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Tom Manuel

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The Jazz Loft recently acquired bandleader Xavier Cugat’s musical collection. Photo by Rita J. Egan

A St. James resident’s inheritance has become a treasure for a local museum and music venue.

Among the museum’s current exhibits are singer Keely Smith items. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Recently, John Diana, a periodontist and clinical assistant professor at Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine in the Department of Periodontology, donated the musical archives of renowned bandleader Xavier Cugat to The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook. Tom Manuel, the Loft’s founder, said the collection contains many of Cugat’s original manuscripts.

Manuel added that manuscripts like the newly acquired ones include various musical notations.

“That’s incredibly important because that means the music can be performed again, and that means, in many ways, the music can live on,” he said.

Diana is the only child of Robert W. Kasha, who was the pianist in the Sammy Kaye orchestra in the 1940s and ’50s. He said his father went on to become vice president of Willard Alexander Inc., and the theatrical agency had many of the big bands on contract. When Kasha met Cugat, he made an offer to purchase the bandleader’s name, music and rights to the band, and Cugat accepted the offer.

The periodontist said his mother, who used the stage name Ada Cavallo, was a singer, and she became the conductor of the band after his father gained the rights.

“Also, being Latina, she instilled the Latin rhythm required of a Latin band,” Diana said.

His father would play piano in the ensemble, and the New Xavier Cugat Orchestra was together for nearly 20 years, according to Diana. He said his parents traveled with the group numerous times to Japan, and both were inducted into the Big Band Hall of Fame in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Diana said his wife, Kathleen, was the one who suggested he contact The Jazz Loft to see if they would accept the Cugat material.

“Tom, from The Jazz Loft, was more than kind in accepting the music, and many of the exhibits in his museum were from bands and musicians that my dad booked and knew personally,” Diana said. “I feel, and I believe my folks would feel, that the music found a good home.”

Manuel said there aren’t many places like The Jazz Loft with a museum and educational component, and many people have reached out to them about musical archives they own but no longer have room for in their homes.

The Jazz Loft recently acquired trombonist Benny Powell’s musical archives. Photo by Rita J. Egan

“It’s really amazing that we’re getting these incredibly important — historically important — collections,” he said.

Manuel said every collection is different and may include not only manuscripts, but also photographs, receipts, date books, tour schedules, instruments and more.

Some of the collections The Jazz Loft has acquired through the years have been from jazz trombonists Ray Anderson and Benny Powell and jazz and pop singer Keely Smith. The museum currently has the collection of piano player Jack Wilson on display to coincide with its July tribute to the entertainer.

The collections are rotated throughout the year in The Jazz Loft museum because it would be impossible to display everything at the same time, Manuel said. In October Anderson’s collection will be on display and the trombonist will also be performing at the venue. Next year Manuel plans to display the Benny Powell and Xavier Cugat exhibits.

Manuel said some of his favorite pieces from the Cugat collection include manuscripts that were written while the bandleader was in Cuba, parts are in Spanish, and the paper was made in Cuba.

Diana also had his favorite pieces.

“Being of Latino heritage, I enjoyed it all, but my favorite piece was a newer version of the ‘Peter Gunn’ theme, and from dad’s personal piano archives, his rendition of the classic ‘Laura,’” Diana said.

The Jazz Loft crew will begin sorting through the material from the Cugat collection. Manuel said first everything must be entered into a computer and initially placed in an envelope. Once the memorabilia are grouped together and categorized, the items will be put in archival boxes to help keep them preserved.

Honorees Katharine Griffiths, Andy Polan, Leah Dunaief, Anna Kerekes

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization hosted its annual Jewels & Jeans Gala at Flowerfield in St. James on June 19. This year’s event honored Katharine Griffiths, Executive Director, Avalon Park & Preserve; Leah Dunaief, Editor and Publisher of Times Beacon Record News Media; Anna Kerekes, WMHO Trustee; and Andy Polan, President, Three Village Chamber of Commerce “for their outstanding achievements to the community.” The evening featured music by Tom Manuel and The Jazz Loft All Stars, cocktails, dinner and a live and silent auction. 

