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Rootstock returns Sunday to spotlight local youth musicians

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After a two-year hiatus, the second annual Rootstock Finger Lakes Youth Music Celebration returns to downtown Ithaca on Sunday to showcase the talents of young area musicians.

Co-produced by New Roots Charter School and the GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance, the community celebration will run from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Bernie Milton Pavilion on the Commons.

According to the festival’s mission statement, “Rootstock will facilitate and demonstrate unity by bringing together a diverse array of youth performers not typically in the same spaces. Rootstock is committed to empowering the next generation of artists in the Finger Lakes region.”

To that end, the event will feature more than a dozen acts from ages 13 to 21 from throughout the region, including Afro Newts, Catbirds, CUMEP, Daraisi Dance Company, Gravestone Glue, Jomo Crisologo, LACS Music Committee, Lexx, New American Dream, Nu Vision, Raffles, Twisted Roots, Zakaiah Kasian, and Corey Loveless. Local performers Alan Rose, Mickie Quinn, Kenneth McLaurin, and SingTrece will serve as emcees for the day.

Ian Cummings, who helped to found Rootstock three years ago when he taught music at New Roots, said this year’s event will feature a wide array of performers.

“We've got a jazz group, some soloists, and some bands,” he said. “And I'm really excited that the Community Unity Music Education Program (CUMEP) is going to come and do a performance. That's a group that I've been involved in for more than 10 years since coming to Ithaca, and that was the beginning of my involvement in the community. To be here 10 years later putting on an event that makes space for CUMEP to reach more of the community is really special for me.”

One new twist for this year’s event is that there’s a headlining act: local hiphop artist Corey Loveless, who played the opening set at the inaugural Rootstock, is coming back as a featured alumnus to close out the event.

“He’s a dude who’s really committed to the local scene,” said Cummings, who added that Loveless can serve as an inspirational example as a former Rootstock performer who used the festival to propel his career.

The 24-year-old Loveless, who will release a new album, “Certificate of Appreciation,” next week, is excited to be asked back as the headliner.

“As someone who took part in the very first one back in 2019, I for sure am honored to do that,” he said. “That was my first major show, for a larger audience than like in a bar, and it was absolutely amazing. I met a bunch of people who I ended up working with later on. It was a really good connector between me and a lot of other people within the hip hop community in the area.”

Loveless added that Rootstock can offer an ideal proving ground for aspiring young musicians.

“I think competence, competition, and collaboration are the major things that produce growth for musicians,” he said. "Rootstock is a perfect place for a lot of young people to gather and be aware of the other amazing youth music that's going on in their area, so they can maybe form groups or collaborate more together, and see what other ideas people their age are putting out. It's the most important thing for us youth artists, and also it just gives you great confidence on stage.”

Rootstock will once again run concurrently with the Youth Entrepreneurship Market, which has been “inspiring entrepreneurial thinking since 2017” and will feature more than 20 youth vendors “who have participated in a series of entrepreneurship workshops with mentorship from local entrepreneurs to help guide the launch of their businesses into our community.”

“Through a hands-on learning experience, students bring their ideas to fruition, learning business startup basics from local entrepreneurs and coaches,” according to the YEM website. “‘The market’ is a culmination of business planning woven into the workshop series, where students launch their businesses into the community.”

There also will be food vendors, including a street taco stand run by the farm-to-school team at New Roots Charter School.

After the pandemic caused the cancellation of the past two year’s events, Cummings is glad that Rootstock was able to return this year.

“Thinking about the pandemic, if there's not really a place to play, for a variety of reasons, you're not going to want to play,” he said. “Rootstock was a big thing we did before covid, and now we’re trying to get kids excited about playing music again by giving them this high-quality experience at a great venue like the Bernie Milton Pavilion.”

To learn more, visit the Rootstock event page here.

If You Go

What: Rootstock

When: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, May 22

Where: Bernie Milton Pavilion, The Commons, downtown Ithaca

Cost: free

Event Info

Jim Catalano covers the Finger Lakes music scene for WITH (90.1 FM in Ithaca, WITHradio.org) and its affiliates.