In 1988, Caitlin Parton became the youngest person ever to receive a cochlear implant.
After graduating in 2003, she headed to the University of Chicago. She interned for Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, worked at the Department of Justice and spent 2 years as a paralegal for a Washington civil rights firm, before earning a law degree from City University of New York.
Caitlin — the daughter of longtime Westporters Steve Parton and Melody James – is now general counsel for the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
On May 24 (4 p.m., Zoom), she’ll receive the Center for Hearing and Communication’s Sheldon Williams Leadership Award. Click here for details and registration.
Connecticut has made it to the finals of tonight’s “American Song Contest.”
Actually, Michael Bolton has.
The Westport resident — representing the state — is in tonight’s NBC finale. The show is based on the wildly popular Eurovision, and includes representatives from all 50 states, plus Washington DC and 5 territories. There are 10 finalists.
Good luck, to one of the real good guys in the music world! (Hat tip: Mark Mathias)
Screenshot from the “American Song Contest” website.
Tenor Craig Gillespie — a Westport resident, and son of Jim Gillespie for whom the town’s men’s shelter is named — is among the local musicians offering a mix of Broadway, American songbook, jazz, reggae, traditional Irish, spiritual, country, classical and opera songs, in a “celebrate spring/raise money for Ukraine” concert.
And finally … Mickey Gilley died on Saturday in Branson, Missouri. He was 86.
He had 34 country Top 10 hits. But he was best known as the owner of a huge bar near Houston that became synonymous with country music. Gilley’s had a mechanical bull, and was the location for much of the famed “Urban Cowboy” movie.
Earthplace updated maps of their 74-acre sanctuary. Project Return repainted their North Compo Road home. The Westport Astronomical Society got a new solar telescope. Wakeman Town Farm bought a mobile chicken coop.
All of that money came from “Ruegg Grants” — courtesy of the Westport Woman’s Club. Established in 1995 by former member Lea Ruegg, they’re given each spring to a local non-profit with a project that makes a meaningful difference in social services, health, safety, the arts or education.
Previous recipients include, CLASP Homes, the Westport Police Department, Interfaith Housing, Mercy Learning Center, Toquet Hall, the Westport Rotary Club, Staples Players and the Westport Library.
Your organization could be next. The Woman’s Club is accepting submissions now through April 25, for up to $10,000 for a 2022 project. Click here for the application form.
The Westport Library has just added an intriguing panel to its 1st-ever media and music festival.
On Saturday, April 9 (1 p.m.), Dick Wingate — a Westporter at the forefront of music marketing, A&R and interactive technology for over 40 years — will moderate a panel on audio production.
Dick launched or developed the careers of Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Aimee Mann, Peter Tosh, Eddy Grant, Pink Floyd, Sarah McLachlan and Garland Jeffreys while at Columbia, Epic, PolyGram and Arista Records. He then pioneered the digital music business with Liquid Audio, as chief content officer. He now operates DEV Advisors, a media and entertainment consultancy.
Datwon Thomas: editor-in-chief of Vibe magazine, and vice president of cultural media for MRC. He was founder and editorial director of men’s lifestyle guide King magazine, the urban car enthusiast’s favorite Rides Magazine, and editor-in-chief of hip-hop’s street authority, XXL Magazine.
Stephen Webber: Emmy-winning composer, musician, author, producer, engineer, and a leading innovator in music and the performing arts. He founded the Music Production, Technology, and Innovation master’s program at Berklee College of Music’s Spain campus. He’s Berklee’s dean of strategic initiatives, working on domestic and international projects in Los Angeles and China. A former A&R consultant for Universal Music Group, Webber has produced and engineered albums for a wide range of artists.
Travis Bell: audio studios Manager and in-house producer and engineer for Verso Studios. As owner/operator of Hamden’s Adorea Studios for 10 years, he earned acclaim from NPR and Rolling Stone for an array of different projects.
This is a tough time of year for Homes with Hope’s food pantry.
The Gillespie Center program always sees a dip in donations between the holidays, and its spring food drive.
Rising food prices have proved a double whammy. More families are in need, while donors are also feeling the pinch.
Donations can be dropped off between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. at the Gillespie Center. It’s behind Barnes & Noble, next to Don Memo and Walrus Alley off Jesup Road. Click here for a list of most-needed non-perishable items.
Michael Bolton moves on!
