SARATOGA – Ever since the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College first opened its doors, it has hosted an outdoor summer concert series known as “Upbeat on the Roof.” This year marks Upbeat’s twenty-second season, which will begin on July 6 and run every Thursday until August 17.
Although performances were initially held on the rooftop of the Tang, Upbeat outgrew its original location a few years ago, according to Assistant Director for Engagement at the Tang Tom Yoshikami. The concert series has since moved to the lawn right outside of the museum.
Every year, Yoshikami works with a team of interns to select the artists that will be featured in Upbeat’s annual line-up. Together, they look at the concert series’s history, local artists, and music of various genres to create a diverse line-up of performances.
“It’s a wonderful way to show regional music,” Yoshikami said. “All of the bands that we feature are Capital Region acts.”
“I’m always interested in looking for artists that haven’t performed and genres that we haven’t showcased before,” he continued. Yoshikami described this year’s line-up, which includes everything from R&B to swing music, as an exciting mix of old and new.
“I’m really excited that we have classical Indian music for the first time,” he said. Veena Chandra, who teaches sitar in Skidmore’s Music Department, will be performing on August 3. A schedule for the series is available online at tang.skidmore.edu.
Other members of this year’s line-up, such as Alex Torres & His Latin Orchestra, are Upbeat veterans. The orchestra, which has done everything from playing at Montreal Jazz fest to being on tour in China, first started performing at Upbeat about fifteen years ago.
Initially, band leader Alex Torres had little idea of what the concert series entailed.
“When we did show up in Saratoga, as soon as we were doing a light check, sound check, there were already 60 people out on the lawn waiting for us,” he said. “You know it’s going to be a full house—which it was.”
Alex Torres & His Latin Orchestra are known for an original blend of Afro-Caribbean music such as Salsa, Merengue, Cha-cha, Bomba, Plena, and Latin Jazz. Although the group has fans that follow them all over the world, Torres explained that Upbeat allows them to reach a different segment of the population.
“That’s important because they’ll get a different cultural infusion, a different cultural aspect,” he said. “So having Afro-Caribbean music being part of the Tang shows inclusivity, equity, and it also enlightens people that otherwise stumble upon us because they heard the music from afar.”
In addition to providing an evening of free music to the public, the Tang also offers craft kits for kids at every concert, which will be made available 30 minutes in advance of performances. Yoshikami described the kits, as well as the concert series itself, as a way to bring more people through the museum’s doors.
“We’re always trying to bring people to the museum and get people excited about and feel comfortable viewing contemporary art,” he said.
“I’m also always looking for ways that we can figure out intersections between the art that we have on view and the music that we have on stage.”
On Thursday nights, Yoshikami added that the Tang will be open late until 9pm, allowing attendees to pop into the museum either before or after the concert. All performances will begin at 6pm, and visitors are encouraged to bring picnic blankets, chairs, as well as their own food and drink.
The Tang will additionally be hosting its annual Frances Day on the afternoon of Saturday, July 15. This community event will include live music, museum tours, art-making activities, and more. Just like Upbeat, it is free and open to the public.
As far as their upcoming performance at Upbeat goes, Alex Torres & His Latin Orchestra are planning to present a mix of originals and covers, including Salsa, Merengue, Cha-cha, and Mambo.
For every concert the Tang has planned for the summer, Yoshikami added that he is hoping for a large turnout.
“I hope they’re exposed to some music that they might not have heard otherwise,” he said.
“It’s always good to see and understand the people around you,” Torres said. “A little bit of cross-cultural pollination is always awesome.”