Photos by Ron Smith, Clix|couture

From left, Maryanne Vigneaux, Frank Turano, Holly Griesel and Orlando Maione at last year’s event. Photo by Anthony White/ Three Village Historical Society

By David Luces

There’s something about the 1920s that to this day many people are fascinated by. Life during that time seemed like one big party. The Three Village Historical Society and The Jazz Loft plan to bring some of the magic of the time period back for its third annual Prohibition Night fundraiser on June 21.

This year’s theme, titled Booze, Bootlegging and Jazz!!!, will have an emphasis on  bootlegging and speakeasies, also known as blind pigs.

“We’ve been collaborating with the historical society for the past two years [on this event] and I think we’ve hit it out of the park,” Tom Manuel of The Jazz Loft said. “For this year we thought what can we do better.”

Guests will be attending a mock funeral service and given a pass code to access a secret back room party filled with booze and jazz music. The historical society will have a Prohibition era bootlegging exhibit set up where guests can peruse old photos and other items from the time period.

“We really want to try to bring some of that history to life,” explained Manuel.

Tara Ebrahimian, education and volunteer coordinator for the historical society, spent weeks researching the Prohibition era and bootlegging as well as Long Island’s history during the 1920s. In a recent interview, she said her inspiration for the mock funeral came from reading accounts of actual funeral homes having speakeasies and parties in the back of their buildings.

“We want [the event] to be historically accurate,” she said. “We wanted to make this scene for the guests,” she added. “Like you’re stepping into this world, we want them to be fully immersed.”

Ebrahimian also researched how people spoke back in the 1920s and the lingo used during Prohibition. Re-enactors from Theatre Three in Port Jefferson will be on hand to aid in the immersive experience and will be acting as if they were from that time period.

Sandy White, office manager at the historical society, said she is excited for this year’s event. “It’s going to be a lot of fun,” she said, adding that there will be a garden bar for guests with beer donated by Sunrise Ales and Lagers.

Steve Healy, president of the historical society, said the event is a great way to incorporate history and jazz music in a fun setting.“We want to make history interesting, and I think people have a soft spot for this era. There is something really fascinating about this time period,” he added.

Healy said that besides antique items from the period there will be a 1929 banana colored convertible parked outside the venue. “It’s going to be a fun night and it supports two great local nonprofits,” he said.

Just as booze and parties were synonymous with the 1920s, jazz music was just as important. Manuel’s band, The Hot Peppers, will be playing time period music from mid to late 1920s live music for guests at the event. “We want it to be authentic as possible,” explained Manuel, adding that the band will be playing with instruments that were used to make jazz music back then like the piano, guitar, clarinet and trombone among others. They will also be performing with some vintage instruments.

Manuel is grateful to the historical society for creating a wonderful partnership for the past couple of years. He said when The Jazz Loft first opened two years ago, the historical society was one of the first organizations to collaborate with them.“We wanted to partner with people in the community and each time we’ve collaborated greater and bigger things happen for the both of us.”

Guests are encouraged to dress in period attire and Manuel said he is blown away every year by how committed the guests are to dressing up for the event. “I’ve been really impressed … it has really taken a life of its own,” he said.

The Jazz Loft, located at 275 Christian Ave. in Stony Brook Village, will host the third annual Prohibition Night on Friday, June 21 from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 adults, $20 seniors, $15 students. To order, call 631-751-1895 or visit www.thejazzloft.org.

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Stony Brook residents Don Estes and Dan Kerr will lead a morning interdenominational prayer service at All Souls Episcopal Church in Stony Brook beginning Jan. 30. Photo from Dan Kerr

Through prayer, a Stony Brook church is connecting further with the surrounding community.

The doors of All Souls Episcopal Church on Main Street are always open for all to pray or to enjoy activities such as its Saturdays at Six concerts, Second Saturdays poetry readings and Shamanic Drumming events. Beginning Jan. 30, the church will offer a weekly interdenominational morning prayer service led by Stony Brook residents Dan Kerr and Don Estes.

“If you start your day with a reading from Scripture, and a little reflection on Scripture, whether its Old Testament or New Testament, it gives you a framework that helps you realize that there’s a bigger picture.”

— Dan Kerr

Kerr, a church volunteer at All Souls, said he starts every day with structured prayer time and believes the new service is a natural progression to what the church has been doing. The congregation connects with approximately 500 people from the community through its events, he said, and many have asked for something such as the new morning service.

