Editor’s Note: This is the third story in a series highlighting concert halls in Akron and surrounding areas.
For brothers Vaill, Seth and Nate, owners of Rialto Theater in the Kenmore district of Akron is the fruit of their own musical passions.
Seth, 36, and Nate, 41, from Norton, formed the folk group, A Band Named Ashes, when Seth was around 19 and Nate around 24. Nate wrote music, played guitar, and was the lead vocalist, and Seth started out in the band playing bass before moving on to the keys.
The sons of Norton teachers, the brothers abandoned their plans to become educators as they began to tour regularly with their group. In 2008, they started recording and editing their own music in their home studio, which saw engineer Nate gain recording clients.
âWe need a facility to accommodate bigger artists and make bigger recordings,â Seth Vaill said of the brothers’ goal at the time.
They started renting the old Rialto Theater at 1000 Kenmore Blvd. in 2010, creating a recording studio for themselves and other musicians while renovating the theater over the next four years.
The goal was to create a place where musicians could record, practice, mix, edit and perform. This includes providing a theatrical performance space for album release parties.
The Vaill brothers purchased the 1920s Rialto in 2014, starting a family business with parents Bill and Sue with Just a Dream Entertainment Inc. The Rialto Theater was born in 2015 when they obtained a liquor license, and local artists started playing on site. .
In 2017, the Rialto was growing and attracting traveling artists, including Clark Beckham of American Idol. They’ve also hosted comedians, including Dustin Diamond (“Screech” from “Saved By the Bell”), and they rent for private events.
Among its various offers, the place also offers swing dance evenings on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month.
The Rialto closed due to COVID-19 in March 2020 and did not reopen until last July. The theater hosts performers of all genres including folk, rock, hip hop, country, and alternative.
Now the brothers are preparing to open an intimate new space for live musical performance – the Rialto Lounge. It is a lounge at the front of the building where customers can have a drink in a new second bar, order sandwiches, salads or appetizers in a small cafe and listen to music.
The space was created by moving the recording studio front to the Rialto and moving it next to Kenmore Boulevard.
The Rialto Lounge will open on December 17-18 at Kenmore Winter Break, an annual mini-festival featuring local musicians. Each evening will feature three groups on the main stage and three solo artists in the Rialto Lounge.
Vaill recently spoke about the Rialto as part of a Beacon Journal series highlighting concert halls in Akron and surrounding areas. (Some answers have been edited for brevity.)
What does the Rialto Theater have to offer that might be different from other concert halls in the area?
We try to seize the opportunity for artists to do several things in our room. And what I want to say specifically about it is recording, mixing, playing in a real performance space where the room is dedicated to the show. We actually record – both video and audio – the actual broadcasts. So the artist can take it home, and we did Live at the Rialto. So in other words, we are actually using the space to record the performance so that they can actually release the album. We are run by musicians for musicians and music fans.
What’s the hardest thing about running a concert hall?
Making every show as successful as possible, and a lot of that has to do with attendance. You have to create avenues so that every show has a bit of spice. You give your audience opportunities to see new things and create opportunities to see new things. We’re not going to do folk all the time. We’re going to do a hip hop show, we’re going to do a theater show, we’re going to have a play, we’re going to have a comedy show.
Conversely, what is the most rewarding in managing a concert hall?
We believe that music – arts and culture – is one of the most rewarding things in our society. We think it’s an opportunity for people from all walks of life to share something.
What were the most memorable shows at the Rialto Theater?
The most important show is the first show we have ever done in May 2015 [including A Band Name Ashes and country artist Mark Leach], because that was the start of our wonderful business that we are doing today.
Why was it important for you to include two recording studios in your room?
One looks more like a vocal booth, the other looks more like a group setup. We think this is important because for artists having a recorded and followed album is a very important part of being a musician.
Artistic writer Kerry Clawson can be reached at 330-996-3527 or [email protected]