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If you were a famous musician what would you do to help out the community that you grew up in? Would you think twice about where you came from? Many people leave their hometowns in the dust once they get a taste of the rock star lifestyle, but for Robby Takac, Buffalo native and founding member of the Goo Goo Dolls, staying here and encouraging involvement in the arts is his way of giving back.

NeXt recently had an opportunity to talk with Takac about his commitment to music and the arts in Buffalo.

The Music is Art Festival took place last Saturday in Delaware Park. Nine years ago, Takac, along with some friends, founded Music is Art (MiA).

Originally, the plan was to put on a concert that would span two days and include 70 local artists. Allentown Art Festival would be the location so as to expose Buffalo's music scene to the thousands that visit the festival every year. Several visual artists were looking to get involved as well and by the end of the first year, "we ended up with a full-blown festival on our hands," says Takac, adding, "there is now a full board of directors, programming committees, a staff, amazing organizations and so many volunteers and others who make MiA live and breathe."

Each year MiA accepts artist submissions online, sorts through them, and chooses a unique and diverse group of performances and exhibitions for the festival. When asked about the locality of the artists, Takac responds emphatically with "99 percent homegrown!"

The MiA Festival is meant to showcase the sometimes hidden talents of the Western New York community.

Music is Art is much more than a festival though. It is a not-for-profit organization whose goal is to "promote participation in music and the arts in our community."

Something that many people take for granted is the ability to learn and play an instrument in school. A lot of schools do not get the proper funding or support for a music program. By holding regular instrument drives, MiA collects and repairs instruments and sends them to local schools.

"There are so many stories we hear of folks being involved with our programs, maybe getting an instrument, it's awesome and we love hearing these amazing stories," says Takac.

MiA also puts on a show every year called the Big Easy in Buffalo. Jazz musicians from New Orleans come to Buffalo to work with students in the area. They put on performances and hold mentoring workshops, as well as putting on a concert called the Mardi Gras Jam that features student bands.

MiA also has created the Music in Action program, a full school year course that teaches students the business and skills involved in working in the music industry. There is anincreasing number of teenagers who dream of being involved in music. They may not want to be the person standing on the stage in front of a crowd of people, but there are countless other jobs that must be executed to get those people on stage every night. By taking this course, teens can learn what it's like to work behind the scenes.

Takac says what makes the MiA Festival and the Buffalo arts scene so cool is "the diversity of people, music and ideas.

"It takes all kinds and there are certainly all kinds involved with the Music is Art family," he added.

Young adults who are interested in music as a career can learn a lot from MiA. There are many ways to get involved. People can volunteer, donate money or an instrument, or simply shoot some ideas MiA's way.

Takac's advice is simple: "Do what you love, be smart and be happy."

For more information on Music is Art, visit musicisart.org.

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Mary Hartrich is a senior at Kenmore West High School.