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Continuing the pursuit


SOUTH FALLSBURG - Everything old is new again. And more.

Launching the summer concert season in South Fallsburg may seem like an odd thing to some people. But for Elliott Schneider, it couldn't make more sense. He believes he's found the perfect venue to bring his own special type of happiness back to Sullivan County.

Schneider is best known as the owner of the Pursuit of Happiness, a popular local music venue that thrived on Main Street in Liberty between 1985 and 1991. Bringing in a few acts a week, Schneider had the pleasure of being among the first to present then unknown artists who went on to make a name for themselves in the music industry. Among the list of now known names are the likes of John Popper from Blues Traveler and Shawn Colvin.

Unknowns weren't the only ones to grace the stage of the Pursuit. Richie Havens, Tom Chapin and Eric Anderson were among some of the better known performers who appeared there, sharing their music with the gathered crowd.

Over the years, though, the workload of maintaining the club became too much. Schneider's son was growing up, and he wanted to be there for him. "It was just too many hours in the day," he admits.

Spending nearly the next decade in school, first earning his teaching degree and then putting it to use, he also worked in real estate. Music was never far from his mind and heart, though.

Now, Schneider has found a new place to rekindle his pursuit: the Rivoli Theater in South Fallsburg.

"It reminds me of the Fillmore East," he says of the theater, noting its art deco styling and good acoustics.

His goal is simple. "I want to create a venue where up-and-coming people from the area can come and perform," he says. "I remember the open mike nights we used to have. I was always impressed by how many good songwriters there were in the area. I want to provide a place for them to show what they can do."

Providing a showcase for local talent is exactly what Schneider will be doing on May 27, this time in a "Battle of the Bands" format to kick off the new Pursuit of Happiness. Starting at 6:00 p.m., about ten bands will perform onstage, vying for the approval of the crowd. The winner gets to come back as a headliner or an opener for a bigger act, with pay, of course.

This is only the first step in bringing the Pursuit back to the public. "I could look into national acts, blues nights, things like that," Schneider says, dropping names like Little Sammy Davis, Slam Allan, Maria Rockman and others.

Ticket prices range from $8.50 to $12, and some of the proceeds will benefit the Sullivan County Dramatic Workshop, the organization that owns the Rivioli and was instrumental in making the new Pursuit possible.

For more information, call 914/439-3053 or e-mail elliut@hotmail.com. The Rivoli is at the corner of Rt. 42 and Laurel Avenue in South Fallsburg.

"I'm really committed to this," Schneider says. "Even though it's been ten years, people still miss the Pursuit of Happiness."


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