Tag Archives: Staples High School Jazz Ensemble

Roundup: Parker Harding Petition, Help For Fire Victims, D-Day Hero …

The Downtown Plan Implementation Committee’s idea for Parker Harding Plaza — eliminating the cut-through from Main Street to the Post Road, in favor of 2-way traffic closer to the back entrances of stores in the lot, along with the loss of 44 parking spots — has run into heavy traffic.

A petition on Change.org has garnered over 500 signatures. It says:

“We, the undersigned, respectfully OPPOSE the Westport Downtown Plan Implementation Committee’s proposed plan to eliminate the Parker Harding Access Road and 44 parking spaces as part of a larger proposal to re-conceptualize and redesign Parker Harding Plaza. If approved, this proposed plan will result in a dramatic increase in traffic throughout Westport and make finding Downtown parking more difficult.

“The Westport Downtown Plan Implementation Committee is an appointed committee responsible for initiating and carrying out the implementation of the Downtown Master Plan. We encourage the Westport Downtown Plan Implementation Committee to propose a viable alternative that does not impose further burdens on the residents of Westport, visitors, and downtown business owners/employees.”

The proposed plan eliminates the cut-through, and reconfigures spaces. Click on or hover over to enlarge.


Meanwhile, a minute or two from downtown, Winslow Park just got a bit safer.

Mark Mathias writes: “It’s great to see an AED (automated external defibrillator) back at Winslow Park. It was missing for at least a couple of years.

“I also like that despite the ‘Call 911 for code’ label, there’s no lock on the hasp.  When seconds matter, having to call for a code seems wrong.

“I hope the AED stays in the locker in case someone needs it. I also hope that the other AEDs around town have been deployed.”

AED at Winslow Park. It’s located near the Westport Country Playhouse parking lot. (Photo/Mark Mathias)


Monday’s fire on Old Hill Road destroyed the home — and all personal possessions — of a Westport family.

Grace Firth — a single mother, whose family lives abroad — along with her daughter Bria (a Coleytown Middle School 7th grader) and an aunt, Sylvia, who is with them — escaped with only the pajamas they were sleeping in.

They have lived in Westport for several years. Friends have created a GoFundMe campaign, to help.

All money raised will pay for clothing, household items, and new housing — the most urgent need. Click here to help.

A Facebook “Westport Front Porch” post by Julie Einziger Sternberg lists sizes:

Shoes (Grace 6, Sylvia 9 or 9.5, Brie junior 4); clothes (Grace medium/large size 10, Sylvia xl tops/large bottom, Brie large kids/sweats and hoodie — she loves those).

A meal train has been set up too. Click here to sign up.

Grace and Bria Frith.


“Work, Live, Ride” — a bill increasing housing density near train stations, including Saugatuck and Greens Farms — will probably not be enacted during this Connecticut General Assembly session.

Click here for the full Connecticut Mirror story.

The “Work, Live, Ride” bill could have increased housing around the Saugatuck and Greens Farms railroad stations.


Firefighters from across the region gathered yesterday evening at Assumption Church. A solemn ceremony sponsored by the Bridgeport Area Retired Firefighters honored all those who lost their lives in the line of duty.

A reception followed at the VFW.


At 6:30 a.m., 79 years ago yesterday, Allied forces began the largest sea invasion in American history. Over 350,000 soldiers and naval personnel landed on the Normandy beaches. Thousands of paratroopers assisted.

Five days later, the beaches were secured. Nearly 2,500 mile of coastline was taken. “Operation Overlord” turned the tide of World War II.

Over 5,000 Allied forces — including 2,001 Americans — were killed on D-Day. Many more perished, and were injured, during the ensuing Battle of Normandy.

Robert Loomis — a 19-year-old infantryman at Utah Beach — was fortunate. He returned home.

He was honorably discharged later, as a sergeant first class. His decorations include the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Combat Infantry Badge, Presidential Citation, Army Meritorious Citation, French and Belgian Fourrageres and the French Legion of Honor.

He and his family moved to Westport in 1958. He commuted to New York as an art director.

He was also very involved here, as a volunteer. He spent 25 years as an EMT with the Norwalk Hospital Emergency Department and Westport Emergency Medical Service. He also helped his wife with Meals on Wheels.

In 1985, Bob Loomis designed the logo for Westport’s 150th anniversary celebration.

In 1994 Loomis returned to France, for the 50th anniversary celebration of D-Day. He and fellow Westporter Clayton Chalfant visited Marigny, Westport’s sister city in Normandy.

Loomis died on June 8, 2016 — in the midst of the 72nd anniversary of Operation Overlord. He was 91. Click here for his full, fascinating, obituary.

