I remember the first time I went to a concert at the Oneonta Teen Center. I was a sophomore at Oneonta High School, and my friends and I were so excited to spend Friday night listening to good music provided by our friends in a safe location where we could have fun away from our parents.
The first band was called Shasta Flock, composed of freshmen Cameron Bowne, Sam Huntington and Ryan Ficano, and the second was a band of seniors, named Wine Cellar.
Though the space was tight, everyone had a great time listening to original music written by both bands. At the end of the concert, dozens of kids from the audience got up on the stage with Wine Cellar and closed out the night in a way that would never have been allowed at the high school or other places where kids are allowed to hang out, few as those places are.
After such a fun time, my friends and many others continued to attend events at the Teen Center, and soon began going to concerts and other community-centered events at the Oneonta Theatre on Chestnut Street.
As a kid, I remember going to the movies at the Theatre and enjoying the antique theater’s cozy vibe, as opposed to the larger, more industrial-style movie theaters of other areas. Like many others, I was sad to see it close, but was excited when it reopened several years later, this time as a venue for concerts and other shows, which allowed community members of all ages to come together and enjoy their time in a positive atmosphere.
The Teen Center upped its game in 2011 when it was given a face-lift, which was pulled off in large part by Ian Austin and student volunteers. The new look attracted lots of new teens, who were provided a safe environment for the kids to do homework and other activities after school and on the weekends, as well as make healthy friendships where they might not have otherwise been able to do so.
As stated by OHS junior Jen Stanton, a regular at the Teen Center, “The Teen Center is a hub for creativity, learning, and socializing, and the best part was that it was open to me: all I had to do was walk in.”
Although I don’t know him very well, I am very familiar with Ian Austin, as he has been a large figure in the community for his work at the Teen Center. The time and passion he has dedicated toward the kids at the Center is admirable, and deserves a lot of respect.
Michelle Sason, an OHS graduate, worked with Austin to re-vamp the Teen Center, and said, “Someone like Ian Austin is an amazing mentor, friend and ally, and I want more kids to be able to experience his unbelievable support.”
While I was away at school this semester, I would see events at the Theatre and Teen Center on Facebook pop up, such as late night movie showings, and wish that I were in town to be able to go to them. I was very grateful to be going home a few weeks ago to attend two big events at the Theatre: Start Making Sense, a tribute to the Talking Heads, and a Jimkata concert, a band which is a local favorite.
So imagine my surprise when I read the news the week before I went back to Oneonta for the concerts that both the Theatre and the Teen Center would be closing within the month.
At first I was confused — it had seemed that both locations had been doing a lot to provide entertainment and a good time to the community members old and young. But then I just became upset: I had genuinely enjoyed spending time with my friends and other Oneontans in the positive space of the hip Teen Center and friendly Theatre.
For the purposes of this column, I intend to focus on the fact that both spaces were safe and positive locations for teens and young adults to experience music. I know that I, as well as numerous other kids, loved spending weekends attending the concerts and events, and will truly suffer without having the opportunity to do so.
OHS alumnae Ian Clemons, who was also a member of Wine Cellar, said of both places, “Kids could come out to see us play, have a good time, and no one would have to worry about them getting into trouble. The high school music scene won’t be the same, that’s for sure. It’s very unfortunate that future teens won’t have the same opportunities we were so lucky to have.”
The future of both venues is still up in the air, but if we allow these places to close because we are unable to afford their upkeep, we will be losing a giant part of our community’s culture, which is something we cannot afford to do.
Maggie McVey, a 2012 graduate of Oneonta High School, is a freshman at the State University College at Plattsburgh. ‘Teen Talk’ columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/teentalk.