The Columbia Montour Chamber has created an online program to allow the public to support small businesses that are closed or partially operational due to the Governor Tom Wolf’s order.
ShopColumbiaMontour offers gift certificates for purchase in $10 and $25 amounts for participating member businesses. Restaurants, jewelers, retail shops, and non-profit organizations are offering certificates, with additional businesses being added weekly. Once ordered, gift certificates are emailed to the purchaser for future use. The certificates do not expire. Each gift certificate is specific to a business and has a unique identifier that is provided to the business along with the customer’s name for tracking.
Businesses are forwarded the funds for gift certificate purchases within a week. There are no additional costs or fees for Chamber members to offer certificates. Interested organizations may contact the Chamber at [email protected]columbiamontourchamber.com.
“Local businesses are critical to the health and vibrancy of the area’s economy,” said Fred Gaffney, Chamber president. “They provide local jobs, tax revenue, a diversity of offerings, and support many causes within our communities. We created this program as another way for people to help sustain these valued local businesses from the safety of their homes.”
Celebrating two years of hosting some of the best regional and even national Blues musicians, The Exchange’s Destination Blues Listening Room hits the road at the end of June, traveling to Berwick: At 7 p.m. on Friday the 28th, Ed Randazzo and Bret Alexander will perform at A Perfect Blend Espresso and More, 135 West Front Street.
Several venues in Berwick have hosted musicians during the annual Destination Blues Music Festivals, including the Berwick Theater and Center for Community Arts; now A Perfect Blend rolls out the red carpet for Blues fans – and all music fans – by opening its own intimate “concert hall” for this special evening performance.
As with all Listening Room programs, we ask attendees for a donation at the door, suggested at $5, but we will certainly accept more. Also in common with the Bloomsburg Listening Room, we welcome people of all ages, and BYOB permitted. We would like to make the Berwick Listening Room a regular part of The Exchange’s musical offerings to our community, and the more people who come out for this concert, the more successful we will consider it.
The Exchange has hosted the Listening Room in its storefront art gallery in Bloomsburg on the last Wednesday of every month since July 2017; musicians who have appeared there include Mike MiZ, Bobby Kyle, Vanessa Collier, and more than twenty others. Ed and Bret have performed at the Listening Room, together and separately, as they have also at the Destination Blues Music Festivals.
Ed and Bret have made music together for more than a decade. Bret initially made a name for himself as one of the founders of the Badlees in the 1990s and in recent years has run his own recording studio, while Ed has released solo albums as well as the three with Bret.
In other Exchange Blues news, on Wednesday, the 26th of June, Mystery Trayne will appear at The Exchange, 24 East Main Street in Bloomsburg, in the “regular” Listening Room, and on Wednesday, the 31st of July, the Listening Room will welcome its first international artist, Italy’s Hubert Dorigatti; he represented his home country at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in 2017. For more information about the Listening Room series, visit DestinationBlues.org. On Wednesday, July 10th, the phenomenally-talented high school students in the 3rd Street Blues Band from Williamsport’s Uptown Music Collective will perform in Bloomsburg’s Town Park bandshell at 7 p.m. in a free all-ages show co-sponsored by The Exchange and the Town Park Improvement Association – bring your own chairs and/or blanket.
For more information about the Exchange, visit ExchangeArts.org; contact us at 570-317-2596 or [email protected].
Destination Blues Festival weekend is upon us! The 6th Annual festival will feature more than 25 acts at 18 different venues spanning two counties. No cover charges at any of the performances and all ages are welcome! There will be a shuttle bus among all the venues. Executive Director of The Exchange, Oren Helbok, recently sat down with Erika Funke from WVIA radio to talk more about this great event that is happening in our community this weekend! Give a listen!
