Tag Archives: School of Rock

Blues, Views & BBQ Festival Rocks On

Huge crowds enjoyed yesterday’s opening of the 10th annual Blues, Views & BBQ Festival, at the Levitt Pavilion and Westport Library parking lot.

Rain kept attendance down early today. But as soon as the drops stopped, folks came. The lawn and lot were filled nicely from 2:30 p.m. on.

Organizers pushed the schedule back slightly. Anders Osbourne is now set to play at 5 p.m. Deep Banana Blackout follows at 7.

There’s still time to enjoy one of Westport’s greatest music-and-more events. For details, click here.

The Levitt Pavilion main stage offers some of the best music anywhere….

… while in the library parking lot, future stars from the School of Rock play.

For the 4th year in a row, Dane Tilghman came from Pennsylvania with his blues-oriented art.

These 2 fans enjoyed the music while sitting on the Levitt lawn …

but the mud didn’t deter this guy from dancing.

What’s a Blues, Views & BBQ Fest without food from Bobby Q’s?

It wasn’t quite Houston. A few puddles did not stop this youngster from enjoying one of the attractions in the library parking lot.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Harvey was not far from organizers’ minds. The Westport Downtown Merchants Association collected food and clothing for victims, and donated proceeds from yesterday’s BBQ cooking competition to relief efforts.

Becca Webster Hits Like A Girl

Fewer than 10% of all drummers are girls or women. Social and cultural barriers lead many aspiring female musicians to instruments like piano, violin and flute.

Hit Like a Girl” is an annual contest to counter that trend. Organized by big drum manufacturers and magazines, this year’s event drew entrants from ages 6 to 60, and nearly 50 countries. Their videos were judged by top drummers — including those with Beyonce and Red Hot Chili Peppers — on technique, chops, originality, creativity, groove and feel.

Last year’s Under-18 winner was from Indonesia. The year before that: Japan.

Drum roll, please! The 2016 “Hit Like a Girl” best drummer in the world is … a Westporter.

Becca Webster — a Staples High School freshman — beat out every contestant, from around the world. Her runnerup came from Poland.

Becca Webster, in action.

Becca Webster, in action.

Last year, Becca finished 2nd. She’s won other prizes — including as a soloist with the Staples High School jazz band, and on tour with the School of Rock All-Stars — but this was her biggest stage ever.

The call came — of course — while Becca was practicing with a jazz band.

In addition to tons of industry exposure, Becca gets a new drum kit and cymbals. Plus endorsement opportunities, and the chance to appear in ads and at clinics.

Becca began drumming when she was 3 years old. Her grandmother tapped out a rhythm, and urged the toddler to repeat it back.

“Nana” grew up in a tiny apartment in Brooklyn, at a time when girls did not drum. But she started taking lessons in her 50s, and discovered a natural sense of timing and rhythm. When Becca turned 8, her grandmother gave her a drum kit.

She worked for 2 years on fundamentals, speed, technique and timekeeping with Tom Geisler, before learning to play songs. The teacher also sparked her interest in jazz.

At 10, Becca joined School of Rock. Director Frank Perrouna helped her learn responsibilities, like creating and keeping the groove going.

In a band setting, playing music from prog to Motown, she realized that a drummer’s job is “not to squeeze as many notes as possible into a measure, but to play musically, tastefully and in the pocket.”

As house band captain for School of Rock’s Fairfield house band, she’s learned to arrange songs, and pick apart every instrument.

Becca's got the beat!

Becca’s got the beat!

She’s watched with satisfaction the growth of girl drummers in the area. Some call her their inspiration.

Becca’s contest video songs are different from her usual groove playing. But she loves the polyrhythms and layering of parts with each limb. The songs forced her to work on 4-way independence.

Lately, studying with Adrian Tramontono of the band Kung Fu, Becca has gotten into jazz/fusion music. Working around his touring schedule, he pushes her on soloing and improvisation.

Her goal is to make music her career. Becca would love to become a session drummer, or play in a band.

She is just 15 years old. That means Becca has a chance to 3-peat as the Under-18 “Hit it Like a Girl” champ.

Unless, of course, she’s too busy playing around the world to bother entering.

Hit it, girl!

Autism Speaks — And Ethan Rocks

Two years ago, “06880” profiled Ethan Walmark. The 6-year-old — on the autism spectrum, as a very high-functioning child — played and sang “Piano Man” in a YouTube video. It went viral (over 1.5 million views), and Ethan was an international star.

A lot has happened since.

Billy Joel called Ethan’s intro “better than mine.” Ethan performed live on the “Today Show.” He was 1 of only 14 people worldwide — and the youngest — to receive a “Genius of Autism” award. (Then he won it again.) The Huffington Post named him 1 of 20 “Child Prodigies.”

