Village Times Herald

Children of the late Helen Stein Shack (Karen Shack Reid, Barbara Kelly, Edward Taylor and Sherry Cleary) stand with grand prize winners Leah Cussen and Wendy Wahlert and honorable mention winners Samuel Kim, Sarah Jiang, Karen Jiang and Anny Weisenberg. (Not present: honorable mention winner Kiera Alventosa). Photo from Emma S. Clark Library

By Erin Dueñas

As much as she loves reading books, Leah Cussen said it never occurred to her to try writing one. But leafing through the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library newsletter over the winter, Cussen saw an announcement for the Helen Stein Shack Picture Book Contest, which called on teens in grades seven through 12 to create a children’s book. “I wrote assignments for school and a few stories on my own, but creating a book was new to me,” Cussen said. “It seemed like a cool challenge.”

Taking inspiration from her 5-year- old brother’s bookshelves, Cussen wrote a book called “Lenny the Lion,” a story about a misfit who can’t roar as well as his brothers. Lenny sets out in the jungle looking for a family to fit in with. When he can’t swing from tree to tree like a monkey and reach the top leaves of a tree like a giraffe, Lenny realizes that he belongs with his lion family. “I liked the theme of being true to yourself,” Cussen said. “He realizes that his family loves him no matter what.”

“Lenny the Lion” won the Helen Stein Shack Picture Book Contest, along with the story “Lilabet” written by 17-yearold Wendy Wahlert. “Lilabet” is a story about a colorful young girl who lives in a “black, white and blah” world. Lilabet spreads her color around to change the town. Wahlert said that she got the idea for “Lilabet” based on her own thoughts about living in the suburbs, which she called black and white. “‘Lilabet’ is kind of how I feel. I’m the colorful person in the suburbs where every house is the same as the next,” she said. “There’s a reflection of myself in the story.”

Wahlert said she is more of an artist than a writer, illustrating “Lilabet” with large sweeping swaths of color inspired by paintings she saw at a coffee shop in New York City. “I like pop art, conceptual art,” she said. “I like a graphic and bold style with a flow of simple shapes. I tried to do that and I guess it worked,” she said of her story.

Chosen winners from a dozen entries, both girls received a $500 scholarship and read their books to a roomful of children at an awards reception on April 26. The library printed and bound a copy of each story to be included in its “Local Focus” collection. Both stories will also be turned into e-books. Honorable mention winners included Samuel Kim for his book “Freddy the Fish and the First Day of School,” Anny Weisenberg for “Red Boots for Rainy Days,” Kiera Alventosa for “Heal Our Mother Earth” and sisters Sarah and Karen Jiang for “Pengy Goes on an Adventure.”

This is the first year for the Helen Stein Shack award, according to Shack’s daughter Sherry Cleary, who said that her mother would volunteer to read to kids and teach them to read in her spare time. “My mother loved this library. She would always say to people, ‘You should see my library’ or ‘Let’s go to the library,’” Cleary said. “She used to say if you could read and read for joy, you would have a successful life.”

When Shack passed away more than a year ago, Cleary and her siblings approached the library looking for a way to mark her life and the idea of the book contest came up. “We just wanted to honor her,” she said. “The students in the community rose to the occasion. These are just stunning books.”

Cussen said that winning the contest means a lot. “I want to do writing when I’m older so now I’m thinking what if I could write stories,” she said. “It broadened my ideas for my career in writing.”

Wahlert said being a published author is “pretty awesome.” “It gives me more confidence that people appreciate what I’m doing,” she said.

Library director Ted Gutmann said that all the entries showed great talent and the one word that came to mind in reading the stories was imagination. “Imagination will take you everywhere,” he said. “These kids have the imagination and I hope they never lose it.”

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Corey Aviles, after forcing a turnover, races across the field and fires a shot across the net for a Patriots goal. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Being down 3-1 early against championship-caliber boys’ lacrosse program in Chaminade didn’t scare the Ward Melville Patriots.

The host team bounced back to tie the game in the second quarter and eventually edged ahead, holding onto a marginal lead to pull away with a 7-5 nonleague win.

