Paul Kobylensky admits that he had himself in mind when he got the idea for Monthly Muso Nights at The Ruin. Sure, he wanted to give local musicians a chance to come together and share their interests, but he had other motives, too.
“I did it for selfish reasons,” he said. “I wanted a way to bring together all of the local talent that inspires and appeals to my nerdy musician side. I wanted to meet them, make music with them, watch them do their thing, and build friendships with them. And more than that, I wanted us all to connect with each other and build community.”
Focus on Musicianship
Monthly Muso Nights are held the first Thursday of each month at The Ruin on Main Street, and each event is kicked off by Kobylensky’s band, Random Change. After the band’s set, Kobylensky, bassist Jay Piccirillo, and drummer Carl Bleke turn the stage over to a local musician or band that Kobylensky has invited to headline the night.
No matter who’s on stage, the point is to present the work of people who are passionate about the art and craft of making music.
“I started the nights with the support of Cassie Ledbetter, owner of The Ruin, for great musicians around town to come and really play,” Kobylensky said. “So, whether that means on an instrument or vocally, the focus is on musicianship.”
Kobylensky hopes that musicians will use the events as an opportunity to get to know one another.
“The greater purpose of the night is to build community among Fort Wayne’s musicians,” he said. “Many of us play in a lot of different projects or for other artists. This is a night where we can all come together, network, jam, strut our stuff, support each other, and just have a great time together.”
Filling a gap
Kobylensky’s vision for the events grew out of what he saw as a gap in the city’s music scene.
“Great players and singers often have plenty of work backing up other artists or performances,” he said. “But, as in my case, we’re truly happy when we can let our hair down, follow our own muse, and just play. So I felt I had to get involved and help provide an avenue for players to do just that. A place where people can come hear the musicians’ true and unique voice.
“There really wasn’t any other forum for that around town other than jams that pretty much focus on jazz exclusively. So I talked to Cassie about the idea, and she’s been nothing but supportive.”
He hopes that the Muso Nights will turn into a staple of the scene, a place where musicians and audiences know they can consistently find something different.
“The best example I can think of is 3rd and Lindsley in Nashville,” he said. “People can find the hits and songwriters being played all over town. But when the best studio players and sidemen really want to cut loose, they go to 3rd and Lindsley. People know if you want to see the best players in their element, that’s where to go.”
Does Kobylensky have trouble finding musicians to headline the event every month? In short, no.
“I booked the first six months pretty easily by reaching out to some of the musicians and bands I look up to and who inspire me the most,” he said. “At the very first event, we had Alicia Pyle, Derek Reeves, Brad Kuhns, Colin Boyd, and David Mikautadze playing together. If you’ve spent any time in the Fort Wayne music scene, you know those names. Their talent level is unreal, and that was just the first event!
“I don’t have to look hard to find great musicians to bring on board. And now that word is getting out, I’m having a lot of artists approach me for a spot. It’s humbling and very exciting.”
It helps, too, that the events aren’t aimed at any particular kind of music.
“Genre doesn’t matter,” Kobylensky said. “We’ve had solo, ambient acoustic, instrumental prog rock, jazz, a soul brass band. And I look forward to continuing to expand into styles that we have yet to host. Last Thursday, we had our third Muso Night and, due to a cancelation, Kevin Samuel [of Cougar Hunter and Thematic] stepped in last minute and literally worked up a full set of solo, ambient fingerstyle acoustic [music] in about two weeks. And he nailed it.”
A civic Responsibility — But a fun one
In a way, Kobylensky sees a community-building event like this as something of a civic responsibility, both for musicians and for music lovers.
“Community is all about all of us coming together to hold up each other, our art, the venues that support us, and local music fans,” he said. “So at the risk of ripping off J.F.K., I challenge all local musicians and artists to be passionate about what they can bring to the Fort Wayne arts community, not what the arts scene can bring to them.”
That doesn’t mean, though, that Monthly Muso Nights are anything like a chore. They’re immensely entertaining events that help the Fort Wayne music scene to get better, and that’s what’s important. In fact, Kobylensky doesn’t even care if you get to come out to his events, as long as you get out and support the scene. If you do that, you’re fulfilling his vision, no matter where you go.
“As with everything, those that put others first often find themselves coming out on top,” he said. “So whether you come enjoy the hang at a Muso Night or catch a killer show at The Brass Rail, force yourself to get out there and support the scene. That’s what Monthly Muso Night is really all about anyway. That, and me being selfish.”
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