FONDA - Wenda and Howard Bellinger said they know there are talented country musicians in Fulton and Montgomery counties. The pair said those musicians just need to be aware the Northeast Country Music Association can help them.
"We need to get the younger [musicians] involved," Howard said. "A lot of them are very talented."
The Northeast Country Music Association was formed in the mid-1970s and is a 501(c) not-for-profit organization.
People dance at a Northeast Country Music Association showcase event.
According to the NECMA website - www.northeastcma.org - the purpose of the organization is, "to promote country and other like genres of music throughout the Northeastern section of the United States, preserve the legacy and expand the potential of the Northeast country music and other like artist and maintain friendly relations with other groups of similar interests; as well as fellowship within its own membership."
Howard first became involved in the association in 1988. Howard and his band, the County Line Rebels, needed more places to play and exposure to a bigger audience.
However, he said, when he joined the organization, he discovered a wonderful sense of camaraderie and friendship existed among the members.
Wenda noted it is exemplified by a slogan on one of the NECMA T-shirts: "Brotherhood in music."
Both said it is a feeling that is still in the organization, and something they plan to nurture even more.
"We're trying to bring what was past back into the present," Wenda said.
Howard, now president of the association's Board of Directors, and Wenda, secretary for the board, said there were about 2,500 members when they first joined the group.
However, the couple said, due to a number of issues, including the recent down economy , the membership has fallen since then. There are about 100 members currently.
The Bellingers said they set a goal to get 500 members to join the NECMA this year.
"We believe we can get it back to [2,500 members]" Wenda said. "But it will not happen overnight and it will take a lot of hard work."
In a recent column in The Leader-Herald, Wenda described how the association, " will be doing numerous membership drives and showcases to let folks know who we are and what we have to offer."
One of the primary ways the NECMA tries to help artists and fans is by organizing showcases. Howard said the association tries to have at least one showcase every month, with a few bands playing. Typically, there will be a couple bands or artists that are not as experienced playing with an act that is more well known.
This creates greater public exposure, especially for newer acts, while giving the younger musicians a chance to play and chat with the veteran acts, Howard said.
"Part of showcasing talent is giving younger musicians access to veterans," he said.
Cherry?Schacher, bass player with the band Aged in the Hills, said because of the schedules the bands have to keep, the showcases also serve as a way for friends in different bands to stay in touch.
"The showcases might be the only place we would see them," Schacher, a Ballston?Spa resident and member of the association's Board of Directors, said.
All showcases are open to the public as well, giving artists the opportunity to make new fans outside the association.
"When you take good musicians and have them play together, even if they have never played together before, you can get some incredible music," Wenda said.
Membership is not limited to professional musicians, however.
The NECMA has general members, people who are fans of country music, Wenda said. General members play a critical role, she said, because they provide important feedback to the association about what it is doing right and wrong regarding the events and showcases.
Schacher, who has been a member of the NECMA almost since it started, said over the years Aged in the Hills has started to incorporate more styles of music into its repertoire, including Cajun, blues, bluegrass, and Irish music. By appealing to a wider audience, that has opened up more venues for the band to play and bring country music tunes into, she said.
The association has members from not only New York, but also Massachusetts and Vermont. However, Wenda said, they will take a member from anywhere.
The NECMA has open membership meetings with the Board of Directors on the fourth Monday of each month at 7:30 p.m., after an acoustic jam session at 5 p.m., at the IHOP restaurant on Plank Road in Clifton Park.
At the meeting Monday, Howard said a former member of the association stopped by and decided to rejoin.
"That made me feel good," Howard said with a smile.
The next showcase put on by the NECMA will be at Glad Rags Saloon in Corinth in April.
For more information, visit the group's website at www.northeastcma.org or visit its page on Facebook. People also can call 853-3464 for more information.