Tag Archives: Berklee College of Music

COVID-19 Roundup: Small Businesses And Loans; Face Masks; Realtors; $1200 Checks; Good Deeds; Podcasts; More

The Staples High School Gridiron Club has a great idea.

They emailed all members, reminding them of the many local businesses that supported them over the years with donations to fundraisers, ads in program books and (much) more.

Now is the time to pay it back. “Please take every opportunity to support our sponsors by purchasing their goods and services whenever and wherever possible,” they say. They included a list of dozens of sponsors, just as a reminder.

Think how many Westport organizations have been helped by local merchants. If you know of someone who donated to your cause in the past — well, what are you waiting for?

ASF often contributes to local fundraisers. You can shop online to help them — and many other merchants — now.


Jennifer Hrbek reports that Yale New Haven Health desperately needs hand sewn masks.

Click here for a pocket pattern. Donations can be mailed to Yale New Haven Health (Attn.: PPE Donations), 600 Derby Ave., West Haven, CT 06516. They can also be dropped off there Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

You can donate sewn masks that do not follow the pocket pattern too. YNHHS will pass them on to homeless shelters.

Jennifer and her friend, Bedford Middle School teacher Caroline Davis, have been making masks regularly. “They’re desperately needed. And working on them with kids is a great way to teach life skills,” Jennifer says.

Jennifer Hrbek, with sewing machine and mask.


Connecticut’s 0% interest loan program for small businesses and non-profits with fewer than 100 employees is great.

Unless you’re on the list of prohibited applicants.

You’re ineligible if you are “involved in real estate, multi-level marketing, adult entertainment, cannabis or firearms.” You also cannot be a state elected public official or state employee.

I understand the possible conflicts of interest around state officials and employees. But it seems to me the other groups listed have just as many small business worries as any restaurant, market, gift shop or toy store.

And realtors? I can’t imagine there were any open houses last weekend — or will be, over the next few weeks.


Amy Messing writes: “My husband and I plan to donate whatever we get from the government to help during the crisis. Other people may be moved to do the same.

“Do any local fundraising efforts distribute money to restaurant workers, small businesses and others in need? Also, are there any needs for volunteer help that you can identify?”

There are many. This morning, Westporter Stephanie Webster’s great CTBites.com featured a list of many restaurant funds. Click here to see (and note that locally it includes both Match Burger Lobster and Artisan).

I told Amy that I’d crowd-source others. Please click “Comments” below, and let us all know your favorite fundraisers and volunteer opportunities.


One positive side effect of the coronavirus: crime is way down.

I’m on the email list for regular updates from the Westport Police. Usually, the list of arrests for things like distracted driving and speeding is 6 or 8 pages long.

This morning there was just 1  (for “failure to obey control signal.”)

Often too there are 4 to 6 “custodial arrests” (aka lockups), for crimes like domestic violence, larceny and sexual assault.

For the last week, there have been none.

Nice to know that even criminals are self-isolating.


This weekend Elise, Penelope and Daphne Eisenberger painted hearts and positive messages on rocks they, their dad Nico and mother Robin Bates collected at Burying Hill Beach. 

Yesterday they put them (in places no one would need to touch) by the entrances to Westport EMS, the police station, Greens Farms fire station and post office, their pediatrician’s office and a few other spots. They saw similar signs around town.

“It won’t stop anyone from getting sick, or make anyone better who is,” Nico says. “But we hope it’s helpful in some small way to those who work hard to keep us all safe.”

Coincidentally, just a few minutes before I published this piece, I got an email from EMS deputy director Marc Hartog. He writes about those stones:

“We don’t know who placed them there or when, but everyone here is incredibly moved that someone, or some group, thought about us and wanted to show their support.

“This is another example of everyday people doing whatever they can during this crisis, even just to boost the morale of our personnel on the front lines. We wish we could thank them, let them know that this gesture is so appreciated. Maybe if you post this, even though we can’t do it in person, they will know.”

Done. And PS: Now you know!

Elise, Penelopoe and Daphne Eisenberger.


Lauren Braun Costello is making lemonade — more accurately perhaps, lemon tarts or meringue pie — during this time of lemons.

Every day during the pandemic, she’s on Instagram Live with tips and tricks to stretch pantries, and help us feed our families.

Lauren is a classically trained chef, with an impressive CV. Check out itslaurenofcourse.com on Instagram.


Yesterday’s rain did not stop Doris Ghitelman.

The Westporter had to go shopping. So she called 4 high-risk neighbors and friends, and asked what they needed.

“It makes me happy to the core to help,” she says. “There’s always a silver lining 😊🧡”

PS: Nice gloves!


Across the world, John Karrel reports, people are putting teddy bears in all kinds of places: windows. Front porches. Roofs.

The idea is for parents to walk around with their kids, counting as many as they find. It’s a scavenger hunt anyone can help with.

John’s already spotted a couple of teddy bears in Greens Farms. Time to add yours! (And if you don’t have one, plenty of toy stores in Westport can help.)