An extremely talented saxophonist and female blues musician will be in our area for two exciting gigs this week (and when we say extremely talented, this artist is a 2019 Blues Music Award Nominee for “Best Contemporary Female Blues Artist” and “Instrumentalist of the Year – Horn”, a 5-time BMA Nominee Overall!!) The first performance is a sold out, intimate performance at The Exchange as part of their Destination Blues Listening Room on Wednesday and the second is at the Berwick Brewing Company as part of the Destination Blues Festival this Saturday evening. This performer is none other than Vanessa Collier from Philadelphia, PA.
Vanessa started her music career from humble beginnings. She has been playing sax since she was 9 years old. She is originally from Columbia, Maryland but later moved to Philadelphia after her parents took jobs at the University of Delaware. Vanessa attended college at Berklee College of Music and in-between semesters she toured with Joe Louis Walker for a year and a half. It was through this tour that she was first introduced to Central PA through the Billtown Blues Festival. While on tour Joe encouraged her to strike out on her own. And strike out she did. From the Billtown Blues Festival, Vanessa went on to compete with her band at a local competition that sent her off to Memphis with two other bands. While in Memphis, she had fun packing out Club 52 for three consecutive nights. From Memphis, she participated in a Blues Cruise and was further connected with the great Blues musicians in the scene.
Her connection to Bloomsburg is all thanks to Bonnie Tallman, the Executive Director of the Billtown Blues Fest. Vanessa first started out at Destination Blues by playing the Gospel Sunday part of the Festival. Since that gig in 2015, she has been coming back for the past four years. She considers Central PA to be her home-base.
This year Vanessa will be starting things out at The Exchange on Wednesday evening with a much more intimate performance where it’s all about the music, nothing else. The Listening Room performance will feature Vanessa and phenomenal guitar player Arthur Neilson. This is the first time she’ll be playing with Arthur. Vanessa enjoys the intimate gigs as it provides more opportunity to experience the vocals and she feels more connected to the crowd. Those lucky enough to get a ticket before the event sold out are in for an amazing musical performance.
Following The Listening Room, Vanessa will be headed to Berwick to The Berwick Brewing Company for a lively performance featuring her full band starting at 8:30 PM on Saturday, March 2nd. There is no cover for this event it is part of the 5th annual Destination Blues Festival that features 25 acts across 18 venues in Bloomsburg, Berwick, and Danville.
When Vanessa is not on stage, she teaches saxophone, voice and music theory. While we were interviewing Vanessa, she jokingly stated: “Even the best artists have to teach.” She really enjoys teaching as it’s a way for her to give back to the community and bring up the next generation of musicians. Her teaching has fluctuated from ten students in the beginning to as many as thirty-five last year. Presently she teaches twenty-four students as a way to find that perfect work/touring/life balance.
Vanessa is really a great example of how hard work and collaboration can take you far. It’s through her willingness to partner up with other musicians or simply just tag along as a way to network and get more connected in the industry. Her stubbornness and focus on her vision for what she is after have led her to great things. In 2017 she was voted the most popular Briggs Farm act and was a featured artist in three major tours across Europe as part of Ruf’s 2017 Blues Caravan. Also at the Ottawa Blues Festival, she earned two front-page newspaper photos and rave reviews after her foot stomping debut there. She’s played the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise twice, where she earned the Jammingest Pro Award and was a featured artist with Tommy Castro’s Blues Review. If you have an opportunity to see Vanessa this weekend, I highly suggest you head on out to the Berwick Brewing Company.
On Saturday, March 2nd, 2019, Columbia & Montour Counties will heat up with the sixth annual Destination Blues Music Festival, produced by The Exchange. In our first five years, following in the footsteps of the nearby Briggs Farm Blues Festival and Billtown Blues Festival, we have helped put our two-county region on the Blues map, and once again we will show visitors and local residents alike a great time at “Your Winter Blues Heaven on Route 11”. We have made exciting changes this year as we present a one-day Festival at 18 venues.
