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Local music on the airwaves: New Music Alliance features local bands and artists on area radio stations

  • Mandy Pachios, at left, and David Sokol are DJs with the New Music Alliance Radio Show on Valley Free Radio in Florence.  Staff Photo/Chris Goudreau

  • Mark Sherry is the executive director of the New Music Alliance and also organizes the bi-monthly Valley Music Showcase, a competition between local bands and artists.  Staff Photo/Chris Goudreau

  • Mark Sherry, Mandy Pachios and David Sokol all serve as DJs on the New Music Alliance radio show, which only plays local and regional music.  Staff Photo/Chris Goudreau



Staff Writer 
Thursday, October 31, 2019

The New Music Alliance, a nonprofit group that promotes western New England as a destination for local original music, formed more than a year ago. Now the nonprofit has created a syndicated radio program, with six hosts across four stations in the region, that’s strictly dedicated to local music. 

Aside from the radio show, the New Music Alliance (NMA) also hosts shows, music competitions, musician workshops, and other programs. But as Mark Sherry, the group’s executive director, sees it, the radio program is a continuation of NMA’s mission to promote a diverse range of local music —  from rock and folk to jazz, funk, blues and everything in between — across the airwaves in western Massachusetts.

There are also plans to expand to a fifth station in Connecticut.  

By syndicating the program on public radio stations such as Valley Free Radio in Florence, WMND in North Adams, WMCB-LP in Greenfield, and WCCH 103.5 at Holyoke Community College, NMA is able to send out local music across the region to create new music fans, members say.

“A lot of the stations are very happy to embrace the mission we have, which is to highlight all of this region’s incredible talent and bring the region together,” Sherry said. 

Mandy Pachios, lead vocalist with vintage soul band the Mary Jane Jones and a newer DJ with the Alliance’s radio show, doesn’t see NMA promoting local music for personal gain. 

“I assume that it’s because we’ve watched local music die in the Valley, because people didn’t find out about it and it wasn’t appreciated enough,” she explained. “I have, over the last 20 years, seen a lot of that … It’s just about building up the local music scene and helping it thrive.” 

David Sokol, a NMA board member who, along with Pachios and Sherry, serves as a DJ with the organization’s radio show, was also a co-host for “Sokol Heroes” — a show on WRSI 93.9 The River with his son Michael that featured original local music dating back to the 1960s to the present. The duo played more than 1,000 artists on that program during its three-year run, which ended last year.

“A lot of the artists that we played on Sokol Heroes, in the shows that I program, I try to put those artists in,” David Sokol noted. “It’s the same concept: trying to play brand-new music and focus on really good music in this area.” 

Just last week, Sokol and Pachios played a diverse selection of local artists that included international oud player Aliya Cyon and the New Andalus, dream pop band Cousin Moon, indie rock/power pop group Bunk, The Mary Jane Jones, legendary rock band NRBQ, pop band The Glad Machine, and power pop group The Sighs. 

“I’m a big fan of great musicianship and good singing, and really good songs,” Sokol explained. “We played Cousin Moon, who are musicians’ musicians, and John Sheldon, a great local songwriter … I played a song by Bunk. I love their melodic, pop kind of sensibility.” 

As part of the programming, Sokol said he always plays female artists or bands half of the time. 

Most of the feedback he receives from the radio shows is from local musicians, Sokol said. 

“They’re just really, really happy there’s a place where their songs can be heard,” he added. “Historically, there’s not a lot of opportunity for that … It’s kind of a validation of what they’re doing.” 

Sherry is also founder and lead organizer of the Valley Music Showcase, a bi-monthly competition featuring bands and singer-songwriters from across western New England. The series is now in its fourth year and will conclude its 2019 season on Dec. 6 at Club One in Agawam, starting at 7:30 p.m. 

Through the music showcase and the New Music Alliance, Sherry thinks Valley musicians have been able to build bridges between music scenes further afield in Connecticut and Vermont. 

“We’re not in a metro area. You guys have your scene, we have our scene,” Sherry said. “But there’s no reason why we can’t be together and help each other out, because nobody else is going to. [Musicians are] starting to come around and realize that, ‘Yeah, we can forge that connection.’ ” 

The lineup for the Dec. 6 Showcase includes five competing acts: Americana/indie rockers Quincy from North Adams; singer-songwriter Steve Rodgers; old-timey/Celtic/folk group The Green Sisters; and  Connecticut groups The Lost Tribe (Afro-funk and jazz) and Keepers of the Vibe (funk/hip hop). The Mary Jane Jones will also appear as a special guest band.   

Chris Goudreau can be reached at cgoudreau@gazettenet.com. 

For more information about the New Music Alliance visit newmusicalliance.org.