New quartet of veteran Centre County musicians to play debut gig

Papaya is a newly-formed musical group that will have its debut performance Saturday at Whipple Dam.
Papaya is a newly-formed musical group that will have its debut performance Saturday at Whipple Dam. Photo provided

If you venture over to the Boalsburg Farmers Market some Tuesday, you’re bound to hear some good, local music. And if you find the music, you’re likely to find Gary “Papa” Brubaker, the patriarch of the Boalsburg Farmers Market music scene.

Brubaker has drifted in and out of different musical ensembles over the years. With so much experience it can often become challenging to get into something new, but that’s exactly what he’s doing by forming his newest group, Papaya. The quartet plays a mix of rock, blues, jazz, fusion, standards and country covers and original compositions.

Papaya includes Brubaker on vocals, guitar and keyboard, Chris Byrne on vocals, sax, flute and percussion, Andrew Jackson on vocals, drums, congas and percussion and Justin Dorsey on vocals and basses. The new group’s first gig will be Saturday on the beach at Whipple Dam.

“We have been rehearsing music that’s suited for the lively family atmosphere people enjoy at Whipple Dam. Come out and swim, paddle, dig in the sand and dance to the music,” Brubaker wrote in an email.

The newly assembled quartet intends to perform music that matches the energy and optimism of the beauty at Whipple Dam, but Brubaker made sure to point out that’s not all the music offers. There will be a message as well.

“We’ve chosen tunes with interesting rhythms to get you moving and what I feel are important to amusing lyrical messages for all ages that move you,” Brubaker said. “Covers by (various artists) that have a message of concern for everyday life and how we live. That includes love songs and break up tunes. The two originals included follow that same vein.”

The lineup is new, but the musicians have been playing with each on and off for years, mostly in Centre County. It’s a testament to their musicianship, to be able to pick up and play a new gig when the mood strikes, but is also a testament to our area, where band membership seems to loop and spiral and the characters are often the same, albeit in different clothing.

“For over 30 years they have played in the Centre Region together and separately,” Brubaker wrote in an email. “All are Penn State graduates, members of American Federation of Musicians Local 660 and continue to live in Centre County and enjoy the vibrant music scene. New groups form and merge freely to expand to their talent. We have been doing this with each other for many years and we still want to learn, participate and contribute.”

Afer playing at Whipple Dam, Papaya has its sights set on more gigs, which is always a toss-up, no matter where you live. So, like the rest of us Centre County minstrels, Papaya will be looking to perform more and more, as the gigs emerge.

“Gigs are where you find them,” Brubaker said. “We have rehearsed enough arrangements to play this. We believe in the work of their many volunteers and think we can to assist their fund raiser. That became the first goal and next we want to learn more tunes, always a delightful challenge, and fit our act into many events in this area. We all have many other musical endeavors and this one fits us all.”

For Brubaker, this is clearly a welcome new development, and, as is true for the majority of musicians here in Centre County, it’s a heartfelt endeavor.

“I heard a Tanzania chant, ‘Chochea yaca karama Chochea,’ ” Brubaker said. “Chochea can mean to stoke or stir the fire. Yaca karama is your talent. It brought me full circle to what drives my musical search. I feel music and after many years of playing and singing I believe in my talent. I will continue to stoke it. It’s good inspiration for anything you choose to do. Stir the fire of your passion and make it hotter, make it work for you.”

Saturday’s concert will be held from 7-9 p.m. at Whipple Dam.