Tag Archives: Jim Honeycutt

Zito And Honeycutt Grab Radio Gold

It’s a good thing the Staples Media Lab is big. There’s room for TV production classes, a radio station and recording studio, plus plenty of high-tech equipment and offices.

Teachers and students need all that space to make magic. And, to store all the trophies they win for their work.

The latest hardware was handed out last weekend at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. As usual, Staples won several John Drury Awards — the country’s top honors for excellence in high school radio broadcasting.

But this year was extra special. Jim Honeycutt and Mike Zito were named Co-Faculty Advisors of the Year. It’s the 1st time a school has had 2 honorees — and it came just a few months before both legends retire.

The pair were cited for their long service to WWPT-FM; their cutting-edge work, and their contributions to the school and community. Nominating letters of support poured in from Staples athletic director Marty Lisevick, citing the duo’s work in creating robust sports coverage; assistant principal James Farnen, attesting to their dynamic classroom environment, and past and present students, describing the instructors’ sometimes life-changing impact.

Mike Zito and Jim Honeycutt (rear) stand with WWPT-FM's Jack Caldwell and Cooper Boardman -- and some Drury Award trophies. Behind them is a mural -- painted by Staples art students -- on the wall outside the Media Lab.

Mike Zito and Jim Honeycutt (rear) stand with WWPT-FM’s Jack Caldwell and Cooper Boardman (and some Drury Award trophies). Behind them is a mural — painted by Staples art students — on the wall outside the Media Lab.

Sunday’s awards ceremony was emotional, Zito admits. He and Honeycutt have known one each other since the 1970s — when neither was yet teaching.

Honeycutt was a musician, who built the sound system for Barnaby’s in Bridgeport. Zito was the DJ there.

“We were in and out of each other’s lives for years,” Zito says. “Then we had the good fortune of establishing the media department at Staples.”

He arrived at the high school 14 years ago, from Coleytown Middle School. Honeycutt — formerly a Long Lots Middle School social studies and Staples computer teacher — had already moved into TV, radio and recording instruction.

WWPT- FM has won many Drury Awards. In 2011, it was named best high school station in the US.

WWPT- FM has won many Drury Awards. In 2011, it was named best high school station in the US.

The Media Lab now encompasses WWPT-FM and the Staples Television Network — both after-school activities — and classes in TV, radio, film, audio production and graphics.

Broadcast coverage includes live sports events, Staples Players’ shows, Candlelight and other concerts, graduation, even elections.

“On Back to School Night and when we talk to 8th grade parents, we like to say that there are many ways kids can find their place at Staples,” Zito says. “Some do it in arts, athletics or science. Others find a home here.”

For he and Honeycutt, being honored for helping students feel comfortable — and discover a new passion, perhaps even their life’s work — is “a real nice cap to our own careers.”

But the teachers are just as proud of the other Drury Awards won last weekend.

Cooper Boardman, Adam Kaplan and Zach Edelman were honored for Best Sports Play-by-Play radio broadcast. It was not even a Staples game — the trio earned kudos for their work on the girls basketball state finals (Wilton vs. South Windsor) at Mohegan Sun.

Boardman arranged that coverage on one day’s notice.

Boardman, Edelman and Jacob Bonn came in 2nd, in the same category, for their broadcast of the Trumbull-Stamford FCIAC basketball championship.

In addition, Boardman placed 2nd (Best Sportstalk Program) for his interview of ESPN personality Jonathan Coachman; Boardman, Edelman and Bonn took 3rd for Best Sportscast (“WWPT Sports Update”). Jack Caldwell was a national finalist for his Sportstalk interview with hockey goaltender Mike Liut.


But wait! There’s more!

Honeycutt’s Audio class and David Roth’s Theater 3 class took both 1st and 2nd place for “Best Radio Drama – Adaptation.” They were cited for parts I and II of “A Christmas Carol.”

Finally, WWPT was runnerup for Best Radio Station in the country. It’s the 6th consecutive year the FM outlet was either 1st, 2nd or 3rd.

It was quite a weekend for WWPT, and their advisors. So what’s ahead for the duo, once they retire in June?

Honeycutt will enjoy his grandchildren, who live nearby.

Zito and his wife head to Austin, Texas. “It’s a great music town,” he notes. “I hope to get into radio there.”

He will not win any more Drury Awards. But SXSW — watch out!

To watch the award-winning live radio adaptation of “A Christmas Carol,” click below.



For Your Viewing Pleasure

There’s a lot to see and hear in Westport. No one can do it all.

But if you missed 2 recent Staples High School-related events, YouTube can help.

A couple of weeks ago, the music department presented a fantastic concert: “The Art of Folk Music.” One audience member said “it equaled or surpassed many a NYC production.”

To hear Luke Rosenberg’s superb choral groups, click below:

Last week, David Roth’s Theater 3 acting class and Jim Honeycutt’s audio production class collaborated on a WWPT-FM live radio broadcast of “Dracula.” It was just like 1939: the Orson Welles Mercury Theater original script, period commercials, sound effects, the challenge of conveying a story completely with actors’ voices and sound effects.

The media lab shot the show. Here you go:


If “Jingle Bell Rock” Makes You Want To Set Your Hair On Fire…

… and you seriously think about moving to North Korea every time you hear “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”: Help is at hand.

From now through Christmas, WWPT-FM is broadcasting 20 hours of Candlelight concerts. The newest is last week’s. The oldest stretches back 50 years.

To avoid “Hallelujah Chorus” overload, after every 3 Candlelights ‘PT runs this year’s Players/audio production broadcast of “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

A collage of Candlelight Concert album and CD covers. The 1964 and '66 concerts are in the top row, starting at left.

A collage of Candlelight Concert album and CD covers. The 1964 and ’66 concerts are in the top row, starting at left.

This is not the 1st time the Staples radio station has provided a holiday listening treasure. But new this year are the old 1964, ’65 and ’66 Candlelight Concerts.

Media production instructor Jim Honeycutt digitized, edited and exported Barbara Sherburne’s vinyl records of those 3 performances. There are 17 Candlelights in the rotation: The 3 from the ’60s, then 2001 through 2014.

WWPT-FM can be heard locally at 90.3 FM. But the livestream is available everywhere. Just click on www.wwptfm.com, then go to “Listen Live” and “Click here to access the district stream.”

If you want to actually see the 2014 Candlelight concert — and you’re a Cablevision customer in Westport — it’s on Channel 78 nightly at 7:30.

And here’s a gift for out-of-towners: “It’s A Wonderful Life” is now on YouTube, too. Just click below.

Happy holidays — from George Bailey, Jim Honeycutt, WWPT and Staples to you!


“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.)