Category Archives: Staples HS

Charlie Karp Rocks The Levitt

When Charlie Karp died in March, his many friends were devastated.

The Westport native left Staples High School early in his junior year, to play with Buddy Miles. Though he had an extraordinary musical career — playing at Jimi Hendrix’s funeral; writing, recording, teaching and, especially, performing with the world’s greats — he always came back to Fairfield County.

So it was appropriate that last night’s tribute concert took place at the Levitt Pavilion. Charlie’s longtime friend and collaborator Brian Keane — himself a Grammy-winning artist, songwriter and producer — put together a remarkable event.

Roger Ball of the Average White Band (lead sax) joined Fred Scerbo, Ricky Alfonso and Joey Melotti for “Pick up the Pieces.” (Photo/Dan Woog)

From Germany, Nashville and plenty of other places, Charlie’s friends and admirers canceled gigs and rearranged schedules. More than 70 vocalists, gospel singers, keyboardists, percussionists, horn players and (especially) guitarists flew and drove to Westport.

Westport native Barry Tashian fronted the Remains, who opened for the Beatles. He then played for many years with the Flying Burrito Brothers and Emmylou Harris. Long before all that, he was Charlie Karp’s guitar teacher. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Their list of credits is eye-popping. They’ve played and recorded with, or opened for, everyone from the Beatles, Doors, James Brown, Smokey Robinson and Roberta Flack to Wynton Marsalis, the New York Philharmonic, Boston Pops and London Symphony Orchestra.

The Reunion Band — formed originally with Charlie Karp’s very talented Staples High Class of 1971 professional musician classmates — reunited, and added a few members. (Photo/Dan Woog)

With just one rehearsal, the musicians — many of whom knew each other, but had never played together — delivered one of the Levitt’s most powerful, pulsating shows ever.

Julie Aldworth McClenathan and Bonnie Housner Erickson were Charlie Karp’s classmates at Staples. (Photo/Dan Woog)

It even included a tribute from Charlie’s friend Keith Richards. He was otherwise engaged, on tour with his band the Rolling Stones.

The Good News Gospel Choir added their talents too. (Photo/Dan Woog)

The benefit raised funds for a scholarship in Charlie’s name. Every year it will help talented student musicians, by providing studio time at the Carriage House in Stamford and Horizon in West Haven.

When he wasn’t playing keyboard, John Lamb was dancing. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Midway through the concert, storm clouds rolled in. Thunderstorms — predicted, and ominous — never materialized. The clouds moved on, and the sky brightened.

“Charlie’s angels,” someone said.

A storm threatened … (Photo/Dan Woog)

… but never came. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Brian Keane (left) produced the tribute concert. Carole Sylvan and Ada Dyer added powerful vocals. (Photo/Dan Woog)

As one of Charlie Karp’s classmates, I was honored to take a turn as one of the MCs. (Photo/Carleigh Welsh)

(Tax-deductible checks made payable to Fairfield County’s Community Foundation [put “Charlie Karp Memorial Fund” in the memo] can be sent to Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, 40 Richards Avenue, Norwalk, CT 06854. Donations may also be made online at www.CharlieKarp.com. Follow instructions under the donation tab.)

Remembering Dave Schmerzler

Dave Schmerzler — a native Westporter and Staples graduate — was killed in Sunday’s storm. His family and friends have written this remembrance of him.

David Laurence Schmerzler, a lifelong resident of Westport and Fairfield, was born November 2, 1964. He was a 1983 graduate of Staples High School and a 1987 graduate of Syracuse University, where he served as president of Phi Delta Theta fraternity.

David was the 3rd son of Barbara Harlib Schmerzler and Seymour B. Schmerzler. They lived at The Glen in Westport, where his mother still resides.

David was vice president, sales at Lindenmeyr Central, a paper company in Southport. His brothers and friends envied his short and convenient commute – but why would David waste time on the train? He had too many other things to do.

David met his wife and love of his life, Donna Taussig, in 8th grade at Coleytown Junior High School. High school sweethearts in every way, they married in 1992 in the back yard of the house at The Glen, surrounded by a large crowd of friends and family.

Dave Schmerzler and his wife, Donna.

