(By Jonathan A. Hochberg)

It has been just about 27 years since I moved back to the region of my birth. Central New York is such a dichotomy of politics, philosophies and religions, it’s sometimes hard to reconcile the differences. And yet, and yet… we all get along. We don’t have earthquakes. We don’t have hurricanes. (I’m talking figuratively as well as literally. Despite our differences, we are a civil people here in the heart of New York State.)

Now, to be clear, when I say “moved back”, that’s a bit ambiguous. In a lot of ways, I never really left. My family home on South Hill in Ithaca has been there since 1955, and I have been back for long stretches over the years between 1964 and 1991 when I called the Big Apple my permanent home. I am and have always been attuned/aligned/in sync with the glacial-carved valleys and hills of the Finger Lakes. Route 17 is familiar to me like the veins on the back of my hands. I love New York, cliche aside, but I especially love the counties that encompass those bodies of water resting in its center.

So, so. I spent the last week and change in Trumansburg, documenting the Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance, my fourth year doing so with this project and my 24th year in attendance. (I missed year 1 due to timing and circumstance, and missed two more years due to the birth of my children.) The growth of this event, in many ways, reflects the evolution of the region’s music scene.

I know there are those who take issue with that. I don’t presume to dispute. Any time something takes up space, it pushes other things aside, and GrassRoots has taken a big part of the region’s music zeitgeist. I understand that those who are marginalized by its impact feel justified in taking the institution to task.

That said, I am in awe of the progress that has been made in the past twenty-seven years – the diversity and inclusiveness, the incredible variety and clear collective desire to bring the world’s music to this little town in the heart of the Finger Lakes, as well as provide a platform on which local musicians can stand toe-to-toe with their peers from across the globe. That is, frankly and unabashed, incredibly awesome.

We look forward to delivering up what coverage we have of the 2017 Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival, and waxing on its relevance. And I welcome your rebuttal (or concurrence) in the comments. Diversity is the key to growth.

– jah

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