Tag Archives: Suzanne Sherman Propp

Suzanne Sherman: Sing Daily!

Suzanne Sherman Propp loves to sing.

At Staples High School, the 1981 graduate sang in the Orphenians and choir. (She also played violin in the chamber orchestra, acted in Players, and was a cheerleader. She does not realize there are only 24 hours in a day.)

At Colgate University — where she majored in music and English — Suzanne led the a cappella Swinging ‘Gates group (and continued to play violin).

She then spent a year in Utah, working at an Alta ski lodge in the bar, at the front desk, and playing music.

Back in Westport, she accompanied herself on guitar at coffeehouses like Grassroots.

Suzanne went on to earn an MBA at Columbia University — and leveraged it to work in the music industry. She worked in new business development for a record label, and for Mark Spector — a Westport resident who was Joan Baez’s manager.

A casual conversation with 3 of her former Staples teachers — Dave Harrison, Dick Leonard and Phil Woodruff — at a Christmas carol sing (!) inspired her to change careers. They wondered why she wasn’t teaching.

Suzanne was certified in 1998. The next year she was hired to be Greens Farms Elementary School’s (surprise!) music teacher. She’s been there ever since.

Suzanne Sherman Propp

Suzanne’s more-than-24-hour days — which included raising 2 children — leave her plenty of time to spend on her newest project: Sing Daily!

Every day, Suzanne picks a song. She posts it on her website, and emails it to subscribers. After (hopefully) warming up their voices, everyone is invited to sing her Song of the Day.

“Singing makes you feel better,” Suzanne explains. “It livens your spirit. I see it every day in school. It’s been proven by studies. Everybody should sing every day!”

Suzanne Sherman Propp (center, in back wearing a hat) with young singers.

But — the morning shower aside — we don’t really know what or where to sing. And — lacking Suzanne’s beautiful voice — most of us are intimidated belting out a tune.

So Suzanne helps us along. She’s curated a varied list. There’s “Home on the Range,” and the Black Eyed Peas’ “Where is the Love?”

Every genre is represented. There are songs by Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Pete Townshend, the Indigo Girls, Herman’s Hermits, Billy Joel and (of course) Joan Baez. She includes a few original songs too, but downplays their importance. “I’m not trying to sell anything,” Suzanne notes.

Sometimes there are obvious tie-ins. On her husband Peter’s birthday, Suzanne wrote a special song for him. (Of course — why not?! — she also created an accompanying YouTube video).

She’ll celebrate holidays and special occasions. But sometimes, they’ll be secret. For example, the Greens Farms principal loves “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” That will be the Song of the Day on his birthday — though no one will know why.

Suzanne welcomes suggestions. “There are 365 days in a year. That’s a lot of songs!” she says.

She launched her project without a lot of publicity. Still, it’s found plenty of fans. One is her mother, Ruth Sherman. “She’s not a singer,” Suzanne says. “But she loves it!”

That’s the whole idea. You don’t have to be a singer. You just have to sing.

Actually, I’m wrong.

“Everyone is a singer!” Suzanne insists. “Try it. Your life will change!”

(Click here for Suzanne Sherman Propp’s Sing Daily! website.)

“In Wonderful Westport…”

When technical difficulties prevented a video of 2nd graders singing Westport’s praises from being shown at last night’s swearing-in of town officials, most of the Town Hall audience probably breathed a sigh of relief.

There’s a thin line between cute and cringe-worthy. Very few of the board, commission and RTM members wanted to test it.

But 1st Selectman Jim Marpe had an ace up his sleeve: Suzanne Sherman Propp,  and her Greens Farms Elementary School music students.

The song — which she and the kids wrote, with Cheryl Buck — is catchy and clever. It covers tons of Westport people, places and history. The 2nd graders are not the Vienna Boys’ Choir (for one thing, there are girls), but they carry a tune better than I do.

And the video — produced by Josh Margolis — is first-rate. Newcomers, old-timers and (especially) ex-pats will love the fast-paced photos. (It’s also clever. When the kids sing about famous families and come to “Sherwood,” there’s a shot of the diner.)

So go ahead. Click below. Enjoy the show!

4 Stony Brook, 5 Golden Rings

It was always a tense moment.

We gathered in the cozy living room of the Bacharachs’ house on Stony Brook Road. We’d caught up on each other’s lives, had a bit of food, sung a few warm-up Christmas carols.

Now it was time for “The 12 Days of Christmas.” Slips of paper would be passed out. Which “day” would you get?

There were a few dozen of us — old and young, relatives and friends, from near and far — but 12 days is a lot. Each of us would have only 3 or 4 other singers to help out.

