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Music

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Bon Jovi and Journey tribute band Bon Journey belt out classic rock hits. Photo by Kyle Barr

Long Hair, ripped pants, t-shirts drenched in sweat. Like an event straight out of the 80’s, crowds gathered at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai Friday, Aug. 16 for the Free Family Fun Day and concert, featuring Bon Jovi and Journey tribute band Bon Journey. The event was sponsored by the Heritage Trust and Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai)

Celebrating its 20thyear, the park played host to yoga sessions, bounce castles, martial arts demonstrations, crafts and magic shows all throughout the afternoon and early evening. Later, with a field crowded with people, Bon Journey belted out renditions of classic Bon Jovi hits like “Livin’ on a Prayer” and “Wanted Dead or Alive” and Journey songs like “Don’t Stop Believin.’”

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By Julianne Mosher

Beloved Port Jefferson resident Jill Nees-Russell lost her battle with cancer in June 2018, and now the community is celebrating her spirit with a new performance stage at Harborfront Park.

It all started last year when, after her passing, her friend, Carolyn Benson of East Setauket, along with village-based landscape engineer Michael Opisso, decided to find a permanent space that could honor Jill’s legacy.

The Port Jefferson resident came to the north shore from Los Angeles and immediately became involved with the community. She worked alongside Mayor Margot Garant as the village’s Director of Economic Development and Public Relations, as well as with the Port Jeff arts council, the PJ School of Rock and had worked in tandem with the Long Island Music Hall of Fame.

“I feel like Jill designed this stage… I just held the pen.”

— Michael Opisso

“Dedicating this perfect stage to Jill is special,” Mayor Garant said. “She was a huge advocate for the arts within the community… dedicating this stage to her made sense and it was something the community could get behind.”

The planning for the 15 by 25 foot half-circle wood stage overlooking the harbor began in April. On Saturday, Aug. 10, it made its debut with an afternoon of songs all with the common themes of family and home.

The lawn was filled with over a hundred people whose lives were touched by Jill.

“We have beautiful weather today,” Garant said, “We know who’s looking out for us.”

Over 500 volunteers came together and money was set aside for the concept. With Opisso as the designer on record and Andrew Fortier as the builder, Opisso said that it wouldn’t have been made possible if it weren’t for Jill.

“I feel like Jill designed this stage,” he said, “I just held the pen.”

Fortier was also the first performer on the stage with his two children in their group, Tricycle. Together they kicked off the show with a song they dedicated to Jill and the legacy she left behind called, “Beautiful Light.”

“I want to thank you from the depths of my heart for what you’ve done for this community,” he said before they started to play.

Among the hundreds of people that attended Saturday’s event were Jill’s siblings and family who flew in from all over the country from places like Oklahoma, California and North Carolina.

“The stage is a way to showcase the talent that’s here and to showcase the community she loved.”

— Jeffrey Nees

“We want to thank you from the bottoms of our hearts for dedicating the stage to her,” Jeffrey Nees said. “Although she was from Oklahoma, her heart and her home were here in Port Jefferson.”

As emotional as the day was, Nees said that he knows his sister would be thrilled.

“Jill would think today’s event would be wonderful,” he said. “The stage is a way to showcase the talent that’s here and to showcase the community she loved.”

A dozen community members performed upon the stage, including students from the Port Jefferson School of Rock as well as a reading from Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by Theatre Three’s Artistic Director Jeffrey Sanzel.

Fortier said that performing on a stage is special because every performance is different. “That’s the beauty of live music,” he said, “That’s the beauty of what’s going to be happening on this very stage.”

Although this weekend’s concert kicked off the planned future performances the stage will hold, the stage was not entirely complete. A plaque dedicated to Jill will be added to the stage, as well as a canvas sail canopy that will embody the look of a sailing ship.

“The stage is a tribute to who she was,” Garant said. “It’s about time we had a focal point in our backyard that allows us to celebrate.”