“Chaminade is a great program,” Ward Melville head coach Jay Negus said. “It was a slugfest and our boys took a big step beating a powerhouse like Chaminade and I’m very proud of them. Even though it wasn’t as pretty as I would have liked in terms of execution — we had some breakdowns — we just wanted to put four quarters together and we did that today. We got the result we were looking for.”

Danny Bucaro maintains possession of the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Danny Bucaro maintains possession of the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Both teams came out on fire right off the opening faceoff, and Chaminade scored two quick goals before Ward Melville put its first point on the board to cut the deficit in half. The two teams traded possession with some passing miscues, and at the end of the first quarter the score remained 2-1.

The Flyers (now 8-2, 5-0 NSCHSAA AAA) scored again in the opening minutes of the second to edge ahead with a score of 3-1, but the Patriots (now 10-2, 6-2 League I) answered back with two quick goals. The first was a stick-side high left shot by junior midfielder Owen McAvoy to cut the lead to one. The second was a rocket from the right goal post by senior midfielder Corey Aviles after he forced a turnover in the Patriots zone, carrying it all the way down the field for the tying goal at 3-3.

“It’s great to get a big win against a school like Chaminade,” McAvoy said. “It’s the first game we really came out here and went balls to the wall — and put it to them.”

McAvoy added another goal off an offensive rebound that shocked the Chaminade goalkeeper, and Aviles tallied his second point with nine seconds left in the half to give his team a 5-3 advantage heading into halftime.

Negus addressed his team during the break and explained to his athletes that the game was all about seizing the opportunities when they were presented to them.

“You guys are taking that next step to be at that level with this team,” he said. “We got to give the defense a rest. Bury the ball and make this game out of reach.”

Still struggling to win possession at the faceoff, Chaminade capitalized early in the third to make it 5-4, but Ward Melville junior goalkeeper D.J. Kellerman came through with two big saves to preserve the one-goal advantage.

D.J. Kellerman attempts a save. Photo by Desirée Keegan
D.J. Kellerman attempts a save. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I felt confident,” Kellerman said. “A little shaky in the beginning, but my defense really shut it down. I love them — they’re great.”

Ward Melville ripped another crossing shot to bring the advantage back to two, 6-4, and Kellerman caught another save to maintain the lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Senior midfielder Jake McCulloch rocketed a shot from nearly 20 yards early in the final stanza, and Chaminade scored once more a minute later. Kellerman made three big saves in the final minutes to keep the Flyers at bay and seal the Patriots’ 7-5 victory.

“It’s a big win for us as a program,” Kellerman said. “We had a tough loss against Northport [6-7, on April 22] but we bounced back. Coach did a great job getting us ready and we’re a hardworking team.”

What McAvoy said he thinks continues to lead the players to success is that ability to continue to fight, even when the team is down.

“We were fighting for ground balls and hustled all over the field,” he said. “We were fired up in the locker room and thought this could be a big statement make for us. We laid some bodies all over the field and really made them feel our presence.”

Aviles and McAvoy finished with two goals each, and McCulloch and senior attack Danny Bucaro tacked on a goal and an assist apiece, while Kellerman made 13 saves on the evening.

Ward Melville was scheduled to host Brentwood on Wednesday. The Patriots will travel to Patchogue-Medford on Friday, and the opening faceoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.

“We’ve been talking about fighting back against adversity and that shows the character of the team,” Negus said. “Today we showed that we can battle back against the best of them.”

Three Village Central School District is constructing a new building on its administration property. Photo by Phil Corso

A new, $1.6 million, 4,000-square-foot facility for maintenance and operations is rising on the North Country Administration property on Suffolk Avenue in Stony Brook.

Money from the recent bond is being used to fund the building, which will provide relief for the administration building, which now houses ground crew supplies, carpentry facilities and a paint shop in one of its wings. The district’s auto shop is a separate building also located on the premises.

The new building will mean that there will be more space inside the administration center for career and technical classrooms for the Three Village Academy, said Jeff Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services. Being able to provide vocational courses will save the district the fees it pays to BOCES, he said.

“We want to make it nicer for the neighborhood,” Carlson said of the construction. “We want to be a good neighbor.”

Though some neighbors might be disappointed to see the baseball fields on the south side of the building sacrificed, Carlson said the administration plans to spruce up the fields on the other side of the building.

Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services Kevin Scanlon speaks at a meeting. File photo

It was just a few years ago — 2011 to be exact— when Everyday Math made its rocky debut in Three Village elementary schools.