Last night’s Representative Town Meeting session included a moment of silence for Sgt. Loomis, and all who served on D-Day. (Hat tip: Andrew Colabella)

Bob Loomis proudly displays some of his medals. The next day, he added the Croix de Guerre.


Also last night at the RTM: member Jessica Bram paid tribute to former moderator (and later, 1st Selectman), on what recently would have been his 78th birthday. Joseloff died in 2020.

Bram said: “Gordon contributed so much to Westport. He was a volunteer EMT, Westport firefighter, and what he may have been proudest of, publisher of WestportNow.com which was a groundbreaking hyper-local blog that connected us all as a community in real time.

“Gordon was so modest you might not know he had lifelong career at CBS News, the only journalist who got into the Gdańsk Shipyards — for anyone who remembers that—was an Emmy winner, served as both Moscow and Tokyo bureau chief, and sat just off camera alongside Walter Cronkite during CBS  evening news broadcasts.

“I take note especially of how much he contributed to this RTM, where he was proud to serve as Mmderator for 10 years. He told me that he always wore a jacket and tie at RTM meetings to show his respect for his role as moderator….

“We have much to be grateful to Gordon for, for how much he contributed to Westport. But perhaps here especially, where he served 10 years as moderator of this RTM.”

Gordon Joseloff (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Gordon Joseloff (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)


On July 13, “Booked for the Evening” honoree Laura Linney will entertain and enlighten an already sold-out Trefz Forum audience.

It’s a major fundraiser for the Westport Library.

Now there’s a way to see the Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actress — in the comfort of your home. And you don’t even have to live in Westport.

The Library will livestream the ceremony, and Linney’s talk. The cost is just $20. Click here for details, and to purchase a virtual link.

Laura Linney


Speaking of the Library:

Verso Records: Volume One — the debut album from Verso Studios, which was launched Sautrday night at the Trefz Forum — is now on sale.

It’s available at the Library Store, online via Bandcamp, through the Verso Records website, and soon at record stores around the area.

The bright yellow vinyl sells for $22, and includes a digital download. A $10 digital-only version is also available.


Speaking of music at the Library:

On Monday night, the Y’s Men of Westport and Weston welcomed the Staples High School Jazz Band Combo Blue. The Trefz Forum was packed for the sextet’s 40-minute set, with Y’s Men and jazz lovers (some were both).

Click below to enjoy:


This year, Neighbors & Newcomers of Westport celebrates its 60th anniversary.

The organization — far more than a “welcome wagon” — offers an array of activities for new Westporters (and those who are not so new). Lasting friendships are formed.

All residents — members or not — are invited to their 60th anniversary celebration this Friday (June 9, 6:30 p.m.) at the Compo Beach brick pavilion.

Food and water will be provided; BYOB. And — as old-timers know: No glass!

For more information on the group, click here.

Neighbors & Newcomers enjoy a hike.


Last night’s News 12 “Crime Files” segment on the Joan Wertkin murder included interviews with family members, police officers and others — and archival footage from the days immediately after the May 24, 1989 crime.

But — despite hints that the killer is known — no names were revealed.

According to the show, however, investigators are coming close to closing the long-open case.

A News 12 “Crime Files” screenshot shows an aerial view of the Main Street shopping plaza — the site of Coffee An’, among others — behind which Joan Wertkin’s body was found.


TAP Strength celebrates the summer solstice with a special drop-in class (yoga and sound bath).

The date is June 21 (of course); the time is 6 p.m. Call 203-292-9353 or email nancy@tapstrength.com to register.


Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo comes from Tom Feeley.

He shot it at 6:05 a.m. yesterday, at PJ Romano Field. It’s not edited or altered in any way. “Courtesy of Canadian wildfires,” Tom says of the bright orange hue.

(Photo/Tom Feeley)


And finally … wildfires are deadly. This song, however, is beautiful:

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Roundup: Daryl Hall, Church Lane, More Music …

Nearly 40 years after Hall & Oates did not appear in Westport, Daryl Hall will be here.

That 1985 non-event is the stuff of local legend. To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the town, Hall & Oates were signed for a special concert at Longshore.

Except the signing was done by a Westport nanny, who had no connection with the duo. It was, to use the technical term, BS.

Nearly 4,o0o people thronged Longshore, on a beautiful day.

They waited … waited … and waited. No Hall. No Oates. Nothing.

Staples High School student Cary Pierce had a band. They stepped up, saving the day (and kick-starting Cary’s eventual career, as one half of Jackopierce).

Now — in a new millennium — Daryl Hall has been signed for a Levitt Pavilion gala. He will be here August 24.