He helped Yoko Ono flip the switch to light the Empire State Building blue for World Autism Awareness Day. Ethan looked her in the eye and said, “Imagine a world without autism!”

Meeting Ethan before a concert, John Mayer said, “Hey, I know you! You’re the internet sensation!”

Ethan’s performance of “Eminence Front” brought down the house — at a Who show.

Clearly, Ethan rocks.

He’s got plenty of talent, for sure. And — after his parents enrolled him in Fairfield’s School of Rock — Ethan’s cognition, social abilities and musicality soared.

Now, Ethan — the resident “rock star” of Kings Highway Elementary School –brings his international talents to his home town.

This Saturday (March 22, 6:30 p.m.), 2 bands — Clueless and Pearl — perform at Toquet Hall. All musicians play at the School of Rock. All are from Westport and Fairfield.

Ethan — now 8 — is the youngest participant. By 5 years.

School of Rock logo

The bands play music by Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers, Black Crowes, Santana and more. Many of the songs relate in some way to people on the autism spectrum.

Last November, the School of Rock house band drummer asked Ethan’s mother, Allison Ziering Walmark, if Ethan could join them in the concert.

“School of  Rock fosters an atmosphere of acceptance and respect, regardless of musical ability,” she says. “Ethan truly considers his bandmates his friends, and vice versa. The mere concept of friendship can be so foreign to people on the autism spectrum.”

A few days later, the band sent Allison another email: They wanted the concert to be a benefit for Autism Speaks.

If that doesn’t make your heart sing, nothing will.

Autism Speaks

Labor Day Blues

This is  not a weekend for dieters.

Ribs, bacon, beer — it’s all there, on overstuffed plates and in overflowing pitchers, at the 6th Annual Blues, Views & BBQ Festival in downtown Westport.

Levitt Pavilion construction forced the event to relocate this weekend to Jesup Green and the Taylor Parking Lot. The new riverfront location works well.

At mid-afternoon today — hardly prime time — the place was packed. Two bands played; little kids romped on a few inflatables, and the haze of dozens of barbecues wafted everywhere.

Blues,Views & BBQ continues today (Saturday) through 10 p.m. Gates open tomorrow (Sunday) at 11 a.m.; the action continues until 9 p.m. Click here for more information.

The "Grillfather" team, hard at work at the BBQ competition.

The “Grillfather” team, hard at work at the BBQ competition.

Bands from the School of Rock rocked the festival.

Bands from the School of Rock rock the festival.

There's plenty of room to relax (and eat) at the Blues, Views & BBQ Festival.

There’s plenty of room to relax (and eat) at the Blues, Views & BBQ Festival.

Music on the main stage runs the gamut -- but the blues influences every genre.

Music on the main stage runs the gamut — but the blues influences every genre.

A good-size crowd gathers on Jesup Green for the music. There will be more people -- and bands -- tonight.

A good-size crowd gathers on Jesup Green for the music. There will be more people — and bands — tonight.

Minds in Motion

Soccer, baseball, lacrosse, football, cheerleading — the opportunities for young Westport athletes are many, and overwhelming.  Your kid may participate in all of the above, perhaps simultaneously.

But what about the non-jocks?

On Saturday, March 19 (12:30-4 p.m.), Minds in Motion takes over Bedford Middle School.  Goodbye, Mark Sanchez.  Hello, Mark  Zuckerberg!

The event — for kindergartners through 8th graders who are classroom studs — is hosted by the Connecticut  Association for the Gifted.  It’s a fun day of fast-paced, high-interest, hands-on workshops.  Kids who love to learn new things get their hands dirty, doing very exciting experiments and programs.

And no, they don’t have to be technically labeled “gifted” to go.  “Curious” is cool.

Dissecting a squid, at last year's Minds in Motion.

One 11-year-old still talks about an experience from last year.  An Audubon Society expert shared secrets about owls’ nocturnal habits — and showed the youngsters how to dissect their (the owls’) pellets.

This year, an educator from the Eli Whitney Museum will teach kids how to build their own “Vibrocraft” (a vehicle that runs on a vibrating motor).

There are also be sessions on everything from black holes, Italian cooking, Mandarin and zoology to the basic techniques of playing guitar, keyboards or drums, and singing in a rock band (courtesy of School of Rock).

Arcade Fire, look out!

(Minds in Motion is open to youngsters throughout Fairfield County.  There are also workshops and addresses for parents and teachers.  Registration — $30 for CAG members, $40 for non-members — is first-come first-served, at www.ctgifted.org.  For more information, email MIMWestport@ctgifted.org, or call 203-227-1516.)