“The vision of this is that we have a relationship with all these 500 people, but we’ve never invited those 500 people to come and pray with us,” Kerr said.

He said the prayers and readings they will use at the interdenominational service are ones that all Christians will recognize and all religions can appreciate. Kerr said both he and Estes believe “any day that begins with prayer is likely to be a good day.”

“If you start your day with a reading from Scripture, and a little reflection on Scripture, whether its Old Testament or New Testament, it gives you a framework that helps you realize that there’s a bigger picture,” Kerr said.

Estes, a Methodist who attends Stony Brook Community Church at 216 Christian Ave. and former commodore of Stony Brook Yacht Club, said he was looking for a morning prayer service for a while, so when Kerr brought up the idea, he said he would be happy to help. Estes said starting the day with prayer every day had helped him through difficult times, especially when his wife Judy was battling Alzheimer’s disease before her passing last year.

A retired TWA pilot, Estes said he’s also been inspired by his travels around the world that allowed him to witness others’ prayer practices and his wife’s spirituality. He thinks a prayer group such as the All Souls one helps people figure out how they should be and what the day should be like for them.

“A prayer in the morning gets you started in the right direction for the day,” Estes said.

“It’s been a big help to me to meet the challenges of the day,” he said.

“In the morning, our minds tend to be the most clear and free from problems.”

— Tom Manuel

Tom Manuel, president and founder of The Jazz Loft, was pleased to hear the service would be offered.

“The secret of a close relationship with our God is to prioritize our first time each morning in prayer,” Manuel said. “In the morning, our minds tend to be the most clear and free from problems. Setting our course and focus on God is a great way to commit the day ahead to him.”

Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said she commended Kerr and Estes for joining the community together with prayer.

“This early morning service reminds me of my grandmother who attended Mass every morning,” Cartright said. “Her devotion to starting every day with prayer has had a great positive impact on my faith. Prayer has always been such an important part of my personal and family life. It helps to keep me grounded, and it helps to keep me connected to God. Our faith communities are stronger when we can come together and pray together. Faith is one of the important ties that bind us together.”

The interdenominational morning prayer service will be held every Wednesday beginning Jan. 30 at 7 a.m. The service will run approximately 30 minutes, according to Kerr, and people of all faiths and traditions are welcome to attend. For more information, call 631-655-7798. All Souls Episcopal Church is located at 61 Main St., Stony Brook.

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Tom Manuel, venue founder, shares firsthand account with TBR News Media

A teenager in Haiti learns how to play trombone from the Jazz Loft’s Tom Manuel. Photo by Leah Claire Borrie

By Tom Manuel

The Jazz Loft ambassadors’ annual mission to Haiti to teach children how to play instruments hit a blue note as the capital, Port-au-Prince, erupted with riots.

Elvoi, a music teacher that we had hired, shared words of wisdom with us after our trip. “Everything is OK thanks to God,” he said. “But in Haiti we live day by day, we live one day at a time.”

We had landed bright and early on a Wednesday morning, a six-person team consisting of music educators, professional musicians and an independent filmmaker from California. This was another regular trip under the banner of The Jazz Loft to continue building the music program in a school perched high atop a mountain that is making a difference in children’s lives one day at a time.

One part of The Jazz Loft’s trifecta mission is education, and we felt that our community outreach should stretch further than how we typically define community. Our definition includes thinking globally, and a partnership with True Love Missions, of Stony Brook, and their successful school in Haiti was a perfect match. Thanks to the philanthropic giving of Robert Lourie and Ivana Stolnik in addition to the generous giving which was the result of an annual fundraising concert, the Jazz Loft ambassadors embarked on their trip. Barrels of school supplies, instruments, clothing and food were shipped down in advance and the team packed as much as they could bring as well.

Tom Manuel. Photo by Leah Claire Borrie

Our days unfolded one after the next with early morning rises, hikes up and down the mountain to the school, and sometimes rides on motorbikes which rival any amusement park ride known to man. Relationships were begun or made stronger, and the universal language of music transcended that of English and native Creole. Teaching trombone was interrupted by giving out worm pills and conversations with the school principal and teachers regarding school-book needs were put on welcomed pause to feed quite hungry people. The confines of an article cannot contain nor explain the experience of a trip like this. The art of loving and being so genuinely loved in return can only be experienced by doing it.