All ages gathered at the Bacharachs' house for the annual carol sing. This photo is from the early 1970s.

All ages gathered at the Bacharachs’ house for the annual carol sing. This photo is from the 1970s.

If you were a good singer — and many of the Bacharachs and their guests were — you were happy to get the 1st day: “a partridge in a pear tree.” Another prize was “5 golden rings.” You could draw that one out like Enrico Caruso.

I love music. Unfortunately, my voice does not. I always hoped for “12 drummers drumming.” Inevitably, I got “2 turtle doves.”

I thought of all that recently, when a group of former Bacharach carol singers got together. I was with some storied Westport names — Anne Leonard Hardy, Suzanne Sherman Propp — and the more we chatted, the more we realized those holiday gatherings were more than just a fond memory.

They were transformative moments in our lives.

The Bacharachs' library, where generations gathered to sing. (Photo/Robert Colameco)

The Bacharachs’ library, where generations gathered to sing. (Photo/Robert Colameco)

It wasn’t just the warmth of the Bacharachs’ home — a 1796 farmhouse with a 3-sided fireplace in one of the oldest sections of town, that could have come right out of colonial New England central casting.

It wasn’t the warmth of the annual holiday party either, with its cherished traditions: the smiling patriarch Jim Bacharach leading everyone in song; his wife, the equally delightful DoDo, carving up ham and ladling out egg nog; the tree in the same spot every year, unchanging amid the turbulence of the world around.

And it wasn’t the guest list: the Bacharachs’ friends and neighbors; their 5 kids’ friends; girlfriends, boyfriends, college friends — the more the merrier. Jim and DoDo embraced them all.

DoDo Bacharach

DoDo Bacharach

All those memories came flooding back, as Anne and Suzanne and a few others talked. But it was something else that made those particular carol sings such a powerful piece of our past.

Among the folks always in the Bacharachs’ home were adults we knew from Staples High School: teachers we admired and respected. Phil Woodruff, the next door neighbor. Dick Leonard. Dave and Marianne Harrison. All were there, year after year.

At first we were a little intimidated by them. Singing “The 12 Days of Christmas” with the same people who handed out homework and gave us grades was — different. But socializing with those adults in that way made us feel a bit like adults too.

As we grew up, we grew in other ways. We graduated from Staples, and entered college. Returning to the Bacharachs’ for the carol sing, we had new things to talk about. We told them what we were studying. We offered our opinions. We were probably a bit pretentious, but our former teachers listened.

Relating with them on that level validated us. Those adult-type conversations — respectful, honest, about real issues — were some of the first times I felt like an adult myself.

At the same time, as I looked around at the many “kids” there, I saw younger versions of myself. I realized I had once been like them. For the first time I understood what it meant to grow up. I recognized with clarity that at that point, my life was poised between my past and my future.

As we moved on into the “real world” — with real jobs — we kept returning to that carol sing. Now we were the adults. The Bacharachs, Leonards, Shermans and others got married, and started families. And every year, they brought their own children to the annual Christmas party.

The Bacharachs' next door neighbor John Woodruff, with his young daughter Emily.

The Bacharachs’ next door neighbor John Woodruff, with his young daughter Emily at the carol sing.

The Bacharach carol sing is no more. Sadly, the house was torn down, replaced by something far less warm and much less meaningful.

But the memories remain, as strong as ever. It was a joy to share those memories the other day, with good friends who remember those great days.

Something else is strong too: My sense of self, nurtured so lovingly by those adults years ago, when I was a teenager trying to figure the world out.

Over ham, over egg nog — and yes, over the dreaded “12 Days of Christmas” — I tasted Westport at its best.

Remembering Dorothy Straub

Dorothy Straub died last month at 74. She was a longtime music educator in Westport and Fairfield; conductor and administrator for the Greater Bridgeport Youth Orchestras, and past president of the National Association for Music Education.

Dorothy — the widow of Robert Genualdi, former Staples High School orchestra leader and music director of the GBYO — was beloved in Westport for her work with young people.

Countless students got their start in music thanks to Dorothy. Many made it their careers.

Greens Farms Elementary School music teacher Suzanne Sherman Propp is one. She writes:

Dorothy was the kindest, most patient and sweetest music teacher. I started playing violin with her in 4th grade at Bedford Elementary School. Both Cindy Gibb and I (and many, many others) took lessons with her, in school and privately, for many years.

Dorothy Straub

Dorothy Straub

Dorothy often tried to encourage me to move on to what she considered “better” teachers. But none were ever as patient or as tolerant of my, um, “poor work ethic” as she. I always ran back to her.

