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March 27, 2014

SUNY Oneonta band to compete at Turning Stone

By Jessica Reynolds Staff writer
The Daily Star

---- — Kimberly Berg, a SUNY Oneonta senior and lead singer of Hello, Seattle, said a competition at Turning Stone Resort Casino on Thursday is the biggest event the alternative pop rock band has ever played at.

Berg and the other four members of the band are preparing for Turning Stone’s first College Battle of the Bands competition at 8 p.m. in the resort’s vintage rock & roll club, The Gig, inside the resort’s Exit 33 entertainment complex. Hello, Seattle is one of eight bands that will come together to compete on Thursday from colleges across the state.

According to a Tuesday media release from Turning Stone, the eight bands were chosen as the “best of the best” of New York’s college music scene after they submitted audition tapes. The bands will be competing for cash prizes, the release said, with $1,000 going to the first-place winner, $500 for second place and $250 for third place. Bands are encouraged to bring along fans and fellow students, who will vote on a “Fan Favorite” band, which will receive an additional $250 prize.

Each band will have approximately 30 minutes to perform, the release said, and will play in front of a panel of three judges from the local music scene. The other competing bands are: “The Overnighters” from Le Moyne College, “The Rumble Scene” from Ithaca College, “Call Security” from Hobart and William Smith Colleges, “Strange Appeal” from Binghamton University, “Upstate Rubdown” from SUNY New Paltz, “Wilxy & Crump” from Nazareth College and “Dust and Ashes” from Fulton-Montgomery Community College.

Berg said she has not yet listened to any of the other bands’ music, but hopes to do so before the competition which, she said, she is very excited for, but also “really nervous” about. 

“But we’re gonna stay positive and have fun,” Berg said. “We can put on a good show.”

Hello, Seattle was formed in the fall of 2011 when Berg and guitarist Amy Maxwell, both from Long Island, became fast friends after they were put into the same group for a project in their audio production class at SUNY Oneonta.

“Amy said ‘Does anybody sing? Because we could record something of our own’ and I said ‘I do!’” Berg said. “She liked my voice and we really hit it off, so that’s where things started.”

Berg said members have come and gone since then, but the current group of musicians are all students at SUNY Oneonta, except Maxwell, who graduated from the college in December. Other than Berg and Maxwell, the band features Andrew Platt on drums, Jason Psanis on piano and Frank Cicciarello on bass. Berg said the five members are “really good friends” and spend time together often.

“We have a mix of personalities,” Berg said, “and we hang out a lot, which is when we write our music. So it works out well.”

The band’s debut full-length album, Improper Greeting, was released last summer, Berg said, and is available to purchase on iTunes, or can be streamed online. The band has performed at OH-Fest 8, opened for Timeflies and Mayday Parade at SUNY Oneonta’s fall concert in September and beat out many other college bands in the 2013 SUNY Music Madness competition, taking second place overall.

Joseph Pignato, assistant professor in SUNY Oneonta’s music industry department called the upcoming competition “a fantastic opportunity” for a band that, he said, has made SUNY Oneonta very proud.

“Hello, Seattle epitomizes what we hope our music industry students will do,” Pignato said. “They’re really good. And they write songs that people respond to. I’m thrilled for them, but not surprised.”

Pignato was the professor of Maxwell and Berg’s audio arts class where they met, he said. He met the other band members through the music industry program, in which they all majored. He said the band, and particularly Maxwell, worked hard to produce their first record entirely at the college’s music studio. They are a professional bunch of young people, Pignato said, and have “an amazing set.”

“I’m proud of them, but it would be more accurate to say that I’m proud for them because they did the work,” Pignato said. “I guess it’s that I’m proud that they came out of our program. Everyone in the department is very proud.”

All the band members are looking forward to the competition, Berg said, and have been preparing several cover songs for the performance. Berg said she has interviewed for several post-graduation internships, but hopes to continue with the band for as long as she can.

“I hope we go far,” she said. “We’re gonna try as hard as we can to do that.”

Turning Stone’s College Battle of the Bands is open to the public, ages 18 and older, and doors will open at 7 p.m.