Then 48 hours before our departure, a protest march against the Haitian government took place in Port-au-Prince. A day before our scheduled exit protests had turned to riots, and from the school high atop the mountain overlooking the city, we could see two fires that signaled something was wrong. We awoke early Monday morning, Nov. 19, ready for departure but as we assembled something was missing. The sound of Haiti had gone mute. There is an unmistakable sound of thousands of people, motorbikes, trucks and animals all joining chorus in organized chaos as the sun rises, and it had gone silent. In its stead, we heard a natural silence penetrated by the sound of vintage radios projecting singular voices speaking of riots throughout the night that had heightened. The city had been shut down. Schools and all businesses were closed. Our van was not coming, and all vehicles were banned from the roads. A call to the U.S. Embassy in Haiti signaled greater worry as it was closed.

Fearing escalation, being stuck beyond our planned time and worry over our general safety, we explored available options and were getting nowhere fast. Hours passed, our window of opportunity was quickly fading, and our final and only choices were to stay, or bribe the police to give us an armed escort to the airport. As if defying reality — because these things only happen in movies, right? — we were quickly packing ourselves into a civilian vehicle and a police truck. I wound up being the lone person in the police vehicle as there was no more room in the other vehicle. As we drove the final distance to the main drag, I thought to myself, “Am I blowing this out of proportion? Is this really necessary?”

As we hit the bottom of the street, there was an abrupt stop, and machine guns were locked and loaded, and handguns quickly appeared. We turned right, and I was amazed to see nothing but an empty street. Our speed was where the vehicle maxed out, and the sound of walkie-talkies, phones and borderline yelling filled the vehicle. The trip to the airport takes a solid hour and a half typically on a good day, and the main drag is marked by thousands of people trying to sell their wares to buyers that do not exist. Our trip that day lasted roughly 15 minutes.

Piles of debris and tires on fire occasionally blocked the road which we would veer around. Burned out vehicles and damaged abandoned police vehicles marked the journey. At one point we passed a black armored vehicle that moved down the street like a dinosaur.

A young student takes a turn with the trombone. Photo from Leah Claire Borrie

Having made this trip many times, I noticed familiar landmarks. We were getting closer and closer to the airport. The cop to my right was clicking a clave rhythm on the barrel of his gun. I couldn’t help but wonder if he was nervous or if this habit was normal. Ahead, a human-made roadblock of boulders and debris appeared causing the driver to slam on the brakes, fly into reverse and head right, the only other option available, only to be met by another roadblock.

Two police officers got out and started moving the boulders. A deafening sound, unlike any other, crescendoed and two masses of people began to converge from behind from both sides of our vehicles. It’s apparent that fear set in as the cops jumped back into the car, and we rammed whatever was left of the roadblock that couldn’t be moved.

Distance was quickly gained and this all seemed to end in an instant as we arrived at the airport and made our entrance almost seemingly under normal circumstances. Our plane took off an hour early, and within a few short hours we were home. It’s a bizarre reality, to say the least, to go from such contrasting environments in such a short period. The next days in Haiti saw increasing violence. Innocent people died. The New York Times published an article Nov. 23, but little of the drama in Haiti made it to our mainstream news.

In Haiti they live day by day. They live one day at a time. When things settle down, which they will, I will return to Haiti. I will continue to love, because in the end, even if I could move those Haitian mountains, even if somehow I could magically fix their broken and corrupt government, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. Love doesn’t rejoice about injustice but rather it rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, it never loses faith, it’s always hopeful, and it endures through every circumstance. Love makes all the difference and there are many children in a little school atop a mountain in Haiti that I love very much, and they love me. And that my friend is always worth the journey.

The rain stopped long enough Dec. 2 to allow visitors to Stony Brook Village Center to enjoy The Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s 39th Holiday Festival.

The festival marked the second year of the Legends and Spies Puppets Procession led by Tom Manuel, president and founder of The Jazz Loft, and a New Orleans-style brass band. The procession puppets pay homage to former notable Three Village residents. This year, two new puppets featuring the likeness of Anna Smith Strong, a member of the Culper Spy Ring, and William Sidney Mount, a famed American genre painter, were added to the parade.

