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Sue Wahlert

The interior of the Kanestrin house, c. 1874, one of the stops on last year’s Candlelight House Tour. Photo by Chris Ryon

By Sue Wahlert

The Three Village Historical Society is eager to “set the mood for the holidays” at its 37th annual Candlelight House Tour on Friday, Dec. 4, and Saturday, Dec. 5. This year’s theme, titled “Visions of Stony Brook: A Look Back in Time,” will connect ticket holders with five festively decorated Stony Brook homes, the quaint All Souls’ Episcopal Church and the newly opened Reboli Center for Art and History.

For over three decades the Candlelight Tour has been proudly produced by the Historical Society, which was innovated by Eva Glaser.  Glaser began the tour as a fundraiser for the Setauket Neighborhood House. Proceeds from the tour now go to the Three Village Historical Society’s educational programs. Each year the Candlelight Tour committee works tirelessly to plan and carry out this mélange of history, holiday and décor. “This is an annual tradition and for many it starts the holiday season,” said Patty Yantz, who co-chairs the event with Patty Cain. 

Each year, selected homeowners allow individual decorators into their homes, each of whom will adorn the homes with their artistic take on this joyous time of year. Visitors will be treated to tables set for a celebration, homeowner’s art collections and ideas for personal holiday decorating. This tour reflects, “the yesterday, today and tomorrow of the area,” said Yantz.

Barbara Russell, Brookhaven Town historian, carefully researches each location on the tour and furnishes historic and architectural details of each destination. Ticket holders can expect to be greeted by volunteer docents who will share details about the homes and their specific rooms. A ticket to the tour is complete with a map and a historical overview of each location as well as details of Stony Brook’s history.  If you are an ambitious walker, it is possible to follow the tour on foot, as it is basically centered near the Main Street area in Stony Brook. Visitors can take a break at the Village Center shops and restaurants as well.

“From a charming cottage to stately homes, the tour brings community members together,” said Cain. “The cherry on top is the new Reboli Center for Art and History,” continued Cain. “We are so grateful to the homeowners, sponsors, decorators, office staff and volunteers without whom this wouldn’t happen,” said Yantz. The tour is a preholiday delight full of visual treats for all the visitors.

There are multiple options for those interested in attending. Friday evening, Dec. 4,  includes a tour with wine and hors d’oeuvres served at each home from 6 to 9 p.m. followed by a reception at The Old Field Club in Setauket from 8:30 to 11 p.m. Tickets are $80 per person for members of the Three Village Historical Society and for nonmembers are $100 per person. Guests will find walkways lined with luminaries leading the way to the excitement.   

The Saturday, Dec. 5, tour includes two options: an early breakfast from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. plus the tour ($50 for members, $60 for nonmembers) or the tour-only option from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. ($40 for members, $45 for nonmembers). 

Tickets may be purchased online at www.threevillagehistoricalsociety.org and picked up at the Historical Society located at 93 North Country Road in Setauket. For further information, visit the website or contact the TVHS at 631-751-3730.

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From left, Assemblyman Steve Englebright; Phil Palmedo, Honoree; Liz Fish, Daughter of Vinnie Fish (Former Director of Gallery North); Judith Levy, Director of Gallery North; Nancy Goroff, Gallery North President; and Councilwoman Valerie M. Cartright. Photo by Maria Hoffman

By Sue Wahlert

Gallery North’s “50 & Forward” Gala was held last Friday at The Simons Center for Geometry and Physics on the campus of Stony Brook University. It was an opportunity to “honor the past and look to the future,” said Gallery North Director Judith Levy. Honoree Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) reflected, “Gallery North anchors part of our history and heritage,” speaking of the 1875 boarding house which is the current Gallery North.  He continued by saying that this celebration is, “an important milestone for the North Country Road Historic community.”

Guests entered the sunlit atrium while pianist Conal Fowkes, Woody Allen’s collaborator at the Café Carlyle, set the tone for a lovely evening of socializing, fundraising and honoring those vital to the past, present and future of Gallery North.
Silent auction items lined the edges of the room, some of which were donated paintings by artists Bruce Lieberman, Nancy Bueti-Randall, Terence Netter, elegant necklaces by Pearl Ehrlich and Jan LaRoche; and many more fine choices.   A delicious buffet prepared by Chef Paolo Fontana and his staff of the SCGP Café was served on the second floor where guests also enjoyed the patio and outdoor gardens.

