Come join is for a weekly residency with Binghamton singer-songwriter Bess Greenberg and weekly guests. Every Tuesday @ Zona's !
Bess Greenberg didn’t begin playing music until the age of 33, but talk to her and it will be clear she believes everything happens for a reason.
Growing up in Upstate New York, with three older brothers and a basketball coach for a father, it was on a basketball that Greenberg developed her sense of rhythm. Bess was born into a basketball family and spent her childhood years dribbling and running . She loved every second of it. “We were introduced to many things growing up ~ including music ~ but basketball was a way of life for us."
But while the Greenberg's hustled around to games, camps and basketball tournaments, Greenberg's mother, singing and playing guitar, was always the soundtrack in the forefront, and the love she had of music was shared with her children. “When I was 6, we even had a family band. We all sang along and even played at a local coffeehouse. The memory of it all is something amazing to me. "
Given her path has led back to music, when asked if she regrets not taking a more direct musical route when given the chance, as a child, she replies. "Looking back, I am grateful for my years entirely devoted to basketball. I loved it, and still do. It gave me a safe and healthy place to grow up and find personal reward in things like focus, teamwork, passion and commitment. In the long run, I think it makes me a better musician today because I have those values as a part of my foundation.”
That focus she displayed for basketball led to All American Athletic and Academic honors in college at Binghamton University and an opportunity to play professionally abroad. "The fact that the game I loved took me to live and travel in other parts of the world changed the direction of my life. I got to see and experience other cultures; I was hungry for that, and it opened my eyes to so many things.”
Ultimately, the biggest discovery was that Greenberg uncovered a deep passion for photography. Inspired to pick up a camera on her travels, she found she couldn't put it down.
“I felt like I had found a new way to communicate something important. Really quickly, I fell in love with making pictures. I knew it would help me grow in new ways and lead to new experiences, and that excited me. ”
In 2OO5~2OO6, while living and playing basketball in Israel, Greenberg created a photography series on Jerusalem, “The Old City” and applied for acceptance to a masters program at the International Center of Photography in New York City.
Accepted and awarded a Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship to pursue a combined study MFA degree in documentary and fine art photography, Greenberg left playing basketball in the summer of 2OO6.
“It was time, my heart was already moving in a new direction and I had to follow that feeling,” she says.
It seems she never looked back. After her first year of study at ICP, she was awarded with a New York Times Student Photography Award and granted a photography internship at the prestigious paper. But while working and creating documentary images, Greenberg continued to study and develop new artistic interests, and in 2OO9, she began a new journey. Six months after graduating with her MFA degree, she turned an empty Central Park retail space, which had been vacant for more than two years in the economic downturn, into artist run cultural spaces ~ 25CPW and Red Roots Gallery. The result: was more than 230 culturally diverse exhibitions that Greenberg curated over nearly five years. 25CPW and Red Roots were open from 2009-2014. During that time she also served two years on the Advisory Council in Photojournalism for the esteemed Alexia Foundation, curated and produced shows and events at the Copenhagen Photography Festival, The Finger Lakes Grassroots Festival, in barns, in basements, bars and more.
But then music changed her life.
“I had moved back upstate to Binghamton, NY and was commuting to the gallery for work. During that time i made amazing musician friends, and Jackie Colombo [of Milkweed} and Claire Byrne [of Driftwood] said, 'Buy a bass’, and I bought a bass. I had been wanting to buy a bass, but they only encouraged me and i respected them so much; that made the difference to me."
In the first month of beginning to play music, Colombo and Byrne invited her to play bass in Americana band Milkweed and soon after, she began songwriting and singing in the harmonizing duo, The Falconers, with its album release “Red Roots” in 2o15.
In the four and half years she has been playing, she has performed at festivals along the east coast, joined honored musicians such as Richie and Rosie, Donna the Buffalo, and Preston Frank on stage, and is currently touring as a solo artist.
Greenberg will be releasing her debut solo album this spring.
“I’ve always been someone who gravitates wherever my heart is leaning without trying to think too much about it,” she says. “I just trust that it’s gonna make me feel most fulfilled. Now, learning this new language of communicating with people … it’s overwhelming in some ways. Music makes me feel so full inside. The more I play, the better I feel. I’ve done a lot of different things in life, but music feels endless in itself."