Thanks to the vision of the commissioners in both Columbia and Montour Counties, the Blues have a good home in our region,” says Oren B. Helbok, executive director of The Exchange. “Thousands of people from throughout Pennsylvania, as well as eight other states and the District of Columbia, have enjoyed the first five Festivals, and we will show them another great time this year.”
As an event founded to bring business to hotels, restaurants, brewpubs, and bars in Berwick, Bloomsburg, and Danville during the winter, the Festival has made these venues its sole focus this year. Performances by national and regional artists will take place all day and through the evening, with rising star Vanessa Collier at Berwick Brewing; regional sensation Swampcandy at Bloomsburg’s West End Ale Haus; and northeastern Pennsylvania’s own Dustin Douglas & The Electric Gentlemen at Rock God Brewing in Danville.
Other performers and venues include Bobby Kyle, who has traveled the world playing the Blues, with his band The Administers at Bloomsburg’s Study Bar; the Phyllis Hopkins Trio at a venue new to the Festival, Rolling Pines Golf Course, between Berwick and Bloomsburg; Dan Hess at Bandit’s Roadhouse in Berwick; JT Thompson and AC’s Soul Medicine at Old Forge Brewing in Danville; John Sweeney and Friends at Danville’s Pine Barn Inn; Nate Myers and Tom Rosencrans, JP Williams, and the Gabe Stillman Band at the Lightstreet Hotel; and Tom Graham at Marley’s Brewery and Grille. Downtown Bloomsburg will also host Stacia Abernatha and Sean Farley at The Exchange; Bret Alexander and Nyke Van Wyk at Rose Marie’s; Sweeney & Rosencrans and Benjamin Vo at Fog & Flame; John Sweeney & Mike Hickey, Chris LaRose and Dave Brown & The Dishonest Fiddlers at Filet 18; and Suzanne the Plan at Endless Records.
For the first time, the Festival venues will include the Berwick Theater and Center for Community Arts, with an all-ages, family-friendly concert by Gabe Stillman and the 3rd Street Blues Band from Williamsport, on Saturday afternoon. First Columbia Bank & Trust sponsors this Young Artist performance by students and graduates of Williamsport’s Uptown Music Collective.
In the later afternoon and evening, free, convenient, scheduled bus transportation by Susquehanna Limo will run among all of the venues and participating hotels in both counties. For more information on the full line-up, including the times of all performances, and hotel specials, visit Facebook.com/ColumbiaMontourBluesFest and DestinationBlues.org. Other Festival sponsors for 2019 include Columbia County, Montour County, and PPL. Richard Briggs of the Briggs Farm Blues Festival does the Festival booking.
For more information about the Exchange, visit ExchangeArts.org; contact us at 570-317-2596 or [email protected]
A new sound is coming to a local coffee shop in the Berwick area thanks to community member Josh Nespoli. This Saturday, January 19th from 7-9pm, the A Perfect Blend coffee shop, located at 135 West Front Street, in Berwick will welcome blues musicians Ed Randazzo and Dustin Douglas to the stage for an intimate, acoustic event. Admission is just a $5 donation and BYOB is permitted.
The event titled the “Destination Blues Listening Room in Berwick” is actually an extension of a regular event that happens monthly in Bloomsburg at The Exchange Gallery. The Exchange has been hosting blues concerts in their gallery space for over a year and a half. The event is quite simple, musicians put on intimate concerts without all the glitz and distractions, it is just the musicians, the audience, and the music. The Exchange hopes this venture into Berwick is the starting point for a regular, recurring event in their beautiful downtown.
We sat down with Josh Nespoli who is responsible for setting everything up, and will actually be celebrating his birthday on the evening of the show. Here is what he had to say:
Art of PA: So how did bringing the Destination Blues Listening Room to Berwick come about?