Santa arrived at 2 p.m. to greet visitors and holiday train displays could be viewed at Wiggs Opticians holiday windows and at the WHMHO Educational & Cultural Center.

The event also included the annual tree lighting and the Promenade of Trees competition, where families and community members decorated some 60 holiday trees, which will stay on display through Jan. 2. The public can vote on the winner, who will receive a $150 Stony Brook Village Center gift certificate, usable in all shops and restaurants.

 

 

Tom Manuel

Making Memories with Music, a special program for people with dementia and their care partners, returns to the Cinema Arts Centre, 423 Park Ave., Huntington on Aug. 27 at 11 a.m. Facilitated by Marcy Rhodes, the morning will feature a performance by The Jazz Loft Trio — Tom Manuel on cornet and vocals, Steve Salerno on guitar and Keenan Zach on double bass. Admission is $5 per person. Popcorn and beverages will be served. Registration is required by calling 631-423-7610, ext. 0.

Burt Block, David Amram, Tom Manuel and jazz vibraphonist Harry Sheppard at last year’s festival. Photo from Tom Manuel

By Sabrina Petroski

Calling all jazz lovers! The Harbor Jazz Festival returns for its fifth year of smooth sounds from Aug. 15 to 19. Held at The Jazz Loft, 275 Christian Ave., Stony Brook, the festival is a fun way for music fans to celebrate jazz while surrounded by treasures of the past. 

“What’s unique about our festival is that it has a vintage, or retro, feel,” said Tom Manuel, the curator and owner of The Jazz Loft in an interview last Monday. “What’s really exciting is we have over 12 performers and they are some of the top internationally and nationally recognized talents,” he said.

Dan Pugach and his band will perform at this year’s Harbor Jazz Festival. Photo from Dan Pugach

Each night offers new acts to enjoy, with food and drinks available at the bar. The opening night ceremonies on Wednesday include The Art of Jazz: The Jazz Loft Trio with the Atelier Artists, as well as a special VIP Reception and Art Gallery opening at 7 p.m., showcasing the art of Frank Davis ($75). 

On Thursday, Israeli drummer and composer, Dan Pugach and his nine-piece ensemble will take to the stage at 7 p.m. with their original jazz music, as well as some covers of famous songs like “Jolene” by Dolly Parton. 

“This is our first time playing at the Harbor Jazz Festival, and our second time playing at the loft. I love interacting with the audience, and meeting new people,” said Pugach in a recent phone interview. “It always fascinates me that people will go out and sit through a concert when they don’t know the artist and don’t know what to expect, but they’re just right there with you. It’s all about the music.”

The Matt Wilson Quartet will kick off Friday evening at the loft at 7 p.m. With the group’s improvisational style, known to challenge and entertain audiences, it will be a night of upbeat jazz tunes to remember. 

On Saturday there will be an all-day event, starting at 11 a.m. in front of the Stony Brook Post office. The Interplay Jazz Orchestra will start off the morning with its original compositions and arrangements written by members of the band. Following this will be the Warren Chiasson Quartet at 1:30 p.m. led by Chiasson himself, who has been regarded as “one of the six top vibraphonists of the last half century” by the New York Times. Next up will be the Nicki Parrott Quartet, featuring Houston Person at 4 p.m., Frank Vignola and his Hot Guitar Trio at 6:30 p.m. and the Bill Charlap and Warren Vache Duo at 9 p.m. There will also be a free children’s Instrument Petting Zoo at 1:30 p.m.

Steve Salerno performs at a previous festival. Photo from Tom Manuel

“The whole festival is a throwback to the old states of jazz festivals,” said Manuel. “When you come to the loft and walk through it, it doesn’t feel like every other museum. It has that charm that’s unique to the village, so when we were going outdoors we were trying to still maintain the same feel that people have at the loft.”

On Sunday, Mark Devine and Tom Manuel will perform at noon, followed by the Stony Brook Roots Ensemble at 3 p.m. To close the festival, The Jazz Loft Big Band will have a free concert in front of the Stony Brook Post Office facing the Village Green at 7 p.m. 

The business community will also be involved in the festivities, with special jazz-themed dinner menus and dishes being served at local restaurants including Fratelli’s, Sweet Mama’s and the Three Village Inn. There will be merchandise and vintage items available for sale at the Village Green on Saturday, as well as food and drinks. 

