Riviera Reborn: Geneseo student transforms music programming at updated venue

Starting next month, the Geneseo Riviera Theater on Center Street will be opening its newly renovated doors to events ranging from movie screenings to live musicals and plays. The night of March 27 promises to be a big one for the newly redone theater, as bands from all over western New York will take the stage as part of a packed bill. In addition to Geneseo bands Soft Cough and Maybe Mayonnaise, solo performers freshman Blaise Tangney and sophomore Ella Mosco are also on the lineup.

This show will be the largest in a recent string of student-organized events aimed at building Geneseo’s burgeoning music scene. Now, finally, student performers have a professional space as an alternative to the limited on-campus spaces.

At the center of this latest musical endeavor is sophomore Keara Doyle. Doyle created a booking group––tentatively named Valley Sounds––out of a group of friends and collaborators.

The project began on a lonely train ride Doyle endured last year.

“I was on a train from Buffalo back to Long Island and I had just seen a lot of bands play in Buffalo,” Doyle said. These performances kickstarted Doyle’s interest in bringing more live music to Geneseo.

“I got inspired. That train ride home was delayed from a seven-hour to a 12-hour ride, and on that ride I wrote down everything,” she said. “I made a pitch…and I started emailing people. Other people started hearing about it and really wanted to get involved.”

Doyle said that hearing about musical performances at other schools prompted her to start something similar at Geneseo. “I envy other schools that have a music scene,” she said. “We don’t have any of that, we don’t really have anywhere for people to perform around campus. I wanted to bring [more] music to our school, some kind of opportunity off campus.”

For someone so new to all this, Doyle has a surprisingly strong grasp on the fundamentals of booking as well as the vision she has for the project. “I wanted to give a professional environment to these people [who] are trying to get their name out there, or even just play for the sake of playing,” she said. “Not even just within our school; I want [the community] to have involvement.”

What began as a solo endeavor quickly grew into something larger. “Originally, I kind of did everything by myself,” Doyle said. “I did the contacting, I met Don [Livingston] for the first time by myself. Then I started getting more people in the same position I am.” Those people include sophomores Jessica Beneway and Sarah Simon, Doyle’s friends and collaborators with the Valley Sounds project.

After her initial meeting with local property owner and developer Livingston, Doyle decided to keep the project independent of the school. “I wanted to do something on my own, because it’s something I’d like to say that I accomplished,” she said. “We do have Geneseo Valley Entertainment, but I wanted us to have our own thing so [that] … as students, we could be independent.”

Doyle has stood by her decision to keep the Riviera project independent of the school. “People have been adults about it,” she said. “It’s really cool because it’s the first time I’ve had to think about contracting, actual money and paying the bands.”

Thanks to the enthusiasm of local music groups, coordinating the project has been much easier than Doyle expected. “In terms of finding people that would be willing to play, I thought it was going to be a struggle,” she said. “But when I contacted all these Rochester and western New York bands––not even just from the school––they were just ecstatic. They said that this was such a cool thing I was doing.”

All that remains for Doyle and Valley Sounds between now and the first big event is fundraising to help pay the performers and for the space. Money collected at Valley Sounds fundraisers in the coming weeks will help support one of the biggest things to happen to Geneseo’s music scene in recent memory.

The price of admission for Valley Sound events has yet to be determined, but it will most likely be somewhere between free and $3.