Rochester Revered

Avis Reese
02/20/2020

Meet Rochester photographer Dave Jones, portraitist extraordinaire. “I’m a wedding photographer [see EmpireWestPhoto.com] but I’ve also been taking pictures of live music and events for the past eight years [see EmpireWestLive.com]. I photograph a lot of touring bands that come through, but I never did anything for local Rochester musicians and I wanted to. I came up with the idea of ‘Rochester Revered.’ It’s different. It’s a portrait series of individual musicians and their ‘most revered’ instruments. I mean, every musician has the one that’s extra special, and there’s always a story behind it. I wanted to capture that story in a photograph.”


Avis Reese

Steinway Grand Piano/Nord Electro 4D

Keyboardist/ Music Director for Rochester R&B Artist Danielle Ponder

“I wish I was lucky enough to own my own grand piano! Right now, I generally play keyboards for live shows, but a real piano will always be my first love. I grew up playing on an upright piano, but when I first got a chance to play on a grand piano, it was just something magical. The way the keys felt, the tone, the dynamic abilities … it was simply beautiful to me. The Steinway was the first grand that made me sound like a skilled musician. Everything I played sounded better on a Steinway. That might all be in my head, but that’s what it seemed like. Lol!”


Bill Herring

2012 limited edition Gretsch Electromatic

Member of Irish punk and psychobilly band 1916

“It was the first instrument I’ve owned that I saved up for and spent time researching before I bought it. It wasn’t a gift from someone (which is always nice!) and it wasn’t given to me in some way. I earned it. The guitars I had been playing up until that point were older guitars I had acquired from when I was a kid. I bought the Gretsch from my friend Dave over at Guitar Center. Great selection of really nice instruments over there. As a primarily rhythm oriented guitarist, I knew I needed a guitar that played like an acoustic but had the ability to really bring the power when I hit the gas and the band gets going. This guitar has FilterTron pickups, although I have been toying with upgrading them. I had a bone nut installed by K Robin guitars a few years ago and that took care of a string breaking issue I was having. I really do put this poor guitar through the ringer but it works as hard as I do so I feel like we are good partners.”

Who is your favorite Rochester musician?

“My favorite Rochester musician (and this is a super loaded question because I know so many great players in and around Rochester) is Dennis Casey from Flogging Molly. He and I have become good friends over the years and he inspires me to get off my ass and make things happen. It’s amazing to me that someone can be that talented, and so down to earth while juggling a career as a touring musician with having a family. I love that guy.”


Kate Lee O’Connor

1925 Amedee Dieudonne

Half of folk duo Kate Lee & Forrest O’Connor

“My parents knew I would need a good instrument for college auditions, and violins can be pretty expensive so they sold their ‘66 Mustang to buy it. It’s been a dream of mine to one day buy them a Mustang back if I ever make it big haha! I love the tone and playability of that violin and it will always mean so much to me because of what my parents did to buy it for me. I can’t ever imagine replacing it!

“I do have a backup violin that I sometimes bring on stage, as well for alternate tunings. I’ve collected a lot of signatures on that one, mostly from bluegrass fiddlers, but also from some other artists I’ve met or worked with. Two of my favorite signatures are from Alison Krauss and Charlie Daniels.”

Why do you love the Rochester music scene?

“I love the Rochester music scene for a lot of reasons. In addition to being a great place for all kinds of music, there are lots of musicians who truly love to collaborate with and teach other musicians, and Rochester music fans are so loyal. My family and I have met some of our closest friends through my shows growing up because people would come out to support what we were doing week after week.”


Herbert Smith

B & S Bb Trumpet

Member of the Rochester Philharmonic Freedom Trio

“A friend of mine was a rep for Buffet Crampon. He carried a line of trumpets called B & S. I had never heard of them before. I was very happy with the trumpets I was playing and I wasn’t interested in switching. He just asked me what would it hurt to try them, so I reluctantly did. It was more than reluctance, I was trying to not like the horn. He gave me two horns to try and one was okay. The other one was really good, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to go through all that it takes to change horns. The next day I played that horn on a gig and was blown away at the response, the versatility, and the sound. From then on anytime I needed a Bb trumpet; that was the horn I played.

“I love this horn; it is so versatile. Because of all the different genres of music that I play, I needed something that can play Freedom Trio on Thursday, Shostakovich on Friday, Dennis Brown on Saturday and Hovhaness on Sunday.”

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