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Varick Baiyina, the New Face of the Roc Summer Soul Music Fest

Varick Baiyina in the studio at "Real Talk with Martha Hope"

Varick Baiyina in the studio at “Real Talk with Martha Hope”

By Tracie Isaac –

A native son of Rochester returns to his roots with a new vision for the Rochester Music Festival this weekend at Frontier Field.  Under the new name of the Rochester Summer Soul Music Festival, Varick Baiyina, CEO of Xperience Live Events, LLC is a 20-year producer of special events and concerts which is based in Maryland.

The new partnership with the City of Rochester and veteran producer Bobby Warren, President of B&R Productions, breaths new life into the two-day concert series beginning on Saturday, August 25th with a neo-soul line up featuring Raheem Devaughn, Kindred The Family Soul, Al B. Sure, Music Soulchild and headliner Angie Stone. On Sunday, August 26th a funk and soul line up with the Mary Jane Girls with Val Young, Morris Day & The Time, Cameo featuring Larry Blackmon, and a special last “last” performance by George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic.

Kicking off the two-day concert series daily is a Community Block Party in the grassy knoll from 10am until 4:00pm.  Attendees will be treated to a community stage of local performances, a Kids Zone with children’s activities, health zone, local vendors, and food trucks to complement the festivals overall community feel.  Gates open at Frontier Field seating at 4:00pm and the concert begins at 5:00pm on both days.  Tickets are $40 for one-day or $55 for both days. There are a few new elements like a Comedy Show produced by James “Talent” Harris on Friday night.

“My vision was to take the original Rochester Summer Music Festival and rebrand it to be part of the ‘soul of the city’ not just soul music.  Music is a big part of our culture and also of the world culture – music connects people.  I know that events like this are a big part of connecting the community,” Baiyina stated. “ The Rochester Music Festival has always had a strong legacy.  It has gone up and down for various reasons, budgeting concerns and other things.  I believe Mayor Warren and the City Council understand the importance of this music festival and returning it back to it’s original state.  They have both stressed how important it is to the community.  I know because I grew up going to some of the first concerts.  College took me away for some years but I remember the awesome times at the Rochester Music Festival concerts and how the entire family was able to come out and listen to good music, eat good food and have good times.”

As a youngster, Varick Baiyina revisits his roots with his family on the West side of Rochester.  He learned the value of media and getting the word out from his father, Askia Baiyina, who started a family newspaper which was a coupon clipper called The Smart Shoppers Guide with Danny Wegman, founder of Wegman’s stores as the first advertiser.  Later the guide became the Penny Saver which was later sold.

The next paper created was a community-based newspaper called The Message and later named The Rise Journal.  To distribute the papers Varick was part of a team of youngsters and teenagers headed by his father called The Rise Cadets, a group of over 250 young people with military like discipline and were committed to participate in community projects.

“That’s the environment I came up in.  We even had to memorize a script:  ‘We strive in the cause that is righteous and just; and for the benefit of mankind, this job is a must.  When we see a problem or someone in need, we are quick to respond with a helpful deed.  Our intentions are noble and our purpose is clear.  We work for progress and for the future we prepare. Unity and discipline are the tools we use; and a dignified character is the one we choose.  The pursuit of excellence is always on our minds; quality production faithfully every time.  We believe in a God that created us all; He gives us direction and we answer the call.  We are proud  Americans, the best you’ve seen yet.  We are serious about this, we are THE RISE CADETS.’ That was our creed and I learned that at 12-years old.” Stated Varick.

Baiyina has a strong foundation in supporting entrepreneurial efforts and communicating community initiatives.  “The call to action to return to values, education and economic development has to come from various areas like churches, elected officials, sports organizations for youth because I was a South West Colt and we won three State Championships – it was all about EXCELLENCE.  It starts with the home, coaches and faith based organizations.  We know that excellence was an expectation not an anomaly.  If you were not excellent that was because you didn’t want to be.”

“It’s tough now because youth have so much access to information from around the world and they are not being taught how to digest the information that the receive on a daily basis.  It seems youth don’t know where to focus their energies and how to separate reality from fiction.  Many youth think it is okay to say or do anything and not do not understand how those actions can affect their universe. It’s important to get our youth at a young age and teach them the consequences of their actions.  Something as simple as the use of cell phones is important to teach the benefits of that device and that should start at home with the parents.  Parents must understand the power these devices have over children.  Lessons on what is right and wrong to say and do are the basics that do have major consequences down the road.” continued Baiyina.

Revisiting the good times, family values and supporting local businesses is what the 2018 Roc Summer Soul Music Festival hopes to convey.  Local businesses, vendors and non-profit organizations are encouraged to participate.  For more event information and how to participate as a vendor visit:

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