Not from Westport — he’s staying here. But the New Haven native advances to the next round of NBC’s “American Song Contest.”
Bolton sang “Beautiful World,” in the Eurovision knockoff that includes artists from all 50 states, 5 US territories and Washington DC.
The jury ranked him 5th, but votes by fans propelled him into the semifinals. He joins representatives from Rhode Island, Oklahoma and Puerto Rico. His video from the show is below. (Hat tip: Dick Lowenstein)
Julian Lamb Orgel — the lively and musically talented cellist son of 1971 Staples High School graduate Paul Orgel — died in 2018. He was 26.
A fundraising concert in Colchester, Vermont on May 21 will endow a scholarship in Julian’s honor for the Vermont Youth Orchestra — a place, his family says, that “nurtured him and provided him with years of support, friendship and music-making pleasure.”
The program features the world premiere of “Songs With and Without Words,” composed in Julian’s honor by Curt Cacioppo, with his father on piano. There are also classical and jazz performances.
Click here for tickets and more information. Click here for more on Julian Orgel. (Hat tip: Diane Sherman)
Meanwhile — not far away — an osprey has returned to its Fresh Market perch.
Alert “06880” reader Wendy Crowther reported last evening: “He was primping the nest as I passed by just now. I drive by Fresh Market to and from work or doing errands nearly every day. I always look in that direction.
“This is my first sighting since he left for parts south last fall. I was in my car so I don’t have a photo.”
The Kiwanis Club is one of Westport’s less publicized civic groups. But they’ve been around for decades, aiding everything from Safe Rides and local playgrounds to gear for the EMS bicycle unit.
Very quietly, they continue to enrich our town.
The other day, they donated $5,000 to Save the Children’s relief efforts in Ukraine. Now Kiwanis is gearing up for their grant program for high school seniors. Funding comes from their annual family-friendly Mini-Triathlon at Compo Beach.
The Kiwanis College Grant application is open to income-qualified Staples High School who have demonstrated academic excellence and service to the community. Click here for an application. The deadline is April 15.
The Triathlon is open to all ability levels. It includes a point-to-point swim at Compo Beach, followed by short bike and run courses in the Compo neighborhood.
The event is great for first-timers, and families wishing to race together. To register for the September 11 event or donate to the college grant program, click here.
What do Rosa Parks, Helen Keller, Eleanor Roosevelt, Katharine Hepburn, Golda Meir, Jackie Kennedy, Peggy Guggenheim and Mother Teresa have in common?
All will be celebrated this Saturday by Westporter Suzanne Tanner, in her inspiring millinery musical “Voices of Herstory.”
The event (March 26, 3 p.m., St. Andrew’s Church, Kent) coincides with Women’s History Month. And it’s for a great cause: Proceeds benefit Ukrainian refugees, honoring the memory of Tanner’s daughter Tess.
We all know how “Romeo and Juliet” ends, right? (Spoiler alert if you don’t: badly.)
On April 8 and 9 (7:30 p.m. and 2 p.m., respectively; Sacred Heart Community Theatre, Fairfield) you’ve got a chance to change Shakespeare’s 425-year-old classic. Internationally renowned pianist — and Westport neighbor — Frederic Chiu is a Prokofiev expert. Among his most noted works: the piano suite from the composer’s “Romeo and Juliet” ballet.
Almost 30 years ago, Chiu discovered the original score. Written entirely for the piano, it contained a revised ending. The lovers do not die.
Twenty-five years later, he commissioned choreographer Sandra Shih Parks to collaborate on “Romeo & Juliet: The Choice.” The audience votes on which ending — Prokofiev’s original happy one, or the traditional dismal version — will be performed.
It debuted at Drexel University in 2018, with Chiu playing the entire ballet on piano, while dancers performed — and the enthralled audience waited for the outcome.
Now, WSHU brings it to Fairfield. Click here for tickets and more information.
Staples High School’s Zero Waste Committee is wasting zero time making an impact.
In addition to next month’s pop-up thrift shop, countering the wasteful “fast fashion” shopping trend, co-chairs Kayla Iannetta and Jenn Cirino are partnering with Sustainable Westport and ZenWTR for a Compo Beach cleanup on April 30.
This is the first time all the Zero Waste Committees from different Westport schools join together for one effort.
