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Vermont music: How to celebrate it, where to find it & ways to connect with local artists

A gray speaker cone with words in white, "Safe & Sound. A celebration of local music."
Anna Ste. Marie
Vermont Public aired an hour of locally-made music each Saturday evening at 6 p.m. on its radio station from May 2020 to December 2022.

After 129 episodes, Vermont Public is ending its broadcast of the local music show, dubbed Safe & Sound.

Read more about how Safe & Sound began and why it's ending: A curtain call for 'Safe & Sound'

Meant to be a short-lived, standalone radio show with a focus on Vermont's music scene during the pandemic, Vermont Public will now pivot to feature Vermont music and artists across all of our platforms, in news stories and features, at live events and more.

And you can continue your own exploration and curation of Vermont music in a myriad of ways.

Now that most COVID restrictions have been lifted and Vermont musicians' calendars are once again full with gigs and performance dates, your local coffee house, art gallery, watering hole is a great place to hear live music in person.

Artists often travel with branded merchandise as well as their recorded music available for purchase on vinyl and CD or downloads.

Fun facts about Safe & Sound:

The radio program aired a pilot episode in May 2020, then began as a weekly broadcast in July 2020.

Over its two-and-a-half year run, Safe & Sound broadcast 129 hour-long shows and played roughly 2,580 mostly original (there were some cover tunes!) Vermont-made songs.

As the COVID-19 pandemic changed every aspect of life, many of the artists' music featured in the early days were their takes on history as it happened.

Fittingly, the first song we played on Safe & Sound, penned by Montpelier multi-instrumentalist and recording engineer, Colin McCaffrey, was his playfully dark tune, called, "Pandemic Saturday."

Colin McCaffrey, "Pandemic Saturday"
This tune from Vermont multi-instrumentalist and recording studio owner, Colin McCaffrey was the first one we played on "Safe & Sound."

Who had the most spins on the show? Vermont Public's audio engineer and musician, Peter Engisch, would argue it was a song performed by his former contemporary jazz band, Eight02.

Safe & Sound began each episode with a song composed by Eight02 member, Jerome Monachino, called, "In The Mind of a Wounded Swan" (check the playlist below for a listen).

But the top spot of "most-played Vermont artist" goes to the collective of musicians representing Burundi, Congo, Tanzania and Somalia, known as A2VT. We played their songs 42 times across all episodes of the show!

Currently, one of the band's founding members, Said Bulle, who goes by the nickname, "Jilib" after his hometown in Somalia, has opened a catering business, Jilib's Jiblets. His food is featured as part of a rotating menu of dishes at Burlington's new Tiny Community Kitchen.

More from Vermont Public: Burlington's Tiny Community Kitchen shares cuisine from around the world.

What listeners have said: Throughout the 129 episodes of the show, the mission of the program was to present Vermont music to listeners from all genres.

Whether the tunes they heard were folk, rock, indie, country, classical or punk, listeners responded by asking about the songs and artists and how they could connect.

Watch TikTok megastar and Vermont musician Noah Kahan on Vermont Public

Mark and Susan from Meriden, NH, wrote in to say, "You've unerringly played an eclectic but very enjoyable mix of very different kinds of music and provided context to the artists and their muses all in one compact and entertaining package."

And we could not have produced a weekly show featuring Vermont music without a deep, decades-long source of recordings. And Vermont musicians continue to supply constant, compelling and genuine new music.

During the pandemic, many of music-makers resorted to unique ways to get their tunes heard - like porch concerts, Zoom dance parties and by hosting live social media events. And they also taught themselves how to record, produce and distribute their own music at home.

… when Safe & Sound came on in the dark days of the pandemic, it was a real gift. We had no idea how much great local music is all around us. Discovering A2VT, Dwight &Nicole and Francesca Blanchard, et al has been amazing. Thanks for all the hours of great music. This program will be missed! - Dave and Carolyn, in North Ferrisburgh

What musicians have said: Melissa D. of Vermont Made Songs wrote on Instagram, "Thanks for all you do to support independent music."

And Vermont hip-hop artist, Robscure shared, "It was an honor and thrill hearing my music played on the radio and the consistent exposure definitely brought new connections."

Vermont musician, producer and studio ownerPeg Tassey said Safe & Sound was "an essential show for learning about Vermont music." Tassey said, though she has been in Vermont's music community for decades, the program introduced her to new artists, some of whom she has since collaborated with.

Read more from Vermont Public's, Weekly Conversation on the Arts: Record Producer Peg Tassey Creates Album Around Bernardo's Voice

From the very beginning, the thrust of the show was to connect Vermont musicians with listeners when they couldn't play live.

One Vermont band, based in Southern Vermont is made up of members Laura Molinelli and Ben Campbell. Of the show, Molinelli said, "Ben and I are speechless when it comes to finding the words to thank you for your dedication to Vermont musicians. Your endorsement of Luminous Crush brought us so many new fans and somehow made us seem cool."

And Vermonter Amelia Wilcox teamed up with Washingtonian Joseph Human during the pandemic and remotely created a bi-coastal record. The duo, calledLavenderlux released an EP, "Nest Inertia," during the pandemic.

Safe & Sound played one of the EP's singles after its release and Wilcox said, "Joseph and I are so grateful to you and your show! When you played our song “Itching” it was the first time either of us had heard ourselves on the radio. And we had a listening party from opposite sides of the country: Vermont and Washington state."

