Category Archives: Teenagers

Kids Eat Free! (Well, Okay, 10% Off)

On the one hand, Westport teenagers always complain “there’s nothing to do here!”

On the other hand, they love to eat.

In an effort to convince hungry kids that there are things to do in Westport — like, go to a variety of local restaurants — the Youth Commission has created a Student Discount Partnership.

Working with the Downtown Merchants Association and Chamber of Commerce, commission members have signed nearly 30 restaurants (and 2 businesses: Suited.co and Lux Bond & Green). They offer 10% off for Staples, Weston High and Greens Farms Academy students presenting a school ID. Only 2 places said no.

Participating locations sport a sticker. The eye-catching Minuteman design was created by Staples senior Julia Schorr. Baker Graphics printed 70, for free.

Student discount sticker

The program began just a couple of weeks ago, with low-key publicity. But participation — and feedback — has been great. Oscar’s, for example, has seen a definite bump in business, from groups of teens.

Oscar's owner Lee Papageorge gives thumb's-up to the Youth Commission's Student Discount Program.

Oscar’s owner Lee Papageorge gives thumb’s-up to the Youth Commission’s Student Discount Partnership.

A girl reported that she and her friends had a great time at Spotted Horse. They gave everyone a discount, even though a couple of kids forgot their student IDs.

Outside the Spotted Horse, with student IDs from Staples, Weston and Greens Farms Academy.

Outside Spotted Horse, with student IDs from Staples, Weston and Greens Farms Academy.

“We wanted to concentrate on home-owned places, where kids could have an impact,” says Youth Commission member Reece Schachne, discussing why members selected restaurants instead of chain stores.

Publicity has come mainly through Instagram (“wycstudentdiscounts” is the handle). Youth Commission co-chair Kyle Ratner is helping coordinate an official launch this week, with announcements on the “Good Morning Staples” TV show, a story in the school newspaper Inklings, and the website westportyouthcommission.org (launching February 9).

You’re probably wondering: Why do Westport students need a discount for anything?

Lower prices are not the main aim, Reece and Kyle say. It’s more about making sure teenagers know they have plenty of things to do, and many places to do it, all around Westport.

Especially if it involves food.

(For more information, click here. Participants in the program include 323, Acqua, Angelina’s, Arezzo, Bartaco, Black Duck, Blue Lemon, Border Grill, Da Pietro’s, Finalmente, Freshii, Garelick & Herbs, Jeera Little Thai Kitchen, Joe’s Pizza, Lux Bond & Green, Mumbai Times, Oscar’s, Planet Pizza, Rizzuto’s, Señor Salsa, SoNo Baking Company, Spotted Horse, Suited.Co, Sweet Frog, The Boathouse, Tutti’s, Villa del Sol, Viva Zapata and Westport Pizzeria. Any restaurant or business interested in joining the program should email kyle.ratner1@gmail.com or matthew@westportwestonchamber.com)

Zoe Brown: “I’m Glad I’m A Spring Admit”

Last March — a couple of months before graduating from Staples High School — Zoe Brown got the legendary fat envelope from the University of Southern California. That’s the good news.

The bad news: She would have to wait nearly a year. Her acceptance was for spring.

Zoe described her reaction — and what’s happened since — on her well-written, entertaining “IMO” blog. Her words should be read by every Staples senior waiting for their own college news — and everyone else in town too.

————————————————————–

Knowing that I would not start college at the same time as all my friends was scary and upsetting. I knew I should have been excited, but I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed, even cheated.

Could I still make friends? Find my place? Graduate on time? What was I supposed to do for a whole semester? Should I turn down my dream school for one that offered me admission in the fall?

But after finishing up my fall semester at Santa Monica College — a highly ranked community college — I realize that being admitted in the spring was a blessing in disguise. I learned so many lessons and went through so many new experiences that I never would have if I’d started school in the fall.

Zoe Brown, hiking in the Los Angeles hills.

Zoe Brown, hiking in the Los Angeles hills.

This past semester I lived in an apartment building off campus, with 3 other girls.

With no meal plan, I bought my own groceries and cooked (more like “managed to throw together”) my own meals. With no resident assistant or instruction of any sort, I learned to deal with any issue independently.

I learned through clogged toilets, growing mold and festering food that I actually have to clean my surroundings thoroughly, like with a sponge and some special foam scrub.