“[The Jazz Loft] is a very special place, especially because of where it’s located; it’s not on a busy street in the middle of the village. It is becoming a desired place for musicians to go and play, because everybody knows that the vibe is great,” said Pugach. “This is a spot where music lovers go to listen to great music.”

Individual concert tickets are $30 adults, $25 seniors and $20 students. Day passes are available for Saturday ($135 adults, $110 seniors and $85 students) and Sunday ($50 adults, $40 seniors and $30 students). The full festival pass (Wednesday through Sunday) is $250 for adults, $205 for seniors and $180 for students. Opening night reception tickets can be added on to other ticket purchases for a discounted price of $50. For more information or to find out about sponsorship and underwriting opportunities, call 631-751-1895 or email stmanuel@thejazzloft.org.

From left, Michael O’Dwyer and Annie and Stephen Healy enjoy last year’s event. Photo courtesy of TVHS

By Kyle Barr

If there’s anything that we know about the 1920s, it’s that the parties were wild. Despite, or likely because, of Prohibition, the music was loud and idiosyncratic as jazz came onto the scene, and the alcohol flowed as if by fountains into the expecting mouths of flappers and bootleggers alike.

Setauket’s Three Village Historical Society, in collaboration with The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook is hoping to bring that period of time back to life with the second running of their annual Prohibition Night fundraiser at The Jazz Loft next Thursday, June 14 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. The event, sponsored by the Montauk Brewing Company, will include snacks, wine, beer and raffles.

This time the TVHS is adding an extra layer of early 20th-century history with a new emphasis on the women’s suffrage movement and how that tied into a time of cultural revolution.

The fundraiser will feature memorabilia from the Women’s Suffrage Movement including this stamp from the collection of the Melville Family papers.

“You had this revolution with the women’s movement and the right to vote, and you had this revolution with the clothing, with flappers and the Charleston and the bobbed haircuts,” said Tom Manuel, owner of The Jazz Loft. “These were real renegade statements of society and culture, and its cool when you put them together.”

The Jazz Loft will have several items on display relating to women’s suffrage, including several articles, papers and artifacts housed in display cases as well as a mannequin fully dressed up in the class women’s suffrage garb with a large purple sash reading “Votes for Women,” courtesy of Nan Guzzetta of Antique Costumes & Prop Rental by Nan in Port Jefferson.

“[The movement] was really ahead of its time,” said Stephen Healy, president of the Three Village Historical Society. “It’s interesting to see if history is going to repeat itself or we will move on from here. The movement has been a longtime coming.”

That historical revolution collided with the cultural revolution of the 1920s, as many of the same women who campaigned for the women’s vote also stumped for the temperance movement. Suddenly, with the ban of the sale and consumption of alcohol in 1919, a whole new era of organized crime and mass criminality was born as the sale of alcohol eclipsed any decade before or after it.

“Everybody became creative with getting alcohol,” Healy said. “From everything with potato farmers out on the east end of Long Island and vodka creation, and I can’t imagine [the activity] between the water and the farms and the amount of backdoor distributing that was taking place on Long Island.”

The fundraiser will feature memorabilia from the Women’s Suffrage Movement including this “Vote Yes” stamp from the collection of the Melville Family papers.

But it wouldn’t be the 1920s without jazz, and Manuel said he has that covered. Manuel’s band, The Hot Peppers, will be performing live music straight from the jazz giants of the period such as Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Thomas “Fats” Waller and more.

“I think for us it really supports and makes a statement about who we are,” Manuel said. “Our mission is jazz preservation, jazz education and jazz performance. Any time we can take history and allow it to come to life, we served our mission.”

Last year’s Prohibition Night was supremely successful with sold out tickets and a packed room. Healy said he expects this year to do just as good or even better.

“It was a great success, it sold out, and it gave us some cross pollination between history and The Jazz Loft,” Healy said.

Manuel agreed that the event is the perfect blend of history and recreation. “Any time we collaborate with something in the community, it really solidifies the statement they say about jazz, which is that it’s all about collaboration,” he said. 

The Jazz Loft, located at 275 Christian Ave. in Stony Brook Village, will host the 2nd annual Prohibition Night: Celebrating 100 Years of Women’s Suffrage in New York State on Thursday, June 14 from  6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 adults, $20 seniors, $15 students. Period costumes are encouraged. To order, call 631-751-1895 or visit www.thejazzloft.org.

