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A Tribute To David Kosciolek

By Gary Wien

originally published: 06/14/2022

A Tribute To David Kosciolek

There are a handful of people who have made a mark in the local music scene and David Kosciolek was one of them. He opened Indigo Coffeehouse in 2003 and it quickly became host to not only live music, but a music scene literally created by the venue itself. Nearly two decades later, it’s amazing how many musicians and music fans still recall those days fondly.  At the beginning of June, that community was shocked to learn that David had died from a heart attack on May 16th.  Many got together to play an "Indigo Reunion" after the coffeehouse closed and several pay tribute to him in this article. His obituary can be found here.

Like many people, I first met Dave at Indigo Coffeehouse.  I think they were the first venue to actually ASK me to deliver Upstage Magazine to them. So, of course I checked it out.  When he told me about the live music they were having, I checked that out as well.  Indigo had a very welcoming vibe.  It was a place where musicians and music fans could hang out together and become friends. Sometimes we forget that a music scene is as much about the people and places around the musicians as the music itself.

Early in 2005, Kosciolek put out a compilation called Indigo Rough Tracks, Volume One, which was the first true recording for several artists. The album included songs by Tommy Anton, Michael Brett, Jon Caspi, Christopher Dargis, Abbie Gardner, Local Fuzz, Jim Long, Kevin McGowan, Michael Patrick & The Suburban Hillbillies, Chip Robertson, Chrisie Santoni, The Slydells, April Smith, Janey Todd, and Tina Vero.  Many of these artists are still going strong today.

That compilation inspired Kosciolek to create Indigo Planet Records, his own record label.  The first release came out in December 2005 by April Smith, an artist who would go on to perform at events like Lollapalooza, Summer Stage, and The Newport Folk Festival. Indigo Planet Records would go on to work with artists like Anjelia Pelay, Helixglow, Travis Tooke, and Samantha Lu.  The label also released a benefit CD in support of Invisible Children.

A Tribute To David Kosciolek

Sometime around 2004-2005, I began going to Rutgers Football games with Dave.  He was a true die-hard fan who had great seats for many years.  When I was at a game with him, I was able to move from my season ticket spot in the endzone to the 50 yard line! Each year he would ask me to choose a few games I’d like to see.  I’d meet up at his house, we’d usually stop off somewhere like Delicious Orchards to grab some food for a tailgate with some beers. One of the games I chose at the beginning of 2006 was Louisville.  Now, at the beginning of the year we both thought Rutgers was going to be good but we never expected that game to be a matchup of top 15 teams.  Both teams were undefeated with Louisville ranked #3 in the nation.  Tickets were literally going for $1,000, but Dave said I had a ticket.  That’s the kind of guy he was.  And it wound up being the greatest live game I’ve ever attended.  I can still remember us walking back from the stadium to the parking garage.  New Brunswick was electric that night!

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I can’t remember when he sold Indigo Coffeehouse, but Dave and I stayed in touch over the years - usually talking about Rutgers Football or music.  Whenever he had an extra ticket, he’d see if I could use it.  In 2010, the music bug led him to get back involved in presenting live concerts. He began working with places in Lakewood including The Strand, First Energy Park, and Georgian Court University.  He was like most of the music writers I know; you can go hard for a few years, but then need a break.  After a while, you always come back.

“I always felt like I wanted to do something more locally, but have been disillusioned by much of the scene for some time. I think for it to have happened, I needed a fresh start away from the usual suspects, and the chance to build something on my own, or with a few trusted people,” he wrote to me.

It was around this time that Dave and his wife, Ileana, began looking at houses in Florida.  For a while it seemed like they were planning to keep two houses - one in Jersey and one in Florida - but eventually they just moved to St. Augustine, Florida.  It was a town they fell in love with and one with a local music scene that caught his eye.

At the end of 2011, Dave began asking me questions about print publishing. He said he had an opportunity in St. Augustine he was interested in.  Things cooled, but became back on again a year later. Then that deal ended, but he kept pursuing the idea. In 2014, Kosciolek launched Narrow Magazine.  He said the name came was “based on Saint Augustine having the most narrow street in the USA, also the shorter, more narrow content, and the more opinionated content.” 

A Tribute To David Kosciolek

Narrow Magazine would go on to add a Gainesville edition.  The magazine had a celebration of life for him on June 5th. “We will have musical tributes by several artists and some positive words spoken about the man who changed so many lives” said the invite notice on Narrow’s Facebook page where you can see videos of some performances from the show.