And there’s more: Todd Rundgren joins, as a special guest.

Levitt member pre-sale begins today at 10 a.m. Public sale starts Friday, at 10 a.m. Click here for all tickets. Click here for sponsorship opportunities.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is sill going strong. Four decades later, we’ll get to see for ourselves.

Hall and Oates, back in the day.


More entertainment: Music returns to Church Lane June 2.

Area artists have already been booked, to add to the al fresco enjoyment of restaurants like Spotted Horse and soon-to-open The Blondinit.

The entertainment runs through September 30.

Click here for a full schedule — and a link to donate to the cause.

Music on Church Lane (Photo/Dan Woog)


And all that jazz:

Staples High School’s Jazz Ensemble rocked the National Jazz Festival this past weekend in Philadelphia.

They placed 2nd in the top division, with drummer Witt Lindau receiving one of 3 Outstanding Musician medals. .

This is the second time the jazz program at Staples has been recognized nationally in recent years. The Staples High School Jazz Combo received first place in Small Ensemble Live Performance at the 2021 National Jazz Festival.

Congratulations to instructors Phil Giampietro, Gregg Winters, and all the young, award-winning musicians: seniors Jason Capozucca, Jaime Paul, Ana Jahnel, Delaney McGee, Henry Now, Jet Tober and Witt Lindau; juniors Freddie Aldridge, Zach Abramowitz, Deneil Betfarhad, Spencer Geiss, Ethan Walkmark and Matt Weiner; sophomores Sam Rondon, Tommy Linn and Cooper Paul, and freshman Charlie Beckwith.

The Staples High School Jazz Ensemble. Director Phil Giampietro is in the front row, at right.


Today’s “What’s Next in Weston” with 1st Selectwoman Sam Nestor covers the plan and timeline for construction of Weston’s first sidewalks. Click below for insights into this town-changing event, courtesy of the Y’s Men of Westport and Weston.


Speaking of podcasts: Beth Berger sends along a link.

In it,, former Westporter Blanche Napoleon is interviewed about her friendship with Dan Hartman. In the 1970s she made music with him in his “schoolhouse” studio here.

Blanche was a background singer on some of Dan’s biggest disco hits (“Instant Replay”, “Relight My Fire”, “Love Sensation”). They remained good friends until his death from AIDS in 1993.

“It’s a great piece of Westport musical history,” Beth — who is now friendly with Blanche, her Palm Beach neighbor — writes.


The expanded Bruce Museum reopened 3 weeks ago. It showcases community, art, science and education, in a natural light setting.

Yesterday, the Y’s Women enjoyed a fascinating presentation by executive director and CEO Robert Wolstertoff.

The painting, sculpture, mineral and science galleries (the latter featuring penguins past and present) are free on Tuesdays. Free passes to the Bruce (and other museums) are available at the Westport Library.

Robert Wolstertorff at the Y’s Women meeting.


Sunday’s rain did not deter Pam Constantikes’ friends.

A crew from Staples High School’s Class of 1981 walked to raise money for research to end pancreatic cancer, in her honor.

They note that contributions can still be made. Click here to help.

Walking for Pat Constantikes (from left): Suzanne Sherman Propp, Patty Kondub, Linda Prestegaard, Ann Wriedt Sisto, Lauren Tarshis, Susan Charlton Wallace, Helen Rauh Glenn.


A new monthly podcast for the Westport Library’s Verso Studios features 2 familiar faces: Westport Writing Workshop leaders Patricia Dunn and Tessa Smith McGovern.

“Go Ahead, Write Something” is for “writers who want motivation and the deep-down truths about getting published, and how to find joy in writing and sharing your work with the world.”

The podcast launch begins this month. Five episodes are available via traditional podcast aggregators. Among them: Dunn and Smith McGovern’s StoryFest 2023 discussion with bestselling fantasy author Naomi Novik.


Raccoons are known for their “bandit eyes.”

So it was appropriate that this one — the subject of today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo — was fishing for dinner the other night behind the police station.

(Photo/Johanna Keyser Rossi)


And finally … for reasons unknown, today is National Telephone Day.

You remember telephones, right? The app you every once in a while use on your “smartphone”?

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Roundup: Lunar New Year, EMT Training, Dick Rauh’s Botany …

What’s a Lunar New Year without a celebration?

On Tuesday, AAPI Westport founders Patra Kanchanagom, Rosie Jon and Sarin Cheung headed to Town Hall. They brought popular treats.