And from my free time and the 3,000 miles separating me from my parents and most of my friends, I focused on putting myself out there to meet new people.

Most importantly, I also learned to enjoy spending some time with someone who will always be there for me: myself.

Zoe Brown, browsing at The Last Bookstore.

Zoe Brown, browsing in a bookstore.

Being a spring admit forced me to branch way outside my comfort zone.

Westport — where over 90 percent of the population is white and most people live comfortably, even luxuriously — is nothing like Santa Monica College. Here I met just about as many Asians and Hispanics as I did whites.

I met a girl who was admitted to New York University, but had to turn it down for financial reasons. I met a boy from Maryland who lives on his own, and works full-time at a real estate agency. I met a woman 3 times my age who is going to school for the first time, and a boy who knows everything about gangs.

At SMC I discovered that there is so much more outside the bubble that was my hometown and my high school. I’d heard about it before, and I’ve traveled a bit in my lifetime. But until now, I’ve never lived in a place where I could see what else is out there.

Zoe Brown: California girl.

Zoe Brown: California girl.

If you’re at USC, chances are you worked hard throughout high school. If not, you must have worked hard in some other way.

I worked so hard straight through my 4 years of high school that I never had time to do so many things.

Being a spring admit and having so much more time than a normal college student allowed me to cross many of these things off my to-do list.

I had time to explore Southern California in every way – from getting lost on hikes and cruising along the Pacific Coast Highway, to buying books for $1 at The Last Bookstore and doing an overnight trip to Laguna Hills.

I had time to start this blog, to write for other publications, and to actually read books for my own pleasure. Most importantly I had time to breathe, and realize how grateful I should be for where I am today.

Yes, sometimes it sucks to be a little behind socially, and live a walk away from all the on-campus happenings. When it does seem to suck, I try my best to remember that I still made it to the school I dreamed about for years. There’s no reason to be anything but thrilled and proud about that.

Anyway, what’s one less semester, when I’ve got the whole rest of my life to keep FIGHTING ON! with the Trojan family?

(To read Zoe’s full story — and the rest of her blog — click here.)

Even before officially enrolling this spring, Zoe Brown enjoys a USC football game.

Even before officially enrolling this spring, Zoe Brown enjoys a USC football game.

Community Talk: “Loss In The Community: How Parents Can Nurture And Support Teens”

In the wake of 2 recent tragedies — the deaths of a freshman student and a high school teacher — over 2 dozen Westporters are sponsoring a talk. It’s set for this Thursday (January 28), 7 p.m. at Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church downtown.

Grief recovery specialist Lisa Athan will speak on “Loss in the Community: What Parents Need to Know to Nurture and Support Their Teenagers.”

Aimed at parents, teachers and practitioners, it will explore thoughtful responses to sudden loss. Athan will discuss how teens cope with and talk about grief, and how to nurture healing in teens and communities after a tragedy.

The purpose is to build open lines of communication and provide resources as a means of encouraging discussion and support in the community. This is planned to be the 1st in a series of conversations.

Athan is executive director and founder of Grief Speaks, and has been trained in post-traumatic stress management. She is co-creator of Camp Clover, a bereavement day camp for children ages 7-15. Athan recently presented at Jonathan Law High School in Milford, following several tragic losses in the student body.

grief

(Sponsors include Stacey Aronson, Bay Street Pediatrics, Lawrence Berliner, Emily Cashman, Causeway Collaborative, Ava Diamond, Faith Filiault, Gerri Fleming, Freudigman & Billings, Francoise Jaffe, Betsey Lebow, Stew Leonard’s, Wendy Levine, Melissa and Paul Levy, Tracy Livecchi, Laura Matefy, Christopher Mills, Kim Ann Oliver, Piper Paul, Recovery Center of Westport, Diane Safran, Frank Safran, Holly Schaff, Anthony Silver, Silver Hill Hospital, Katherine Sullivan, Village Pediatrics, Westport Family Counseling, Westport House and Willows Pediatric Group.)

Maggie Kneip’s Amazing Journey: Now Everyone Knows

In the 1980s, life was good for Maggie Kneip. Her handsome husband was a rising star at the Wall Street Journal. They were raising a 3-year-old daughter and newborn son in hip Hoboken. She had great friends, and a loving family.