David was a man of diverse and contradicting talents. He considered himself an athlete because, he often said, “I played high school sports.” He was an avid hunter, an accomplished chef, a fantastic skier who spent many winters with family and friends in Stowe, Vermont, a squash player, and a lover of a good cigar.

A long-time member of The Patterson Club, and president of the club at the time of his passing, he loved to play golf, especially with his son Matt. The day before his death, he and Matt won the club invitational Championship! David called it one of the best days of his life.

David’s friendships were extensive and expansive.  He enjoyed the company and camaraderie of a very large circle of close and loving friends, with deeply personal relationships that spanned decades.

His sense of humor was infectious and well-known, his zest for life unquenchable. A long-time friend called him the captain of a crew that was formed in elementary school. David and Donna’s list of friends is endless; the depth of their devotion to each other unique.

David is survived by his wife Donna and children Emily and Matthew; his loving and devoted dog Otis; his mother Barbara Schmerzler; his brothers Alan, Robert and Daniel; sisters-in-law Michelle Schmerzler, Laura Ballan Schmerzler Shawnie Billic and Sharon Taussig; nephews and nieces Alex Schmerzler, Sydney Schmerzler, Charlie and Libby Schmerzler, and Isabella and Alexandra Pisacane, and his father-in law Donald Taussig. He was predeceased by his mother-in-law Marilyn Davis.

David was a larger than life character who charmed all. His stories made tears run down cheeks; his laughter and love were infectious. He was brash, zany, tough and brave, but most of all he overflowed with love and humanity. He was taken far too soon, and will be missed deeply and beyond words.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Staples Tuition Grants – the David L. Schmerzler Memorial Scholarship, the Appalachia Service Project, or The Patterson Scholarship Fund.

A celebration of David’s life will be held this Sunday (July 7, 11:30 a.m., Fairfield County Hunt Club).

Staples Grad Killed In Storm

The immensity of yesterday’s violent storm became clear, as word spread that 2 people were killed in the tri-state area.

One of the victims was Fairfield resident Dave Schmerzler. The 54-year-old graduate of Staples High School’s Class of 1983 was driving on the Fairfield side of Sturges Highway at 2:16 p.m., when a large tree limb pierced the car. He died at Norwalk Hospital an hour later.

Schmerzler’s wife, former Staples classmate Donna Taussig Schmerzler, was next to him. She suffered minor injuries. Their adult daughter, in the back seat, was not injured.

Schmerzler — a graduate of Syracuse University — grew up in Westport. Many friends are still here.

“The tragedy is immense,” one said. “Three seconds later, he would have missed it.”

Dave Schmerzler and his wife, Donna.

Photo Challenge #234

Wow — last week’s Photo Challenge was harder than I thought.

The image itself was obvious: an aerial photo of Staples High School, in its autumnal glory. (Click here for the great shot.)

The challenge was: Where in Westport can you see the actual photograph?

There were plenty of incorrect guesses: Westport Library, the Senior Center, the Board of Education office, Rolnick Observatory, a charging station (!), even Staples itself.

Here’s the correct answer: It hangs in Town Hall — on the main floor, around the first corner to the right as you walk in the front door. To be precise: near the tree warden and Conservation Commission’s office.

It’s just part of a remarkable series of aerial photos, all taken by Larry Untermeyer a few years ago. They provide a great, comprehensive, beautiful bird’s-eye view of our town.

Congratulations Matt Murray, Tammy Barry, Patti Brill, Wanda Tedesco, Bruce Salvo and Andrew Colabella. You must spend a lot of time at Town Hall.

The rest of you: Go see the photos for yourselves!

Now it’s “time” for this week’s Photo Challenge. If you know where in Westport you’d see this, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Music On Main Street

Annette Norton has a full-time job. She owns Savvy + Grace, the fun, funky gifts-and-more store underneath Tavern on Main.

But she spends plenty of time on a related project: bringing excitement back to all of Main Street.

Last month she brought an outdoor market to the parking lot behind her place. It rained — but the vendors and shoppers had a blast.