Selectwomen Jen Tooker, Andrea Moore and Candi Savin, and Police Chief Foti Koskinas, joined them. The AAPI members shared new year traditions, and showed the work of middle school Mandarin classes. Each year, they decorate schools with words signifying good future, prosperity, peace and protection.   


AAPI representatives and town officials celebrate the Lunar New Year at Town Hall.


Have you always wanted to be an EMT?

Act now!

Westport Volunteer Emergency Medical Services’ spring class begins February 28. It runs through June.

For more information, click here or email training@westportems.org.


Upcoming at the Westport Library:

98-year-old artist Dick Rauh talks about his current (and remarkable) exhibit, “A Botanical Retrospective.” A reception follows. (Sunday, January 29, 2 to 4 p.m., Trefz Forum.)

“Musical Notes: Selections from the Westport Public Art Collections Reception” is set for Tuesday (January 31, 6:30 to 8 p.m.). The Staples High School Jazz Combo performs, and light snacks will be served.

Dick Rauh, and his art.


Yesterday’s “06880” Roundup gave an incorrect time for this Sunday’s “medical kit maker” event at The Readiness Collective, in Norwalk’s SoNo Collection. The correct time is 4 to 6 p.m.

Run by Staples High School graduates Jesse and Sefra Levine — who since 2003 have been helping people around the globe survive disasters.

The goal this Sunday is to build 600 med kits, to be hand delivered next month to front-line units.

Everyone is welcome. Questions? Email jesse@tactivate.com.

Jesse and Sefra Levin.


On Saturday, the Fairfield County Story Lab (21 Charles Street, 2 to 4 p.m.) welcomes Sandi Shelton (aka Maddie Dawson) to celebrate her latest novel, “Snap Out of It!” Everyone — Lab member and others — is invited to the reading, signing and snacking.

The Fairfield County Story Lab is a shared workspace for creatives. To reserve a spot, email info@fcstorylab.com.


Darwin Day is an international event. Proceeds from dinners around the US support the National Center for Science Education.

Locally, the 15th annual Darwin Day Dinner is set for February 11 (The Inn at Longshore; also Zoom).

It’s both a party (cocktail hour, dinner), a science quiz (with prizes), and a lecture.

“Concurrent Infections” is the topic of the presentation by Dr. Vanessa Ezenwa, professor and researcher at Yale’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Her research focuses on the ecology and evolution of infectious diseases in wild animal populations.

High school and college students passionate about science join the celebration (and help their tables with the Science Quiz). Their tickets are covered by attendees and benefactors.  

Click here for tickets and more information. Questions? Email jlevin6@zoho.com, or call 646-221-9134.

Dr. Vanessa Ezenwa


Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo features the sight just outside Lauri Weiser’s Lansdowne condo window:

(Photo/Lauri Weiser)


And finally … in honor of Dick Rauh’s fantastic botanical art exhibit, at the Westport Library (story above):


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Staples Musicians Swing Into Prominence

In early March of 2020, Staples High School’s Jazz Ensemble placed first at Darien High School’s festival.

The young musicians were excited. So was Phil Giampietro. It was his first year as director; he’d taken over just 6 months earlier, from longtime leader Nick Mariconda.

Less than a week later, COVID struck. School was closed. Stuck at home, students rehearsed virtually. It was a dark, sad time.

When Staples reopened in the fall, nearly every aspect of education changed. But Giampietro kept his Jazz Ensemble together.

The group — 20 or so young musicians, out of the many dozen in the band program — rehearsed every Thursday.

Sure, they were spaced 12 feet apart in the (fortunately) large band room. They wore masks, and put bell covers on their instruments. But being together, playing jazz, was a highlight for every member, in those long, lonesome days.

They were good. This year, they got even better. Giampietro submitted a recording to the National Jazz Festival. A Staples combo placed first.

That led to an invitation to the Connecticut Music Educators Association conference April 1 — their first in-person meeting in 2 years. Staples shares the stage with Hall-West Hartford, one of the most revered jazz programs in the country.

The Staples Jazz Ensemble. Director Phil Giampietro is in the first row, far right.

The Staples students are excited. Four do double duty, having also been selected for All-State honors.

The Jazz Ensemble will play a range of music, from the likes of Duke Ellington, Thad Jones and Craig Skeffington. Influences include swing, Latin, rhythm and blues, and hip hop.

“This group has taken their music very, very seriously,” Giampietro says. “They’re doing it their way, and they’re really, really enjoying it.”

Staples jazz musicians, performing earlier this winter. (Photos/Allison Ginzburg)

Educators from around the state will be impressed by the Staples musicians. You can see them too. On April 7 (7 p.m., Westport Library, in-person and Zoom), they’ll join Bedford Middle School, Ridgefield High and saxophonist/University of Connecticut assistant professor of jazz studies John Mastroianni at the town’s first Night of Jazz. Click here to register for the in-person show. (free!). If you can’t be at the Trefz Forum, click here for the livestream.

