Tag Archives: Gregg Winters

Tomorrow’s Virtual Memorial Day Parade: The Back Story

Yesterday, the town announced a special virtual Memorial Day celebration for tomorrow (Monday, May 25).

At 9 a.m., a 17-minute video will be broadcast on Cablevision channel 79 and Frontier channel 6020. It will be posted later on the town’s Facebook page.

But hey: Want a sneak peak? It’s already on the Town of Westport’s YouTube channel!

It sounds like our middle and high school bands were captured live. But the story is far more complex — and difficult — than that. 

One screenshot from Westport’s virtual Memorial Day parade …

Bedford Middle School band teacher Lou Kitchner takes us behind the scenes:

Due to the COVID-19 school closure, Westport students have been unable to participate in traditional school experiences that were a significant part of their daily activities — like music classes.

To address this problem, and also honor Westport’s fallen heroes and veterans, grade 6-12 band directors James Forgey, Gregg Winters and Phil Giampietro and I designed a way for students to share their musical talents via a digital performance.

Clockwise from upper left: Gregg Winters, Lou Kitchner, Phil Giampietro, James Forgey.

We created and posted a play-along audio track, with an embedded metronome click, on their class websites. Students practiced their individual parts by playing along with the audio accompaniment.

After a week or two of practice, 165 students recorded their individual performances, just as professional studio musicians do. They used whatever technology they had available: a desktop computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone.

All 165 submissions were then imported into multi-track music software by the teachers. Next the band directors aligned and edited them in time with the song’s tempo, and mixed them down into a single ensemble performance track.

The individual mixes — 6th, 7th and 8th grades, and the combined Staples High School bands — were then combined into one complete grade 6-12 performance. I am so proud of these kids! It sounds like they were all together, in one room.

To complement the audio, we asked students to submit photos of themselves holding or performing their instrument — in school or town- related attire if possible (school closure prevented them from accessing uniforms or school-specific parade t-shirts).

… and another.

Staples media teacher Geno Heiter then spent hours merging all the photos with the final ensemble mix to create the final product: a virtual Memorial Day parade!

Westport has won 7 straight “Best Community for Music Education” awards, from a national foundation. After this effort, they should just name it after us and retire it forever. 

Pop! Go The Concerts

If you missed last Friday’s Staples High School concert, you weren’t alone. Tickets went faster than “Springsteen on Broadway” (and, being free, for a lot less cash).

But you don’t have to wait a year for the next one.

Here, thanks to the indefatigable Jim Honeycutt, is the entire show.

The symphonic band and orchestra, jazz band and choral group Orphenians — they’re all here.

So is a special tribute to retiring orchestra director Adele Valovich. The show is narrated by actor/director James Naughton.


BONUS REEL: As if that’s not enough, here’s the recent spring concert, featuring Nick Mariconda’s Staples jazz band, and their Bedford Middle School counterparts, led by Gregg Winters.

Tooting Josh Frank’s Trumpet

When Josh Frank received a Westport Arts “Horizons” Award in 2009 — as a “rising young artist” — he was surprised and honored.

He also felt guilty.  “I thought, ‘they recognized me, but what have I done for Westport?'” the trumpeter, composer and movie producer asked recently.

Though he lives in New York, he vowed to do more.

Josh enjoys working with kids.  He’s doing that now, teaching pro bono “master classes” for trumpeters at Staples and Coleytown Middle School.

Josh Frank

He talks with the students about trumpet fundamentals — but ties the instrument in with the real world.  “Music doesn’t exist by itself, or in a box,” he says.  “The lessons that come out of it — practice regimens, connecting with people — they’re so important in life.”

His students like to hear about his own post-Staples career.  He’s recorded a film score for a Francis Ford Coppola movie; performed at Central Park’s SummerStage with Yo-Yo Ma and Bobby McFerrin; been featured on camera in “Royal Pains”; recorded a commercial for IBM; toured as a soloist with the New York Symphonic Ensemble; helped found a chamber orchestra that’s been featured on Channel 13; and performed with his “Batteries Duo” group at various sites in Minneapolis — including the Apple Store.

The Staples (Class of 2000), Juilliard and Manhattan School of Music grad has recorded with David Byrne, and toured Japan with Boyz II Men.

Who says you can’t make a living doing what you love?

Josh Frank in action.

As if that’s enough, Josh has started teaching privately in Westport.  He’s got a few trumpet students already, but has room for one or two more.

He can relate to plenty of kids in town.

“When I first started playing, in 5th grade at King’s Highway, I was like every other kid in band,” he recalls.  “I loved it, but I had no idea where it would lead.”

But his teachers and parents encouraged and supported him.  Gregg Winters, Nick Mariconda, Adele Valovich — all those Westport instructors and more have helped make him who he is.

And now Josh Frank is paying it — and playing it — back.

And forward.

(To contact Josh, email josh@joshfrankmusic.com, or call 917-742-6040.  Click here for his website.)