Madelyn Spera

Tomorrow, she’s arranged for live music out in front. Madelyn Spera is a young singer-songwriter who plays piano and guitar, acts in musical theater, and — though just a rising Staples High School freshman — has already performed at New York’s Bitter End.

She’ll be on Main Street from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Annette is working with the Youth Arts Forum — of which Madelyn is a member — to bring young talent downtown every Saturday.

Her landlord — Phil Teuscher — is very supportive. Like Annette, he understands the importance of fun — and music — on Main Street.

Staples Graduation: See It Now!

Missed Staples High School’s 132nd commencement exercises on Tuesday?

Or just missed that moment when your favorite graduate got his or her 15-seconds-of-fame diploma?

No problem!

Retired video production teacher Jim Honeycutt was in the fieldhouse, filming the entire ceremony.

It was a model of efficiency: just 1 hour and 45 minutes for faculty and students to walk in, a couple of choir numbers, a few quick speeches, 475 graduates to march across the stage, cap-tossing, and exit.

Still, even though it’s all here, you don’t have to watch every second.

Click below for Jim’s video. Including the fast-forward button.

Stafford Thomas Named Staples’ New Principal

Forty strong candidates applied to be Staples High School’s next principal.

But after winnowing the field to 6 men and women, and then 2, the decision — first by a committee of parents, educators and community members, and tonight by the Board of Education — was unanimous.

Stafford Thomas Jr. is the new leader of Westport’s high school.

He’s got sparkling credentials.

Interim superintendent of schools Dr. David Abbey introduced Mr. Thomas at today’s Board of Ed meeting as “an exceptional leader (with) outstanding interpersonal and communication skills.”

New Staples principal Stafford Thomas shows off his new Wrecker hat.

He began his career as a social studies teacher at South Side High School in Rockville Centre, New York. After making a strong mark as an administrator in Barrington, Rhode Island and Mystic, Mr. Thomas was hired 8 years ago as principal of Trumbull’s Hillcrest Middle School.

This year, the Connecticut Association of Schools honored it as Middle School of the Year. The award noted that students, faculty, administrators and parents combined to create a community known for innovative teaching strategies, after-school programs and high academic achievement.

Mr. Thomas graduated from Georgetown University, where he rowed on the crew team. He earned a master’s of arts in education from Brown University, and a dual degree in law (juris doctor) and educational administration (M.Ed.) from Boston College.

In addition to Hillcrest, Mr. Thomas currently teaches courses in education law and finance, and advanced curriculum, at Sacred Heart University. He is also a member of the board of directors with the Connecticut Association of Schools.

Stafford Thomas addresses the Board of Education tonight in the Staples cafeteria…

Dr. Abbey calls Mr. Thomas “a highly knowledgeable, creative and resourceful leader — one who is well-respected by students, parents and staff.”

In brief remarks, the new principal smiled broadly. He said he feels “very excited and privileged. In the world of K-12 education, there is no better position than this.”

He looks forward to “starting this journey, at a school steeped in tradition. Go Wreckers!”

He continued to smile — and look forward — in a meeting with more than a dozen Staples teachers, who came to hear the announcement. He said, “My door is open.” They responded with applause.

Mr. Thomas succeeds James D’Amico, who heads north to his alma mater, New Fairfield High School, after 3 years at Staples’ helm. Mr. Thomas will begin his new, very important — and exciting — job on July 1.

… and then speaks with staff members who came to the high school to welcome their new boss.

Remembering Sean Brown

Sean Douglas Brown — a member of the Staples High School Class of 2008 — died earlier this month, 8 days after his 29th birthday. RTM member Andrew Colabella writes:

“All souls must go, but no soul should go untold.” Here is a story about one of the many Westporters who left this earth too soon.

Sean Douglas Brown was born June 1, 1990 and lived in Westport his whole life. His soul was as bright as his blue eyes that saw ways to achieve and accomplish the impossible. These traits were inherited from his late mother Judy and his father Doug. Sean also inherited their abilities, a strong desire to always finish what he started, and a drive to succeed.

Sean played soccer from a young age. He branched out to motocross, fishing, boating, skateboarding, mountain biking, even ice hockey on Sherwood Mill Pond.