Josh: Berwick has always held a special place in my heart. I grew up here, went away to college, and eventually moved back in 2014 and have been here ever since. I’ve fallen in love with the downtown and wanted to bring something special to the area. The stars had to align in order to bring the Destination Blues Listening Room to Berwick. I’ve been a board member of The Exchange in Bloomsburg for about a year and a half now and have always wanted to bring one of their staple events, The Listening Room, closer to home. In order for the pilot to work we had to have the right venue, the right musicians, the funding had to be in place, and the timing had to be right. Everything seems to be coming together for a terrific evening of music on January 19th.
AoP: Can you tell me a little bit more about the musicians performing? Have you seen them before?
Josh: The two musicians performing are Dustin Douglas and Ed Randazzo. Dustin is from Wilkes Barre and Ed is from West Pittston. This is the first time they’ll be playing together as a duo. I first saw Dustin play with his band Dustin Douglas & The Electric Gentlemen at the Destination Blues Festival at the Caldwell Consistory last year and they were absolutely amazing. They capture the vibe of late 60’s and 70’s with blues-laced rock-n-roll. Dustin is a former member of the legendary Pennsylvania rock band, The Badlees. I later saw Ed at a Listening room held at The Exchange gallery. It was the second listening room I ever attended and was absolutely blown away by Ed’s fantastic voice and enjoyed his hilarious and chill vibe which is perfect for a listening room. In 2015, Ed won a Steamtown Music Award for Blues/Rhythm & Blues Act of the Year. I’m excited to see what these two musicians bring to the listening room when they come together.
AoP: Can you tell me more about the venue? Why did you choose A Perfect Blend to host the Listening Room?
Josh: A Perfect Blend is a staple of downtown Berwick. They are a community oriented coffee shop and gathering place that features local artists and even encourages their patrons to decorate the ceiling tiles with their own flare and pizazz. Recently the space expanded to include “Beyond the Blend” which is a co-op farmers market and artisan marketplace offering a variety of unique items for sale. The coffee shop has a small stage and is the perfect setting for an intimate evening of blues music. The space has limited seating so it may be standing room only for this Listening Room.
AoP: So if the event on Saturday goes well, do you think this could turn into a regular occurring event?
Josh: Absolutely. We are trying to replicate the success that is happening in Bloomsburg and bring it here to downtown Berwick. My personal goal is to see 50 people in attendance on Saturday. That would make my birthday extra special as I’d love to be able to bring great musicians into my favorite coffee shop every month. It’s also a great precursor to the Destination Blues Fest which has expanded into our town and features four great performances at local spots like Bandit’s Roadhouse, Berwick Brewing Co., the Berwick Theater, & Rolling Pines.
AoP: I understand the proceeds of the event benefit two local non profits, can you elaborate on where the money goes and how it impacts the community?
Josh: Yes, we are asking for a $5 donation at the door. The proceeds go towards two great non-profits that are near and dear to my heart: The Exchange, and For the Cause. The Exchange has been a real proponent in bringing art to the community, which is crucial to the success of any town. They are responsible for running The Exchange Gallery, help host the Destination Blues Festival, bring the Art Cart to childcare centers and nursing homes, host ArtFest and Boo!burg in downtown Bloomsburg, and are the main reason the artofpa.org site exists.
For the Cause was actually a personal project I started with my brothers Marc and Jon. For The Cause has a mission to make Columbia and Luzerne counties a region of pride; where our communities thrive as they live, work and play. To date For the Cause has raised over $100,000 for local heath initiatives, currently delivers about 5,000 meals a week to local students, and opened a teen center about a year ago. Since it opened, the Teen Center has been providing programs and a safe space for nearly 300 teens on a monthly basis.
AoP: This sounds like an event not to miss, and the icing on top is that it supports two great causes. Where can we find more information?
Josh: You can find all of the event info on The Exchange’s Facebook page. I can’t wait to see everyone on Saturday, January 19th from 7:00 – 9:00 at A Perfect Blend in Berwick!
In case you can’t wait until Saturday, here are a few videos of the performers to hold you over.