Jack Licitra and friends at an outreach program, Inside Song, at SBU’s Staller Center in 2018. Photo from Staller Center

By Jack Licitra

Jack Licitra

Music is something to be enjoyed. It entertains us, excites us, soothes us. 

But is it possible that music can change our bodies and our minds? And what if the physical act of making music – the way we move our hands and our bodies, while we play – transforms consciousness? 

I believe it’s possible to shift the intention of music from just entertainment to something more meaningful. And the way we do this is: not just play music, or hear music, but use the music. Use it for healing. And in using music, you are using your own self as the instrument.

As a Reiki practitioner, I’ve seen how hand movements and symbols generate healing energy. And that poses the question: do musical patterns and rhythms and tempo and duration affect brain waves and heart rate? If these things do affect us in beneficial ways, maybe we can apply them specifically to helping people. 

In 2004 I was working at the Long Island State Veterans Home dementia unit in the evenings, playing music for older folks. It was hard to keep them engaged for long periods of time because of their impairments. Then I began to bring a tambourine. I was astonished to see that when I held a steady rhythm, our sessions went from 15 minutes to sometimes more than an hour. 

I already was aware that songs from their youth would elicit emotional responses, like singing along, dancing or even crying, but I was surprised to discover that rhythm could transform their consciousness. 

Fast forward to a few years ago. I was burned-out, exhausted and worried about generating enough income to support my family. So I was happy to be invited to play at an outdoor arts festival in Ithaca, even though it was many hours from my hometown of Garden City. But when I got there, I found that a rainstorm had damaged the fairgrounds, and attendance was dismal. I was playing to an empty field, basically. 

A drumming group was scheduled to play after me. As they showed up for their set, I invited them to jam with me. By the time their teacher arrived – a master drummer from Ghana – a small crowd had gathered and the rhythms were getting very intense. There was a moment when I noticed my hand was unconsciously strumming a pattern on the guitar. It was something I had never played before. Well, when I left there, I felt like my heart had been opened and refreshed. The music healed me.

To use music in this healing way, we take familiar melodies, rhythms and chord progressions and shift the intention to have a transformative impact. It may sound familiar to one’s ears, but because of the new way you’re cooking the ingredients, the impact is different.

I am fascinated by the kora (a traditional West African stringed instrument) and also Carnatic, or classical Indian, music. How do they affect the systems of the human body? It’s worth exploring.

We can make a shared community consciousness, when we use these musical healing tools together. 

Jack Licitra is a Sayville-based singer/songwriter/keyboardist and guitarist; music educator; founder of the music-teaching studio South Bay Arts in Bayport; and is available for musical programs at schools, libraries and other facilities. Join the musician at Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, 120 Main St., Setauket on Aug. 15 for a free outdoor family concert titled World of Stories: Pop Songs from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. No registration required.

Gina Mingoia performs during The Sal Mingoia Pet Adopt-A-Thon Sept. 22, an event renamed in her father’s memory, who died in 2017 following a battle with cancer. Photo by Alex Petroski

By David Luces

For 20-year-old Gina Mingoia, Shoreham resident and local musician, her selfless attitude, her willingness to extend a helping hand and her music have endeared her to so many in the community.

Whether it’s donating her time or gracing people with her voice, she has undoubtedly made a lasting positive impact on many people’s lives.

Bea Ruberto, president of the Sound Beach Civic Association, can attest to that. 

“Gina is an all-around great person,” Ruberto said. “She is someone who is very committed to the community.”

Gina Mingoia performed in concert at this year’s Pet Adopt-A-Thon in honor of her father, Sal, who passed away in 2017. Photo from Mingoia family

Ruberto first met Mingoia through the civic association’s pet adopt-a-thon, an event that encourages responsible pet ownership and provides a place to help local animal welfare groups get animals adopted.