Sean Brown

A jack of all sports and a master of competitiveness, Sean’s energy brought all the young souls of Westport together, in activities from street hockey on Grove Point, to fishing at Old Mill Beach, to the skate park where he shredded obstacles and ramps.

He was a competitive, fearless soul with energy that traveled. Everywhere he went, he left an imprint.

Sean was a traveler who explored places he always imagined and wondered about. Everyone he met has a story that can be shared or told about him.

From his friends at Champlain College, to those in Colorado and California where he explored business opportunities and real estate as a licensed agent, Sean was a relaxed and laid back boy, who grew into a young man.

“Remember that one time with Sean…” “So this one night, Sean and I…” has been repeated by so many people he touched in Westport, and beyond.

All roads and stories to lead to Westport. Our tales of our memories and times with him will be shared by strangers, who then become friends.

Sean’s soul will unite all again to celebrate his life this Sunday (June 23, 3 to 7 p.m. at Longshore, next to the marina). Those attending are welcome to bring food and beverages, as Sean’s many friends barbecue together.

(Sean leaves behind his dog Bella, his best friend and sister Morgan, and his father Doug.)

Charlie Karp Tribute: A Levitt Concert For The Ages

The Levitt Pavilion has been the site of countless great concerts.

But in its over-40-year history, it’s never hosted — on one night — artists who have played with the Beatles, Doors, Michael Jackson, Sting, Elton John, Van Morrison, Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, Linda Ronstadt, The Band, Pete Seeger, Smokey Robinson, Rascals, Aerosmith, Buddy Miles, Billy Joel, James Taylor, Elvis Costello, James Brown, Jon Bon Jovi, Cheech & Chong, Michael Bolton, Barry Manilow, Herbie Hancock, Liza Minelli, Cher, Marvin Gaye, Chaka Khan, Mamas and the Papas, Paul Simon, Foreigner, Grand Funk Railroad, Eartha Kitt, Dave Brubeck, Whitney Houston, Roberta Flack, Lenny Kravitz, Chuck Mangione, Harry Chapin, Arlo Guthrie, Bee Gees, Edgar Winter, Grace Slick, Jefferson Starship, John Sebastian, Joe Cocker, Ted Nugent, Mötley Crue, Boz Scaggs, Amy Grant, Sinéad O’Connor, Vince Gill, Carole King, Orleans, Johnny Winter, Emmylou Harris, Chieftains, Lou Reed, Joan Jett, Larry Coryell, Rosanne Cash, Buckwheat Zydeco, Shawn Colvin, Julio Iglesias, Michael McDonald, Luther Vandross, Usher, Jean-Luc Ponty, Jose Féliciano, Herb Alpert, Bad Company, Paul Winter, Taj Mahal, Badfinger, Rick Derringer, Blue Oyster Cult, James Cotton, Bruce Hornsby, Spyro Gyra, Muddy Waters, Eric Weissberg, Wynton Marsalis, New York Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra, Boston Pops Orchestra, Vicki Sue Robinson, Aztec Two-Step and James Montgomery.

Just to name a few.

The key is: Nearly all of the musicians who played with those greats also played with Charlie Karp.

And on Saturday, July 6 (7 p.m., Levitt Pavilion) they’ll honor Charlie’s memory, rocking a sure-to-be memorable concert for the ages.

Charlie Karp, in his Buddy Miles days.

Charlie left Staples High School at 16 to play guitar with Buddy Miles. He hung and played with Jimi Hendrix and Keith Richards, and wrote songs for Joan Jett and Joe Perry, before returning home to earn a fanatic following with bands like Dirty Angels, White Chocolate, Slo Leak and the Name Droppers.

He simultaneously earned Emmys as a producer of music for sports networks, documentaries and feature films, and became a guitar teaching mentor to generations of aspiring young stars.

Charlie died in March, at 65. He had been diagnosed a few days earlier with liver cancer.

Nearly everyone who ever played with Charlie — and a few other big names who were influenced by him — will appear together on the Levitt stage. Over 70 strong, they’ll reimagine the rock and R&B Charlie recorded, played and loved so much.

