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Melissa Arnold

Above, a painting of Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket by artist John Koch at a previous Wet Paint Festival. Photo courtesy of Gallery North

By Melissa Arnold

It’s been a tough season for the plethora of local events that have either been canceled, postponed or restructured. Thankfully, technology like livestreaming and video chat have made it possible for some events to go on as scheduled, albeit a bit differently.

For the past 16 years, the Wet Paint Festival has given Three Village residents and visitors an up close look at the creative process of local artists as they work. The event was founded to honor the memory of beloved Long Island painter Joe Reboli, who died in 2004.

But inviting artists and community members to gather for creative fun and conversation doesn’t exactly fit in this quarantined, socially distant time. So what to do?

It’s been a baptism by fire of sorts for Ned Puchner of Gallery North in Setauket, which has sponsored the event from its beginnings. Puchner, who became the gallery’s executive director in December, was looking forward to his first Wet Paint Festival. Now, he’s been called upon to dream up an alternative.

“It’s been one of those unique experiences where you get to know people really fast,” Puchner joked. “But I’ve also learned very quickly how much support there is here for the arts and the art community, even despite the pandemic and its challenges. It’s been very encouraging for me to see that outpouring.”

Originally founded by former Gallery North director Colleen Hanson and the Reboli family, the Wet Paint Festival invites artists from Long Island and beyond for a relaxed weekend of plein air (outdoor) painting. The artists paint at the same location from vantage points of their choosing, allowing each put their own spin on well-known scenes and landmarks.

In the past, the festival has been held at West Meadow Beach and the adjoining Old Field Farm, Frank Melville Memorial Park, the Stony Brook railroad, the Thompson House, and Avalon Park & Preserve, among other places.

This year’s event will celebrate each artist’s originality as Wet Paint goes virtual. Painting sessions will be either livestreamed online or pre-recorded from a location the artist selects, whether it’s their own backyard or a public spot. During each session, the artist will talk about their creative process and take questions from viewers, just as they would in person.

To accommodate for the new format, the artists will paint for an entire week, from July 18 through July 25. The completed artwork will then be on display on the Gallery North website throughout the month of August.

The virtual festival is the latest in Gallery North’s ongoing effort to provide engaging online experiences during the pandemic.

“We had the Wet Paint Festival completely planned and were starting to gather sponsors and registrants when we had to close the gallery on March 14. When we closed, we decided to postpone the event, not realizing how long we would be unable to function and be outside,” Puchner explained.

“As time went on, we took it as an opportunity to get creative not only with Wet Paint, but with everything we do,” he said. The gallery began to share daily art activities, host “virtual open studio” events, film screenings, lectures, and opportunities to give and receive feedback on work in progress. As the staff grew more comfortable with video chat platforms such as Zoom, they knew they had to find a way to present the Wet Paint Festival, too.

Angela Stratton of Selden has enjoyed painting at the festival for the past 15 years, and while she’ll miss the connection and camaraderie of the typical event, she’s excited to see what comes of the online version.

“I’m the kind of person that likes to be outside anyway, so getting to paint at the same time is really a double treasure,” said Stratton, an oil painter. “Of course, there can be issues with painting outdoors ­— the sun goes in and out, it can be windy, it can rain — but it gives you the real depth of color you just can’t get from a photo.”

Stratton is still up in the air about where she’ll be painting, but she enjoys the challenge provided by the Old Field lighthouse.

Annette Napolitano, a realist painter who works in both watercolor and oil, would normally go out once a week to paint with a group of friends. She’s participated in Wet Paint for several years now.

“The first time I did the festival, I was so excited to be with the other artists, all of us working in the same place. The world is so big, and it can be a challenge to grab just a piece of it,” said Napolitano, of Rocky Point.

“I think bringing the festival online is a good solution because it’s like a pop-up event — people can come and go as they please. It’s also nice that we have a whole week to work, and it’s going to be fun to see people share their work from different parts of Long Island,” she said.

Puchner hopes that the event will inspire creativity not only in the participating artists, but people at home as well.

“At the center of the arts is expression. Everyone has had different experiences during the pandemic, but it has been significant for all of us,” he said. “There’s a fundamental need to discuss how we’re feeling, and the arts are a safe space for expression of all kinds.”

Livestreamed and recorded artist visits will be available for public viewing the week of July 27 at www.gallerynorth.org. Then, all completed works will be on the site for viewing and purchase throughout the month of August, with commissions split equally between the artist and the gallery. A virtual reception will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Aug. 8 via Zoom; registration is free but required.

For further information, visit www.gallerynorth.org or call 631-751-2676.

*Article from TBR News Media’s Summer Times 2020, free on newstands today.

Reviewed by Melissa Arnold

Author Tara Drouin

For the past several weeks, a national conversation about racism and discrimination has reached a fever pitch. Protests are happening from coast to coast, social media is buzzing, and statues are being taken down.

As a musician, teacher and parent, Tara Drouin has always tried to instill young people with good values, among them respect, inclusivity, and celebrating the things that make us different and unique. Several years ago, Drouin’s band iRideSense (pronounced “iridescence”) wrote a song called “One Heart” that shares those messages. Not long after, she published a book for children, also titled One Heart.

Now more than ever, the message of “One Heart” — both on the page and in the fun, upbeat tune — is needed in our world. The book is easy enough for young readers to try alone, and can be used as a lighthearted, positive conversation starter about these important issues. Tara Drouin is also available to lead 45-minute lessons on diversity for students either in-person or virtually. Teachers can hire her via the Nassau County BOCES system. 

