. life just passes by. The political, the RCSD, the institutions of higher learning, the business community, health care and the first responders all have to work collaboratively and in unison to get that done. Its a team effort folks and to begin with politics is not a team effort. We have to team members, but lack the coach .You have the aisle and the Parties on either side. The Democrats are completely in control, the Republicans are really spectators at this point. That said, show us how its done Democrats! I’ll give you a list for starters. Education is number one and it is at a crisis level. While there are other items on the list, the only one that really matters is education. That is the foundation for the future or upcoming generation. The RCSD either doesn’t care or is incapable of getting the job done. You can do a verbal dance if you want, but that aint gonna get it done. That job is teaching the way kids learn. Showing them careers and professions. That information then allows kids to identify or connect with those careers and professions. They now realize the goal in those boring academics,…that of connecting the academics, those boring academics, with those opportunities. Until you do that they will continue to drop out by the hundreds. As you can see, realize, that requires a team approach. It requires the coordination of all those who have something to offer in this K-12 journey. First you need a “conductor”, one who realizes that it takes a team. That conductor then needs to connect the dots and conduct the effort. Who is the current conductor? well,..when it comes to education we don’t have one. Without a conductor the “orchestra” doesn’t play.
    In closing, I don’t understand why that can’t be done. Are the kids not worth the effort? Is the attitude that the county kids are doing good and that’s all that counts. Or do the city kids also have equity in the educational journey. Enough said, now get er done.
    Semper Fi.

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