The mammoth, not-to-be-missed show includes Barry Tashian. Seven years older than Charlie, he fronted the Remains. They opened for the Beatles on their final 1966 tour, and were — in the words of legendary critic Jon Landau — “how you told a stranger about rock ‘n’ roll.”

The Remains were a major influence on Charlie. He and good friend Brian Keane — now a Grammy-winning composer and producer — played their songs in a Coleytown Junior High band. Later, Charlie and Barry became friends.

The Remains’ Barry Tashian (left) and Vern Miller, while touring with the Beatles.

Barry has not played in Westport for several decades. He’s flying up from Nashville for this show.

The cast also includes Roger Ball of the Average White Band, Joe Bonadio of Sting, Michael Mugrage of Orleans, Motown recording artist Ada Dyer, Tim DeHuff and Roger Kaufman.

Of course, members of Charlie’s beloved bands from the ’60s through 2019 — guys like David Hull and Rick Castillo — will play too. The Fun Band, Slo Leak, White Chocolate, Dirty Angels and Name Droppers — it’s a trip down memory lane. And a reminder that great music never dies.

Charlie Karp (Photo/John Halpern)

Mandrake Root — a seminal Westport band — will reunite after 50 years. Tony Prior is coming from North Carolina to join in the jam.

The Reunion Band will be there too. Comprised entirely of Charlie’s classmates from Staples’ class of 1971 — all of them noted professional musicians — they were there with Charlie 2 years ago, for one of the Levitt’s best nights ever.

Charlie’s high school sweetheart, Debbie Sims, will introduce “I Still Love You Anyway.” Charlie wrote that song for her, on Buddy Miles’ iconic “Them Changes” album. It — and “Runaway Child,” which Charlie wrote with Buddy — will be performed by the popular local band, the 5 O’Clocks.

Joey Melotti will be there. The musical director for Michael Jackson and Michael Bolton had a huge Westport following with his 1980s band Sunsight.

Chris Coogan’s Good News Gospel Choir will round out the amazing evening.

Guitarist/producer/songwriter Danny Kortchmar can’t be there — he’s on tour with James Taylor and Carole King’s rhythm section. He sent a note to be read from the stage.

So did Keith Richards. He too is sorry he can’t attend. His band, the Rolling Stones, is out on tour.

Charlie Karp and Keith Richards. (Photo/Ray Flanigan)

Every musician is donating their time. Some turned down lucrative gigs to come.

Proceeds will benefit two organizations. The Charlie Karp Memorial Fund promotes promising area musicians, by offering studio time at the Carriage House in Stamford and Horizon in West Haven. The other beneficiary is the Levitt Pavilion.

That’s fitting. Charlie Karp played to adoring Levitt audiences many times.

On July 6, he’ll pack the place one more time.

(The Charlie Karp Tribute Concert is a ticketed event. Click here to purchase, and for more information.)

ConGRADulations, Staples Class Of 2019!

Staples High School’s 132nd graduation ceremony took place this afternoon, in the fieldhouse.

475 seniors received diplomas.

They head to 163 different colleges, from Fairfield to Shanghai. A few will take gap years, join the military, or enter the workforce.

Those are the numbers. Here are the faces. Well done, Wreckers!

Anisa Prasad (left) is the salutatorian. Her sister Sirina Prasad is the valedictorian. Both will attend Harvard University.

Music teacher Nick Mariconda (left) retires this year, after a 41-year career with the Westport schools. He carried the mace as the longest continually serving Staples faculty member. James D’Amico leaves after 3 years as principal, and 18 in the school district. He’ll become the next principal of New Fairfield High.

Thumb’s up, for sure!

Maria Maisonet receives her diploma from interim superintendent of schools Dr. David Abbey. Board of Education chair Mark Mathias looks on.

Class speaker Victoria Cao offers words of advice.

Students decorate mortarboards in a variety of ways …

… and then, on a signal from Declan Byrne and Elle Fair, toss them joyfully in the air.

Then it’s on to photo ops …

… celebratory cigars …

… and graduation parties. This one honors A Better Chance of Westport scholars Darby Aurelien and David Li.

Every year, people ask why Staples graduation is not outdoors. Here’s why. (All photos/Dan Woog)