Suddenly, within 9 months, her husband was dead of AIDS.

Then her real ordeal began.

Over the next 3 decades Maggie’s story became a symbol of perseverance, growth and triumph. It’s also a story with plenty of Westport connections.

Last month, she shared it with the world.

Now Everyone Will Know: The Perfect Husband, His Shattering Secret, My Rediscovered Life was published on December 1 — World AIDS Day. Exploring themes of sexuality, love, humanity,  the damaging nature of family secrets and the power of truth, it’s an important book for all Westporters — even without the local ties.

Maggie Kneip and John Andrew.

Maggie Kneip and John Andrew.

Maggie writes with unflinching honesty and great grace about her life before and after her husband, John Andrew — Brown University graduate, dynamic personality, great lover — was diagnosed with what in those days was a devastating, stigmatizing death sentence.

She describes her growing realization of the hidden life he led as a closeted gay man, and her reaction when she learns of his diagnosis — just weeks after the birth of their 2nd child: “I had to see him. I had to kill him.”

But Maggie set aside her anger, and tried passionately to keep her husband alive. Caring for 2 youngsters and a husband dying a gruesome death seems a herculean task. It was made even harder by her fears that she and her children were also infected — and the revulsive reactions of a few “friends.”

John died in March of 1991, age 36. Maggie felt angry, betrayed, traumatized, heartbroken and desolate.

Maggie Kneip and her children, in June 1991. Her husband had died 3 months earlier.

Maggie Kneip and her children, in June 1991. Her husband had died 3 months earlier.

John’s brother Robert — who lived in Westport — mourned him one way. Maggie was different. She needed to protect her children. They learned never to tell anyone how their father died.

Hoping for a new start, Maggie got a job in publishing. She moved to the Upper East Side. A few years later at work she met a great woman, who lived in Westport.

Though she’d had a bad experience here once, when she brought John to visit his brother, she decided to leave her small New York apartment for a “perfect turn-of-the-century, walk-to-town, fixer-upper, below-budget saltbox” in Westport.

Her friend introduced her to a circle of “unfettered, insouciant and creative women.” Maggie helped form a book club, with women she grew close to.

Maggie Kneip (Photo/David Dreyfuss)

Maggie Kneip (Photo/David Dreyfuss)

But she avoided all mention of John. She walled herself off from her kids’ friends’ parents, avoiding conversations and even friendships.

Her husband still haunted her dreams. As her son got older, he looked more and more like  his father. But as Maggie’s children went through Staples — successful and active — they did not want to talk about him.

Maggie lost her publishing job. She became an empty nester. It was not until her kids — separately, at their college graduations — surprised her by saying they’d been thinking about their dad, that she decided it was time to tell her story.

So she wrote. And set herself free.

In a writing class at the 92nd Street Y, Maggie met a published author who’d grown up in Westport. Melissa Kirsch was moved by Maggie, and encouraged her to turn her short pieces into a memoir.

Maggie was also inspired by Sarah Herz. The former Westport teacher — a national expert in children’s literature, who died last year — became one of her mentors.

Sarah Herz and Maggie Kneip at Westport's Blue Lemon restaurant.

Sarah Herz and Maggie Kneip at Westport’s Blue Lemon restaurant.

Finding a publisher was not easy. “AIDS is over,” she heard. And, “We don’t know how to market this.” As well as: “This woman is angry.”

She’s not. Her writing is insightful, honest and strong. But with no publisher willing to take a chance, Maggie self-published.

The result is a remarkable book. Yet as powerful as it is for readers, Maggie’s memoir has also meant a great deal to her.

Today, Maggie senses a subtle shift in her approach to people. “I’m engaging more. And I’m less judgmental of others,” she says.

She’s become more involved at Temple Israel. She joined a women’s group, something inconceivable a few years ago.

“I think I’m more easy to talk to now,” Maggie says. “I’m happier.”

Maggie Kneip book cover

Maggie praises her beloved book group for being part of the Westport that helped her grow. As members talked about their lives — including the ups and downs in their own marriages — she realized that keeping a secret kept her from connecting with others.

Her book — with an afterword from former Westporter and noted psychologist Dale Atkins — has been well received. “People appreciate my honesty,” Maggie says. “They say it reminds them of that AIDS era, and the people they’ve lost.” She’s been surprised by how many readers are spouses in mixed-orientation marriages.

