Tag Archives: Jim Honeycutt

“It’s A Wonderful Life” Indeed!

Take out your earbuds. Move over, Spotify. You’re so old school, iTunes.

Staples students are embracing a cutting-edge new technology: radio.

But not just any radio: a 1940s-style radio drama.

WWPT_logoTomorrow (Friday, December 19, 11 a.m.), Jim Honeycutt’s Audio Production class and David Roth’s Theater 3 Acting class collaborate on a radio broadcast of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

They’ll use the original 1947 script — including advertisements from that long-ago time.

Two years ago, a similar WWPT-FM production won 1st and 2nd place awards in the John Drury national high school radio competition. Check it out:

It’s a phenomenal event — and a great undertaking. High school students incorporate live drama skills, sound effects and radio production into an entertaining, uplifting performance.

You can hear it locally on 90.3 FM. Or — in a modern twist unavailable during the Truman administration — you can listen to the livestream anywhere in the world. Just click on www.wwptfm.com, then go to “Listen Live” and “Click here to access the district stream.”

It is indeed a wonderful life!

Claudine Brantley: A Filmmaker To Watch

In the wake of Westport’s selection as Connecticut’s “Fan Favorite Town of the Year,” plenty of praise was heaped on 3 elementary school girls. They conceived the idea for a promotional video touting the contest, then starred in what ultimately pushed our town to the top.

No one’s talking about Claudine Brantley, who filmed and edited the video.

That’s fine with her. Claudine, who graduated from Staples last June, calls her young colleagues “enthusiastic, adorable and very easy to work with.” They came up with the locations highlighted in the video, and “starred” in it.

But Claudine’s very professional work should not go unnoticed. And her back story deserves to be told.

Born in Georgia and raised in New London, Connecticut, Claudine came to Westport in the middle of sophomore year. Her mother wanted to provide better opportunities for Claudine and her brother Malik, and made considerable sacrifices to get here.

Claudine Brantly

Claudine Brantley

Claudine quickly got involved in the school. She joined the literary magazine Soundings, and the Gay-Straight Alliance. She found a job shelving books at the Westport Library.

And — through a Staples course called Narrative Film — she discovered a passion for video.

“I really like being able to tell stories visually,” Claudine says. “You have so many interactions, and ways to create a vision of something.”

Instructor Jim Honeycutt ranks Claudine with “Staples Hall of Fame filmmakers” like Adam Marcus, Luke Greenfield and Daryl Wein. “The only difference is that she is not in Hollywood — yet,” he says.

He calls her work “unlike most student films. They are intensely personal and profound.”

Claudine cajoles Staples Players into acting in her films. She scours the internet to find people to do voiceovers. Her sound tracks are “ethereal and haunting,” Honeycutt says.

She finds extraordinary royalty-free music to use legally. It sounds like it was written just for her, Honeycutt adds.

Her films “An Interloping Dream” and “Abraham” have been selected for the 2014 All American High School Film Festival.

“Claudine works incredibly hard at developing her craft,” Honeycutt says. “She is very devoted and serious. She has a wonderful heart, and a willingness to fight.”

That heart was on display when she agreed to help 3 Westport girls fulfill their “fan favorite” dream.

“I’m impressed with how involved those kids were, and how at a young age they had such love for their town,” Claudine says.

She credits them with helping her learn more about Westport.

Clearly, Claudine has learned plenty on her own. Now a freshman film and photography major at Parsons The New School for Design, she hopes to focus on documentaries.

In the years to come, she’ll no doubt make films far more important than the one that earned Westport its “fan favorite” honor.

And, no doubt, they’ll make Claudine Brantley a “fan favorite” in the video world.

(A collection of films by Claudine Brantley is available on YouTube.)



Kelsey Shockey Will Happily Make Your Day

Kelsey Shockey has had a tough life. But she may be the happiest girl ever to graduate from Staples.

Kelsey Shockey handled a camera at the 2012 graduation. Today, she gets her own diploma.