The Jazz Loft musicians and attendees jam at last year’s sensory-friendly performance at The Jazz Loft. Photo from Gillian Poole

For some, a musical performance can become a nuisance or even a nightmare with loud noises and bright lights.

Attendees at last year’s sensory-friendly performance at The Jazz Loft. Photo from Gillian Poole

It’s a problem the board of The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook village understand. Tom Manuel, president and founder of the venue, said since its opening two years ago, the board has wanted to do something to serve the community. Manuel said the board will achieve that goal May 19 when The Jazz Loft presents a sensory-friendly performance geared toward those with autism and special needs. He said the production will kick off future sensory-friendly workshops and more performances.

The venue will be able to achieve its goal due to a $5,000 donation from The Ann Schermerhorn Foundation, a nonprofit established after the death of its namesake. Manuel said community members can also help by going to The Jazz Loft’s website, www.thejazzloft.org, and clicking on the “Sensory Friendly Events” tab to sponsor an instrument to be used in the workshops.

Gillian Poole, whose 16-year-old son has autism, connected the Loft with the foundation, of which her father, Peter Allen, is executor. She had attended the venue’s Young at Heart performances with her mother who has dementia, and she appreciated the welcoming and inclusive environment.

“We thought it would be such a great way for my son and other children like him to listen to live music without being looked at or shushed,” Poole said. “Because he has his way, and other kids with autism all have their ways of enjoying and appreciating the things that they enjoy. It doesn’t always follow the norm of quiet and then clap at the end. They kind of express themselves when they’re excited and be loud and yell out and have trouble regulating their behaviors and noises.”

“We thought it would be such a great way for my son and other children like him to listen to live music without being looked at or shushed.”

— Gillian Poole

Manuel said there is a need for music and art programs for those with special needs in the community, especially for those who have aged out of public school. During the May 19 performance, the venue’s president and founder said musicians will play acoustic and softer than usual. The room will be darker than normal and a quiet room will be available downstairs if anyone feels overwhelmed and needs a break from the music. He said during the show audience members can walk around, stand by the musicians and dance at any point. He said not needing to conform like they would have to do at a usual performance could be a relief for parents and aides who sometimes feel that they have to restrain their child or patient.

The Jazz Loft had its first experience with a sensory-friendly show in November when the Nassau Suffolk chapter of the Autism Society of America hosted a sensory-friendly performance at the location featuring Loft musicians. Michele Iallonardi, assistant director with the society, said when NSASA organized the event she wasn’t sure at first how the children would react, but the kids enjoyed the music and parents were able to relax and talk to each other. She said she was happy to hear of The Jazz Loft’s plans, especially since all ages are included, as older children with special needs often have nowhere to go with many activities geared toward younger kids.

“It’s fulfilling a social need,” Iallonardi said. “It’s fulfilling just giving the kids a meaningful activity to do where most of our kids on a weekend are just home, they’re not doing anything. There just aren’t enough activities for them to do.”

“It’s fulfilling just giving the kids a meaningful activity to do where most of our kids on a weekend are just home, they’re not doing anything.”

— Michele Iallonardi

Laura Landor, director of education and community outreach at The Jazz Loft, said the upcoming performance will help the board figure out what the community needs as far as what types of workshops and at what frequency. She said the hope is to conduct group and one-on-one workshops.

“It’s not about what the Loft is going to do,” Landor said. “It’s about what we’re providing for our local community and family members that we think the services will be really beneficial for. It’s not going to be beneficial if the scheduling and services don’t meet their needs.”

Landor saw the success of sensor-friendly performances and workshops when she developed a program at Ward Melville High School more than 10 years ago. She said programs can include exploratory music, dancing and playing adaptive drums and hand chimes.

“My philosophy as a music educator is to open the doors to as many music lovers as possible,” Landor said.” “I don’t think music should be exclusive.”

Manuel said The Jazz Loft’s sensory-friendly services have been approved to be covered by major insurance plans. The May 19 performance is scheduled for 2 to 4 p.m. Tickets are $5 per person. The Jazz Loft is located at 275 Christian Ave., Stony Brook. For more information, call 631-751-1895 or visit www.thejazzloft.org.