Tag Archives: The Cello Camp

Roundup: Superman, Madame Web, Richard Scarry …

It’s taken a while.

But last night, the Board of Finance unanimously approved funds for a traffic study of Cross Highway, North Avenue and Bayberry Lane.

The project will look at intersection safety, as well as adding a sidewalk on Cross Highway and a crosswalk near The Porch @ Christie’s.

Next stop: an appropriation request to the RTM.

The North Avenue/Cross Highway intersection may be the most dangerous one in Westport without a traffic light. Another contender: Cross Highway and Bayberry Lane.


Superman came to the Westport Library last night.

The Man of Steel arrived on the Trefz Forum big screen. Westporter Arlen Schumer presented an in-depth lecture on Curt Swan — the longtime local illustrator who for 29 years was DC Comics’ primary Superman artist.

it’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Arlen Schumer and Curt Swan at the Westport Library! (Photo/Dave Matlow)

Swan’s 3 children were all in the audience. Chris lives in Westport;  Karen Brooks is in Wilton, and Ceal Swift is in Westbrook.. (Hat tip: Dave Matlow)

Chris Swan and his sisters Ceal and Karen, in the Westport Library audience. (Photo/Dave Matlow)


Camp A Cappella CT — the innovative program teaching vocal technique, beatboxing, ensemble skills and choreography to area youngsters —  returns this summer with an in-person program.

And another star on its faculty.

Michelle Pauker — the 2013 Staples High School graduate/Broadway performer who wowed a recent SRO MoCA crowd with an evening of song — will work her considerable magic.

Michelle earned a BA in music from Baldwin Wallace Conservatory, concentrating in musical theater. Many Westporters already know her through her private lessons.

Michelle joins music educator Amanda Violone, in the upbeat, fun camp program.

Camp A Cappella CT was created by Danielle Merlis, following the success of her Cello Camp. The award-winning musician was initially inspired at Long Lots Elementary School, earned first chair honors in the Staples High orchestra, and went on to perform with Chris Brubeck and the Eagles, at venues like Lincoln Center.

Camp A Cappella CT welcomes singers in grades 1 to 12. It runs August 22 to 27  at Christ & Holy Trinity Church, alongside The Cello Camp, now in its 7th year.

For information and registration for Camp A Cappella CT. click here.

PS: You don’t have to attend (or have a kid who does) to enjoy the camps’ final concerts (August 27, 5 p.m. cellists, 7 p.m. singers, Christ & Holy Trinity Church). Everyone is welcome.

One day at Cello Camp …


Next up on the big screen: Westporter Kathy-Ann Hart.

She’s the latest addition to the cast of “Madame Web.” The Marvel comics-based film’s cast includes Dakota Johnson, Mike Epps, Adam Scott and Sydney Sweeney.

Though she began performing as a child in her native Trinidad, Hart is a newcomer to film. After graduating from Harvard Law School in 2003, she worked for many years as a corporate attorney and non-profit executive. She moved to Westport in 2017.

Kathy-Ann Hart


Gas prices have dropped for over 50 straight days. They’re now nearly $1 less than this spring’s (very high) highs.

Today — and today only — you can get $1 off each gallon, at the Shell station across from Westport Country Playhouse.

They’ve renovated their interior, so it’s a brighter and better-stocked (if not particularly healthy) convenience story mart than before. They’re celebrating today, with the special $1 off offer. (Hat tip: Ifeseyi Gayle)

The Shell station opposite Westport Country Playhouse. (Photo/Ifeseyi Gayle)


Like many places of worship, the Unitarian Church in Westport welcomes guest speakers.

But this Sunday (August 7, 10 a.m.) is special. Darcy Hicks will also make art with the congregation.

As “06880” reported last week, Darcy is part of Wings4Peace. The grassroots gun safety coalition, formed in the wake of the Uvalde shooting, creates “wings” artwork all across the nation.

The UU church invites artists, non-artists, students, builders, artisans and activists to join them, and Darcy, on Sunday.

Darcy Hicks, with her “Wings4Prace.”


The Weston Flea is Saturday, September 10 (9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Weston High School). This month, organizers invite anyone looking to sell home goods, tag sale items, crafts, art, new business ideas and more, to reserve space.

Popular items include toys, garage and garden items, tools, rugs, candles, soap and jewelry. The cost is $25 for 2 parking spaces ($20 for seniors).

To reserve a spot, call 203-222-2608 or email wpetty@westonct.gov.


This fall, Fairfield Museum presents an immersive exhibit on the life and work of Richard Scarry.

The children’s book author and illustrator — known for the book “Busytown,” and characters like Huckle the Cat, Lowly Worm, Miss Honey and Mr. Frumble — lived in Westport. He began illustrating in 1948, but his work remains popular today. The Fairfield Museum show will introduce him to the next generation.

It will include original artwork, unpublished drawings, rare books, large-scale reproductions of his illustrations, a reading nook, and a museum-wide scavenger hunt.

Click here for more information. Click here and click here for 2 “06880” stories on Richard Scarry’s connections to Westport.



Yale New Haven Health cut the ribbon on its new Digestive Health Center yesterday.

The facility, at 325 Riverside Avenue, provides care for medical and surgical patients, including bariatric, colorectal and hernia surgery and gastroenterology.