Nina Brew, "Mixtape"
"I made you a mixtape. It’s a really weird mix. Got so many of my favorite lines. I thought you might have a listen and stop and rewind. It’s got a couple real slow ones. It’s happy and sad and everything that’s in between … Let the music tell the story. Let the music explain. They all say it so poetically; a little tune and some honesty." - song lyrics from Nina’s Brew's, “Mixtape"

Thank you so much for all the Saturday evenings of wonderful Vermont music. My husband and I have looked forward to your show each week. When the pandemic closed everything down and we were so isolated in our home, the Vermont connection of your playlist really spoke to us … Thanks for “spinning” the tunes that helped kept us moving forward. - Nancy, in Norwich

Other ways to stay connected

Seek out Vermont music where its being created: Throughout the run of the show, local artists taught themselves to produce their own singles, EPs and full albums and made them available on streaming sites, Bandcamp, Apple Music and Spotify.

We also leaned heavily on local recording studios like McCaffrey's Green Door in East Montpelier, Andre' Maquera's West Street Digital in St. Albans, Lane Gibson's studios in Charlotte and Chris Hawthorn. Their websites often list local musicians they've recorded.

Plus we frequented the websites of home-grown record labels like Oak Honest in Brattleboro and Equal Eyes in Burlington.

Subscribe to local podcasts, radio shows, music series: Longtime local music supporters like Big Heavy World and The Underground create weekly local radio shows and music series.

Both invite Vermont artists into their studios for interviews and live performances.

Big Heavy World's radio station plays numerous local artists and they create a podcast and video series, called Rocketshop, with host Tom Proctor. He invites musicians in to chat and play live.

And in Randolph, Vincent Freeman's recording studio "The Underground," doubles as a space for "Live from The Underground," featuring local musicians. You can subscribe to both via YouTube and cultivate a weekly source of new Vermont music.

Vermont deejay and local music fan Tim Lewis broadcasts his radio show on WBKM on Thursday nights at 9, called, "Sounds of Burlington."

Another resource to hear local musicians on the radio comes from The Purple Shaman on WRUV - that's the University of Vermont's radio station, run by students and community members.

Tiny Desk Contest: Vermont Showcase

The Shaman's show is titled, "Everyday Sunshine," and features a handpicked mix of classic rock legends and new tunes from local musicians, all with a posted playlist so you can listen later and discover more about the artists.

And Vermont Public's own, "Live From The Fort" music series' videos are all on YouTube.

Check in often with NPR's Tiny Desk Contest: Many Vermont musicians submit their videos into the NPR Tiny Desk Contest. This provides a great way to hone in on local music entries. Choose Vermont artists and you'll discover a plethora of musicians this way. (The latest Tiny Desk Contest dates have not yet been announced but follow the site and sign up for updates).

Speaking of updates, when you visit streaming sites (Bandcamp, Apple iTunes, Spotify, Soundcloud) to listen to and purchase local music, you can choose to get email updates from the artists. That way you're privy to their newest tunes, merchandise, plus concerts and tour listings.

And many artists now have Patreon accounts. That's a membership platform that's by subscription. It's a way for artists to earn a monthly income, and in exchange for your membership, you'll get first dibs on new content and special perks.

Find artists and musicians on social media: Most Vermont musicians use social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram to connect with fans, share new music and announce concert dates and ticket sales. Find your favorite artists' music accounts, follow and stay in the know.

Safe & Sound Playlist, ep. 129
(A look back at releases from 2022)

Eight02 - In The Mind of a Wounded Swan

Colin McCaffrey - Pandemic Saturday

A2VT - Clear The Way

couchsleepers - Valentine's Day

Kingdom All-Stars - Whisper

Jonas Hardy - Leave If You Want To (unreleased)

Dwight & Nicole - Angel

Francesca Blanchard - Je Sais Plus Quoi Te Dire

Luminous Crush - Scream It

Marcie Hernandez - Winter

Danny James and ES-K - Nectarine

Fattie B., feat. Craig Mitchell - Ooh, Ooh

Peg Tassey - Winter Song

Fern Maddie - You Left This

North Ave Jax - Love Me

Kerubo - Chanjo

Derek O'Kanos - What Good's A Feeling

Lavenderlux - Itching

Noah Kahan - Stick Season

Diya Kulkarni - You and I
Konflik, feat. SINNN - Higher

Andriana Chobot - Drive On

Mikahely - Children's Rights

Casie Dubie - High Low

Thus Love - In Tandem

Sole - Not Feelin' It

Nina's Brew - Mixtape

Newspapers: Most weekly newspapers have an arts and entertainment section with calendar listings. You can use this resource to find out where and when local artists are playing at nearby venues.

Seven Days, Vermont's alt-weekly newspaper, has always had a robust arts and entertainment section and the music writers' reviews there are a great way deepen your knowledge of the state's musical landscape each week.

Another deeply researched resource is Vermont Hip Hop. This comes from Seven Days contributor Justin Boland. Not only does it include calendar listings but a video feed and in-depth interviews about Vermont's hip-hop history with local music-makers.

You've unerringly played an eclectic but very enjoyable mix of very different kinds of music and provided context to the artists and their muses all in one compact and entertaining package. Like "All the Traditions," you've also done a fabulous job of creating an atmosphere - a vibe - that's comfortable but not unchallenging. The program will be much missed. - Mark and Susan, in Meriden, NH

Streaming services: Online music sites make it easy to purchase There are ways to support your local musicians beyond just purchasing their singles, EPs and albums. Often, Vermont music-makers offer branded merchandise from clothing to posters to books for purchase and this can go a long way in supporting their music careers. Some artists also upcycle clothing items with their logos.

Music Festivals and Events: Vermont has no shortage of music events both large and small all year long and your town or region probably has one! Here are just a few - Make Music Day, Waking Windows, Burlington's Juneteenth, Highlight Burlington, First Night North, Montpelier Alive, Nightshade Fest, PAMFest, Discover Jazz.

Record stores: Find local vinyl and CDs are your favorite store and take note of an event called, "Record Store Day" then visit your local vinyl seller for Vermont-made music. 

Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
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