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Westport is a town with plenty.
And a town that never hesitates to help those who don’t have as much.
Right now, our wonderful Department of Human Services is running two programs that touch lives we may not always see.
One is “Ceremonies and Celebrations.” For the 14th year, the fund helps students purchase special event clothing for graduations from middle and high school.
It doesn’t sound like much. But to a teenager, looking like everyone else on a big day means the world.
Last year, 34 youngsters smiled with pride, alongside all their friends.
Human Services director Elaine Daignault suggests that (tax-deductible) donations can be made in honor of a special teacher or person in a student’s life. A letter of acknowledgment will be sent to the honored individual.
Checks payable to “DHS Family Programs” (memo line: “Ceremonies”) can be sent to Department of Human Services, 110 Myrtle Ave., Westport, CT 06880.
Gift cards of any amount (American Express, Visa, MasterCard, Trumbull Mall/Westfield Shopping Center) to purchase clothes are also welcome.
For further information on this program, contact Patty Haberstroh (email@example.com; 203-341-1069).
The 2nd program is a fund to send children to summer camp. Like new clothes for a special occasion, this project is not frivolous. It’s a godsend for working parents — and a life-changer for kids.
Every year, thanks pour in. One woman noted the importance of swim lessons for her autistic daughter. Another said that her child “came home with a new story, friend or art project every day — and a huge smile.”
In addition to covering costs for ever-popular Camp Compo, the fund has helped a boy play American Legion baseball, and a girl participate in Staples Players’ summer program.
The other day, Westport PAL donated $1,200 to the Campership Fund. If you’d like to join them, checks payable to “DHS Family Programs” (memo line: “Campership”) can be sent to Department of Human Services, 110 Myrtle Ave., Westport, CT 06880.
To apply for campership help, click here.
Staples High School students take a heavy course load. Local graduation requirements are even more onerous than state ones.
Yet our teenagers also participate in clubs; play music and sports; act; volunteer in the community, and hold jobs.
Somehow, some of them even find time to create jewelry, clothing, artwork, greeting cards and more.
This Sunday (May 21, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saugatuck Rowing Club), the public gets a chance to see some of their most creative work.
And buy it.
The Westport Youth Commission is sponsoring a 1st-ever Student Creation Faire.
Here’s some of what you’ll find:
- Hillary O’Neill’s unique, hand-made terrariums
- Leigha Dear and Kate McCrohan’s necklaces and tie-dyes
- Grace Shi and Amanda Cohen’s “bath bombs”
- Mia Krishnamurthy’s customized necklaces, chokers, bracelets and anklets
- Matteo Broccolo and Sophia Livecchi’s original design t-shirts and hoodies
- Ellie Shapiro’s hand-drawn greeting, birthday and thank-you cards
- Aishah Avdiu’s curated kombucha
- Brody Braunstein’s customized shoes
- Elizabeth Rhoads’ custom tees
- Sebastian Avila’s oil paintings
- Abby Suppan’s macrame wall hangings
- Bianca Bicalho’s handmade jewelry
- Zoe Barnett and Kai Dasbach’s woven bracelets, beaded necklaces and rings
- Julie Kaplan’s jewelry
- Channing Smith’s unique, trendy college logowear
- Marta Clanton’s custom crochet products
There’s entertainment too, plus catering by the Boathouse restaurant.
It’s a special event — this Sunday only.
Because on Monday, our teenagers go back to work.
Just when you think Staples Players directors David Roth and Kerry Long have no more theatrical tricks up their sleeves — they stage a new one.
Every spring, they gather their cast and crew together to announce the following fall’s mainstage. It’s highly anticipated — but brief and straightforward.
A couple of weeks ago, Roth got an email from Disney Theatricals. The company handles all Disney productions — “Lion King,” “Mary Poppins” and “Newsies,” for example.
A few years ago, Roth and Long enjoyed the latter show on Broadway. As a recent production though, they never imagined it would be available.
But Disney’s email — prompted by 2010 Staples grad Caley Beretta, who now works there as a creative development coordinator — posed an intriguing question: Would Players want to pilot a production of “Newsies”?
If so, the highly respected high school troupe would give Disney feedback on what worked well (and did not), and provide video and photos. Disney executives would see the show, and use Staples’ experience to revise their production. It will then be released to other amateur groups to stage, beginning in the fall of 2018.
The process for selecting a show usually takes much longer. But Roth and Long love “Newsies.”
‘”It’s a true story about the 1896 newsboys strike,” Roth notes. “It’s incredible how kids working together forced Joseph Pulitzer to not take advantage of them. It really is a show about kids. And it’s an ensemble show, which is great too.”
This being Staples Players, there’s a strong connection to the Broadway version. Adam Kaplan — Staples ’08 — played Morris Delancey and a newsboy (and understudied for lead Jack Kelly).
