Florence Bank Provides Opportunities for Local Artists

FLORENCE—Florence Bank’s got talent. Pioneer Valley talent, that is.

This spring, the bank’s ad agency searched the region from Greenfield to Springfield for performers who could belt out the bank’s catchy “Always” song in four different genres, and what began as a new media campaign also became a high-profile gig and welcome addition to the portfolios of 10 area musicians.

“As local, independent artists, we are always happy to find new avenues to connect with our fans in the area,” said Nicholas “Nick” Deysher of Leeds, who is featured in the 30-second Florence Bank spot with his wife, Tracey Freitag. “It was a blast to be a part of the filming and to meet and hear some of the other local talent in the Pioneer Valley.”

Deysher and Freitag are two of the 10 local artists from three area counties to be featured in the ad, which is set at the Academy of Music in Northampton. It was released Aug. 3 on multiple television channels and four radio stations in the Valley. The artists will also appear on billboards and posters around the region.

Artists who range in age from 12 to 40 also received a CD of their professional photographs, taken during the shoot, for their portfolios. The ad—and stories about some of the performers and their lives—will appear on the Florence Bank website and on YouTube.

Deysher and Freitag, both 37, are grateful for the exposure.

“We are both life-long singers who started in choirs and musical theater in kindergarten,” Deysher said, noting the ad gives them additional experience in television.

Lamont Edwards, 26, of Hadley, who goes by the stage name of L.E. Purpose, has been performing most of his life. “The opportunity to perform in the Florence Bank ad gives me another outlet to capitalize on being a creator,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the doors that potentially can open.”

The ad is quite catchy, unique and undeniably local. Set at the Academy of Music, where “Always, Florence Bank” is displayed on the marquee, it begins with Karen Shaw Suriner of Goshen asking, “Are you ready?” before 12-year-old Noah Desmarais of Longmeadow slides on stage and launches into the “Always” tune.  The performers cover four different genres in the clip—country, rock, pop and jazz—and the piece ends with Colin Allen of Shelburne and the slogan, “Whoever you are, whatever your tune, Florence will always be your bank.”

Monica Curhan, senior vice president/marketing director at Florence Bank, said the ad does exactly what the bank intended, and it does so on a level-funded marketing budget. She said the ad grabs consumers’ attention, showcases the Valley arts scene and the landmark that is the Academy of Music and also illustrates that Florence Bank is not your ordinary bank.

“The friendly, approachable personality of the bank is reflected in the spot,” Curhan said. “What better way to communicate that we have something special going on here?”

Curhan said the concept for the ad was presented to her over dinner last winter at Viva Fresh Pasta by Sean Tracey, the founder and creative strategist of Sean Tracey Associates of Portsmouth, N.H., the bank’s marketing company, which rebranded it as Florence Bank last summer and developed the “Always” song.

Skeptical at first, Curhan said she and bank leaders mulled the idea for several months before deciding to go for it in May, when Tracey put out the call for auditions through various local arts schools, choirs, choruses,  performance groups and social media.

Thirty local performers auditioned at the Academy over two afternoons. Ten were chosen to be featured in the television commercial, which was filmed on June 16, and a handful of other performers will appear in radio spots and on posters. Originally, only six performers were to be chosen for the television spot, but Curhan said there was so much talent, the bank decided instead to include more performers singing fewer lyrics.

“The people that we chose were people who connected to the song, and we could see that,” Curhan said. “They brought a passion to it. A high level of performance. They were singing like they liked it, like they owned it, and they made it come to life.”

Tracey said, “What we were after here in this commercial was finding people with great character who had an authenticity to the area, diversity and charm. We needed charm to make this commercial work. It was easy to find that in the Pioneer Valley.”

Tracey said when the bank and ad agency realized that the television clip was a boon to performers’ professional resumes, they decided to ramp things up a bit, creating the professional headshots and CDs as well as short, two-minute film clips on the personal stories of four performers, including Deysher and Freitag. Those clips will appear on YouTube. “We hope they go viral, and these performers get calls to audition,” Tracey said.

Curhan said, “We’re building brand awareness for the bank, but as an unintended consequence, we saw how appreciative the performers were and how important the opportunity was to them. We made a dream come true for them.”

Tracey also films video for several area organizations, and he has developed a local network of behind-the-scenes talent. For the most recent bank ad, he used Bryn Francis of Florence as assistant director and Karrie Welch of Fortunate Face Minerals in Westfield as the make-up artist. Jon Martinez of Easthampton was second assistant cameraman.

Other performers in the ad from Hampshire County are:

  • Karen Shaw Suriner, 40, Goshen, who has been performing since she was a child in musical theater. She is a member of a singing group called the Ladies of Integrity, Aristocracy, Repute, and Society (L.I.A.R.S.) and performs at festivals and other events across New England. “I feel very fortunate to be able to give the gift of music,” she said.
  • Jacob W. A. Smith, 12, Northampton and Gill, has been playing drums since he was a year old and is currently a member of the Massachusetts Music Educators Association Jr. Western District Jazz Band, the Vermont Jazz Center Latin Jazz Band Ensemble and the Nomad V. Settler Rock Band. He also has performed as an actor and vocalist. “I dream of touring all over the world, playing drums in a professional band,” Smith said. “The Florence Bank ad could be the beginning of many opportunities for me to perform on camera.”
  • Rachel F. Hirsch, 30, Northampton, has been performing since she was 6 and has performed professionally. Hirsch only recently moved to the Valley, and thought the transition would mean she’d have to put her career on hold. “I was pleased to find a vibrant performing arts community here too,” she said. “This community has embraced me right away with one high-quality artistic endeavor after another that challenges me creatively, and I look forward to continuing to build on those relationships and see what other new performing experiences come my way.”

Performers from other counties are:

  • Noah Desmarais, 12, Longmeadow, who has been performing for three years in the pop genre and in musical theater. “I'm used to live theater so the ad was really different,” he said. “I loved it! Having more exposure and different acting experiences helped me grow as a performer.” 
  • Tony Staf, 27, Feeding Hills, has been a performer for 15 years. “I believe this is great exposure for any musician and will look extremely good on my musical resume, which is a mile long as it is,” he said. “I thank you Florence Bank for this opportunity. I hope something more comes out of this.”
  • Jackie Santos, 30, of Greenfield, has been a performer for 18 years and has a YouTube channel featuring her work. “Artists always need exposure in order to reach their audience,” she said. “Florence Bank has done just that, and I thank them. It was a great opportunity and fun experience.”
  • Colin Allen, 29, of Shelburne, has been acting since he was a child. He has worked with local theater companies, including Ja’Duke and Ghost Light Theater. He is currently featured in a traveling production of Frankenstein that’s headed to Scotland for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. “The bank ad is another clip to add to my acting reel and show another piece of what I’m capable of as far as performance,” he said.

The ad and artists’ stories are online at http://www.alwaysflorence.com/.

About Florence Bank

Florence Bank is a mutually-owned savings bank chartered in 1873. Currently, the Bank serves the Pioneer Valley through nine full-service branch locations in Florence, Northampton, Easthampton, Williamsburg, Amherst, Hadley, Belchertown and Granby as well as through 27 ATMs and a loan production office in West Springfield.  Florence Bank offers a wide range of financial services including investment management through FSB Financial Group (FSBFG) to consumers and businesses.  John F. Heaps Jr. is the Bank’s President and Chief Executive Officer.  Main headquarters are at 85 Main Street, Florence, MA 01062.  For additional information about the Bank or its services please visit www.florencebank.com or call 413-586-1300.