“After the first pet adopt-a-thon [in 2012], I began advertising it more,” she said. “I don’t know how they heard about the event, but her father Sal approached us and said, ‘We’re really committed to helping these animal welfare groups, and we would love to play at the event.’”

For the next five years, both Sal and Gina Mingoia donated their time and lent their musical talents to the event.

In 2015, Sal Mingoia was diagnosed with cancer. Despite that, when he heard the event was on the following year, he and his daughter made it a point to attend. 

In 2017, Sal Mingoia passed away, but his contribution to the event over the years left a lasting impact on Ruberto.

“I wasn’t sure if she was going to be involved this year,” Ruberto said. “I didn’t even approach her, but as soon as she heard that we were running the event, she contacted me, and she said, ‘I really want to be there. It was my dad’s and my favorite gig. I want to keep being a part of it.’

For this year’s event, the Sound Beach Civic Association changed the name to The Sal Mingoia Pet Adopt-A-Thon.

“Because they were so committed over the years, we changed the name in his honor, and we will continue to call it that,” Ruberto said. 

Music can create a special bond. That couldn’t be truer for Mingoia and her father. 

“She was meant to be in music and be on stage,” her cousin Jackie Mingoia said. “She’s a natural up there.”

Mingoia first joined her father on stage when she was 12. It was a perfect match, and over the years, she has been developing her craft with some help from her cousin. 

“The quality of music she was making was very good,” Jackie Mingoia said.

Sal Mingoia was a devoted family man to his daughters Samantha and Gina. Photo from Gina Mingoia

In 2017, Gina Mingoia won Long Island’s Best Unsigned Artist and got the opportunity to travel to Nashville.

Recently, Jackie Mingoia has helped her cousin as a fellow songwriter. She would assist with ideas or sometimes finish up a song with her in the garage studio Sal Mingoia made. 

One of those ideas turned into a song titled “New York,” which Gina Mingoia performed earlier this year.

When they’re not working on music together, Jackie Mingoia says her cousin has a funny side and is great to be around.

“Gina has a great heart,” Mingoia said. “She is a very giving person and always looking to help people however she can. She is the most selfless person I know.”

Kelli Cutinella has known Gina Mingoia for a long time and says she is a genuine, loving person who never asks for anything in return.

Cutinella got to know Mingoia through her son, Tom, and the two became close friends the summer before sixth grade.

“Tom always spoke very highly of her,” Cutinella said. 

In 2014, Tom passed away following a head-on collision during a football game. Almost two years later, Mingoia finished a song she dedicated to her late friend titled, “I Wish (Tom’s Song).” 

It was in October 2016 at The Thomas Cutinella Memorial Foundation Golf Tournament, a fundraising event started by his parents to honor his memory, that Mingoia shared her song with them for the first time. 

“It meant so much to us,” Cutinella said. “Words can’t describe it. It was a really special moment for everyone that was there. You could tell the song was special for Gina.”

Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said Mingoia’s willingness to donate her time to help others has made her a role model in the community.

“Gina is wiser beyond her years,” Bonner said. “She is an old soul, a sensitive and caring person.”

Bonner says Mingoia has a great support system in her family, and she has a bright future.

“The sky is the limit [for her],” Bonner said. “Her music has amassed quite the local following. Whatever she wants to do, I hope she continues to touch people’s lives in a positive way.”

The Mingoias: Samantha, Gina, Denise and Sal. Photo from Gina Mingoia

By Kevin Redding

Throughout his life Salvatore Mingoia brought smiles, laughs and music to those around him. And even though he’s gone, the impact of Shoreham’s “Superman” will surely resonate forever.

The Suffolk County police officer, Beatles-loving musician, devoted family man and friend to all died Oct. 9 following a two-year battle with lymphoma at 56 in the company of friends and family at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. Although Mingoia had been in a great deal of pain as a result of his cancer,
which was diagnosed in December 2015, he never once let it show or get him down, according to his family.