The district was among the first to move to a Common Core-aligned math curriculum, following the state’s adoption of the standards the previous year. One problem among many, said Kevin Scanlon, assistant superintendent for educational services, was that Everyday Math was only about 80 percent aligned to the new standards.

Now the district’s elementary math review committee is recommending that Three Village adopt a replacement, the Houghton Mifflin Go Math! series. The proposal follows an evaluation that began last year with the committee’s analysis of the district’s 2012-13 New York State math assessment scores.

The group also met with the representatives of four leading math programs — Envisions by Pearson, Mc Graw Hill’s updated Everyday Math 4, Go Math! and Singapore Math — and decided to pilot Everyday Math 4 and Go Math! this year. Of the two programs, the committee determined that Go Math! was best suited to Three Village students’ needs.

Unlike Everyday Math, which was put in place before Scanlon and the current superintendent assumed their jobs, the recommendation was meant to be a collaborative effort that included feedback from teachers.

Scanlon said elementary school teachers, who were given materials from both programs, were able to “experiment under their own professional discretion.”

“When we look at any of these products, nothing is going to take the place of great teachers in the classroom using their discretion with the students in front of them,” Scanlon said.

The committee — a cross-section of educators from each grade at the district’s elementary schools, as well as secondary math chairs and administrators — designed surveys for elementary teachers to complete. The most frequent rating for Everyday Math 4 was “fairly good,” while Go Math! was most frequently rated as “very good.” The surveys indicated that there was a clear three-to-one preference for Go Math!

The committee also examined the resources each program provided for parents to help their children at home. Committee members decided that Go Math! has the best resources for teachers, students and parents, while also offering opportunities for enrichment, remediation and English as a Second Language (ESL) students.  The addition of five elementary STEM positions, as proposed in the 2015-16 budget, would also support differentiation for students at different levels.

Because of the difficult transition to Everyday Math, board members said they were concerned about the simultaneous introduction of Go Math! to all grades. Scanlon responded that the change would be less tumultuous since both teachers and students have already worked with the Go Math! material.

Many districts across Long Island, including neighboring Comsewogue and Northport, use Go Math! which, according to Scanlon, is the most sought-after math program for elementary schools.

In answer to the board’s questions about what competitive districts like Jericho and Cold Spring Harbor use, Scanlon said that he is in the process of finding out.

“Our teachers picked what was best for the students in Three Village,” he added.

Though not advocating for the Envisions math curriculum, board members did wonder whether Three Village students would be at a disadvantage if they didn’t use the textbooks written by Pearson, the company that also writes the state exams. Scanlon explained that Pearson’s textbook division is separate from its test-writing division and that legally, the company cannot structure its books to the test.

If Go Math! is adopted, teacher training will begin in May, with voluntary training continuing throughout the summer. Teachers will continue to receive more in-depth training throughout the coming school year.

Scanlon said the district would save about $100,000 since it chose to pilot the program. Three Village will sign a yearly contract over six years, rather than purchasing all material upfront. The agreement means it will be easier to receive updated material, he said.

Tommy the chimp looks through his cage upstate. Photo from Nonhuman Rights Project

A state judge is ordering Stony Brook University to give its two lab chimpanzees a chance at freedom.

State Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe called on the university to appear in court on May 27 and justify why it should not have to release its laboratory apes Hercules and Leo to a Florida sanctuary. The decision came 16 months after the Florida-based Nonhuman Rights Project filed a lawsuit in Suffolk County seeking to declare chimps as legal persons.

The judge ordered the school to show cause on behalf of the animals, to which SBU President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. and the university must respond with legally sufficient reasons for detaining them. The order did not necessarily declare the chimpanzees were legal persons, but did open the door for that possibility if the university does not convince the court otherwise.

“The university does not comment on the specifics of litigation, and awaits the court’s full consideration on this matter,” said Lauren Sheprow, spokeswoman for Stony Brook University.

The Nonhuman Rights Project welcomed the move in a press release issued last Monday.

“These cases are novel and this is the first time that an order to show cause has [been] issued,” the group said in a statement. “We are grateful for an opportunity to litigate the issue of the freedom of the chimpanzees, Hercules and Leo, at the ordered May hearing.”

