Mother’s Day is only a few days away, so in honor of mother’s ‘round the world and our local music scene, this is an homage to the sacred feminine in our community, and, by extension, in our local music scene.
There are a number of mothers and mothers-to-be who grace the stages around Centre County. Pure Cane Sugar has and has had its share, Erin Condo McCracken is out in Millheim doing her thing, Miss Melanie is rocking stages with the Valley Rats on a regular basis, Liz Grove morphs into different incarnations seemingly at will — the list goes on and on. We’re blessed to have such talented musicians who are also devoted mothers in our scene. Thank you to the moms for being so great.
Aside from — or alongside of — the folks mentioned above, we have a bonafide mama of the music scene, and her name is Dorothy Neff.
If you’ve been out to listen to music in Centre County with any kind of regularity, even if it’s every other month, or once or twice a year, chances are you’ve seen Neff doing her thing. You’ve seen her in the front row, smiling, dancing, taking pictures and hugging her way through the gig. She’s a super fan, a true music lover, and she’s a beloved musical icon in our community.
“My eyes light up,” Neff said. “I smile ear to ear, sing along, take pictures — sometimes videos — from my phone to post on Facebook. In some instances, I get up to dance.”
Neff became a music lover in her youth — first by listening to the Beatles records courtesy of her older sister, and then by listening to the music of Elton John, Pink Floyd and Jethro Tull in her teen years, courtesy of her older brother.
“Music became more important in my life when they moved away when listening to it kept me from feeling alone,” she said. “I didn’t have a chance to catch live local music until 2012 after losing both my husband and then my father in that same year.”
So, some tragedy and misfortune led Neff to the music scene and she experienced a musical metamorphosis. The scene hasn’t been the same.
“My favorite musicians/bands? There are too many to name,” Neff said. “I’ll name just a few and if I miss some, I apologize — Biscuit Jam of course, J.T. (Thompson), Dan Stevens, Grain, Tyne and the Fastlyne, The Feats of Strength, Arthur Goldstein/Archie Blue, Cone of Silence, Eric Ian Farmer, Pure Cane Sugar, Miss Melanie & the Valley Rats, Natascha & the Spy Boys, Erin Condo & the Hoofties, Jay Vonada and Rick Hirsch.”
Neff is a Bellefonte native and resident, so she frequents Big Spring Spirits and the Talleyrand Tavern, but she also often takes the bus in to some of her favorite places in State College, including Zeno’s and other hot spot music places.
“I have pure love for these bands/musicians,” Neff said.
I can speak for the musicians I know in our community and say the feelings are mutual, Dorothy. We love you too, and we are grateful for you: the mama of the music scene. Happy Mother’s Day, Mama.
Kevin Briggs is a musician, writer and teacher who performs at venues throughout central Pennsylvania. Contact him at KevinTBriggs@gmail.com.