Every week for decades, the Y’s Men meet to hear intriguing speakers.

COVID-19 has halted that tradition. But the Y’s Men are resourceful and resilient.

They’ve developed a podcast series — and they’re sharing them with the world.

Recent guests included internist Dr. Robert Altbaum and epidemiologist Dr. Pietro Marghello, plus that guy who writes the “06880” blog.

Today John Brandt interviews the CEO of a major wholesale distributor to national supermarkets. He’ll talk about the supply chain.

Click here for all the Y’s Men podcasts.


A former Westporter — now a college professor — is asking her students to interview (by phone or video) someone over the age of 70, with pre-selected questions.

Westporters and non-Westporters who are chatty and game should send names, brief bios and contact info to kochel491@gmail.com by 4 p.m. Wednesday.

“At a time when people are lonely and the lessons I’d originally planned seem increasingly irrelevant, I hope this project will be meaningful to both interviewers and interviewees,” she says.


And finally, here’s a gift from Berklee College of Music. It’s been home to a number of Westporters. They’ve chosen well.

Emma Charleston: Ready To Rock Rockwood

When Emma Ruchefsky was at Staples — singing with Orphenians and performing onstage with Players — everyone predicted great things.

After graduating in 2015, Emma headed to Berklee College of Music. She’s a professional music major, with a concentration in performance and songwriting. That’s just about the best place for anyone looking to achieve — well, great things.

This Saturday (June 24, 8:30 p.m.), Emma Charleston — that’s her professional name (and her mother’s) — makes her New York debut at Rockwood Music Hall. She follows in the footsteps of Lady Gaga, Jessie J,and  Mumford & Sons.

Emma will perform 9 songs — 6 originals and 3 covers. Drummer Joe Zec is a fellow 2015 Staples grad — and a Berklee classmate.

She’s never seen a show at Rockwood. It’s 21 and over, and Emma is just 19. But she and her mother — noted singer Rondi Charleston — went down to the Lower East Side recently, to scout it out.

The age limit means most of Emma’s friends are too young to see her professional debut. But on Saturday, Rockwood will be packed with her parents, and plenty of family friends.

Yet that’s not all the Emma news. She’s released 4 singles, all original songs backed with Berklee musicians. They’re on Spotify, iTunes and SoundCloud — just search for Emma Charleston. An EP is coming Friday.

 

Then — if you’re 21 or over — you can watch her live in New York, on Saturday night.

(For tickets to Emma Charleston’s Rockwood Music Hall performance, click here.)

Kevin Clark’s Point Motion Rocks

Staples High School is justly famous for the number of alums who have gone on to great careers in music. (Here’s lookin’ at you, Alisan Porter!)

Ditto the legendary media lab. (You too, Daryl Wein!)

Now — in an era defined by jobs that did not exist 2 years ago, do-it-yourself technology and crowd-sourced funding — it’s natural that Staples grads make their marks melding the arts and apps.

Kevin Clark was inspired by 2 mentors: choir director Alice Lipson and audio production teacher Jim Honeycutt. They encouraged him to pursue his passions. The bullying he endured while younger spurred him to prove he could do whatever he set his mind to.

The 2009 graduate applied to 5 music colleges. He was rejected by all.

Kevin Clark

Kevin Clark

Moments before joining the military, his father convinced him to try Western Connecticut State University. He was selected as 1 of only 2 piano students — though he had only begun to play.

A year later, he applied to Berklee College of Music. Again, he was turned down.

The 3rd time was the charm. Determined more than ever to prove he belonged there, Kevin roared through the prestigious school. He was signed to Berklee’s Jazz Revelations Records his 1st semester, and last year wrote the music for his class’ graduation ceremony.

“Music has changed my life,” he thought. “Being able to create it has made me happier. What if everyone could experience this job, this sense of self-expression that often eludes us?”

Kevin likes to move. Suddenly, he realized: People need a way to create music by merely moving their bodies. He knew of experiments using  handheld or wearable devices.

But what about hands-free? That could open musical expression to everyone in the world.

With 3 friends, Kevin figured out how to connect his Kinect camera to his computer and audio production software. Then he plugged away, eventually creating entire songs using body motion, a Kinect and a computer.

The Point Motion

Point Motion

The camera tracks body movements. Data is sent to the computer, where Kevin’s app translates each motion into a specific sound or musical phrase.

There are over 1500 pre-programmed sounds and instruments. Users can also upload their own.

Kevin applied for patents, and established a company: Point Motion. An Israeli firm, Extreme Reality, liked his platform.

Together, they moved from Kinect to using common 2D cameras found on cellphones and computers. This opened up a wide range of opportunities.

Kevin is proud of the result. “For the first time in history,” he says, “people can access musical expression using motion control technology for just a $40 download.”

The first 2 apps focus on health and wellness practices (enabling expression for users with limited mobility and special needs), and creative tools for musicians (extending the creative capabilities of artists).