Kelsey Shockey handled a camera at the 2012 graduation. Today, she gets her own diploma.

The senior — who earns her diploma a few hours from now (and is a state finalist tennis player) — always has a smile. She makes each day brighter, for everyone.

Her “Happy Tips” on the “Good Morning Staples” TV show are legendary.

Last night, she took joy one step further.

She spoke at baccalaureate — and capped off her speech with a video. Produced with Jim Honeycutt and Mike Zito, it shows a variety of Staples folks singing, dancing, heading soccer balls (!), and generally being happy, all to the tune of Pharrell Williams’ song of the same name.

There are appearances by students, teachers, coaches, custodians, paraprofessionals, cafeteria ladies — even principal John Dodig and superintendent of schools Elliott Landon show up.

Staples is a high-pressure, high-stakes place. But it’s also a school filled with people who care — and who genuinely want every student to feel welcome and loved. And to be happy.

Check out the video. Kelsey Shockey will make you smile. As she has done every day, for 4 years, at the school she graduates from today.

(Click to be taken directly to YouTube.)

(Every year, Jim Honeycutt produces a 2-DVD set graduation package. It includes baccalaureate, graduation, the best of “Good Morning Staples,” Homecoming, highlights of proms, plays, concerts — you name it. Ordering details will be available next week at the Staples High School home page.)

All Candlelight, All The Time

The Candlelight Concert is the Staples music department’s gift to the town.

And the Staples media department’s gift is to play those concerts over WWPT-FM (90.3), during the holiday season.

From now through the end of this week, “Wrecker Radio” is presenting every Candlelight Concert, from 2001 through this year’s very rare show. (Due to snow, only one concert was performed.)

Audio production instructor Jim Honeycutt recorded the 1st show 12 years ago, with help from student Robert Anstett. This year, Alex Fasciolo helped out.

Click here to listen to the livestream of this special holiday gift.

Candlelight Collage 2013

“A Christmas Carol” Comes To (Radio) Life Today

When NBC presented “The Sound of Music” — the 1st live network television musical since 1959 — earlier this month, the ratings gangbuster boasted a Westport connection.

Former Staples Player Gina Rattan served as associate director.

Today (Thursday, December 19, 1 p.m.), an entire cast of Players participates in another live performance: “A Christmas Carol.”

This one’s on radio. And while the audience is a bit smaller — WWPT-FM 90.3 is the Staples radio station, though it is livestreamed worldwide — the challenges are the same as with TV. When you’re live, you get no second chances. The moment you screw up, everyone knows.

Rehearsing "A Christmas Carol," in front of the microphones.

Rehearsing “A Christmas Carol,” in front of the microphones.

The show is a combined project of David Roth’s Theater 3 and Jim Honeycutt’s Audio Production classes.

The instructors have collaborated before. In 2009, “A Christmas Carol” took 1st place at the Drury Awards — the highest honor in high school radio. Two years later, “Dracula” earned 2 Druries.

Roth and Honeycutt are using the original radio script from the 1930s — the one for Orson Welles and Mercury Theatre

Live music will be performed by 2 quartets of Orphenians.

Even the sound effects will be live: footsteps on gravel, doors opening, and wind (there’s a wind machine).

Students work on a wide variety of sound effects.

Students work on a wide variety of sound effects.

Roth likes live radio theater. “The challenge to my actors is to convey everything through voice,” he says. “They can’t rely on their body or face to convey emotions.”

(Later this school year, they’ll have another challenge: masks. That takes away their faces, so they must use only their bodies to show feelings.)

For Honeycutt’s class, the challenge is to understand how sounds are made — and recreate them, in many different ways.

“A Christmas Carol” is a holiday favorite. Today, hear this old chestnut performed a new way — an old new way.

(Click here for the WWPT-FM home page, with livestream links.)

Candlelight Concert CDs Now On Sale

If you were at Friday’s Candlelight Concert, you know it was one of the best in the 73 years the music department has been presenting this “gift to the town.”