The project had asked the court that Hercules and Leo be freed and released into the care of Save the Chimps, a Florida sanctuary in Ft. Pierce. There, they would spend the rest of their lives primarily on one of 13 artificial islands on a large lake along with 250 other chimpanzees in an environment as close to that of their natural home in Africa as can be found in North America, the group said.

The court first ordered the school to show cause and writ of habeas corpus  — a command to produce the captive person and justify their detention — but struck out the latter on April 21, one day after releasing the initial order, making it a more administrative move simply prompting the university to defend why it detains the animals.

In an earlier press release from 2013, the Nonhuman Rights Project said the chimpanzee plaintiffs are “self-aware” and “autonomous” and therefore should have the same rights as humans. The two plaintiffs, Hercules and Leo, are currently being used in a locomotion research experiment in the Department of Anatomical Sciences at Stony Brook University.

Sheprow confirmed in 2013 that researchers in the Department of Anatomical Sciences were studying the chimpanzees at the Stony Brook Division of Laboratory Animal Resources, which is accredited by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International and overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The project’s initial lawsuit also defended another set of chimpanzees from upstate New York, Tommy and Kiko. State Supreme Court Justice W. Gerard Asher of Riverhead initially declined to sign the project’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus in 2013, which the group unsuccessfully appealed soon after.

For one day, Seawolves stepped aside to give red rubber duckies the spotlight.

Hundreds of organizations across the North Shore converged onto Stony Brook University’s campus on Friday to celebrate the 14th annual Earthstock, a weeklong Earth Day extravaganza at the school. By that afternoon, a throng of students and residents celebrated by floating hundreds of rubber ducks down an on-campus brook — an activity that has become a known visual for Earthstock.

The college hosted events all week long in observance of Earth Day, including public lectures, a farmer’s market, drum circles, art showcases and even beatboxing. The annual Earth party came just days after Stony Brook University was ranked fourth overall on The Princeton Review’s environmentally responsible university list, which awarded the school a perfect green rating score.

“Environmental stewardship is a commitment the university makes to students, faculty and staff; and together we are committed to the community at large,” SBU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said. “Implementation of green technologies, resources and sustainability initiatives is an investment that not only impacts the future of Stony Brook but our collective future. We share this outstanding distinction with the entire campus community.”

The school recycled the most e-waste nationally in the annual RecycleMania 2013 and 2014 competitions, and operates 10 electric vehicle charging stations.

Since 2006, Stony Brook has planted more than 4,900 trees, saplings, bushes and perennials using an on-campus greenhouse and nursery.

North Shore Therapeutic changes ownership while shedding light on late father’s business

Jason Ferro and Candice Belinsky pose inside North Shore Therapeutic in East Setauket. Photo by Phil Corso

He didn’t know it at the time, but when Jason Ferro took over North Shore Therapeutic in the Three Village Shopping Center on Route 25A, he was following in his late father’s entrepreneurial footsteps.

Ferro was handed the keys to the East Setauket storefront in August after cousin Sharon Siess of Nissequogue sought a change of pace at the wellness center, which she started from scratch one decade ago. It took a mere coincidence for him to realize he was now the owner of the same shop his father once owned in the 1970s.

Jason Ferro shows the envelope he recently found revealing his store once housed his late father’s jewelry business several decades ago. Photo by Phil Corso
Jason Ferro shows the envelope he recently found revealing his store once housed his late father’s jewelry business several decades ago. Photo by Phil Corso

“My dad owned several jewelry stores with my mom over the years. Recently, my mom moved out of state and my sister and I acquired some keepsakes that she had saved from when I was a baby,” he said. “One of them was kept in an envelope with my father’s first store name and address stamped on it — Dan’s Jewelers. Through Google I was able to locate a few ads my dad had put in a local paper in 1972, all having the address of my business on it. This for me was a sign validating I am where I am supposed to be, doing what we are supposed to be doing.”

That piece of history was all it took for Ferro to go all-in since signing onto North Shore Therapeutic, where he has been injecting new programs and services since coming on board over the summer.

“After many years of growing and establishing a healing environment, I am grateful to be a part of the next phase of our wellness center,” cousin Siess said. “Jason and I share the same vision and have many of the same beliefs, and he and the entire team are focused on bringing this healing intention to the community.”

