What is The Donck Collective? What are the goals? A reflection of Westchester Music past to present.

What exactly is The Donck Collective? What is it that I am trying to accomplish with all of this?

To answer these questions, I’d like to go back to the beginning and give a little bit of a background about myself, my musical background, and what exactly I have worked towards over the past 15 years or so within the Yonkers/Westchester music community.

First off, I am born and raised in Yonkers, NY. Have lived here my entire life, though I have been fortunate enough to travel a whole lot and experience a bunch of different places/communities (mostly having music to thank for that). I started playing in a band in 2005 when I was only 12 years old with my buddy John Sepa. We were called Green Eggs and Mayhem and once we finalized our lineup as a three piece by adding our drummer Ed Polo, we played a bunch of shows and I truly found my passion for playing, writing, and performing music in a live setting.

Back in those days there was a decent community of people interested in local music. Right here in Yonkers there was the Yonkers Underground run by Donald and Nelson Perdomo (and a few other people) that would host shows around Yonkers and lower Westchester (we even played a Y.U. show in the Palisades Mall once hahaha). There was also the Bronx Underground who hosted shows mainly out of FLC in Throggs Neck, which was absolutely insane at the time. That church would be packed with 400+ people to see bands like Daly’s Gone Wrong, Longspur, and A Moment’s Worth; just to name a few. There were also shows in places like the White Plains Bowling Alley, Scarsdale Teen Center, Saunders High School Battle of the Bands, The Haunt and a bunch more. Some memorable bands for me at the time include The Cleavagents, The Jukebox Romantics, Plan of Attack, No Goodbyes, DeVile, and a slew of others.

Being 12-13 year old kids, my band were amongst the youngest (we pretty much were the youngest) musicians in the community. Though we played our first show in June of 2005 at the Riverfront Library, I’ll never forget the first time we played a Yonkers Underground show at Big Mike’s in Pelham with Plan of Attack and DeVile. The reason that I’ll never forget it is because it was the first time I was introduced to the community of other bands in the area and for the first time in my entire life, I truly felt like I belonged somewhere.

Fast forward for the next few years, all I wanted to do was play music and skateboard. My band would play all over Yonkers including the Riverfest, the Haunt (RIP), the Pierview (also RIP), and of course our high school (YHS). Throughout my late middle school/high school years, all we did was have band practice, ride skateboards, and figure out where we were going to host our next gig. Throughout this time we hosted a handful of shows wherever we could; Westchester, NYC, upstate, people’s birthday parties, school talent shows, random DIY halls, it didn’t matter. I also had started several other projects, such as Away With Words (which was my band in high school with A.J. Kay who plays in my current band Shakeout. Some things never change.)

Fast forward to 2011, I went off to college and really started what I consider the most valuable learning experiences within my musical career. I went to Manhattanville College right in Purchase, deciding to stay in Westchester County, and studied Music Education. By this point, I had been playing in bands for six years. I had run my own shows, knew a bunch of local musicians, and knew that playing and writing music was something I wanted to put all of my focus into outside of my school work. As soon as I entered into the fall semester of my freshman year, at age 18, I was ready to start my next band. A band that I wanted to take more seriously than anything I had ever done previously. This was when I got talking to some friends Brandon Florich and Donald, and we started One Fell Swoop. Right off the bat, we had a lot of ambitions to take the band very seriously and take it as far as we could, but boy did that come with A LOT of learning experiences. I knew about playing some locals shows, but what was it like to to tour? What was it like to play major venues with national bands? I wanted to jump in head first and I figured a lot out along the way. We landed our second show ever opening up for Bayside at The Chance Theatre In Poughkeepsie. We were also fortunate enough to share the stage with bands like Set Your Goals, Knuckle Puck, Modern Baseball, With The Punches, and a whole bunch more. But again, with all of this, came a lot of learning.

