Charles Buckley, Staff Writer
The Jackson Lunch Hour Series events have been a Wednesday afternoon staple at Utica College for more than 42 years, but the series cannot be held in-person this semester due to COVID-19. Instead, previously recorded performances are being rebroadcast on WPNR 90.7 FM.
The Lunch Hour Series, which features musicians, poets and authors, is directed by Professor David Moore and is sponsored by the Utica College Social Cultural Committee. Performances are usually held in Library Concourse or Macfarlane Auditorium. This semester, WPNR rebroadcasts past performances at 1 p.m.
Every previous Lunch Hour Series event was recorded and archived so it made rebroadcasting them a viable option, said Doug Croft, WPNR chief operator and station advisor.
“For this semester, we decided to replay them over the radio for the students to listen to, not to mention it allows some who may have missed one to finally hear it,” Croft said.
Assistant Professor of English and Creative Nonfiction Suzanne Richardson typically handles booking authors and poets.
“We work to book published and well-renowned authors through our own academic networks,” Richardson said. “We query them, and they respond if they’re interested or not. We have a small grant that pays visiting authors, but it’s not much, so we rarely can afford big named folks, unless we’ve cultivated a personal relationship with them.”
Alumni Francis Bianco was a frequent attendee of the series. He appreciated the ‘underground’ feeling that the performances brought, noting that the attendance turned out to be older members from the greater community leaving him to be one of the only college students at the performance.
“Most of the people that came to the shows were older, which I thought contributed to a calm atmosphere that enhanced the music,” Bianco said. “It also saved me from having to deal with those younger music fans that don’t like certain genres just because they’re older, which is nonsense.”
The Lunch Hour Series began when the Social Cultural Committee sponsored a series of events in Strebel from 1970-1978. These events brought well-established musicians to Utica and would lead to the series becoming a permanent event.
Some of the artists who performed in the past include Brandon Courtney, Luisa Muradyan, Alena Graedon, the Monk Rowe Trio, Finger Lakes Guitar Quartet and Steven Heyman.
“If I had to pick a favorite performance, it would have to be the one that the Monk Rowe Trio put on last fall semester,” Bianco said. “I’ve always loved jazz, and to see a group of accomplished musicians playing in a smaller venue like the Library Concourse was one I couldn’t pass up. What was especially cool about this particular performance was that they would pick a song and then ask the audience what style of rhythm they should play it in, anything from the traditional swing to a classical waltz.”
Click here for more information about previous or future events from the Jackson Lunch Hour Series.