Sal Mingoia was a devoted family man to his daughters Samantha and Gina. Photo from Gina Mingoia

“He was the nicest guy in the world,” said his oldest daughter Samantha Mingoia, 25. “I want to be my dad when I grow up. He was so caring, giving and understanding. Anything he could do to help someone, he’d do it and he never looked for praise.”

His trademark  upbeatness and kind character prevailed even under the circumstances — when nurses asked how he was feeling on a particular day, Mingoia always responded with a chipper “I’m great! How are you?”

This, of course, was not at all surprising to those who knew him.

“He was a sweetheart of a man,” said Suffolk County Sgt. Arthur Hughes, Mingoia’s colleague for more than 30 years. “Everyone loves Sal. You can’t say anything bad about him.”

Gina Mingoia, 19, said her dad was always “so strong and hopeful right up until the end.” She regularly shared the stage with him as a two-piece band, serving as lead singer while he played guitar during gigs throughout the area. They played everything from country to classic rock, from covers to songs they wrote together

“It was comforting,” she said on rocking alongside her dad. “Now, if I ever have to sing the national anthem or anything and my dad isn’t with me, I’m going to get panicky. I need him. He’s like a safety blanket.”

Sal Mingoia, on right, was a musician from a young age. Photo from SCPD

His daughters said while they both saw Mingoia as the best dad ever and knew how beloved he was by peers and colleagues, it wasn’t until the wake that they grasped just how many lives he touched. During the first service alone, Samantha said nearly 800 people, maybe more, showed up creating a huge line that wrapped around O.B. Davis Funeral Home in Miller Place and stretched down the street. Even a friend of his from kindergarten, from North Carolina, came to pay his respects.

“They all said the same thing — that he treated them like they were the most important people to him,” Samantha Mingoia said. “He always made everyone feel so special.”

A graduate of Centereach High School, Mingoia, one of seven children, played football and competed in track and field while excelling in math and science. An avid musician from the moment he was able to hold a guitar, he played in numerous bands throughout his life, the first being a family band with his father and brothers.

“He was talented, handsome, nice, always good to people — he was just born special,” said his older sister Eydie Gangitano. “And I’ve got to tell you, I think Sal was my mother’s favorite, I really think he was. And we didn’t care, because he was all of our favorite.”

“He was talented, handsome, nice, always good to people — he was just born special.”

— Eydie Gangitano

Mike Pollice, a friend of Mingoia’s for more than 40 years, met him in school and said although they were on opposite ends of the spectrum — Mingoia being seemingly well-grounded while Pollice was a self-
proclaimed “troubled kid” — Mingoia saw past that, and initiated a conversation with him over music. The two had played in bands together ever since.

“He had a heart like nobody else,” Pollice said, who described Mingoia as the salt of the Earth. “I really would not be the man I am today if it weren’t for him. The path he led me down with music served me well and kept me out of a lot of bad things in my younger days. In school, he was the guy who stuck up for people getting picked on. He was a friend to everyone. A very rare kind of person.”

After high school, Mingoia wound up at the police academy even though being a cop wasn’t exactly what he had planned for himself. His childhood friend Kenny Kearns was a New York City police officer and planned to take the test to transition to Suffolk County and encouraged Mingoia to take it too. He ended up getting a better result than Kearns and decided give the occupation a try. He joined the police department in April 1987, spending his career in the 5th and 6th Precincts and was an active officer in the Crime Scene Section
when he died, an analytical field he much preferred over issuing traffic tickets.

“He didn’t like ruining people’s days, he liked making people’s days,” Kearns said of his friend. “If Sal pulled you over, and you had a good excuse and were sorry, that was good enough for him.”

Sal Mingoiaa Suffolk County police officer, working in the Crime Scene Section when he died. Photo from SCPD

Kearns often visited with Mingoia at Mount Sinai Hospital when he was sick, and was present when he passed away.

