Published September 19, 2013
PAUSA Art House is not your typical Buffalo music club; look, for example, at this weekend’s lineup.
Cuban-born percussionist Dafnis Prieto, a MacArthur Fellow, headlines tonight. Friday spotlights a local dentist who moonlights on the tabla and other Indian instruments. On Saturday, Tom Kolor, director of UB’s Percussion Ensemble, is the featured performer.
The trio of shows, part of an ongoing series dubbed the Buffalo Percussion Festival, is only a taste of the eclectic mix of chamber music, jazz, poetry, paintings and other art forms featured every weekend at PAUSA.
“We provide an atmosphere that encourages musicians, artists and other performers to be creative and experiment,” says Jon Nelson, UB professor of music, who along with his musician wife, Lazara, own and operate PAUSA.
“At the same time,” he continues, “we cater to an audience that wants to sit down, enjoy a glass of wine and listen to world-class musicians or view dynamic art without the fuss of large crowds and other distractions.”
Located at 19 Wadsworth St. in Buffalo’s Allentown neighborhood, PAUSA is the realization of a long-term goal for the Nelsons.
Both spent years as working musicians in New York, Mexico City, Boston and other cities. Opening an art house in those locations, where the competition is intense and the real estate market is expensive, would have been extremely difficult, Jon Nelson says.
So they turned their attention to Buffalo, where the idea of settling down, raising a family and buying a building to pursue their dream wasn’t as daunting.
That building, a turn-of-the-century house steps away from the restaurants and bars on Allen Street, had its share of problems when the Nelsons bought it in early 2012. They spent a year working with an architect, plumbers, electricians and other contractors to renovate the space.
Open since March—typically only on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights—PAUSA features wooden floors, vintage furniture and vibrantly colored walls. New, original artwork is exhibited and for sale.
Overall, it feels more like a friend’s living room than a club or restaurant (though café-style food is available). Unlike most performance spaces, there is no stage.
“A stage is a barrier between the performer and the audience,” Nelson says. “We want the audience to feel like they’re part of the performance.”
The dynamic is particularly suitable for chamber music, which is classical music performed by a small group. Too often, he says, these groups play large venues that are simply too large for the music.
With a capacity of less than 100 people, PAUSA runs counter to that arrangement. It offers listeners the opportunity to hear subtle acoustics and gives performers the chance to experiment with volume dynamics that aren’t possible in many venues, he says.
Not surprisingly, the venue has become an unofficial satellite of UB’s Department of Music. In addition to Nelson and Kolor, other faculty members, such as pianist Eric Huebner, have performed at PAUSA.
Past and present UB students perform there as well. Graduate student TJ Borden recently debuted an original cello composition set to the classic silent film “Nosferatu.”
The shows typically cost $5 and all proceeds go to the performers. It can be a great learning experience for the students, Nelson says, many of whom are not accustomed to playing outside an educational environment.
The Nelsons also bring to PAUSA out-of-town musicians they’ve met during their travels. Among them is Prieto, who received a MacArthur Fellowship, often called a “genius grant,” in 2011.
“These are people that would normally not be playing Buffalo,” he says.
All shows start at 8 p.m., with a short break usually occurring before 9 p.m. The musicians tend to mingle with the crowd before the second half of their performance, which typically ends around 10 p.m.
For more information about PAUSA, including a schedule of performances, visit the art house's website.