The celebration comes at an exciting time for Gallery North, as they are in the final stages of completing the Community Art Center, which will enable the Gallery to better serve the community’s art needs. “We are really excited about the Community Art Center,” said Nancy Goroff, president of Gallery North. The state-of -the-art, handicapped-accessible building will house a collaborative printmaking studio for artists and students, offer a mentoring program and allow for the expansion of the existing programs such as Studio Art Workshops, ArtVentures for Kids, ArTalks, ArtWorks and ArtAbilities.

The evening was an opportunity for artists, patrons of the arts and community members to join together for a celebration. Levy reflected on the evening, “Members of the community were there to support us and help us raise money.  As a non-profit institution, that is very important to our survival.” A highlight of the evening for Levy was, “listening to the honorees speak about what Gallery North has meant to them as members of the community, art lovers, and appreciators, as well as public officials.”

Following dinner, guests gathered for the honoree ceremony and live auction. The evening’s honorees: Englebright, Virginia “Vinnie” Fish and Philip Palmedo, were introduced by Gallery North’s Secretary/Treasurer Doug Dahlgard.

Englebright was acknowledged by Dahlgard for having “an unwavering commitment to the growth of not-for-profits and honored him for his wholehearted support.” Englebright spoke of the value the Gallery brings to the community and was proud to announce that he secured a $60,000 challenge grant from New York State, which would be used toward keeping Gallery North strong and vital for many years to come. Gallery North must now raise $60,000 within one year, to match the State grant of the same amount. Englebright reflected on the new Community Art Center, saying that it, “will embrace our children.”

The second honoree, Palmedo, was a Gallery North trustee from 1978 to 2008 and is a Trustee Emeritus.  Palmedo spoke of how he and his wife moved from Paris to Long Island many years ago and were delighted that they had found a gallery that was showing contemporary art. His belief is that, “art is indeed important” and that the Gallery is, “as vigorous as it was 50 years ago.” His gratitude is shown through his continuous support of Gallery North.

Although the final honoree, artist and Trustee Emeritus Virginia “Vinnie” Fish, was unable to attend the ceremony, she sent along a short film talking about the early beginnings of the Gallery and the role her mother, Virginia Fuller, one of the gallery’s founders, played in “giving to others and making life better for others.”

She reflected that, “before Gallery North there were only horse shows” and that “it changed the community.”

Fish worked as Gallery North’s president from 1989 to 1997. She created its 30th anniversary show, which “generated acclaim and attention from the greater art world.”  During her term as president, the Gallery received it’s full 501(c)(3) tax status.

Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) was on hand to present certificates of appreciation to each of the honorees, as well as one to Gallery North, proclaiming “We are honored to have Gallery North in our community.”

Following the ceremony, a lively auction took place, where generous bids were made for a trip to an Austrian chalet, a weeklong vacation in Deer Valley, Utah, and a weekend stay in a Manhattan apartment. The bidding continued, as people donated money to match an anonymous donation of $15,000. Certified Christie’s Auctioneer, Alison Delaney, successfully guided the audience in a lighthearted but important part of the evening.

The Gallery is well on their way to matching the $60,000 challenge grant.

Goroff said of the evening, “It was wonderful to see how many people stepped up at the Gala to help meet the challenge. We still have more to raise, but with such a strong start, we are confident we can do it!”

The event, which wound down with music, dancing, drinks and dessert, marked the beginning of the next 50 years with shows to be curated, a Community Art Center to open and the ongoing support of artists, art lovers and community members.

Gallery North is located at 90 North Country Road in Setauket. If you would like to join the gallery in reaching its potential and beyond, please log onto their website at www.gallerynorth.org or call 631-751-2676.

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.

Singer/songwriter Sophie Hintze. Photo by Michael Rosengard, North Island Photography

By Sue Wahlert

2014 was a fabulous year for 17-year-old Setauket resident Sophie Hintze. After a culmination of artistic sufferings and successes, the Ward Melville High School senior was recently courted and signed as a singer/songwriter by BMG Chrysalis, an international company focusing on the management of music publishing and recording rights.

“Sophie is the youngest person that I have committed to. This girl has it!” said Kris Muñoz, senior director, business & legal affairs for BMG Chrysalis. Muñoz continued, “We need to have folks with drive, energy and work ethic. Sophie has all of this and more!” Through a journey that began at home in Setauket, continued at school, and branched out into the world of theater and jazz performances in New York City, Hintze has reached a place most 17-year- olds only dream of.

