Tag Archives: Kennedy Center

Ethan Walmark Rocks The Kennedy Center

When you are 6 years old, a YouTube video of you playing “Piano Man” goes viral.

You perform live on the “Today Show.” You’re one of only 14 people worldwide — and the youngest — to receive a “Genius of Autism” award. Then you win it again.

The Huffington Post names you 1 of 20 “Child Prodigies.”

You help Yoko Ono flip the switch to light the Empire State Building blue for World Autism Awareness Day.

You’re on NBC’s “Today Show” and CBS’s “Early Show.” You sing the national anthem in front of 25,000 fans at Red Bull Arena.

What do you do for an encore?

If you’re Ethan Walmark, you follow Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Billy Joel and Elton John at the 1st-ever Autism Awareness Gala Fundraiser at the Kennedy Center in Washington.

And you bring down the house.

The 12-year-old Coleytown Middle School student/piano prodigy did that last week. He performed 4 songs, closing with “You are the Sunshine of My Life.” Ethan dedicated it to his sister Eliza, who was in the audience.

So if you’re Ethan Walmark, what will you do next?

“Finish 6th grade,” he says.

Click below for a YouTube video of Ethan’s set:


Hey, Teach!

If you’ve ever been in school, you’ve had a teacher who changed your life.

If you’re like most people, you think about that teacher from time to time. You mention her fondly, to your kids and with old friends. If the teacher is lucky — and still alive — you might track him down, and thank him in a phone call, letter or email.

Between now and December 15, you can do much more. You can win a horizon-expanding, life-changing teacher $10,000.

The Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards are a tangible way to thank educators — from grades K-12, and college — for the impactful work they have done. In addition to the nice monetary prize, honorees are showcased on the Kennedy Center website.

Nominators must be at least 18 years old, and must have been the nominee’s student. Nominators should create a written, audio or video story that highlights a single, specific interaction with the teacher — a moment of transformation or inspiration.

Walt Melillo inspired thousands of Westport elementary school students. This is his Burr Farms Class of 1973.

Walt Melillo inspired thousands of Westport elementary school students. This is his Burr Farms Class of 1973.

Judges are not looking for lists of accomplishments. They want to know how the teacher served as a mentor or role model. What life lessons were taught. How the teacher saw, and unlocked, untapped potential. That sort of thing.

Every Westporter must have a teacher to nominate, and a story to tell. Click here for details. And — even if you don’t complete the form — you can share inspiring “teacher moments” with other Westporters, by clicking “Comments.”

PS: Because “06880” is a place where “Westport meets the world,” there are 2 local connections to the Kennedy Center Inspirational Teacher Awards.

One is on its website. Among the links to past winning stories is one by David Pogue — the illustrious, creative tech guru who lives in town.

The other connection is Stephen Sondheim himself. In the summer of 1950, he was an apprentice at the Westport Country Playhouse.

Where, presumably, he learned a thing or two about himself and the world, from an inspirational, life-changing — if non-classroom — teacher.