The One Fell Swoop era of my musical journey was where I learned a lot about the DIY touring circuit. I learned that there was more out there than just this little bubble of bands in Yonkers/Westchester/The Bronx. There were bands slugging it out in a van and driving around the country/world playing shows. Not only did I want to be a part of it in the sense that I wanted to travel, but I also wanted to make sure I gave back to the community and host as many of these out of town bands in this area as I could. Through that I met some amazing people and ran shows that stick out to me as some of the best nights of my entire life. I hosted shows all over Yonkers, mostly renting out party rooms and halls since I was too young to even enter a bar at the time. I ran shows at The Colt’s Boys and Girls Club, The Homefield House, Yonkers PAL, my friends garage, my own backyard, the Yonkers Skatepark, and my college (mostly in the room on the ground level of our dorm hall. I was an RA, so I would use my budget for programs to pay touring bands; was a nice loophole).

Throughout this time, I met some amazing people and watched a lot of bands, including bands that I became close friends with break out of the DIY circuit and become full-time professional touring musicians. It was all so inspiring, but also made me recognize and realize that bringing all of these wonderful touring musicians into the community truly helped the community grow and prosper into something that was so beautiful. There were a handful of great local bands in Westchester at the time such as American Pinup, And The Traveler, Saw Mill, We Are Not Our Bodies, just to name a few. It was during this time period that I decided that I wanted to try and open up my own DIY venue and make Yonkers a hot spot stop for touring bands; and the final One Fell Swoop show in January of 2016, when we packed in over 200 people to the Homefield House proved to me that there was a need for it.

In Fall of 2016 I put down some money to rent out a space in the YoHo building on Nepperhan Avenue and that is when The Donck was officially born. The name derives from the Dutch and serves to recognize and give visibility to the city of Yonkers. I truly wanted (still want) to show that although we live next to the biggest city in the country, Yonkers and Westchester is another place that fosters a lot of wonderful people with immense amounts of talent and creativity. My plan was to have all of the shows be $5-10 sliding scale, with the money going to the out-of-town bands on the road first. I also taught music lessons out of this warehouse space in order to afford the rent and keep it moving. From December of 2016-November 2017, I (with the help of a bunch of friends), hosted 40 shows and created some great memories. During that year, once again, I learned A LOT. Through this learning process, I made a ton of mistakes, but I also felt as if the community grew even more than it had in years present. I met a bunch of new people and though a lot of the same bands were around and playing, a lot of new bands came to light that year and have become some of my closest friends.

In November of 2017, when my lease was up, I decided not to resign due to a ton of personal/financial reasons. Between 2018 through early 2019, I still hosted a handful of shows and used the name “The Donck” on all of them, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2019, that I decided to officially reintroduce the idea, but as a collective in place of a physical space.

So, finally, what is the Donck Collective? My goals have always been pretty simple. I want to create a place where musicians in Westchester and the surrounding areas can feel like they can go to for all of the resources they need in order to succeed. It’s a joint effort to offer musicians a place to play shows where everyone feels safe and comfortable. A place where musicians and artists can find the best places in the area to record their music. A place where musicians can have merchandise printed for their brand. A place where aspiring musicians can learn to play. But, most importantly, a place where musicians and music lovers alike can feel included and welcomed. I constantly think about how to grow this community, how to help it flourish into something even bigger. It all starts with positive attitudes and positive people and I feel like there’s a lot of both in this area. This is why it’s a collective. The Donck has never and will never be a “me” thing, but much more of a group effort to use music and art to grow a prosperous community that is left better than it may have been before.

If you made it to this point, thanks for reading. If you ever have any ideas on growing the community, I would love to hear them and work together. I can be reached at aj@thedonck.com. If you are just interested in supporting, you can keep up to date with all things The Donck by signing up to the email list and following all the socials. I will be updating this blog regularly with different information that I have personally experienced and would like to share that I feel may help musicians in the area. If you are a writer and interested in writing for this, feel free to reach out as well. Happy 2020!

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