ZenWTR is the first beverage in the world to be certified plastic negative (meaning they remove more plastic from the environment than they produce, by investing in sustainable programs). ZenWTR is sold in the Staples High School cafeteria.
A new store — Bobbles & Lace — has opened their first Connecticut location in Bedford Square.
Lindsay Rose Rando launched the store 14 years ago in Marblehead, Massachusetts. B&L offers “modern fashion forward designs at affordable prices.” There are other outlets in Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Maine.
Rando says she “loves the sense of community” in Westport, and calls her Church Lane location “bright and beautiful.”
Bobbles & Lace is opoen Monday through Saturday (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.), Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Bobbles & Lace, Bedford Square. (Photo courtesy of Inklings News)
A few seats remain for this year’s Westport Library “Booked for the Evening” gala. The June 1 honoree is television producer/screenwriter/ author Shonda Rhimes — twice named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World.”
Admit it: You hear “RTM” all the time. And you don’t know a thing about it.
Well, for one thing, it stands for “Representative Town Meeting.” For another, it’s our special local legislative body.
For a third, Westport’s League of Women Voters is sponsoring a series of “Know Your Town” events. And — wouldn’t you know it — the first one is “Know Your RTM.”
Set for this Wednesday (March 23, 7 p.m., Westport Library Trefz Forum and Zoom), the all-star (and all-RTM) panel includes former moderator Velma Heller, who’ll discuss the body’s history; member Matthew Mandell (today’s RTM), and current moderator Jeff Wieser (why you should run for office).
For the first time ever, Inklings — the nearly 100-year-old Staples High School publication — earned a Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Crown award for Hybrid News. Only 16 other high schools in the country received that honor.
Inklings has won numerous Gold Circle Awards for individual reporter excellence, along with overall Silver Crowns. This is the first Gold Crown since switching to a magazine model — and it came in Inklings’ first year with the format.
“I think the change in layout and design spoke to our strengths,” says co-advisor Mary Elizabeth Fulco. ” I’m so incredibly proud of our hard-working students for achieving this national recognition.” The other advisor is Joe Del Gobbo.
Fast fashion — mass production of cheap clothing that destroys resources and pollutes the planet — is endemic.
On March 28 (6:30 p.m., Wakeman Town Farm), WTF sponsors a “Sustainability Forum.”
Panelists will discuss the effects of fast fashion on our environment, consumers and workers. Attendees will learn how to identify sustainable businesses, make smarter buying choices, and what it means to be a conscious consumer.
There’s also a spotlight on local sustainable clothing business, including Our Woven Community, The Exchange Project and Shop Tomorrows.
Meanwhile, a few yards south of the Town Farm, a group of Staples High School students is doing something about fast fashion too.
The school’s Zero Waste Committee is creating a pop-up thrift store, The EcoBoutique opens April 27 during lunch waves in the courtyard.
Whether you’re a student, parent or just a Westporter interested in the planet, you can help.
The Zero Waste Committee is collecting donations (gently used clothing, handers and bins) from March 28 to April 11, at Staples’ front atrium.
In addition to education the community about the importance of limiting fast fashion, and thrifting, funds from the pop-up thrift store will help the ZWC’s sustainability initiatives: composting, recycling and more.
Last week, the historic London venue — currently celebrating its 150th anniversary, and host to (among others) Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, the Dalai Lama, Frank Sinatra, Jimi Hendrix, Adele, Eric Clapton (200 times) and the only Beatles/Rolling Stones shared billing ever — was the setting for a Michael Bolton concert.
The Westport-based artist has played there more than two dozen times. His longtime drummer — Staples High School Class of 2000 graduate Drew McKeon — made his 5th appearance on the hallowed stage.
Drew McKeon, before the Royal Albert Hall Show.
It never gets old. Drew is awed every time he steps onto it.
This time, before the show, he hung out backstage with Nile Rogers.
The singer/songwriter/producer/former Chic front man splits his time between Westport and his other homes in Miami, London, and Turks & Caicos.
But, he told Drew, “Westport will always be home.”
Michael Bolton still tours incessantly — a couple of hundred shows a year. Drew has played most of those gigs with him, for nearly a decade.
Michael Bolton, Drew McKeon and the band.
But the Royal Albert Hall never gets old.
Drew McKeon at work, on London. (Photos/Gregg Kozak
BONUS TRACK: Click here for a great Peter Blake mural of some of the performers from Royal Albert Hall’s long past.