She encouraged me, when I was 14, to audition for All-State. I made it, where I met many other Westport music heroes, including Tommy and Chris Hanulik, Sue Sweetnam, Suzy Polk, Keith Conant and Tommy Greenwald.

Dorothy loved to hear stories of my crushes, and Cindy and my escapades. She had an adorable laugh. We always knew that her very best friend was Bob Genualdi. She was downright giddy when she told us they were getting married.

To say that Dorothy Straub was a huge influence on who I am as a musician, educator and citizen of the world is a vast understatement.

Cynthia Gibb — a 1981 Staples graduate who went on to fame as a film and television actress, and is now a noted vocal coach in Westport — adds:

When I was 10 years old at Bedford Elementary School, we had an assembly. Not all 4th graders studied a stringed instrument, but a violinist in town wanted to attract more students to music. I was fitted for a 1/4-size violin by a sweet woman with a warm smile. That began my decades-long relationship with Dorothy Straub.

I studied regularly with Dorothy from that time through my senior year at Staples. She prepared me for my school and All-State orchestras, and chamber orchestra with John Hanulik.

Dorothy Straub's legacy.

Dorothy Straub’s legacy.

I would not have known at that time how to say what I know now as an adult: It was clear that Dorothy loved her job. She loved playing music, but I also felt her love of teaching.

She was kind, patient, encouraging, complimentary and joyous during our lessons. She was quick to laugh and smile, even when I hadn’t practiced!

Many years after leaving Westport, I got a call from Dorothy asking if I’d host an event for her. I was beyond honored to collaborate with her at the Kennedy Center for the annual gathering of the National Association for Music Educators, of which Dorothy was president. I was able to publicly thank Dorothy for being my mentor and inspiring my love of music, which has been a significant part of my career.

Hearing that Dorothy was sick, I tried to schedule a visit with her. Sadly, I did not manage to see her before her death. The regret and grief has weighed heavily on me, so writing some words to honor and celebrate Dorothy makes me feel a bit better.

Also, knowing that all children in Westport now study a stringed instrument because of her means that Dorothy’s legacy lives on through the music that our young people make. They may not know her name, but Dorothy Straub’s influence is felt throughout our schools and children.

I fully expect that Dorothy is up in heaven making music with Mozart and Bach. I hope she subscribes to Dan’s blog, so she can feel my love and appreciation.

It’s Baaaaaack!

Antonia Landgraf is many things. She’s

  • New to town
  • An alert “06880” reader
  • And a very alert Westporter.

Tonight, Antonia emailed me:

Is this the sign everybody was in an uproar about when it was removed? It was leaning against a tree today on the corner of South Compo and the Post Road.

Compo Acres palette

Yes! It is!

As “06880” reported nearly 2 years ago, the “paint palette” sign — a fixture at Compo Acres Shopping Center since it was built in the 1950s — disappeared when Equity One bought the property.

Another alert reader — Suzanne Sherman Propp — tracked down the man responsible for the center: Northeast regional manager Glenn Wilson. He sent a curt reply: “We had that replaced and I believe it was thrown out.”

Now, however — without fanfare — it’s back. It’s almost exactly where it sat, for decades. And — judging from the undated photo below — it’s almost certainly the original sign:

The Compo Acres paint palette is gone.

Score one for Equity One.

Now, if they can bring back Silver’s, Carousel Toy Store, Franklin Simon and the luncheonette…

A Star Is Born

Adam Kaplan stepped up up from understudy to lead in last Saturday’s matinee and evening performances of “Newsies.”

Adam Kaplan PlaybillThe 2008 Staples grad played Jack Kelly at the Nederlander Theatre.

A perhaps-only-slightly-less-than-objective Westport fan said, “He was wonderful! His singing, acting, comic timing and dancing were totally Broadway-worthy. ”

She was also struck by “the kindness, patience and genuine warmth that he showed to fans outside the theater.”

His fans included dozens of Westporters — among them his father and mother, Jeff and Carol; his former music teacher Suzanne Sherman Propp, and current and former Staples Players.

Adam Kaplan and a few fans, after the show.

Adam Kaplan and a few fans, after the show.

Adam — whose usual roles are both Morris Delancey and a newsboy — may take the role again soon.

Where will that lead? Read all about it — not in newspapers, but on “06880.”

(Fun fact: “Newsies” associate director Richard [Ricky] Hinds danced in Staples Players summer shows, before Adam’s time.)

The work of a star is never done.

The work of a star is never done.

Compo Acres Paint Palette — Part 2

If you’re holding your breath waiting for the return of the Compo Acres paint palette — first reported in Wednesday’s “06880” — you can exhale.

Unfortunately.

