WATERTOWN — A new arts organization for the area will host a virtual kickoff on Saturday.
HarmoNNY hopes to foster musical and other creative talents in order to enrich the community through education, participation, appreciation and enjoyment of the performing arts.
The organization’s launch party begins at 7 p.m. Saturday over Facebook Live.
Joseph S. Foy, president of the board of HarmoNNY, said he was inspired to create the organization in 2019 after he attended a concert at the Homer Center for the Arts in Cortland County.
About two decades ago, the Homer arts group saved the old First Baptist Church of Homer building by making it into the organization’s headquarters and concert venue.
“It was a really cool and awesome experience,” said Mr. Foy, co-owner of Foy Benefits, Inc. “I brought that back and thought I would love to have something like that in Watertown.”
He and friends brainstormed ideas, but then the pandemic hit.
“Even when COVID hit, I thought there’s still a lot we can do and a lot we could provide as a nonprofit to the area if we created it,” said Mr. Foy. “So I got some people together.”
Mr. Foy is a well known local musician. While in junior high, he formed the Christian rock band, Transform. Later, while in college, he formed the band Oceans Below. Among members is his wife, Shannon (Elliott) Foy and best friend, Stephen Dettmer.
Mr. Foy has also been in a jazz band and in 2018 released a solo album, Pluviophile.
After Mr. Foy and his associates brainstormed ideas, they decided to create the nonprofit HarmoNNY. Mr. Foy hopes to have its tax-exempt status granted by April.
The seven board members of HarmoNNY come from different backgrounds.
“We have some school teachers, music teachers, performers and non-performers who appreciate the performing arts,” Mr. Foy said.
Among the initiatives for HarmoNNY is to assist the performing arts community.
“We want to be able to create venues in the area, or to show people how to use virtual venues while COVID is happening,” Mr. Foy said. “And after COVID, create some kind of venue, venues, or help other venues.”
HarmoNNY would also provide better access to the arts, down to an individual level, for all ages.
“When I was younger, there was all these scholarships for people interested in the performing arts,” Mr. Foy said. “It would help you with college. But I don’t necessarily think the performing arts needs people to go to college. What we really need is that people may need help paying for instruments. Maybe they’re interested in music but they don’t have the money to afford an instrument. They may need help with private lessons.”
He added, “I want to put that kind of money where it benefits our community and it gives people a reason to not necessarily to go somewhere else and say, ‘This is better. I’m going to move here,’ but a reason to come back to the community after they go to college, or whatever they do.”
Mr. Foy said that during his live gigs, people often come up to him and mention how they “used to” play an instrument. He would like to put a stop to that by encouraging them to continue playing.
“It’s not about going to Juilliard or being a professional musician,” Mr. Foy said. “It’s about the fact that performing arts is good for your mental health, good for your well being and good for others, even if its just in our community and never going beyond that. It’s good just to do it.”
The area has other arts organizations such as Little Theatre, Lyric Theater, Stage Notes, Upstate Musicians and the North Country Arts Council.
It’s hoped that HarmoNNY will work with those organizations to enhance the arts scene, Mr. Foy said.
“We’ve talked a little bit with North Country Arts Council about how our organizations can work together,” Mr. Foy said. “We could be more about the performing arts: musicians, dance, theater, comedy — things like that. They’re not necessarily going to stop encompassing those, but our hope is they will leave some to us so they can focus on the fine arts and things like that.”
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Board members of HarmoNNY:
Joseph S. Foy, president.
Shannon Zaykoski, vice president
Sarah Sharlow, secretary
Jonathan Cole, treasurer
And members Jaqualynn Dettmer, Olivia Grant and Daniel Menapace.