Tag Archives: Staples High School Jazz Ensemble

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 …

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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.