Piggybacking on the 10 years of success under his cousin, Ferro said he wanted his North Shore neighbors to know he intends on keeping the East Setauket wellness center a known leader in the field of organic skin care, acupuncture, yoga, meditation and massage therapy.

He’s also keeping an eye on bettering the surrounding community by hiring locally and purchasing products from North Shore-based companies, like the Port Jefferson-based Phountain Water’s alkaline-based products.

“As a licensed massage therapist, a student of acupuncture and Chinese medicine, and an instructor in the massage program at New York College of Health Professions in Syosset, providing effective and skilled treatment options is my main concern,” he said. “We believe that the overall health and well-being of the patient can be enhanced through the professional work we provide, and that the intention to help the individual heal is a large part of the process.”

Since taking over the space, Ferro said one of his biggest obstacles has been visibility in the Three Village community, as his storefront is neatly tucked away in the Three Village Shopping Center next door to the Rolling Pin Bakery. To alleviate this, the business owner has taken on an aggressive role with social media and said the response has been overwhelming as he rolls out his new programs in acupuncture, yoga and more.

“We have a very loyal clientele here and they’re all open to receiving different kinds of care,” he said. “We all just want to feel well and our clients love this place.”

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From left to right, Matt Lopiccolo, Jacob Arditti, Maki Stavropoulos, Jeff Towle and Mark Napoli signing their letters of intent. Photo from Chris Boltrek

By Clayton Collier

Five Ward Melville student athletes will continue their football careers after committing to play at the collegiate level — a rare occurrence for the lacrosse powerhouse that they hope will soon become a trend.

All-County quarterback Jeff Towle, center Maki Stavropoulos, guard Matt Lopiccolo, defensive end Jacob Arditti, and tackle Mark Napoli will all move on to play college football this fall.

Ward Melville head coach Chris Boltrek said having more of his athletes signing to play in college is essential in reviving the Patriots football program, largely because it makes the sport more appealing to other athletes at the school.

Jeff Towle reaches back to throw a pass in a previous contest. File photo by Bill Landon
Jeff Towle reaches back to throw a pass in a previous contest. File photo by Bill Landon

“To get the football program at Ward Melville to take off, the environment and the image had to change,” he said. “I thought there were plenty of good football athletes in the district that just didn’t realize the potential they had and didn’t realize that playing college football was a real possibility, and instead they gravitated toward lacrosse or baseball or other sports that they thought offered that for them.”

Boltrek, who played college football at St. Lawrence University after graduating from Ward Melville, said the program occasionally gets one player every few years who moves on to the collegiate level. Now having five in one year, he hopes it will bring new life into the program.

“To have five in one year is a pretty big deal for us,” the first-year varsity head coach said.

Towle, who will attend Division II Pace University this fall, also doubled as a talented catcher on the baseball team, but said football has long been his preference.

“I was always a quarterback at heart,” he said. “I just happened to be showing more talent in baseball at the time. Then I got my opportunity on the football field and play well. I’ve been a football guy my whole life.”

Towle was not even the starting quarterback until the final five games of the season. Serving as the reserve, Towle continued to train to ensure he would be ready should he get his chance.

“I worked as hard as I could, knowing maybe I’ll get a shot, maybe I won’t,” he said. “But if I did, I wanted to be ready.”

When Towle got his chance, he thrived, completing 13 touchdown passes and tossed for over 1,100 total yards of offense.

His mother, Jessica Spencer, said her son’s dedication led him to obtaining such an opportunity.

“He hung in there and he did everything they asked him to and it paid off,” she said. “I’m very proud of him and I’m very grateful to have him.”

Stavropoulos, a captain and three-time All-Division honoree, and Lopiccolo, who also achieved All-Division honors, will remain teammates as the pair heads to Division III Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Lopiccolo and Arditti, like Towle, had obstacles to overcome as both were cut from the junior varsity squad in ninth grade.

“I was sad because football is my sport — I’ve been playing since I was five,” Lopiccolo said. “But at the same time it gave me the drive to work harder and hit the gym.”

To ensure that they wouldn’t be cut again, the pair “lived in the gym,” as Boltrek described, working out for 90 minutes a day, five days a week under the coach’s guidance. Lopiccolo said he was thrilled when he and Arditti made the team the following year, crediting the effort they put in  aover the year to improve themselves physically.