If you had tickets to Saturday’s performances (or no longer live near Westport, but miss Candlelight greatly), you can only imagine what you missed.

Now — through the magic of the Staples Media Lab — you can listen to the 2013 Candlelight Concert forever. Or at least until CDs become obsolete.

Ordering info is below. But first, a back story that makes this year’s recording even more impressive.

The "Sing We Noel" processional has been part of every Candlelight Concert since 1940. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

The “Sing We Noel” processional has been part of every Candlelight Concert since 1940. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Since 2001, audio production teacher Jim Honeycutt has produced Candlelight CDs. It’s an arduous task, but he does it because he loves the music, the young musicians and the tradition. Proceeds help fund the Media Lab.

He and senior Alex Fasciolo began to record the CD 4 days before the Friday Candlelight Concert. The next day, they lost 4 hours of recording time when school was canceled because of snow.

Honeycutt spent the next 2 days frantically preparing the CD for sale on Friday night. He and others were in the school until 11 p.m. Thursday, mixing sound for the production number. The next day, he began burning the CDs.

It not only sounds great — Honeycutt thinks the recording is the best ever — but art student Sophia Henkels’ cover is gorgeous too.

At Friday’s concert, Honeycutt had 4 of the 2001 CDs for sale, plus others from each year since. Former students and their parents were happy to replenish their supply.

But then came Saturday’s snow. Honeycutt now has a slew of CDs — and Candlelight has a ton of fans who never heard the concert.

Click below for an 8-minute sampler — or click here if your browser does not take you directly to YouTube.

CDs are $15 each. Students can purchase them at the Staples Media Lab (Room 450, near the cafeteria). To order by mail, send a check for $15 (made out to “Staples High School”) to: Jim Honeycutt, Staples Media Lab, Staples High School, 70 North Avenue, Westport, CT 06880. Please include your name, address, phone and email.

Questions? Call 203-341-1380, or email jim_honeycutt@westport.k12.ct.us

We Remember

Every year before Memorial Day, the “Good Morning Staples” TV show honors America’s special holiday.

This year, host Dan Geraghty — a Staples English teacher, and former Army Ranger and National Guardsman — introduced 2 segments about the Vietnam Memorial wall.

One was a poem. The other was a stunning song by former Green Beret Michael McCann, Fairfield University graduate and friend of Jim Honeycutt (the Staples TV production teacher whose class produced the show).

Michael’s song is even more poignant because he is fighting Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. This is his final battle.

The show ends with a reminder to enjoy Monday’s parade, but also to think about what the holiday means — along with Ray Charles’ rousing rendition of “America the Beautiful.”

This is what Staples students saw Thursday morning. It’s something all Westporters should watch this weekend.

(Click here if your browser does not take you directly to YouTube.)


Songs For Sandy Hook

Last Thursday night — with little fanfare, but tremendous talent and spirit — the Staples Music Department offered a phenomenal concert.

A fundraiser for the Sandy Hook Family Fund, it featured the elite Orphenians a cappella singing group, and chamber orchestra.

If you weren’t there, you missed an amazing night. Fortunately, Jim Honeycutt — the indefatigable Media Lab director — produced an 18-minute “highlight reel.”

The 1st clip is the Orphenians’ “There Will Be Rest,” by Frank Ticheli (Luke Rosenberg, director).

The 2nd is from the Chamber Orchestra’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik,” by Mozart (Adele Valovich, director).

The 3rd series of clips, with the combined groups, is from the movements of Schubert’s “Mass No. 2 in G Major”: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus
and Agnus Dei.

Click below for this inspiring performance. If your browser does not support a direct link, click here, then click on the YouTube video.

(The full video is available on Channel 78, at 8 p.m. most evenings.)

Jacqueline Devine: Take 1

It may not be as famous as recording studios like Motown’s Hitsville USA, Muscle Shoals Sound or Abbey Road, but Staples’ Media Lab makes music with the best of them.