Yale New Haven Health, at 325 Riverside Avenue.


Lauri Weiser writes: “I have no idea why this iris wanted to bloom again now, in my back yard. Maybe it just wanted to be a “Westport … Naturally” photo!”

(Photo/Lauri Weiser)


And finally … getting ready for next month’s Weston Flea (see story above):

 (“06880” relies on contributions from readers like you. Please click here to support this blog.)

One Day At A Cappella Camp…

In 2016, Danielle Merlis created Westport’s first cello camp.

Danielle Merlis

The award-winning musician — who was initially inspired at Long Lots Elementary School, earned first chair honors in the Staples High orchestra, and went on to perform with Chris Brubeck and the Eagles, at venues like Lincoln Center — wanted to give back to the community that gave her so much.

It was an instant success.

She tells everyone she knows about the summer experience for youngsters. One of those friends is Andrew John Kim.

His a cappella group — Backtrack — recently performed at Carnegie Hall, the Beacon Theater and on Broadway. They won TV’s Steve Harvey “Sing Off” competition.

Despite a busy tour schedule he takes his ensemble across the US, conducting workshops for students from elementary school through college.

With the popularity of the Pitch Perfect movies, a cappella is hot. (Of course, it’s been around for quite awhile…)

As Danielle thought about her enthusiastic cellists, and Andrew’s experiences with singers, they realized the time is right for another camp.

When she told him about the strength of Westport’s music program — including stars like Staples graduates Justin Paul and Mia Gentile — he knew this town would be the perfect place for an a cappella summer experience.

The camp they’ve designed includes vocal technique, beatboxing, ensemble skills and choreography. There’s a final performance — with a professional a cappella group.

Danielle and Andrew — himself a Connecticut native — would have loved to had summer camps like these growing up.

Now Westport’s got ’em both.

Camp A Cappella CT: August 13-18 (10 a.m. to 3 p.m. ), for singers of all levels ages 9 to 18, at Westport’s Unitarian Church; click here for information. The Cello Camp: August 20-26 (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.), for beginning and intermediate cellists entering grades 4 through 10, at Fairfield’s Greenfield Hill Congregational Church; click here for information.

This One Time At Cello Camp…

At 5  years old — an age when many Westport youngsters are fascinated by whatever Disney movie is being marketed to their impressionable brains — Danielle Merlis got hooked on Yo-Yo Ma.

But not just any piece by the master cellist. Over and over, she listened to “Butterfly’s Day Out.” To this day, the Westport native returns to the track for inspiration.

Now though, she can actually play the piece.

Danielle Merlis in action.

Danielle Merlis in action.

In elementary school, when she had to pick an instrument for orchestra, Danielle asked her mother — a musician herself — for advice. Joan talked about the cello in a special, almost magical way.

Long Lots music teacher Betsy Tucker was an important influence. She instilled enthusiasm and excitement, while teaching fundamentals so thoroughly that students felt confident at the outset.

Starting a string instrument can be daunting, Danielle says. Tucker made sure she enjoyed the cello, no matter how awkward she felt.

Danielle studied with local cello legend Lois Errante. She worked her way to first chair in the Staples orchestra and Norwalk Youth Symphony, winning awards throughout the state. She played in Tanglewood’s Young Artists Orchestra.

While a Staples High senior, Danielle attended Manhattan School of Music Precollege. She then studied for 2 years with the renowned Matt Haimovitz, at McGill University.

New York drew her back. At NYU Danielle discovered a new passion: composition. She earned her master’s at NYU’s prestigious film scoring program.

Danielle Merlis

Danielle Merlis

She plays and composes in a range of styles, using the cello for tragedies, romantic stories and nostalgic moments. A trip to Mongolia last year led her to compose an original score for a documentary about that distant land. She scored “The Kidnapping of a Fish,” which was accepted in to the Cannes Film Festival.  Right now, she’s writing genre tracks for ABC-TV.

Danielle has performed with Chris Brubeck, Glenn Frey and the entire Eagles band, and in venues like Lincoln Center, the Ozawa Concert Hall, Joe’s Pub and the Provincetown Playhouse.

While performing, Danielle says, “I completely let go of all boundaries, expectations and rules. I truly live in the moment of the sound and story I express within the music. Playing cello allows me to access my most natural instincts.”

She loves the instrument because of its “warmth, and its ability to speak and connect with people in an intimate, personal, non-aggressive yet potent and powerful way.”

All her experiences — particularly the importance of a strong, positive early introduction to music — come together in Danielle’s next venture. She’s started a Cello Camp (“a cellobration”) for aspiring young musicians.

Cello Camp logo

“I want to give back to a community that gave me so much,” she says. “And summer is the best time to combine fun and growth.”

Danielle hopes that “cool” musical experiences — through repertoire and collaborations with musicians they might not have access to in school — can expand youngsters’ vision of the cello.

“I want to give them what Betsy Tucker gave me, when I first started: tools and excitement,” Danielle explains.

Who knows? Perhaps one of them — or their teacher — is the next Yo-Yo Ma.

(Danielle is collaborating on the Cello Camp with Staples graduate Lucas DeValdivia. The program runs from August 22-28, and is geared to students entering grades 5-9 with at least 1 year of experience. For more information, click here. For Danielle Merlis’ website, click here. )