But you don’t have to wait. For a taste of what Staples’ jazz musicians can do, click below.

Roundup: Closures, Mrs. London’s Bakery, Jazz & Java …


You don’t need to be a weatherman to know that nearly everything in Westport — the Library, Y, you name it — is closed today.

Local to Market has also postponed tomorrow’s Cloudy Lane Bakery event, scheduled for Sunday. A new date will be announced soon.


The long-awaited Mrs. London’s Bakery — successor to Aux Delices, Java, Wild Pear, Chef’s Table, and a few other places I’ve probably forgotten on Church Lane, at the foot of Elm Street — will open next month.

“Hopefully for Valentine’s Day,” says Max London. His parents started the now-famous original Mrs. London’s Bakery in Saratoga Springs, New York, in the 1970s.

Nearly a year ago — on February 25, 2021 — “06880” broke the news about the 2nd location. I wrote:

He (she?) feature pastries, baguettes, croissants, grilled sandwiches, paninis, salads, quiches, soups, “decadent desserts,” espressos and teas. Ingredients are organic, locally grown and sourced.

Meanwhile, we’re still waiting for Il Pastaficio — “artisanal pasta” and more, around the corner on the Post Road and announced in the same story — to open.

(Click here for a full CT Examiner story on Mrs. London’s Bakery’s Westport location.)


Homelessness is a national issue — even in Fairfield County.

And even in Westport.

We’re fortunate that many dedicated organizations and individuals are addressing the problem.

Helen McAlinden — CEO of Homes With Hope — also co-chairs the Opening Doors Fairfield County Advocacy Taskforce. On Monday (January 31, 8:30 a.m.), they host a roundtable information session including breakout discussion groups.

Interested residents can learn more about legislative priorities, and how to help our most vulnerable neighbors.

Click here to register, and for more information.


Jazz aficionados know the best clubs — places many others have never heard of.

They were out in force Thursday night, at the Staples High School cafeteria. Phil Giampietro’s Jazz Ensemble hosted a “Jazz & Java” night.

Well, okay — most of the attendees were parents and friends of the very talented young musicians. COVID kept the crowd small.

But — thanks to this very talented group — the joint was jumpin’!

Just a small section of Staples’ Jazz Ensemble. (PHoto/Allison Ginzburg)


Speaking of arts: Two new exhibits opened last night at MoCA.

“The Westport Idea” features selections from WestPAC holdings of more than 2,000 artworks. Most of these works are housed in public schools and municipal buildings, not always accessible to the public.

The Museum’s annual high school exhibition features nearly 200 compelling works focused on the theme of “Identity,” created by student artists from across Connecticut and Westchester.

The exhibitions are on view through March 12 (weather permitting, duh). Free docent-led tours are available, and free supporting Cocktails and Conversation events will be held on Thursday evenings. Click here to learn more.

Staples High School junior Sophie Spheeris, a 17-year-old junior from Staples, with her artwork “Us and Them.” It’s the collage of the woman, on the left.


The recent death of Meat Loaf — followed a few days later by Jim Ryan‘s passing — sent Kathleen Dehler looking for a photo.

She found it. In 1988, the 2 men joined her husband Will Dehler as coaches of their daughters’ Westport softball team, the Rebels.

“What wonderful memories!” Kathleen says. “And so sad that Meat and Jim are no longer with us.”

Meat Loaf (left), Jim Ryan (right) and Will Dehler (center), with the Rebels.


Congratulations to Westport’s 9 Presidential Scholar candidates.

Nomination for the prestigious program is a high honor for high school seniors. Selections are made on superior academic and artistic achievement, leadership, strong character, and involvement in school and community activities. The program is run by the US Department of Education.

The Westporters include Staples High School’s Aidan Mermagen, Tessa Moore, Chloe Nevas, Konur Norbert, Nicholas Prior and Julian Weng, and Hopkins School’s Will Cooper, Max Gordon and Finnbar Kiely.


Hours before the snow began, William Webster captured this “Westport … Naturally” image of what he believes is an immature eagle, 100 yards across the Saugatuck River.

“The beak looks right,” he says, “and the front feathers are starting to turn white.”

(Photo/William Webster)


And finally … on this day in 1861, Kansas was admitted to the Union, as our 34th state. Years of controversy led up to the event: Would it be a free state, or a slave state? Abolitionists prevailed.

But less than 3 months later, the Civil War began.