In January 2021, I got an email from him with his new address in New Jersey. Dave and Ileana were happy to be back in New Jersey for good.  I was hoping to catch up with him and maybe see a Rutgers game with him at a bar sometime.  The news of his passing shocked me.  We were close with music, but it’s Rutgers football that I’ll remember him by. You always have a special place in your heart for those sitting next to you at games.  It’s a special bond.  It’s going to be really rough when opening day comes around this year, that’s for sure.  Prayers go out to Ileana… --Gary Wien

A Tribute To David Kosciolek

Michael Patrick - I found myself shocked and saddened to learn of Dave's passing the other day. He was a great friend, sounding board and supporter of live and local music! I last saw Dave and his wonderful wife Ileana just 6 months ago when they came to one of my band performances at the Lighthouse Tavern in Waretown, NJ. in November of 2021.

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I still can recall the day I heard a new coffeehouse would be coming in right around the corner from my house in Matawan. I remember the paper covering the windows during construction and greatly anticipated what was going to be unveiled. It was during that time prior to opening that I introduced myself and met Dave!

We started talking about musical endeavors and opportunities and hit it off right away.

Little did I know then what a special place this would become for myself and so many others.

The Indigo Coffeehouse was born!

I think back on assisting in the taste testing of several coffee brews until Dave found that "Perfect Blend”...

Remembering the coming and going of Bubble tea (with those big straws!) and Ileana's Famous Chicken Salad brings back such fond memories! It was my local hang and had lunch there just about every day.

A Tribute To David Kosciolek

I played a part in starting the first open mic there and participated in what would become a regular music scene with performers on Fridays and Saturday nights. Dave and Ileana were so supportive and excited about the events. It was their personal involvement that helped to instill confidence in many a first time nervous musician and singer songwriter (including myself).

As I built up my confidence, Dave's encouragement helped spawn the 2004 release of my first cd titled "Roots and Branches".... We had the CD release party at The Indigo!

I recall it being so busy and Dave running around with worries about fire code and capacity limits to the point we had to stop letting people in. We laughed about it after the fact!

After that, Dave celebrated every milestone and achievement right along side me and was a first hand witness to each success along the way.

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The Indigo became a place for community. You knew you would run into all your friends an any given open mic night or a special weekend event.There was a special bond and environment of acceptance that made the Indigo such a special and supportive scene.

Many new friends were made, lifelong connections and collaborations were being created right under our nose... A "Scene" was created where there once was none! 

Sometime after Indigo's closing, I put together a special "Reunion Show" at The Claddagh in Highlands, NJ featuring many of the regular performers.  (This expansive list of locals can be seen in the attachment that shows the schedule and photos from the event are throughout this article.)

A Tribute To David Kosciolek

Looking back, I remember Dave spent the entire day (from noon till 11pm!) with me to see all those folks again!

I remember Dave's own words about "Creating a community" .... He will go down in history as doing just that and going far beyond!

Rest in peace my brother!

A Tribute To David Kosciolek

Anthony Walker - After playing with a band in high school, I started playing as a solo artist during my first year of college. Those first experiences were all at Indigo, where I was a weekly regular at the open mic, and eventually started booking my first shows. Dave not only provided a warm and safe environment for many of the area's musicians to gather and share music, he actively encouraged me to use the stage at Indigo to hone my chops and learn how to become a performing songwriter. It was at Indigo that I met many life-long friends, local musicians, my former manager, roommates - the list could go on. The experiences I had there profoundly impacted the next ten years of my life. Dave was a true champion of the local arts who cared deeply for music and the people who make it. He'll be missed sorely by many of us.

A Tribute To David Kosciolek

Michael Brett - Dave was one of the strongest supporters of local music I’ve ever met. One of my favorite memories as a musician was being part of the first -and I believe, only- Indigo Coffeehouse CD compilation of performers who, like myself, regularly played at the coffeehouse. To be asked to put a song on the compilation was my first taste of thinking “wow! somebody likes my music enough to put it on a CD.” I remember, very clearly, Dave asking me if they could put my song “This Is What It’s Like to Be in Heaven” on the compilation and me saying to him “Are you sure you’re not thinking of another song?” My confidence grew from that day forward. 