Sally White was not an internet person. She much preferred interacting with people, face to face.
But when the longtime, much-loved owner of Sally’s Place — and before that, manager of Klein’s record department, and Melody House worker — died of cancer yesterday at 88, every online platform was filled with memories.
Generations of Fairfield County men and women (and teenagers) were Sally’s customers — and friends. She influenced literally tens of thousands of us. She opened our ears — and our minds and souls — to all kinds of music.
And she opened her heart to us.
Everyone has a Sally White story. Here are 2 of my favorites. The first is from Drew McKeon. A Staples High School class of 2000 graduate, he’s spent the past several years touring the world with fellow Westporter Michael Bolton. Sally is a big reason why.
So sad to say goodbye to my old friend, Sally White. I’ll never forget the hours spent sitting one on one, listening to her stories of seeing the greats live (Sinatra, Hendrix, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Coltrane, Dylan, Buddy Rich, Miles), and how much our town had changed since she came to Main Street in 1954.
The wonderful Sally White
She sold me the first jazz albums I ever bought (“Kind of Blue”, “Speak No Evil,” “The Real McCoy,” Jarrett Trio “Live at the Blue Note”), and shook her head every time I came in for the latest Zorn Tzadik release.
I bought my first copy of “Purple Rain” there, and Tom Waits’ “Mule Variations,” and “Bright Size Life,” as well as every album Bill Frisell, Alison Krauss and Belá Fleck released from 1995-2014. I got Nirvana “Unplugged” there too.
She told me the same story about the guy offering to buy her Sinatra poster for $1000 (even though she had 2!) every time I came in, and regaled me with childhood tales about a shy and gentle Horace Silver.
She felt so guilty about declining invites to my high school shows that she gave me a gig playing standards with a quartet outside the shop during the Memorial Day parade.
I cringed every time she cut open a CD so haphazardly, the X-acto knife lunging in towards her abdomen. I’d tell her not to rip the cellophane just so I could obsess over the Winter&Winter packaging. “Hey, they don’t call it Sally’s for nothing — my store, my rules!”
Sally doing what she loves most: interacting with one customer. Another browses behind her.
She sold me “Innervisions” and Maceo’s “Life on Planet Groove” and “Babylon By Bus,” and gave me “Appalachia Waltz” for my 15th birthday. She stuffed 2 copies of Downbeat in my bag with every purchase, and tuned in to every episode of the WWPT radio show I hosted with Ted Thompson. My obsessive love for Joni and Edgar Meyer was born and fostered at 190 Main Street.
I, like so many other local musicians, am so thankful to have had Sally recognize and encourage my unquenchable thirst for music of all styles at a young age. I always thought it was so cool that I got my first Miles record from the same badass lady that a young Scofield did, a couple decades before. (I got a shitload of Sco records from her, too.)
Perhaps more than anything, I’ll always remember skimming through her prized postcard collection from the great Adam Nussbaum. He, years prior, was one of “Sally’s Kids” too.
At the time, I couldn’t fathom ever actually going to places like Malta, Cairo or Shanghai — let alone, getting paid to play drums there. But I knew I wanted to more than anything, and she assured me I would “be out there soon enough.”
I hope Blue Eyes is singing one for my gal Sal tonight!
And this, from Jim Motavalli. He graduated from Staples in 1970 — 30 years before Drew McKeon — but he too will remember Sally White forever.
With 2partners, I started a record store in Fairfield, circa 1975. It was called Trident, because there were 3 partners — one of whom was my twin brother. The 2 of us had just graduated from the University of Connecticut, where we took not one business course.
We had a plan — we would pioneer the sale of used records in Connecticut — but beyond that we didn’t have a clue how to set up and stock a store. Fortunately, we had a friend, Sally White, then running the record haven at the downtown Westport department store Klein’s. Far from stocking just the hits, Sally made sure that the store was bulging with jazz — including albums from players who lived in the area: Dave Brubeck, Gerry Mulligan (and, later, McCoy Tyner and Max Roach).
We called her, and she came over to talk business. Despite the fact we were planning to compete with her, Sally held forth all evening on all aspects of dealing with suppliers, getting credit, buying a cash register, handling returns, and was endlessly helpful.