“It’s crazy how the tiniest bit of effort can change something completely,” he said.

Napoli, the team’s final commit, was an All-Division tackle who will attend the Division III Stevenson University.

Towle said he, along with his four fellow teammates that committed to play college ball, owe their diligent work ethic and ultimate success to Boltrek for his ambition and guidance.

“To be honest, we probably worked harder than any team in the county throughout the week during the season, and that’s a credit to [Coach Boltrek],” he said. “We wouldn’t be where we are without him; any of us.”

Emma S. Clark Memorial Library shows off its new gear. Photo from Robert Caroppoli

Setauket’s own Emma S. Clark Memorial Library made the most of $10,000 in state funding and is now celebrating a new state-of-the-art technology center.

Three new 55-inch smart televisions were only the beginning of the new technological enhancements made at the library this month, thanks to $10,000 in state funding from state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), which helped offset the cost of the refurbished center. It took a lot of work, but the library made sure to employ all the painting and wiring from in-house library employees in order to get the most out of the money.

“We are grateful to Sen. Flanagan for this generous award, which will help enhance the lives of our patrons, young and old,” said Ted Gutmann, library director. “Thanks to Sen. Flanagan and New York state, this new facility ensures that Emma Clark Library continues to offer its patrons the latest in technology, keeping it a modern library for today’s fast-paced world within its charming façade.”

Moving forward, Gutmann said the technology center will offer classes to the public on a wide variety of subjects, including those for beginners and others for more advanced learners. With this new software, the library will add to its existing selection of classes for teens by offering online video creation and editing.

Flanagan visited the library last week to meet with Gutmann and its employees to tour the new equipment and share in the success.

“The staff and leadership of the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library has utilized this state funding to create a learning center that will enhance the lives of so many in the community. This new technology center has many different applications for young and old and is a great addition to this already impressive facility,” Flanagan said. “I am happy that we were able to work together for the benefit of the patrons.”

Among the equipment purchased as a result of the grant were three Vizio 55-inch wall-mounted smart televisions, which have the ability to mirror the display of the instructor’s machine, Apple TV and any other HDMI-capable hardware. This technology will allow participants to follow along with an instructor during any class. Each television is also equipped with a floor level HDMI port for easy access to gaming systems or other external input devices.

The Technology Center will also house 10 Dell computers with 23-inch LCD monitors, which are wall-mounted to allow for a clean appearance and functionality. These computers are designed in a way that enhances learning because they are fast, reliable and equipped with some of the latest technology available, including Intel i5 processors, 8GB of memory, and wireless keyboards and mouses, the library said.

The library also received a brand new Macbook Pro with an Intel i7 processor and 16GB of memory, which operates on Mac OSX Yosemite. The Macbook also has Microsoft Office 2014 and Final Cut Pro, which allows for video and photo editing.

All classes held in the Technology Center can be found in the printed newsletter or online at  /newsletters.

The library already offers adult classes on a broad range of topics, such as the Internet, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Facebook, Pinterest, smartphones and tablets. Children and teen programs include Minecraft and Wii U. Also offered are workshops and drop-in tech assistance for help with mobile devices in a small, personal setting.

The library even offers a Teen Tech Clinic on the first and third Tuesdays of the month, where teens volunteer to assist adults with their computers and mobile devices.

Johnny Cuomo sings to a group of children at the 2013 Middle County Public Library Apple Festival in Centereach. Photo by Kristin Cuomo

By Sue Wahlert

It’s quite possible that Mount Sinai’s Johnny Cuomo lives, breathes and sleeps music. Added to his life’s obsession are his love of cultures, nature, children and storytelling. He is a multidimensional music man who is lovingly known to many as “Mr. C.” As he says in his online introduction video, he is “deeply connected with nature, music, children and stories for children.”

However, there is even more to Cuomo than his guitar or his penny whistle.  There is a wisdom that lives within him.  It is a culmination of family vacations to the National Parks, his time spent volunteering on Indian Reservations in California and backpacking and studying abroad in Ireland, his dedication to religion and his need to make music. With all of this information, he has made it his life’s work to share his knowledge with children and adults through his musical storytelling profession and his performances in Irish Pubs.

