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An Evening with Dueling Pianos @ Rec Room Buffalo

When I first heard that there was a new craze in Buffalo, called dueling pianos, I figured that it was just a couple of piano players duking it out before a live audience. Boy was I wrong. It turns out that the “dueling piano” series and one-off events are all different, depending on the venue and the orchestrator.

In the case of DuelingPianos716 at Rec Room Buffalo, the concept takes the shape of a piano-driven, full band experience, featuring Tyler Smith and Steve Padin as the pianists/vocalists, guitarist Matt Coleman, and vocalist/emcee Jessika Schreiber taking the concept to an entirely different level.

Recently, two of Buffalo Rising’s cub reporters, Sarah Fae Bohn and Cassandra Whitney, attended a dueling piano session at Rec Room, where they were pleasantly surprised by what they encountered. Thanks to Jessika Schreiber’s boundless energy and talents, and the band’s over-the-top performance, Sarah and Cassandra came away with an entirely new appreciation for this relatively new form of interactive entertainment in Buffalo.

“Jessika is the maestro,” said Sarah. “She has so much energy, jumping around the tables. She made it so much fun!”

Cassandra told me that the “dueling” part of “dueling pianos’ is because Jessika and the Dueling Pianos Band go back and forth with the audience. This lighthearted ‘duel’ with audience members is the perfect way to get people interacting with the singers and musicians.

“People request a song by writing it on a card, or through Venmo,” said Cassandra. “There’s a packet filled with all of the songs that you can choose from. We used Venmo to request our songs, and to send tips along to the musicians. Once the drinks got flowing, people got out of their seats and were dancing. I’ve been to dueling piano events before, but this was more interactive than most.”

Birds In The Bush

“Yes, there were multiple instruments, with some musicians walking around and interacting with the audience,” Sarah told me. “The violinist was amazing. There were singalongs, a smoke machine, and really cool drink selections – like a smoking bubble shot… my favorite was the Birds In The Bush. It’s just as much fun for the guys as it is for the girls – everyone loved it. And it was executed to perfection. There’s nothing else like it in the region, mainly because of the band members’ passion for it. It would be fun to bring a big group of people. Everyone gets a tambourine at the front door, and it sets the mood.”

Bubble Shots

Unlike other dueling piano events that Cassandra has attended, there was no heckling of audience members. “This is all about having fun” she said. “The variety of instruments – not just pianos – helps to bring the vibe up even more.”

“When the guys at Rec Room first approached us about doing this kind of show, I knew their vision was to create an immersive crowd experience where everyone can sing, dance, and laugh together–not just your run of the mill Dueling Pianos show,” said pianist Tyler Smith, who plays in the band Invisible Touch with guitarist Matthew Coleman.

“Bringing Jess on board as our lead vocalist and Matt Coleman on guitar really helped to get the performers out into the crowd and make the entire show more engaging and exciting for everyone.  Now in addition to our core group, we have been able to bring in guest musicians like violinist Lena Pasqualetti (Violena) and multi-instrumentalist RJ DeMarco (Fernway) each week making every show a little bit unique.”

The superb instrumentals take this Dueling Pianos event series to another stage entirely, while offering up shows that are still considered intimate and engaging, according to Sarah.

After talking to Sarah and Cassandra about their escapades, and getting some background from Tyler, I too had a greater appreciation for this type of entertainment, which, I must admit, I did not comprehend until our chat. And knowing Jessika, I can only imagine that words and photos do not do this particular dueling pianos justice. Maybe it’s time to experience the sensation firsthand?

Dueling Pianos @ Rec Room

The Drinks

The Food

Every Thursday • Doors 6:30pm • Show 7:30pm • 21+ Admitted w/ ID

Rec Room | 79 W Chippewa Buffalo, NY 14202 | 716.939.1279

Get connected:

Core Musicians:

Steve Padin – Piano/Vocals/Drums (Plays in the Strictly Hip)

Tyler Smith – Piano/Vocals (Plays in Invisible Touch)

Matthew Coleman – Guitar/Vocals (Plays in Invisible Touch)

Jessika Schreiber – Vocals (Sings in XOXO Pop Band)

Special guests:

Lena Pasqualetti – Violin

RJ DeMarco – Sax/Guitar

Joey Donahue – Piano/Vocals

Rec Room:

Chris Ring – RecRoom Owner, creator

Dale Segal – RecRoom Owner, creator

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

Contact Newell Nussbaumer |

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