Alert “06880” reader Suzanne Sherman Propp tracked down the property owner (Equity One in New York City), and the man responsible for the Westport shopping center property (Glenn Wilson, Northeast Regional Manager).

She wrote:

Hi! My name is Suzanne Sherman Propp and I’ve lived in Westport since 1966. I’ve always been a huge fan of the light blue Compo Acres Sign in the shape of a paint palette that was leaning up against the tree at the corner of the Post Road and Compo Road North. Can you tell me what happened to it?

His one-sentence reply:

We had that replaced and I believe it was thrown out.

Equity One’s tagline is “improving retail real estate in urban communities.”

Suburban communities — not so much.

The Compo Acres paint palette is gone...

The Compo Acres paint palette is gone…

...but we do have this huge granite slab not far away.

…but we do have this huge granite slab not far away.

We had that replaced and I believe it was thrown out.

– Suzanne Sherman Propp

 
- Suzanne Sherman Propp

Blake, Ryan, Suzanne, Martha, Paul And Oscar

Suzanne Sherman Propp — no slouch in the talent department herself — was in Oscar’s yesterday afternoon.

Sitting a few feet away were Ryan Reynolds and his Gossip Girl, Blake Lively. Bedford, New York — where they just moved — may have Martha Stewart, but it lacks a good deli.

“Thank you, Paul Newman, for training us Westporters to be calm, cool and collected during celebrity sightings,” Suzanne says.

Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds (not at Oscar’s, and not at the Oscars).

Running Home With Suzanne Sherman Propp

Baseball and music fit together like a ball and glove.

There’s “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”  John Fogerty’s classic “Centerfield.”

Now, add Suzanne Sherman Propp’s “Running Home.”

Suzanne Sherman Propp

Suzanne Sherman Propp

The singer/songwriter/Green’s Farms Elementary School music teacher’s tune provides a fitting soundtrack to  Major League Baseball’s 2009 video — a montage including the opening of New York’s 2 new stadiums, Jacoby Ellsbury’s steal of home, Mark Buehrle’s perfect game, Eric Bruntlett’s unassisted triple play, Derek Jeter passing Lou Gehrig with hit number 2,722, the Yankees’ triumphant World Series win, a little girl throwing back a ball in Philadelphia, and many other highlights that I never heard of but am duly reporting thanks to a gushing press release that promises “more than a few goosebumps.”

Hyperbole aside, it’s quite an honor for Suzanne, described by MLB as a “mother of two including a 12-year-old baseball player.”

“When we sit in the stands as parents there’s such a mix of emotions, highs and lows, the thrill of watching your kid coming around third and tearing for home” she said, in a quote probably massaged by Major League Baseball’s press flacks.

“It’s so close to Matsui coming around third and heading home on that walk-off hit, with that anticipation of coming home and everyone watching and feeling that excitement.”

(“Running Home” was produced with help from Suzanne’s brother, Russell Sherman.)

Honoring Our Artists

Daryl Wein

Daryl Wein

Westport is an arts hotbed.  Not a weekend passes without exhibits, performances and shows.  We attract hgh-powered names; for a small town, we’re a big player.

But 1 of my favorite events is pretty simple.  Each year Westport’s Arts Advisory Committee honors our own.  There are low-key speeches, a slide show, live performances, and heartfelt applause from neighbors and friends.

This year’s 16th annual Arts Awards take place 2 p.m. Sunday (Town Hall).  All Westporters are invited.  You don’t have to be an artist to enjoy it.

Horizon Awards will be presented to 2 rising young artists — both Staples graduates.  Daryl Wein (SHS ’02) is an uber-talented actor/filmmaker.  His documentary “Sex Positive” has won prizes, and been released in 9 countries.  He is an NYU Tisch School and USC Film and Television grad.

Josh Frank (SHS ’00) is a trumpeter, composer and music producer.  He has appeared with the Metropolitan Opera and recorded with the  American Brass Quintet.  He is a Juilliard graduate.

Sally White

Sally White

Champion of the Arts recipients include Howard Aibel (longtime advocate of the arts, as a director, board member and concert sponsor); Suszanne Sherman Propp (singer/songwriter and music teacher extraordinaire), and — a truly inspired choice — Sally White (longtime owner of Sally’s Place, perhaps the last great music store on the planet).

Heritage Awards will be presented posthumously to 3 giants:  Dorothy Bryce (actress); Mel Casson (cartoonist), and Barbara Wilk (artist).

There are many ways to enjoy a Sunday afternoon in Westport.  Honoring our arts heritage — with our own supremely talented artists, musicians and filmmakers — might just be the best.

Dorothy Bryce

Dorothy Bryce