By Allie Jorge & Charles Scott
The floor of the bus is lined with pictures of famous albums from beloved Long Island musicians, and a glass case along the wall preserves electric guitars signed by local performers in silver permanent marker. The upbeat vibrations of Kurtis Blow’s “The Breaks” rises through the floor.
This bus is part of the latest promotional campaign for the Long Island Music Hall of Fame. The group will drive the bus to schools and public events to spread awareness of their work. The Music Hall of Fame is a non-for-profit that’s been working since 2004 to set up a permanent museum dedicated to Long Island’s greatest musicians, music educators, radio personalities and others.
“I think spreading awareness is going to happen pretty easily once we have the bus on a regular schedule,” Kelly Leung, a member of the board of directors for the hall of fame, said. “Now that we have it in place, we’re going to spend some time – probably during the winter months – planning out our 2020.”
Fifteen years after the Long Island Music Hall of Fame’s founding, the organization’s board is hoping to use the bus to drum up support and finally gain a brick-and-mortar, permanent home for some of its melodic relics. The funding for the museum comes from fundraising events such as a Gala and an annual holiday concert, alongside grants and donations, Leung said. Jovia Financial Credit Union is the primary sponsor for the bus.
The museum’s founders, including Jill Russell, who the bus is named after, were some of the people behind putting the Long Island Music Hall of Fame on wheels. The passion project was originally a museum bus for another exhibit in Suffolk County, and has since been repurposed into a mobile hall of fame – or, as the founders call it, a tour bus. It’s route will not be limited to Long Island; it’s outreach extends from Brooklyn all the way to Montauk Point, Leung said.
The bus made its debut at Nassau Coliseum last week. Its introduction was announced in January. This was after the non-for-profit decided to drop out of a December 2014 agreement to be permanently housed in Wyandanch. Bring the hall of fame to Wyandanch was part of the $500 million Wyandanch Rising revitalization project.
“We’re excited that the Long Island Music Hall of Fame might be interested in coming to Wyandanch with their mobile museum instead, and performing with one of their artists,” Antonio Martinez, a councilman from the town of Babylon, said. “We’re happy they’ve figured out a cost effective way to bring their exhibit along the entire Island, as we are all committed to bringing cultural entertainment to our communities.”
The bus’ engine may be on vocal rest for now, but it’ll be humming old tunes once again this holiday season at The Space at Westbury Theatre on November 17th, where the hall of fame will hold a benefit concert for music education programs across the Island. The concert includes performances and appearances from both industry professionals and high school music groups.
“I thank the people who are organizing it for doing this because it really helps to promote the arts, which are so important for the development of students,” Pamela Levey, department head of fine and performing arts at Great Neck North High School, said. Great Neck North High School’s orchestra will be performing at the holiday event.
During the annual event, the hall of fame doesn’t just display performers. During the holiday season, the non-for-profit shifts the focus to local music educators.
“I was really, truly honored to be a part of the Long Island Music Hall of Fame, to be a part of the history of that, and to be recognized for the work that I do at my school,” Lynette Carr-Hicks, teacher of the Uniondale High School Show Choir and Long Island Music Hall of Fame’s 2018 Music Educator of Note Award recipient, said.