And if it wasn’t for Dave, Ileana, and Indigo, I wouldn’t have met, and stayed friends with, some extraordinary people. I mean, I’m so lucky I heard somebody like George Wirth for the first time at Indigo, who, to this day, is one of my all-time favorite songwriters. 

Dave’s influence on the local NJ music scene is still felt, even over a decade after Indigo was initially sold.

A Tribute To David Kosciolek

George Wirth - It's difficult to separate Dave Kosciolek from The Indigo Coffeehouse, the iconic music venue he and his wife Ileana created in Matawan NJ, but of course he was much more than that. Dave was a lover of music, musicians and especially singer-songwriters. More than anything I think that's what defined him. Personally, meeting Dave and Ileana was one of those moments that set my life off in a different direction. The Indigo was the first place I ever shared my music with anyone and with Dave's encouragement, generosity and support it led to a true life-changing experience. If Dave thought you had something to offer he'd go out of his way to let other venue owners and music critics know about it, often, as in my case, without their knowledge. He opened the door for many of us in the local music scene, never once taking credit. He was a kind, gentle man, too soon gone, but his legacy lives on in all the people he touched.

A Tribute To David Kosciolek

Brenda Wirth - I can't remember how we found out about the Indigo Coffee House, but I do remember walking in there for the first time. George was tense and he wasn't sure he was going to be able to play in front of anyone. He hadn't written his first song until he was in his mid-50s, so singing in front of strangers, or anyone for that matter, made him nervous.

We made it to the open mic early enough to get a table and say hello to a few people before the music started. There was a young couple working behind the counter. Dave had this quiet smile and nodded, letting us know that we were in the right place. Ileana's was a warm, genuine smile that made us feel welcome right away. This was a safe place.

Dave had a way of encouraging people to perform. I think it was exactly what George needed. You could tell right away that Dave was really into music. He loved talking about music, concerts and other singer-songwriters. He got really excited when he was talking about certain artists. And he listened to the performers during the open mic - really listened to them. His interest and energy helped shape our local music scene.

We met some of our favorite people at those open mics. Most of them are still very dear friends almost 20 years later. 

Going to the Indigo Coffee House open mic once a week and attending the many performances hosted by Dave became the thing that we did for quite a while. It was really hard when we found out that they were selling the place and moving away. 

I spoke to Dave a few months back. He sounded happy to be back in New Jersey and we talked about getting together this summer. I just know that he had plans to do something interesting. I really wish we'd had a chance to do that.

A Tribute To David Kosciolek

Sheli Monacchio - Dave will always hold a special place in my heart, so will Indigo Coffeehouse where I met him. He was welcoming to all musicians, including new ones. He actually gave me my first show ever and inspired me to continue writing songs, at a very challenging time in my life. His kindness made me feel a part of something for the first time in years. He will greatly be missed by so many. Dave's passing is a local tragedy and a heartbreak for the singer/songwriters that he encouraged and wrapped his arms around in the early 2000's. I only wish I told him how much of an inspiration he was to me.

A Tribute To David Kosciolek

Todd Goldin - Dave was the catalyst for meeting many of the people I know in the music scene now.  If it wasn't for Indigo, chances are I wouldn't have been in the scene or made a fraction of the connections that I currently have.  Most of my preliminary friendships stemmed from what started out as weekly trips, but soon became more frequent trips, to Indigo just getting my feet wet in the scene.  A lot of those trips were at Dave's urging, especially at the beginning.  Originally, I would go to see the same people on a regular basis, and when Dave caught onto that, he would urge us to see other people on other nights and come for the open mic on Thursday nights.   He was always kind, welcoming, and always willing to recommend new people to see.   It soon became a home away from home, literally, because it was just minutes away down 34 and also because Dave helped make it that way.  Good friends, food and drinks, and music were what every time you would go to Indigo would be like.   It was like Indigo became a second family.  Long story short, the Indigo was a major cornerstone in making my life, and, quite frankly, the lives of many others, what they are now.  Dave, cheers to you.  You deserve nothing less.  I hope you're smiling up in heaven.  A lot of us owe a great debt to you that we'll never be able to repay.  

A Tribute To David Kosciolek

David Kosciolek, Ileana Artiga-Kosciolek, and fellow Rutgers fan Bud Keller at the Indigo Reunion Show.

Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Upstage Magazine, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at

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