Pittsburgh Writers, Musicians Get No Respect -- Locally

By Behe, Rege | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, November 13, 2011 | Go to article overview

Pittsburgh Writers, Musicians Get No Respect -- Locally


Behe, Rege, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Rodney Dangerfield made a career of his "no respect" schtick.

But for too many writers and musicians from Pittsburgh, a lack of appreciation is all too palpable. Instead of their work being judged on merit, there's always a pro forma tag applied:

The singer who lives across the street ...

The Pittsburgh writer ...

That band from (fill in the neighborhood) ...

"A lot of times you'll hear 'they're a local country group,' so they want to get somebody else," says Dave August, the lead singer for North of Mason-Dixon, about the difficulty of getting bookings in the region even as the band finds success out of state. "I hesitate to use these words, but it's kind of like a lack of respect, to some degree. A lot of the time, they've never even heard us before. They're just basing it on the idea that we're from here."

Being from Pittsburgh sometimes implies an artist is diminished, just because they are not from New York, Los Angeles or Chicago. The bias is underscored again and again, in ways subtle and large. Judith Vollmer, a poet from Regent Square who is a professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, recently had a poem published on www.poets.org, the website for the Academy of American Poets. She received countless congratulatory e-mails. But if the poem was on a local site, such as www.squirrelhillpoets.org, Vollmer thinks the response would have been muted, or perhaps nonexistent.

"I've been called a Pittsburgh writer most of my life because I'm a native daughter," says Vollmer, who was born in Level Green, Westmoreland County. "It's a tag that's been supportive to me in some way, but it's also been very confining. I don't have the same experience when I travel."

Call it a fascination with the exotic, the new, the foreign. And, perhaps, an occlusion of what is close at hand.

Maggie Johnson, a visiting professor and director of community outreach for the Sports, Arts and Entertainment Management program at Point Park University, moved to Pittsburgh after stops in Illinois and Washington, D.C. Working initially for the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, she became aware of many fantastic artists in the area.

She also found that many of these performers were anonymous in their hometown.

"A discussion that was common was the fact we really have some truly world-renown arts and cultural assets here in Pittsburgh that are sometimes not appreciated as much by the people who live here," says Johnson, who is also a jazz singer. "But I do think it's changing. In the nine years I've lived here, there has been more of an awareness bubbling up."

Setting the bar high

Rich Engler has been a part of Pittsburgh's music scene for four decades, first as a musician, then as a promoter. When he started in the 1960s, he saw an inherent pride in Pittsburgh's institutions, its performers and talents. There was no inferiority complex, Engler insists, and the acts that were successful -- notably the Jaggerz, George Benson and Jimmy Beaumont and the Skyliners -- were feted.

But he acknowledges the hurdle for local talent was always set high.

"I know this myself, having a band, it was very hard to get any airplay at all," Engler says. "Local DJs did not really believe in local talent. They were pushed to play product from Nashville acts, wherever, but not Pittsburgh acts."

Talent, Engler says, almost always wins out. He points to two performers who initially had trouble escaping their hometown roots.

"Bruce Springsteen came out of Asbury Park and Bob Seger out of Detroit, but nobody knew who these acts were either," he says. "They just built a phenomenal fan base in their hometowns, there was such a great buzz about them. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Pittsburgh Writers, Musicians Get No Respect -- Locally
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.