Now Everyone Will Know acknowledges the power of secrets, and provides a portrait in courage for moving beyond fear and shame.

Maggie’s husband John lived a hidden life. Now she’s come out of her own closet — as the wife of a gay spouse, and the widow of an AIDS victim.

She — along with her children, John’s friends from Brown, and Wall Street Journal colleagues — participate each year in the New York AIDS Walk. They raise funds for this still-awful disease.

And, finally, they talk about John.

(For more information, or to buy Now Everyone Will Know, click on www.maggiekneip.com. Hat tip: Lori Andrews) 

Cody Thomas: “Kids Are Amazing”

Two days after the death of Cody Thomas, Staples High School students recalled him as one of the most caring and committed teachers they’d ever had. 

The roots of that concern are evident in an article Thomas — who began his career as a journalist — wrote for CT Mirror in December 2014, after his 1st year in the classroom.

Describing teenagers, Thomas said:

Kids are amazing — way more incredible than most adults. The students I teach are wonderful, brilliant, and creative. If they don’t always act that way, it’s because of some undefined deadening effect caused by school.

Cody Thomas, at Staples High School's graduation last year.

Cody Thomas, at Staples High School’s graduation last year.

I hope to always be able to work against the negative and to restore hope in our school systems. Can a naïve, young teacher change the life of one student? Probably not, but he or she can hope.

On my first day of teaching, I went over classroom procedures and emphasized the fact that I expected students at 16 to be mature most of the time. “Most of the time,” was key to my rhetoric.

“I’m 24,” I told them. “I’m not mature all of the time.”

Despite an entire world of influences pulling me in different directions, I wanted my classroom to be a place for taking risks. Treat kids like adults, and more often than not they will act like adults.

An email from superintendent of schools Elliott Landon to parents earlier today said that Thomas’ death has been declared a suicide.

(Click here for the full CT Mirror story by Cody Thomas.)

TEAM Westport Asks Teens To Reflect On Race

It’s often said that Westport students live in a bubble. The outside world seldom intrudes — particularly when that outside world involves racial issues.

TEAM Westport — the town’s multicultural organization — works to engage teenagers in “the real world.” One way they do that is through an annual essay contest.

This year’s premise says:

In the past year a troubling number of highly charged and tragic incidents — from Ferguson to Charleston to Chicago — have prompted public discussions and protests on college campuses about the state of race relations in the US. People disagree on the nature of the problem and on the appropriate way to address divisions in our society.

In 1,000 words or less, entrants are asked to describe how you, personally, make sense of the events that have occurred.

It’s a wide-open topic. It invites thought — and thoughtful, nuanced responses. The contest is open to all students in grades 9 through 12 who attend Staples High School, another school in Westport, or who live in Westport but go to school elsewhere.

A multiracial group marched to protest the Ferguson shooting last year.

A multiracial group marched to protest the Ferguson shooting last year.

Winners will be announced at a ceremony at the Westport Library on April 4 (coincidentally, the 48th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination).

Up to 3 prizes will be awarded. First prize is $1,000; 2nd is $750, 3rd $500. “06880” will highlight the winners.

TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey says, “The focus of this year’s topic is to help extend the perspectives of Westport teens beyond those which would  normally be driven by demographics. This topic has touched our community and others in Fairfield County directly over the past year.”

TEAM-Westport-logo2This is the 3rd TEAM Westport essay contest. Last year’s prompt asked students to reflect on who sat where in their school cafeteria — and how to break down barriers that prevented them from knowing others who were different from themselves.

In the inaugural contest, students reflected on demographic changes in the US — describing the benefits and challenges of the changes for Westport generally, and themselves personally.

This year’s entry deadline is February 26. Applications are available on the TEAM Westport website (www.teamwestport.org). For more information, or to help sponsor the contest (as individuals or organization), email info@teamwestport.org.

AEDs Are Already Ready

Less than 3 months ago, a Staples High School student suffered cardiac arrest while watching a soccer game.

Quick action by trainers and bystanders — including CPR, and the use of an AED by the father of a player — saved the teenager’s life.

An equally speedy response has brought dozens of AEDs — portable defibrillators —  to every school in Westport.

The Adam Greenlee Foundation — named for another student brought back to life a year earlier — partnered with the school district and Westport PAL. Within weeks, they’d raised over $85,000.