Long had a great idea: Kaplan could announce the play to Players.
Last Friday morning, she contacted him. He quickly filmed a video, and sent it over.
That afternoon, Players gathered in the auditorium. Roth had said all day, “I am not announcing the show.”
Technically, he didn’t.
The video began. Kaplan insisted there was no specific reason he was chosen for the task. Meanwhile, he coyly showed his “Newsies” t-shirt, held up an album cover and walked over to a poster.
It was a clever performance — and the audience of actors quickly understood. They laughed and applauded. (Watch Players’ reactions in the upper left of the announcement video below.)
Soon — after this month’s “Peter and the Starcatcher” Black Box, and July’s production of “Working” — they’ll turn their attention to “Newsies.”
Roth and Long are already thinking ahead. They know they’ll integrate more girls into the show. “There were actually female newsboys back then,” Roth says.
And Kaplan will help in some way — with talks, workshops, whatever.
Those details will still be worked out. Like all shows, it’s a work in progress.
Stay tuned for more news.
(“Peter and the Starcatcher” will be performed May 25, 26, 27 and 28. Online tickets are sold out, but a limited number of standby seats may be available at the door, 20 minutes before curtain. Click here for show times.)
This morning’s post looked back on Friday’s Staples High School choral concert.
But there’s no rest for the music department. They’re already looking ahead.
Free tickets became available a few minutes ago for the 2nd annual Pops Concert at the Levitt Pavilion (Friday, June 9, 7 p.m.). Last year they were snapped up the day of the announcement. They’ll go even quicker this time. (Click here to get yours!)
The event — modeled on the Boston Pops’ Esplanade series — was an instant smash in its debut. This year promises to be even more impressive.
In addition to performances of classical and contemporary music by Staples’ symphonic and chamber orchestras, jazz band and Orphenians, there’s pre-concert music from the Long Lots Elementary School steel drum band, Bedford Middle School jazz ensemble and various Staples chamber groups at 6 p.m.
Food trucks start serving at 5:30.
Once again, the great Jim Naughton will emcee.
The Pops Concert is the music department’s 2nd gift to the town. (The Candlelight Concert is the 1st.)
Of course, there are plenty of expenses associated with the townwide music programs. Every orchestra and band instrument must be moved from schools to the Levitt; union set-up costs money too. Donations are gratefully accepted!
The show is a wonderful kickoff for the Levitt season. The al fresco venue is perfect — and the music is even better.
Enjoy the show!
(The Pops Concert is just one of many end-of-school-year music activities. This Friday [May 19] is the Staples Cabaret. The Staples chamber orchestra performs with their Bedford and Coleytown Middle School counterparts on Wednesday, May 24 [Staples, 7 p.m.] The Staples and Bedford Middle School jazz concert is Monday, June 5 [Staples, 7 p.m.] And of course the middle and high school bands march in the Memorial Day parade [Monday, May 29].)
Friday night’s choral concert at Staples High School was typical.
That is, typically spectacular.
Scores of teenagers — representing 6 different ensembles, including Orphenians — sang a wide variety of difficult, inspiring and beautiful pieces. The theme was “Arise”; the songs carried the audience from early morning to late night.
The entire concert — from concept to the selection of music — was designed by student officers.
But the best part came at the end.
Choral director Luke Rosenberg stood to honor the 29 graduating seniors. They prepared to introduce themselves, and describe what’s next. (A who’s who of great colleges, with majors ranging from musical theater and stage management to biophysics and political science.)
First though, Rosenberg took the mic.
In an emotion-choked voice, he said:
“I get to make music with young people every day. I fall in love with these kids. Then they get old, and go away.
“I want them to grow up and do great things. But it’s bittersweet.”
Rosenberg then described why he loves what he does — and why it is important.
His goal is not to create 30 or 40 music majors. “Quite frankly,” he quipped, “there are not enough jobs.”
Rather, music is “something they can love, and be part of for the rest of their lives.”
Then — proving his point — when Rosenberg was done, and the 29 seniors had taken their bows, the Orphenians took center stage one more time.
With senior Jacob Leaf conducting, they sang a stunning version of “Ave Maria.”
They’d prepared it on their own — just for Luke Rosenberg.
Click below to see Luke Rosenberg’s full speech. It was filmed by Tom Malin — father of graduating senior Madison Malin — and edited by her brother Brandon.
Steve Haberstroh is a 2000 Staples High School grad, and former basketball star. Today he’s managing director at Westport-based CastleKeep Investment Advisors. He just returned from Warren Buffett’s annual meeting in Omaha.