With the loving support of her parents, sister and others, she began her job with BMG, a company that will nurture her full potential as a songwriter and singer. Dina LaPolt, of LaPolt Law in Los Angeles, who represents Hintze and artists such as Steven Tyler, Mick Fleetwood and Deadmau5, brought Hintze to the attention of music companies after hearing her song, “Better Off Alone.” LaPolt remarked upon meeting Hintze, “She has a star quality that is not something that comes lightly. It has only happened a few times in my career,” similar to when she met Stacy Ann Ferguson, better known as Fergie.

Lise Hintze, Sophie’s mother, recollects, “Being a singer was her dream since she was a little girl.” Sophie talked about her early beginnings with music, “When I was in elementary school, I would secretly write songs in a book, which I still have. I would sing these songs to my dog, Maybelle and my family. I wouldn’t tell them it was mine, and if they reacted, I knew it was something good. To this day, I still do this. Great songs demand attention.”

With her passion for writing, she was already laying the path for her future successes. However, the beginning did not go smoothly for Hintze. In junior high, she was rejected from a school play and it was devastating, albeit a blessing in disguise. Hintze said, “I felt like a failure, but I believed I had the talent and I wasn’t going to let anyone stop me.”

So with the support of her mom and dad, she turned to theater workshops in New York City to keep her dream alive. Her first stop was Broadway Workshop, a company that develops and produces educational workshops and full-scale productions.

Her first audition with Broadway Workshop, for “Legally Blonde,” was met with immediate success. Hintze recalls, “It was insane. They asked if I was free the next day for a callback!” This encouraged Hintze and she continued with Broadway Workshop into 10th and 11th grades, playing Calliope in the musical comedy “Xanadu” and Miss Gardner in “Carrie.” With a dedicated spirit, Hintze’s mother drove her to New York City every Saturday and Sunday. “Being around the caliber of talent in New York City fueled me. Their support has been overwhelming,” said a grateful Hintze.

During her time with Broadway Workshop, Hintze cemented her desire to become a performer. She also began singing with the Matt Baker Trio at Le Cirque, Somethin’ Jazz Club and the Metropolitan Room, starting at the age of 15. Additionally, she took on the role of Rapunzel in “Into the Woods” at her high school.

Then, in the summer of 2013, she was singing at Frank Melville Memorial Park during one of its Wind Down Sundays concerts, and songwriter/producer Anthony D’Erasmo approached Hintze and asked if she would be interested in recording some of her music. It was during this time she wrote and recorded “Better Off Alone,” a song that became the catalyst for her new career.

This valuable song, which Hintze copyrighted, became the center of a dispute with a music library. The Hintzes reached out to LaPolt for guidance. LaPolt gave them advice, and as an aside, Sophie e-mailed her the recording of “Better Off Alone.” That was the spark that ignited all that was to follow. LaPolt said, “I was like, this is an amazing song!” After sending the song to a few colleagues in the business, it landed in the hands of Kris Muñoz, who said to LaPolt, “Don’t send that song to anyone else!” While LaPolt had other offers for Hintze, a choice was made and Thomas Scherer, executive vice president of writer services at BMG, flew out to the BMG offices in New York City to meet with Hintze.

Scherer echoed the thoughts of both LaPolt and Muñoz, “She has tremendous star quality!” BMG was ready to make a commitment to this young songwriter, to work with her to develop her talents. In August of 2014, Hintze found herself at the offices of BMG in Los Angeles overlooking the Hollywood Hills, where she signed her contract as both a songwriter and an artist.

“We want Sophie to develop into a normal human being,” said Muñoz, referring to Hintze finishing high school and attending college in September at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

BMG’s Muñoz said, “We want to take Sophie’s existing talent and see how she blossoms.” The process involves introducing her to writers and producers to see what kind of music she can produce for other artists. Hintze reiterated BMG’s support, saying, “They are very supportive of me, and I couldn’t ask for a better team.

They are home to some of my biggest inspirations in the industry and I feel honored to be a part of the BMG family. My goal isn’t to be famous — it is to be successful.”

2015 holds great promise for Hintze, with amazing opportunities for learning, creating, and making her mark in the music industry. Check her out at www.sophiehintze.com.