Last week, 26 AEDs were installed in school gyms and other important locations. The one below was mounted near the Staples cafeteria.

AED

Another 22 AEDs, with travel cases, were given to schools for use on field trips and sports events outside of Westport.

This spring, 17 more will be installed in outdoor cases, for athletic fields and recess areas. Ten others have been given to PAL, for use at sports events outside town.

It was an amazingly rapid — and crucial life-saving — community effort.

Just imagine: If the state Department of Transportation worked at this pace, the Merritt Parkway North Avenue bridge would already be repaired. The North Compo/Main Street/Clinton Avenue realignment would be finished. And the Bridge Street bridge renovation would be over and done, somehow pleasing every single Westporter.

Facing Down The Communist Menace

More than 6 decades ago, the McCarthy witch hunt — highlighted in the current film “Trumbo” — affected all Americans. Area residents like Fred Hellerman — who sang with Pete Seeger in the Weavers — saw their careers torpedoed, in a frightening, country-wide rush to judgment.

TrumboIt took the courage of men like Kirk Douglas and Howard Fast — both with Westport and Weston connections — to break the blacklist. Douglas surreptitiously hired screenwriter Dalton Trumbo to adapt Fast’s novel “Spartacus,” a major step toward helping restore many writers’ good names.

A couple of years before McCarthy, Westport faced its own charges of communism. But officials here reacted in a very different way.

According to Westporter-Herald newspaper accounts unearthed by alert “06880” reader Fred Cantor, in early April 1947 Fred Hollister wrote a long story in Inklings, the Staples High School newspaper. It described a new organization: American Youth for Democracy.

David Hollister, as a 1947 Staples High School senior: class vice president, Yale applicant, alleged communist.

David Hollister, as a 1947 Staples High School senior: class vice president, Yale applicant, alleged communist.

Hollister — a senior — was awaiting word on admission to Yale. He was vice president of his class, editor of the new literary magazine Soundings, and a member of the Norwalk chapter of AYD. That group — an “interracial teen-age club” — offered “a program for economic security and opportunity, education, housing, health, farm youth, recreation, juvenile delinquency, veterans, civil liberties, and peace,” the Westporter-Herald reported.

The AYD wanted to build “more and more inter-racial clubs in our country, clubs where young Negro and white people, by working, playing and fighting for the same things together, learn through actual experience that there are no ‘superior’ and no ‘inferior’ races.”

FBI director J. Edgar Hoover called it “part of the Communist party.”

A front-page story in the local paper said that “school officials, P-T.A. officers, School Study Council members and parents of high school students are all considering ways and means to check the infiltration of what the U.S. Chamber ofo Commerce has called subversive ideas fostered by the AYD.”

A poster of the "radical" American Youth for Democracy.

A poster of the “radical” American Youth for Democracy.

Superintendent of Schools Gerhardt Rast conducted an investigation into the “publication of the AYD propoganda.” He “emphatically” cleared Inklings’ faculty advisor, social studies teacher Eli Berton, of “any blame.” Rast said that Berton had no idea what the AYD was. However, the superintendent said that he would ask the Board of Education to take action to “prevent its growth in the school.”

“The article’s listing of the organization’s aims could be that of any liberal organization, except for an emphasis on federal aid for various projects,” the Westporter-Herald noted.

An editorial took a patronizing tone. High school is a time “when youngsters look up on the world and worry about its imperfections. They are dissatisfied with the picture of war, famine, hatred and intolerance. Naturally they dream of making the world over, fashioning it to be without sin or greed.”

That’s not the way the world works, the paper continued. But perhaps Hollister should be thanked, because by “its careless publicity (the AYD) has ruined its chances for successful proselytizing in the high school  here.”

The editorial concluded: “Fellow traveler, whither now?”

Eli Berton was a long-time, and very well-respected, Staples High School social studies teacher.

Eli Berton was a long-time, and very well-respected, Staples High School social studies teacher.

In the days that followed, the American Legion asked the Board of Ed to place more importance on the teaching of American history in Westport schools.

The board discussed the matter, but refused to remove either Hollister or Berton from Inklings. 

The superintendent took a similar stand. In fact, he said, “We do teach the Bill of Rights to our students….How can we reconcile action denying David Hollister the right to publish any further articles with what they students know about Article I?…I don’t believe such action would be wise or consistent.”