“The last time I was in that hospital with Sal was 30 years ago when he donated blood to my father who was undergoing cancer-related surgery,” he said. “He’s been a constant in my life. Someone I could always count on. He was the true definition of a best friend.”

Those who knew him best say, despite how dedicated he was to his job on the force or as a friend, his greatest passion in life was being a husband to Denise, whom he married in 1990, and father to his two daughters. Not only did Mingoia never miss a day of work in his life, he never missed a family dinner or birthday party either.

“He was Superman,” Gina Mingoia said of her dad. “He always had his day full, but made room for everyone.”

She often thinks of goofy moments now when she thinks about her dad. Like when they were rehearsing a song and she struggled to remember an entire verse.

“He put his guitar down and rolled around on the floor, then stood back up and grabbed his guitar again,” she recalled. “I was like, ‘Why did you do that?’ and he said, ‘So you would never forget that line again.’”

For Samantha Mingoia, she said she’ll simply miss sitting around the house with her father.

“Every night we all ate dinner as a family and then just never left the table,” she said. “We’d sit there until 9 p.m. talking about the day, philosophies about life, politics, anything. The house is definitely quiet and empty now.”

Coltrane Day celebrated it’s third year at Heckscher Park this past Saturday, July 22. Long Islanders were treated to a variety of music workshops and classes, as well as a community jam session, live performances and more.

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This past weekend, I spent some delightful time with my grandson and was introduced to electronic music. He plays and composes this type of music, so I wanted to know more about it, and I was dazzled. In a corner of his bedroom, with relatively few, modest-sized electronic instruments, he can construct and deconstruct and reconstruct sounds as they graphically appear on a screen in front of him. He can reproduce the sound of any musical instrument, then combine that sound with any other, such as an industrial sound, and create a unique sound with the help of a synthesizer. There is often a strong beat associated with the musical line, but not always. Traditional musical instruments can be combined with unique sounds. And pauses can be built in for a vocalist.

I’ll try to explain how this was made possible. Advances in technology, from the development of tape recorders last century to the laptop computer of today played a part. According to some research I did on the Internet, the earliest electronic devices for performing music were developed at the end of the 19th century. Italian Futurists explored sounds not precisely considered musical. Then in the 1920s and ’30s, electronic instruments were introduced and used to play the first compositions.

The big breakthrough came with magnetic audiotape, sort of analogous to the development of film for movies. Audiotape enabled musicians to tape sounds and then modify them, by changing speed or splicing out mistakes and inserting better parts of takes. It was a boon to recording commercial music, be it classical or popular.

Germany was first on this scene, actually during World War II, and that work was brought to the United States at the end of the war. Musique concrète was created in Paris, France, in 1948, wherein fragments of natural and industrial sounds were recorded and edited together to produce music from electronic generators. Japan and the United States joined in this development in the 1950s and ’60s.

Computers were now available, and they could be made to compose music according to predetermined mathematical algorithms. In 1957, the RCA Mark II Sound Synthesizer became the first that could be programmed by its user, making possible the fusion of electronic and folk music, for example. Its user now had the ability to pinpoint and control elements of sound precisely.

By the 1970s, the synthesizer helped make electronic music a significant influence on popular music. Electronic drums and drum machines entered disco and new wave music. Toward the end of the last century, the Musical Instrument Digital Interface or MIDI enabled everything from experimental art music to popular electronic dance music. Pop electronic music became connected to mainstream culture.

In the last decade, many software-based virtual studio environments have emerged, allowing viable and cost-effective alternatives to typical hardware-based production studios, many of which have gone out of business. Microprocessor technology can help make high quality music using little more than a laptop.

When my grandson, who just turned 18, sits in his bedroom and composes full-orchestral music from bits and pieces of sounds he has recorded — aided by his drum machine and bass synthesizer, that he then plays over the Internet — we are seeing the democratization of music creation. He doesn’t even need those bits and pieces, although he sometimes likes to add them.