Over 40,000 shareholders gather at the “Woodstock for Capitalists.” But Haberstroh was more than just an attendee. His name was called — and Buffett spent 8 minutes answering his question. Let the Westporter tell the story:
Every February, Buffett publishes a Letter to Shareholders. He does a magical job of describing the year for Berkshire Hathaway. He also addresses social, political or other financial-related themes each year. It is a must read for financial types and casual investors.
This year, The Oracle of Omaha took on the fees charged by the hedge fund industry. He believes they charge far too much. The same is true for what Buffett calls “financial helpers”: those who manage investment funds, many of whom have the objective of “beating the market.”
I work for our family wealth management and investment firm in Westport. I also own a small amount of Berkshire Hathaway stock. Many of our clients own shares as well.
We are not a hedge fund. Nor do clients expect their portfolios to outpace the S&P 500 each year. However, we do charge a fee to deliver holistic wealth management advice, so I suppose Buffett would put us in the “financial helper” category.
I did not take offense at his comments, which were directed more toward hedge funds. But I needed to react.
I took Buffett up on the offer in his letter, and submitted a question. I hoped it would be chosen from thousands of entries to be read at the shareholder meeting. I wrote:
You made it very clear in your annual letter that you think the hedge-fund compensation scheme of ‘2 and 20′ generally does not work well for the funds’ investors. In the past, you have questioned whether investors should pay ‘financial helpers’ as much as they do. But ‘financial helpers’ can create tremendous value for those they ‘help.’ For instance, in nearly every annual letter you describe how valuable Charlie Munger’s advice and counsel has been to you and, in turn to the incredible rise in Berkshire’s value over time. Given that, would you be willing to pay the industry-standard ‘financial helper’ fee of 1%-on-assets to Charlie. Or would you perhaps even consider ‘2 and 20’ for him? (Click here for more details.)
Berkshire Hathaway has over 60 subsidiaries, including Benjamin Moore, Duracell, Dairy Queen, Fruit of the Loom, GEICO, Kraft-Heinz, Net Jets and See’s Candies.
The company also owns large stakes in publicly traded companies, including American Express, Apple, IBM, Delta, Apple and Wells Fargo.
In Omaha, the thousands of us can purchase everything from underwear to ice cream, car insurance to million-dollar diamond rings, all at shareholder discount. I saved nearly $1,000 on my car insurance with GEICO while there. But I also spent a penny or two.
The main attraction is Saturday. Shareholders descend upon the Century Link Sports Arena for a 7-hour Q&A with 86-year-old Warren and his 93-year-old co-chair, Charlie Munger. Folks lined up at 2 a.m. for the 8:30 start.
Nearly 3 hours into the meeting, I expected Buffett would announce lunch time. But suddenly he said, ”The next question comes from shareholder Steve Haberstroh…”
First, my heart skipped a beat. Second, I could not tame my inner millennial. I grabbed my iPhone to record what came next.
The crowd chuckled at the “Would you consider paying Charlie…” punch line. Then Buffett responded.
The next 8 minutes were a blur. I felt shock, pride and fear.
The fear came early in Buffett’s response. He said, “it’s just not a good question to ask.”
Despite that, his lengthy response indicated otherwise. He broached the subject again toward the end of the meeting, so maybe I was on to something.
His basic take was, indeed, he would pay Charlie 1% per year or “2 and 20,” but who wouldn’t? He likened the premise to asking if the Red Sox would like to go back and reverse their decision to trade Babe Ruth away to the Yankees.
Of course Munger is worth it. But Buffett also spent a good part of the response detailing his view that hedge funds, in aggregate, are not worth the fees they charge. He cited many examples and metaphors (including the value obstetricians provide), until Munger ended the discussion with, “I think you’ve beaten on them (hedge fund industry) enough!” (Click here for a video of the question, and Buffett’s full response.)
Just like that, my 8 minutes of fame was up. That is, until Bloomberg, the Wall Street, Fox Business — and now “068880” — picked up the story!
I will never forget the experience. And I will try to apply and adopt several of the lessons I learned during the weekend.
But I do have one bone to pick with the Oracle of Omaha. As I learned way back in Coleytown Elementary School: Mr. Buffett, there is no such thing as a bad question!
(For more takeaways, anecdotes and insights, email firstname.lastname@example.org)
It’s not easy for the Staples High School music department to come up with new ideas.
But they keep doing it.
Last year they introduced a pops concert. This year they’ve added a cabaret — with alumni.
On Friday, May 19 (7:30 p.m.), 5 grads — all music or music theater majors — join 17 current Staples students on the Staples stage.
Alums include Tyler Jent (who graduated a few days ago from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music), Cara McNiff (Elon University), Jack Bowman (Penn State), Emma Ruchefsky (Berklee College of Music) and Julia Mandelbaum (Rider University).