And so the communist menace in Westport was dealt with: intelligently, graciously, and with no inflammatory rhetoric.

Candlelight 2015: A Concert For The Ages

Hundreds of alumni — from as far away as California, and as long ago as the 1950s — poured in to the Staples High School auditorium, for last night’s 75th anniversary Candlelight Concert.

At the end of the emotional evening, they poured onto the stage for Staples’ largest-ever “Hallelujah Chorus.” In addition to the traditional choral singers, several former orchestra members brought their instruments on stage too.

Candlelight has inspired musicians and concert-goers for three-quarters of a century. Here’s to the next 75!

Wellington Baumann holds his candle proudly, during the "Sing We Noel" processional. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Wellington Baumann holds his candle proudly, during the “Sing We Noel” processional. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

The timeless "Sing We Noel" processional. (Photo/Kerry Long)

The timeless “Sing We Noel” processional. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Among the programs on display was this. The 2nd verse of "Sing We Noel" is no longer sung -- making it a lost verse from a carol that (except for Staples) is now quite obscure.

Among the programs on display was this. The 2nd verse of “Sing We Noel” is no longer sung — making it a lost verse from a carol that (except for Staples) is now quite obscure. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Dr. Robert Kwan accompanied the chorus and chorale. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Dr. Robert Kwan accompanied the chorus and chorale. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Vocal director Luke Rosenberg asks his chorale to take a bow. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Vocal director Luke Rosenberg asks his chorale to take a bow. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Adele Valovich's orchestra wowed the audience with 2 selections from "Coppelia Ballet." Nick Mariconda's band was similarly stunning. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Adele Valovich’s orchestra wowed the audience with 2 selections from “Coppelia Ballet.” (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Nick Mariconda's band added a big brass sound. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Nick Mariconda’s band added a big brass sound. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

World music is an important part of Candlelight. The African song "Noel" included rhythmic clapping by the a cappella choir. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

World music is an important part of Candlelight. The African song “Noel” included rhythmic clapping by the a cappella choir. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Don Rickenback's original production number included a Santa "Grinch." (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Don Rickenback’s original production number included this Santa “Grinch.” (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

David Ohanian -- son of Candlelight founder John Ohanian, and himself a world renowned French horn player -- guest-conducted the orchestra for the "Hallelujah Chorus." Former choral director Alice Lipson did the same honors with the vocalists. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

David Ohanian — son of Candlelight founder John Ohanian, and himself a world renowned French horn player — guest-conducted the orchestra for the “Hallelujah Chorus.” Former choral director Alice Lipson did the same honors with the vocalists. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Alumni joined current singers and orchestra members for a memorable "Hallelujah Chorus." (Photo/Kerry Long)

Alumni joined current singers and orchestra members for a memorable “Hallelujah Chorus.” Click on or hover over this (and every) photo for the full effect. (Photo/Kerry Long)

A program from 1958 -- just one thread in an unbroken string of memorable Candlelight Concerts, from 1940 to 2015. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

A program from 1958 — just one thread in an unbroken string of memorable Candlelight Concerts, from 1940 to 2015. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Bonus feature: Joe Pucci’s video of the “Hallelujah Chorus:

 

“It’s All About The Music”

There were many highlights at this weekend’s 75th anniversary Candlelight Concert

Scores of alumni traveled from across the country to honor the music that meant so much to them, so many years ago.

Candlelight logoWorld renowned musician David Ohanian (son of Candlelight founder John Ohanian) and former choral director Alice Lipson guest-conducted the “Hallelujah Chorus.”

The fruits of hours of donated labor — searchable digitized recordings from as far back as 1953, scanned photos, souvenir programs — were on display in the lobby.

But one of the coolest surprises came right at the start of each show. The lights dimmed — and instead of the “Sing We Noel” processional, audiences were treated to a 9-minute video.

Created and produced by John Brandt — a 1961 Staples High School grad who sang for George Weigle back in the day — it honors the long legacy of Candlelight.

But it does much more than that too. In a series of clips and brief interviews, it offers a powerful argument for the importance of arts in education. Generations of Westport students have become better, stronger, richer people thanks to the school system’s music program. This stunning video is a tribute to the men and women — and the town — that gave them that gift.