The 2nd app — “Puppet Master” — allows users to do things like lean forward to add distortion to an electric guitar, or raise an arm to add reverb to vocals. The system is compatible with existing music production programs.

Point Motion is now in the fundraising phase. His Indiegogo campaign has a $50,000 target.

For every donation, Kevin will donate Point Motion to a hospital or clinic in the US.

Clearly, Kevin Clark learned a lot more than music and technology at Staples and Berklee.

(For more information on Point Motion, click here. For the Indiegogo fundraising campaign, click here.)

Livingston Taylor: Live In Westport!

Emma Ruchefsky is about to finish her first year at the Berklee College of Music.

Like virtually every student at what may be the hippest college in the country, she loves the education she’s getting — her coursework, her opportunities to perform, her intense exposure to many facets of the music industry.

So it was natural for her parents — Steve Ruchefsky and Rondi Charleston — to offer their Westport home for a reception for accepted students from Fairfield and Westchester Counties.

What made the event special — and what separates Berklee from the rest of the pack — is that a noted stage performance professor came to perform.

That would be Livingston Taylor.

Livingston Taylor, hanging out at the Ruchefskys' house.

Livingston Taylor, hanging out this afternoon in Westport.

The wide-ranging, much-loved singer-songwriter has toured with Linda Ronstadt, Jimmy Buffet and Jethro Tull. But there he was, in an Evergreen Avenue living room earlier today, talking easily but lovingly about the power of music, its potential to change lives, and his passion for the school.

“I love physics, inventions, math and the workings of the planet,” Taylor said. But music holds a special place in his heart.

Addressing the parents in the room — some of whom might wonder about the wisdom of a career in music — he added: “Please understand your children are seen by a benevolent and generous universe. The gods will bless their journey.”

He introduced a trio of current students, who blazed through several American roots tunes.

From left: Steve Ruchefsky, a Berklee trio of American roots musicians, Livingston Taylor, Emma Ruchesfsky and Rondi Charleston.

From left: Steve Ruchefsky, a Berklee trio of American roots musicians, Livingston Taylor, Emma Ruchesfsky and Rondi Charleston.

Livingston Taylor joined them for a couple of numbers. He followed with a solo mini-concert of his own. Then he called on Emma, for a “My Fair Lady” duet.

They finished with his brother James’ classic, “You’ve Got a Friend.”

What a wonderful way to prove the power of music. The draw of Berklee.

And the amazing things that happen, right under our noses, right here in Westport.

Rock On, Justin!

At Staples High School, Justin Slosberg battled leukemia. With the help of family and friends — all of whom dressed in purple one day, to show support — he returned to classes and to his passion, the drums. He graduated last June, the day after pounding out a great solo at baccalaureate.

On the last day of his 3 1/2-year treatment regimen — just after he moved into his dorm, beginning his freshman year at Berklee College of Music — Justin learned his cancer had returned.

Justin Slosberg

Justin Slosberg

Many of Justin’s bills are not covered by insurance. He’s looking at a 3-week hospital stay, followed by a bone marrow transplant and another 2 months in the hospital

The Slosbergs have been Westporters since Justin was in kindergarten.  Their strong, long local connections have led friends to organize a GoFundMe campaign to cover unpaid bills and treatment costs.

Click here to contribute. It’s time to drum up support from everyone!

 

Making Wickit Music

When Drew Angus and his roommate asked to use the recording facilities at Hartwick College last year, they were rebuffed.

Drew Angus and his board.

So the pair took a different approach.  Drew — who had taken audio production courses at Staples, recorded his band the Euphons in the Staples studio, then at Hartwick created his own music industry major — used a January term course with a business professor to learn how to create his own record label.

Drew discovered that John Doelp — a senior vice president at Columbia Records — is a Hartwick grad.  Drew met him in his impressive New York office, dominated by the biggest speakers Drew has ever seen, and a plaque-filled wall.

John told Drew that the record label industry is dying, and challenged him to help find a way to make it viable again.  John’s advice:  Find a band Drew thought would be successful, and get them to tour.

Back at Hartwick last spring, Drew took an online Berklee College of Music entrepreneurship course.  He honed a business plan.

Last fall he hosted a battle of the bands.  Then he and a team picked 4 groups with potential.  With a $17,000 grant from Hartwick’s Student Senate, he and roommate M.W. Degan put them in a state-of-the-art recording studio — in a section of the music department that had turned him down less than a year earlier.

The result — after Drew spent many hours mixing — is a 4-track compilation on WICKit Music Group, Hartwick’s “student run record label.”  It’s available now online.  Donations are requested, with funds earmarked to press and promote the compilation as a physical CD in the fall.

This summer — before senior year — Drew is working at A&M Octone Records in New York.  His goal:  “to really learn how to run a record label.”

What about John Doelp’s warning, that the record label industry is going down the tubes?

“In some senses, yes,” Drew says.

“But they just need to be run better than the head honchos of the Big 4 are running them now.

“John told me to get a band to go out and play.  But I’m trying to build something with my educational experience too.”