I was thought of this episode on learning that Sally White died this week. She had closed her store, Sally’s Place (which succeeded her long stint at Klein’s) in 2013 — a victim of the digital revolution. I’m sure not being able to greet her many friends took something out of her — she’d sold records for 57 years!
After describing the recent revival of vinyl, Jim concludes:
Goodbye Sam Goody’s, Goodbye Tower Records. It’s not likely I’ll mourn the passing of these corporate superstores.
But I will shed a tear not so much for Sally’s Place, but for Sally herself. A real mensch.
(Click here to read Jim Motavalli’s full story, on his music blog Territorial Imperatives.)
Ben E King — who died yesterday in New Jersey at 76 — is being remembered for his smooth baritone, debonair style and classic love songs.
He was also, apparently, a really great man.
In 2013, Drew McKeon was a drummer with (coincidentally, fellow Westporter) Michael Bolton. They were booked for a charity gala at the Bushnell in Hartford.
King performed 2 songs with them: “Stand By Me” and “Save the Last Dance for Me.”
The legendary solo artist and former Drifters front man shook everyone’s hand with a smile, and repeated their names. “He was elegant and dapper,” recalls McKeon, a 2000 Staples grad. “We all immediately liked him.”
During a “Stand By Me” sound check, one of McKeon’s bandmates asked King which guitar part to play. “Whatever you’re doing sounds fantastic,” he replied. “Play whatever you feel. You’re a wonderful musician — all of you are.”
McKeon calls King “easily one of the sweetest and most humble people I’ve ever played with.”
The star told McKeon “the incredibly personal back story of wheelchair-bound Doc Pomus. He was inspired to write ‘Save the Last Dance For Me’ after watching his brother twirl Pomus’ newlywed wife from the sidelines at his own wedding.
“We’d done our homework on the tunes, so it went well,” recalls McKeon, a 2000 Staples grad. “But he acted as if it was better ‘service’ than he deserved. He was super gracious. He inspired me to play my best for him, like a true Little Drummer Boy.”
McKeon is not the only Staples alum with memories of King. Ryan O’Neill — who graduated in 1997 — did “Clash of the Choirs” with (again) Michael Bolton, and performed with the legendary artist.
“Mr. King was a generous and kind man,” O’Neill recalls. “He offered stories about his songs and his life. It was an honor to share the stage with such an icon.”
But when you walk through the airport with him in a place like Shanghai — with people “crying, freaking out” — you realize he’s an international sensation.
Michael Bolton and Drew McKeon in Singapore.
Drew has walked through plenty of airports with Bolton. They’ve just finished a 9-month world tour. From Copenhagen, Warsaw, Bucharest, Kiev and Minsk through Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur and Seoul’s Olympic Stadium, the Staples Class of 2000 graduate — and NYU religion and history major — has served as Bolton’s drummer. It’s been an awesome, rewarding — and eye-opening — experience.
In Japan, Drew says, “people tried to break into our dressing room. They passed old records and t-shirts through the window to sign. It was crazy.”
It’s no coincidence that Bolton hired a fellow Westporter. His daughters knew Drew when he played with Ryan O’Neill at local spots like Viva’s. They brought their dad; he liked when he heard.
When Bolton’s drummer left abruptly last May, he called Drew. The drummer — who’d cut his touring chops with Hall & Oates — had a week to learn 40 songs.
Drew McKeon in action.
The past year has been a whirlwind of experiences. They played a billionaire’s wedding in Nice. They wore tuxes at Monaco’s Sporting Club, where a velvet curtain opened and the prince walked in. In Belarus, they performed with the Presidential Orchestra at the Imperial Palace.
On travel days, if the 15 to 20 band members and crew got to a city early, Drew took the rest of the day to explore. “Whether it’s Wheeling, West Virginia or Paris, I try to get out,” he says. “There’s not a lot of time, but you learn to be efficient. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved to travel. To do it on someone else’s dime is cool.”
The traveling party — a mixture of ages — got along well. “Everyone is so nice,” Drew says. “I’ve toured with bands that have real ego clashes. It’s not easy being together 24 hours a day.”
Drew McKeon backing up Michael Bolton.
After almost a year on the road, Drew got another gig. He and singer Darian Cunning have performed on St. Barts since 2005, building a Bolton-like fanatic following. They play 3 hours a night, 6 nights a week — and spend the rest of the time on the beach.
“It’s like summer camp, with Victoria’s Secret models and billionaires,” Drew says.
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