Love at First Sound: Meet Niagara Falls Creative Power-Couple


by Peter Heuer


Who doesn't love a good love story - especially when that story involves a love for the city of Niagara Falls. Enter Dave Riffel and Danusia Novak-Riffel; a duo who has arguably earned the title of Niagara Falls creative power couple. Between the pair, you get a two multi-instrumentalists, street performers, a slew of bands, a videographer, a photographer, a music educator, a multimedia-production educator, small business owners, and two people who are truly passionate about the betterment of Niagara Falls. 

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Dave and Danusia met in February of 2003 when he was 16 and she was 17. It all started with two fateful posts on Dave's band had turned to the forum in search of a drummer posting: "BAND NEEDS DRUMMER." At the same time, they stumbled upon another unassuming post entitled "DRUMMER NEEDS BAND." Dave and his band drove up to the Falls to meet Danusia and audition her for the open spot. She was the first of three auditions scheduled for that day.

"We drove down the alley between 25th and 26th street up to the garage, where Danusia had her kit set up between her dad's construction equipment. After a few songs, we didn't even bother with the other two auditions. The drive to the Falls from Buffalo was clearly worth it for this collaboration. Little did we know it would be the beginning of a long future of being bandmates, and eventually spouses."
Danisua playing drums at her studio at the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center

Danisua playing drums at her studio at the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center

Danusia’s parents immigrated to the US from Poland in the late 1970’s.  Born and raised in the Falls, she has remained here ever since. Growing up 1st generation was difficult, but overtime it helped her understand her passion and strong sense of culture and pride in her heritage. After tying the knot in November of 2012, Dave moved to Niagara Falls after living in Buffalo for 26 years. At first, he was unsure what to expect. After living in Niagara Falls over the last five years, he expresses no regrets in the move.

"I’m so proud to live in this city, and so excited to be a part of such a hopeful and active community!" 

And they are active. Here is a small sample of their current projects:

  • Music:
  • Video:
    • Upper Story Studios - based in room 340 at the Niagara Arts & Cultural Center
      • Their business is founded on collaborating with aficionados to creatively capture their process and craft! Whether it’s short and shareable video music lessons, or capturing a meaningful milestone for someone, or filming an Environmentalist/Alligator Wrestler in the Everglades, They want to help capture people doing what they love!
      • Dave is currently working on his 15th consecutive TV commercial campaign for local retailer Valu Home Centers. 
  • Teaching at the NACC:
    • For six-weeks this summer, Dave taught video production at the NACC Stages Summer Camp for “NACC NEWS” with the goal of educating the next generation of investigative reporters about finding the "quest behind every question", and "answering interesting questions that people didn’t even know they wanted to ask”

In addition to her numerous projects, Danusia is also sponsored by RegalTip - one of the worlds largest manufacturer of drumsticks that happens to be located right here in Niagara Falls. 

Both Dave and Danusia share a passion for Niagara Falls. Both have their own reasons for calling Niagara Falls home. For them, it boils down to four essential aspects that keep them firmly rooted in the rapid city.

  • Nature
    • People take for granted how incredible the Falls and the Gorge really are! It never, ever gets old. Like standing beside the ocean, the massiveness of natures power can only humble and center you.
  • Diversity & Community
    • Tom DeSantis, Director of Planning & Environmental Services for the City of NF, perhaps said it best in my “NACCumentary": he said “ If you want to go fast, you go alone, if you want to go far you go together.” It’s a unique thing to be a part of a small community that lives inside of a world-renown city which hosts world travelers year round who long to experience the beauty many of us take for granted. Creatively capturing the insights and stories of our visitors is a passion project I think is worth dedicating my life towards.
  • Livibilty
    • After commuting to West Seneca to the Valu Home Centers Corporate Office every day for 4 years, I recently left my job to build up my business here in Niagara Falls.  Niagara Falls cost of living is extremely low, and I can’t help but look around and see exponential potential for this place. So much Native American culture is based in aural storytelling, so tapping into that tradition in a modern way I feel would be really impactful in a volume or collection. The opportunity to have an AFFORDABLE studio space has made it possible for Danusia to be found by Regal Tip, for us to produce content for other musicians, and have a community of other artists to support!
  • and, perhaps most importantly, the People
    • We want to be a part of a rising city. Dave lived in Buffalo for his entire life, and watched as that city unified in passion to make it a better place to live, work and play. Although the momentum is strong in Buffalo, we truly believe the momentum is STRONGER here in the Falls!  We don’t want to just stand on the sidelines and watch a city grow, we want to get our hands dirty too, and get involved some how through our unique abilities. The idea of being renewed, or "born again" is at the core of our faith, and this city has a chance to do just that because of all of our hands and feet working together!
Busking at Niagara Falls State Park. (contributed photo)

Busking at Niagara Falls State Park. (contributed photo)

As far as the future of Niagara Falls is concerned, Danusia and Dave are excited to be a part of the rebirth of the city through the arts. Moving forward, they have a clear vision of what is in store for Niagara Falls. 

  • Beautifying the neighborhoods, and incentivizing young families to move here, so that this area is not only a revolving door of tourism, but an active community all it’s own. More businesses focusing on meeting everyday needs.
  • We day-dream of being a part of creating a world-renown World Music Festival held right down on Goat Island or on the grassy field on Green Island. Why does Canada and the Casino get to have all the fun on the edge of the Falls? Why not have a huge, legit, outdoor concert series or music festival for all of the tourists to see as they visit and inviting world musicians from all over the globe? 
  • It has also been a huge passion of ours over the past 15 years to integrate the arts into our faith practices. Dave has a vision for creating a huge Chatres Labyrinth on Green Island, to invite people to pause and meditate, and feel connected to themselves and nature at one of the 7 wonders of the world. At the center of the labyrinth could be a swing, or a giant vinyl map for people to mark where they have pilgrimaged from. An interactive, giant public art project that is so simple in nature would for sure give people all over the globe yet just ANOTHER reason to make the trip to NF, and help document the places people have travelled from!
  • Continuing to promote the Niagara Arts & Cultural Center and all that happens there can only overflow into the rest of the city. I think we need to get more people on the shuttle busses to the NACC from the State Park! 
  • As a city, we need to get creative with what kinds of venues can host local musicians to play! There’s a huge community of musicians around WNY, but a huge lack of opportunities to gig in NF, (at least that we are aware of!) Perhaps an artists directory on a blog or Facebook page to connect businesses with local musicians could help foster this!

With their numerous projects, you should have plenty of opportunities to check out their work. They will be performing with their band Pangea at Pints for Progress on September 21st at the Bakery Lounge.