Just ask Jacqueline Devine.

Jacqueline Devine, as seen on iTunes and Amazon.

The high school junior has sung all her life. She wrote her 1st song at 11. In 9th grade, her original tune “Just Be” was released on iTunes.

With 50 songs to her credit — and her own YouTube channel — Jacqueline is an accomplished artist. But she’s no Taylor Swift. For an 11th grader, studio time is expensive.

When a guidance counselor mentioned the Staples Media Lab — literally around the corner — Jacqueline was intrigued. Audio production instructor Jim Honeycutt offered to record 6 tracks after school. Three talented Staples musicians — fiddler Sam Weiser, bassist Olivia Kapell and drummer Mike Ljungberg — were her band.

It’s not the 1st time Jim’s done that. Other solo artists and groups have recorded CDs in the well-equipped studio.

Yet this time — as 2 student engineers recorded rhythm tracks — Jim shot video. When Jacqueline returned to record vocal overdubs, he set up 3 cameras.

The result: this professional-looking music video.

“She’s a rarity,” Jim says. “We’ve had great singers and songwriters over the years at Staples.

“But Jacqueline is a great-looking girl who writes, plays pianos and sings her own songs. I think they’ve got potential.”

Jacqueline told Jim she’ll probably end up in a more secure career than pop music. He chuckled: Before teaching, he was a musician himself. (His folk/rock/ country band the Repairs was signed by Andrew Loog Oldham to Rare Earth Records.)

“She’s legit,” he says. “Whatever she does, she’ll probably always dabble with music, and write songs.”

And when she hits the big time, she’ll always remember how she got her start — back in her high school recording studio.

A recent “Good Morning Staples” TV broadcast. Jacqueline’s interview begins at the 4:30 mark.

All Candlelight, All The Time

If you love the Staples Candlelight Concert — and who doesn’t? — what could be better than hearing it again on radio?

How about hearing the last 11 Candelights played non-stop, beginning tomorrow (Friday) afternoon and continuing straight through early next week?

Candlelight 2011 (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

The Candlelight Concert — the high school music department’s annual gift to the town — is a soaring, inspiring and beautiful collection of vocal, orchestral and band music. There are hymns, carols, Hanukkah and African music, and a lovably schlocky production number.

Now, thanks to the miracle of modern technology – and the good, old-fashioned hard work of media instructor Jim Honeycutt — every Candlelight from 2001 through two weeks ago will be streamed live on the internet on WWPT, 90.3 FM. (It will also run in the background as part of the school district’s stream — and will be broadcast as background music on Cablevision Channel 78.)

The Staples Media Lab began recording the concerts — actually, the final rehearsal — in 2001. The idea for the CDs — and help with the initial recordings — came from student Robert Anstett.

The program design was used for the 1st CD covers. Quickly though, the art department got involved. Now students in the Advanced Design and Technology class create the covers.

Honeycutt and his crew work hard to produce CDs in time for each year’s shows. Profits are donated to the media, music and art departments. Some of the money went to purchase a new stereo microphone preamp, making this year’s CD “the best-sounding ever,” Honeycutt says.

9 Candlelight covers. (Collage created by Jim Honeycutt)

Why does he do it?

“Maybe because of my love of music,” Honeycutt muses.

“Maybe cause I think the memory of these wonderful concerts should be preserved. Maybe because I have the most amazing job in the world. I don’t know — but I’m happy to do it.”

The reward, Honeycutt says, comes from the faces of audience members leaving each concert, who are thrilled to have CDs of the impressive performances. One mother owns every one.

Now, musicians, alumni, parents, Candlelight fans — and anyone else with an internet connection — can enjoy 11 years’ worth of wonderful concerts.

It’s the music department — and Jim Honeycutt’s — gift to the world.

(Click here to listen live to WWPT-FM. And — though this has nothing to do with the Staples Media Lab — hard-core Candlelight addicts can listen to the 1972 concert, available through Westporters.com — click here, then click on the lower left corner.)