Synthesized music can be created entirely from electronically produced signals. My grandson is, in fact, marching along the same path as Paul Hindemith and the Beatles. Only today he has more technology to help him than they did.

Will all this eventually replace large orchestras? He says, “Yes.”

Port Jefferson’s 2016 Greek Festival kicked off Aug. 18 and has three remaining dates from Aug. 26 to Aug. 28. The annual cultural celebration is hosted by the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption at Port Jefferson and features food, activities, music, fireworks and more.

Cold Spring Harbor performs at the Village Center in Port Jefferson on July 21. Photo by Joseph Wolkin

By Joseph Wolkin

Thursday nights in July are for music, beautiful sunsets and good times in Port Jefferson.

The Harborside Concert Series hosted its second of four installments July 21 at Harborfront Park outside of the Village Center.

Amid the warm temperature and radient sky, the Cold Spring Harbor Band took to the stage to perform a Billy Joel tribute concert.

Led by Pat Farrell, known as “Piano Man Pat,” the band played chronologically according to Joel’s career. Starting with his first album, “Cold Spring Harbor,” the band played covers of the singer’s most popular songs.

The Cold Spring Harbor Band. Photo by Joseph Wolkin
The Cold Spring Harbor Band. Photo by Joseph Wolkin

“This is a fantastic venue,” Farrell said after the concert. “We play at a lot of places, but we’re playing right by the water. It’s just incredible and we had a great turnout. It’s beautiful here at Port Jefferson.”

Husband and wife Bill and Margie Recco attended the concert as part of a relaxing evening by the water with their friends. Margie Recco attended high school with Joel at Hicksville High School, ut the two never met.

“I think it’s great,” she said about the concert series.

Her husband agreed.

“It’s lovely here,” he said. “It has a breeze. It’s a wonderful night. There’s a free concert and it’s just really nice.”

“Every venue is different,” Farrell said. “You have great weather. It’s right on the water. Port Jefferson is world-renowned. It’s right up there.”

The Cold Spring Harbor Band ended the evening by singing “I’m Proud to Be an American,” with the crowd getting to their feet and singing along to the patriotic song.

Next up in the Harborside Concert Series is an Aug. 4 performance with Six Gun & DJ Neil Wrangler, featuring country music.

Christine Sweeney, with her band the Dirty Stayouts, performs at last year’s blues fest. Photo from Smithtown Historical Society

By Rebecca Anzel

Christine Sweeney, with her band the Dirty Stayouts, performs at last year’s blues fest. Photo from Smithtown Historical Society
Christine Sweeney, with her band the Dirty Stayouts, performs at last year’s blues fest. Photo from Smithtown Historical Society

There will be music in the air this weekend at the Smithtown Historical Society.

The third annual Smithtown Blues Festival kicks off on Saturday, July 9, from 1 to 10 p.m. at the society’s grounds on Middle Country Road.

The outdoor festival features more than 10 musical performances by community and professional bands, such as The Sweet Suzi Blues Band, Christine Sweeney & The Dirty Stayouts and Rock N Roll University’s Masterclass. This year, for the first time, artists will be playing on two stages.

Smithtown Historical Society director Marianne Howard said the festival has expanded from where it first started.

“We were able to build the festival even more from where it was last year,” she said. “And it’s growing in length too.” The several hundred expected attendees are welcome to bring food or try food from Chef Gail’s Italian food truck. About 20 arts and crafts vendors will sell blues music merchandise, jewelry, candles, soap and other goods, and The Wellness Nook will be providing free massages.

The festival is being held in conjunction with the Long Island Blues Society, All-Music’s Rock N Roll University, WUSB Stony Brook and Hertz Equipment Rentals. It will be held rain or shine, and tickets cost $15 for Smithtown Historical Society and Long Island Blues Society members; or $20 for nonmembers.

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