Mixed Media

In the Mix

PAUSA Art House adds flavor to the Allentown music scene

Small audience listening to a musician

A packed house at PAUSA in downtown Buffalo. Photo: Irene Haupt

By Lauren Newkirk Maynard

Though there’s plenty of live music in Buffalo’s historic Allentown neighborhood, there’s nothing quite like PAUSA Art House, the brainchild of UB music professor Jon Nelson and his musician wife, Lázara.

Opened in 2012, PAUSA, which is Latin for “respite,” offers a break from the usual in all kinds of ways. Equal parts live-performance club, art gallery and café, it is intimate and eclectic. On a given night, you might hear avant-garde chamber music, Argentinian tango or an Indian jam band.

“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,” says Jon, who plays trumpet and directs UB’s undergraduate music program and concert band. He’s also founder of the UB-affiliated electro-acoustic chamber ensemble the Genkin Philharmonic, whose influences range from Stravinsky to Radiohead. Lázara, a violinist, is a long-time Genkin member.

Jon and Lázara Nelson

Right: Jon and Lázara Nelson. Photo: Nancy J Parisi

PAUSA is the realization of a long-term goal for the couple. Both spent years working as freelance musicians, plying their trade on Broadway and with various bands and orchestras in New York, Mexico City and Boston, among other cities.

Opening an art house in any of those locations, where the competition is intense and real estate expensive, would have been difficult, says Jon. So they focused on Buffalo, a city where they felt they could settle down, raise a family and afford the right space.

They spent a year working with an architect and contractors to renovate the turn-of-the-century house, located steps away from Allen Street restaurants and bars. A rotating gallery of work by local artists hangs on the walls. Guests can nibble on small plates of olives or salami sandwiches.     

Not surprisingly, the venue has become an unofficial satellite of UB’s Department of Music, and a great place for music students to earn their chops.      

The Nelsons also bring to PAUSA out-of-town musicians, including Cuban-born percussionist Dafnis Prieto, a MacArthur Fellow who visited the club last fall.

“These are people who would normally not be playing Buffalo,” Jon says. Now Allentown—and the entire city—sound all the better for it.