At a very young age, Cuomo’s Stony Brook family began laying the groundwork for the man he has become.

“My parents had me interested in wolves, birds and bears,” said Cuomo. In college, Cuomo discovered the world of bird watching and is now an avid watcher. He uses his knowledge to incorporates tales of birds into some of his early childhood education programs.

Because Cuomo was exposed to history at a very young age, he was open to the experiences of volunteering at the Vieajas and Barona Indian Reservations in San Diego. “At night I would hang out with the elders. This enabled me to learn about their cultures and share my culture,” reflected Cuomo. This was also the first time Cuomo had the opportunity to work with children. “It solidified my love of working with children,” he said.

Cuomo’s love of Irish music was ignited during the two months he spent backpacking in Ireland, where he carried his belongings and a guitar. “I wanted to learn stories, music and history of the Irish,” he said. Upon returning home, he knew he had to go back, but this time would be via a study abroad program.  During his eight months of study, Cuomo learned to play the tin whistle, banjo and mandolin, and began performing Irish music.

In the late 1990s, Cuomo formed the popular Irish band, Gallowglass. Although they are no longer together, the musicians sometimes collaborate.  Currently you can see Cuomo on most Sunday nights performing Irish music at the Pig ‘n’ Whistle on 2nd Ave. in New York City.

Cuomo understands the vital importance of music in the life of children and adults. He offers private instruction and also has a wide range of children’s programs for Preschoolers through 12th grade. For more than seven years, Cuomo has been doing a weekly music program at the Chatterbox Day School in East Islip.

Director Lindsay Parker said of Cuomo, “The children look forward to their weekly music classes with “Mr. C.” They are fun, creative and exciting. Johnny brings a new dimension to children’s music that is rare to find!”
You might also find Cuomo on stage at the outdoor classroom at Play Groups School in East Setauket, strumming on his guitar while the preschoolers act out musical stories as they sing and dance.  Educational Director Maddy Friedman applauds Cuomo, saying “he is an exceptional music educator who brings his joy and love of music to our school.” Cuomo is scheduled to perform at the school’s annual May Fair on May 30.

Since 2000, Cuomo has also shared his talents at the Comprehensive Kids Developmental School, a public, special needs preschool on the lower east side of Manhattan. The opportunity to work with the special needs population has impressed upon Cuomo the importance of therapeutic music. “I can reach these kids with my music,” said Cuomo. “I have a special drum I use, where they can feel the vibration, and also a whistle, so they can feel the air move. It is a gift to be able to work with these kids.” Annemarie Fuschetti, the school’s former psychologist, said of Cuomo, “Everyone lights up when Johnny comes. Even those with the most difficult behaviors.”

One might wonder how one person can do all of this? Cuomo laughed as he said, “I have a number of part-time jobs that add up to more than a full-time job. I have traded sleep for time with my family.” His two boys, Johnny, 7, and Paul, 6, are also music lovers and have been to hundreds of their father’s gigs.  Recently, Cuomo was invited to play at Walt Disney World with a group of fellow Irish musicians. Fortunately his wife and sons were invited to be part of this journey, to experience the park and see Cuomo play an Irish music and dance show at Raglan Road Irish Pub in Downtown Disney.

More recently, Cuomo signed with manager Jean Marie Keevins of Little Shadow Productions. Keevins will serve as a liaison to other writers and companies with whom Cuomo might be able to collaborate and sell his original ideas to. The professional arena is wide open, from books to theater to animation. It is an exciting time for the artist.

Additionally, Cuomo is excited to be heading off to Alaska this July for the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, where he will be teaching workshops and playing concerts focused on traditional Irish and American Folk music.

To top it off, the never weary Cuomo and his wife Kristin will be running their weeklong summer program, “Birds of a Feather Nature Camp.” Based out of the Setauket Neighborhood House, they have been running this outdoor program for more than 13 years. “We want to get kids to go outside and observe all that is here locally. It is an opportunity to see what’s in your backyard,” said Cuomo. The camp combines music, nature, crafts and hiking, all of which encourage kids to connect with nature and music.

Check out Cuomo’s website at www.johnnycuomo.com to learn more about his programs, listen to some of his CDs and check on upcoming shows. Any time spent with Cuomo is a time to remember, as his stories and music live on in the minds and hearts of many.