The cabaret is a fundraiser for the choral program. But it’s also a chance for the entire community to see the current vocal talent at Staples — and welcome home some very talented grads. To purchase tickets, click here.
Meanwhile, choral director Luke Rosenberg has put a new twist on the traditional spring concert (this Friday, May 12, 7:30 p.m., Staples auditorium). The show — which includes the Orphenians, a cappella choir, chorus and chorale — was completely student-driven.
Concept, theme, musical selections — all were chosen by students.
The title is “Arise: Songs to Sing Through the Day and Night.” The repertoire references different times of day, and all that those windows offer us.
Seems there’s always something new under the Staples music department sun.
There are 12 categories in the John Drury High School Radio Awards.
Staples’ WWPT-FM was nominated in 7 of them — sometimes more than once.
Yesterday — at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois — they won 1st place in every category they were nominated for. The teenagers (and advisor Geno Heiter) snagged a total of 12 awards, in news, sports and public affairs.
Including the big one: Best High School Station in the Country.
Congratulations to these Staples students — the next generation of radio stars:
Best Newscast: Cooper Boardman, Channing Smith (“WWPT News Update”)
Best Public Affairs Program: Jackson Valente, Jarod Ferguson (“A Better Chance ‘Social Justice’)
Best Radio Drama Adaptation: Staples Players and Audio Production classes, with support from WWPT (“Dracula”)
Best Sports Play-by-Play: Cooper Boardman, Jack Caldwell (Football — Staples vs. Darien)
Best Sportscast: Buster Scher (“Knicks — Past 2 Seasons”)
Best Sportstalk Program: Cooper Boardman and Jack Caldwell (Staples Field Hockey State Championship Show)
Best High School Station: WWPT-FM
Best Sports Play-by-Play: Cooper Boardman (Basketball — Staples vs. Danbury)
Best Sportstalk Program: Jack Caldwell (Interview with NHL announcer Chuck Kaiton)
Best Sportscast: Luck McManus, Hunter Duffy (NASCAR championship interview)
Best Newscast: Zachary Halperin, Nieve Mahoney, Jack Moses (Politics — Election Reflection)
Best Sportscast: George Goldstein, Sam Zaritsky (Fulmer Trade)
Also yesterday, Staples sophomores Nick Durkin, John McNab and Daniel Westphal, and freshman Nathan Wang won 5 awards — including 1st Place Overall — in the Marine Advanced Technology Education Center’s New England competition, in Sandwich, Massachusetts.
The quartet — competing as Team Curriodyssea, which is not affiliated with the high school — designed, built and programmed underwater remotely operated vehicles.
Team Curriodyssea also won golds for Engineering Evaluation, Highest Score on the Underwater Challenges, Technical Report and Poster Display.
They advance to the international competition next month in Long Beach, California, where they’ll face 27 other teams from North America, Europe, Asia and Africa.
Sounds like a great story for WWPT!
This morning marked the final broadcast of “The Sports Reporters.” ESPN ended the provocative roundtable discussion show after 29 years.
Westport has many connections to the Bristol-based broadcast. For the past 27 years the producer was Joe Valerio, a longtime resident whose son Brian graduated from Staples in 2003.
Former Westporter Dick Schaap was the 2nd host. On September 16, 2001 the show expanded to an hour, to explore (from a sports perspective) the terrorist attacks of 5 days earlier.
Schaap delayed hip replacement surgery in order to host that show. It was his last, as he died from complications 3 months later.
Another former Westporter — New York Times and Sports Illustrated writer Selena Roberts — was a regular panelist.
“The Sports Reporters” will be replaced by a morning edition of “E:60,” ESPN’s news magazine. Co-hosts are Bob Ley — and Jeremy Schaap.
The 1988 Staples High School graduate has returned to his hometown.
The other day, Schaap wrote about growing up with “The Sports Reporters.” He began with a tribute to Valerio:
When I think of The Sports Reporters, and I do, often, I think of the big brown paper bags filled with dozens and dozens of H & H Bagels that producer Joe Valerio brought to the set every Sunday morning—when the show was still in New York and before H & H went out of business. (By the way, how exactly does the best bagel bakery in New York go out of business, ever? A pox on Atkins.)
I think of those early mornings, still kind-of-warm bagels — the obvious but still true New York analog of the Proustian Madeleine — and, as they were being consumed, the pre-taping banter among the panelists. In the tradition of producers of talk shows everywhere, Valerio, who’s been producing the show since 1989, would tell everybody to save their best material for the set, not to leave it in the makeup room, but there was never more than semi-compliance.
Click here to read the rest of Schaap’s thoughts on “The Sports Reporters,” as he brings the Westport/ESPN Sunday morning connection full circle. And click here, to see some of the top reporters in the sports world give the show — and Joe Valerio — some love.
(Hat tip: Tom Haberstroh)