by Nancy E. McCarthy
Living and Loving the Local Music Scene
Anyone familiar with the live music scene in the Finger Lakes Region knows about original blues/country/folk band Teagan and the Tweeds – and especially front woman Teagan Ward. When Ward isn’t playing guitar and singing with the Tweeds, you can catch her as a solo act, in a duo or with Fleetwood Mac tribute band The Seven Wonders (with fellow Tweed Katy Eberts). When venues open their outdoor performance spaces, Ward plays up to six nights a week in various configurations. When she isn’t performing, she’s writing songs or recording. Ward is in it for the long haul: Music is her life and her passion.
Ward, 36, is a West Irondequoit resident and equally passionate about Rochester. “I love the music scene, my network of family and friends here and the history of the city,” she says. A lover of storytelling in her songs, Ward is captivated by the real life story of Kodak camera inventor George Eastman (1854-1932) and appreciative of his lasting impact upon Rochester’s rich arts history. Eastman’s generous philanthropy included establishing the prestigious Eastman School of Music in 1921 and Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra in 1922.
“The life of our communities in the future needs what our schools of music and of other fine arts can give them. It is necessary for people to have an interest in life outside their occupations,” George Eastman was quoted in 1921.
Ward has a daytime occupation, but from her earliest memory, her life has always been about making music.
A Creative Start
Ward and younger sister Bayley were born in Greece to Bob and Renee Ward. Her parents met at JCPenney, where Renee worked, ironically, in the camera department. Her mother’s hobbies were photography and woodworking, plus playing guitar and singing in bands. Her father’s creative outlets were art-related, especially pottery making. “They are most definitely the reason I play music today,” Ward says. “I could not ask for more supportive parents when it comes to my music career.”
Ward played drums and guitar in high school, but guitar became her main instrument once she started writing songs. She studied music education at Roberts Wesleyan College but left after two years to pursue songwriting in 2006.
Ward admittedly didn’t have a plan. Back then, she hung out with a like-minded group of aspiring musicians at Boulder Coffee Company (BCC), a café and performance venue. Keyboardist Katy Eberts managed BCC and hosted open mic nights there. She first met Ward at an open mic in 2005. “I saw her play two songs that night and thought how incredibly unique and powerful her voice was for someone so small in stature,” says Eberts. “Her sound completely surprised me.”
“From a performer’s perspective, I have always been influenced by Janis Joplin,” Ward explains. “I am a true believer that your physical and visual performance is just as important as the sound you deliver.”
Eberts described her as initially very shy, but Ward, wielding a borrowed guitar from her mother, continued to hone her performance at weekly open mics and became more confident on stage. Her parents eventually purchased a Gibson SJ-100 for her from Rochester’s iconic House of Guitars. It remains Ward’s favorite guitar.
Teagan Forms the Tweeds
“We’ve pretty much been inseparable as friends since that first night we met,” says Eberts.
From their friendship and that BCC music scene sprang Teagan and the Tweeds, a band line-up that astonishingly hasn’t changed since 2008: Ward (lead vocals and guitar), Katy Eberts (keyboards, vocals), Jeremy Stoner (bass, vocals), Louis Giglio (guitar), Tommy Formicola (pedal-steel and dobro guitar, vocals) and Alfredo Encina (percussion). “What an accomplishment to have the same collective of musicians, writing and promoting their original music for all these years,” says Eberts.
Ward writes most of the songs. If she needs help with a bridge or finishing a song, she turns to Eberts. “Once a song is done, we usually bring it to the full band and they write their parts and make it their own,” says Ward. They also perform some tunes that Eberts has written.
The band plays about a 50/50 mix of originals and covers. “I think we have a lot of signature (original) songs that our fan base has come to know, love and request often. One that comes to mind is a song I wrote titled ‘One in a Million,’” she says.
Teagan and the Tweeds have also released CD recordings of these songs. One of them, Live at the Lovin’ Cup, was a performance taped by in 2012 WXXI-TV for their OnStage series showcasing Rochester area musical performers.
Ward’s favorite places to play are outside, preferably waterside, but she also enjoys the plethora of venues that the craft beverage scene offers. The band is frequently booked at Three Heads Brewing (THB) in Rochester. Geoff Dale, a THB co-owner and self-described Minister of Mayhem, books the music acts. Dale’s summation of Ward: “Teagan as a performer? She’s a total pro. Simply put, she could teach a class on how to do things right,” he says. “Besides being incredibly talented, she is engaging when on stage and just controls the room.” The band’s next THB appearance is the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving – an annual tradition.
A 14-year history brings a lot of memorable highlights, including numerous appearances at the Rochester International Jazz Festival, opening for (the late) Eddie Money at 2010 Party in the Park in Rochester, Searching Game being named Best Local Album in 2014 by Rochester City Newspaper, opening in Canandaigua for REO Speedwagon at Constellation Brands-Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center in 2015 and more recently, contributing music tracks to the 2022 movie Ask Me to Dance and making a cameo appearance on camera as a wedding band.
Looking Back and Forward
Ward has experienced playing music full-time, but has also balanced daytime jobs with a vibrant music career through the years. Her favorite position was working for the American Automobile Association, developing, organizing and escorting music-themed group trips in North America, the Caribbean and Europe. She packed her guitar and picked up solo gigs all over the world. When the pandemic hit and travel and live performances shut down, so did her job. Ward currently works in the marketing department at the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.
These days, Ward has lots of energizing ideas for herself and the Tweeds. She wants the band to continue to be a big presence on the local music circuit but also branch out more to perform around the region. And Ward is eager to get back into the studio with the band to record and release some music she’s written during the pandemic. Writing is another facet of her music career that she wants to focus on.
“I am living the dream, but the dream can always get bigger,” Ward says.