Are you from Long Island?

When I was very young, I lived in Far Rockaway, and then we moved to Merrick when I was about 12.

Were you a musical child? Do you come from a musical family?

Yes! My mom would play guitar around the house. She was really into Joni Mitchell and a lot of classic rock — The Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, Led Zeppelin — all of those were played at home. I took guitar lessons when I was around 12, but it didn’t really stick in the beginning. My younger brother really took to it, though, and he was writing songs at 16 years old. It wasn’t until I started playing bass that I really found my instrument. 

What did you pursue in school, and what did you end up doing for a career?

When I first started college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I got a degree in liberal arts from Nassau County Community College. I was taking a music class, as well as a lot of English and poetry classes. 

I worked in the fashion industry for many years, but music was always a serious pursuit. Songwriting came easily to me. I would use music as an outlet for my feelings and expressing the way I live life. It’s my therapy. A lot of the songs I write are the things I need to tell myself. 

Tara Drouin

Tell me a bit about your band, iRideSense. 

I’ve been playing in iRideSense since my early 20s — we’ve been together since 1993. I’m now married to the drummer, and my brother is a part of the band as well. When I first started school at Nassau County Community College, I met Rob Viccari, who became our guitar player, and my husband Rich auditioned for us. He was the last piece of the puzzle. Some of our songs ended up being licensed to Nickelodeon, which was really cool. We released a couple albums and got to do a cross-country tour, so it’s been a crazy ride. 

You’re also a teacher, correct?

I am. I went back to school to become a teacher when I was in my 30s. I had always thought about teaching and I knew I wanted to make a difference in the world with music. The band was moderately successful, but I did want another career, and my husband encouraged me to go back to school. I got a bachelor’s in English and my master’s in education for grades 1 through 6 from Queens College. I’ve been teaching for 12 years now in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island. 

What came first, the idea for the book One Heart or the song?

The song came first. I’ve had a diverse population in all my classrooms  my students have been Dominican, Haitian, Asian, Jewish, and from many other backgrounds. I saw a need for children to learn that while, yes, we might all look different and have different experiences, on the inside, we have the same heart. We’re all human. 

I wanted to write an upbeat song that would bring people together and share that message of unity. It’s a bit of a departure from our normal pop-rock sound — “One Heart” is more folk-based, and I had my daughter and nephew sing on the chorus. We released the song on the International Day of Peace, Sept. 21, in 2016.

What inspired you to write this story?

I could always picture images to go along with the lyrics of the song. I really saw it turning into a book. 

How did you go about publishing the book?

I self-published. At first I didn’t know that was possible, and I put a lot of time into researching and sending query letters to publishers. I read that the process was competitive. But then a friend said to me, “You know you can self-publish, right?” I had no idea. I ended up going with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, where each book is printed on demand instead of in mass quantities. It works really well for me. 

Is there a target age group?

I think it would be a good fit for kids in pre-K through 5th grade

Who is the illustrator and how did you find her?

I met a really nice art teacher working in the Bethpage School District named Nancy Noskewicz, and she also loved the idea of the book, so she offered to illustrate it for me and we began to collaborate. She had never illustrated a book before, and it had been a long time since she’d done artwork for herself, outside of the school setting, so she was really excited. I loved the creativity she brought to the illustrations.

Have you gotten feedback on the book since it was written?

Yes, I got some great feedback and sold a bunch of copies. A friend of mine put the book images together with the song track on YouTube, which went over really well, too. I also got to do an interview on The Donna Drake Show. 

What message do you hope kids will come away with after reading your book?

This book teaches kids about unity and kindness in a way that’s easy to understand. No one should be judged by the color of their skin, but rather the kind of person that they are. In light of everything that has happened with race relations in America, most recently with George Floyd, I feel a responsibility as a mom, a teacher and a musician to speak out against this systemic racism. 

We cannot change the past but we must change our future. Our children need to be taught that acceptance, kindness, unity and love are all important to making this work. Our lives are all intertwined. As the book says, “When voices come together there’s nothing better! Inside everybody’s got One Heart!” I do believe we are all alike more than we are different. 

What’s next for you? Have you written any other books?

Before the pandemic started, we were getting ready to go back into the studio to record some new songs with the band. We haven’t put out an album since 2015. We just got the green light to come in whenever we’re ready, so that’s exciting. I also have two children’s book ideas in the works — one is about my parent’s house in the Catskills, called Red Rock Road, and the other is based on a lullaby.

“One Heart” is available to purchase at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. To keep up on what’s new with One Heart, follow @1heartofficial on Instagram. The song “One Heart” is available wherever you stream music, and a free download is available at www.iridesense.com.

 

Author Kristin McGlothlin. Photo by Ron White
Novel for kids 8 to 12 explores art, growing pains, and Long Island native Walt Whitman

Reviewed by Melissa Arnold

Author Kristin McGlothlin. Photo by Ron White

Kristin McGlothlin’s greatest passions are art and writing, and as a longtime art historian, she was able to enjoy the best of both worlds. But the desire for something more continued to tug on McGlothlin’s heart, and she ultimately left museum work behind to pursue a writing career.

Her debut novel for middle-schoolers, Drawing with Whitman, is the first in a collection called Sourland Mountain Books. Inspired by a rural, mountainous region in central New Jersey, the books explore art, music, family dynamics and coming of age through the eyes of the neighborhood kids.  

Drawing with Whitman finds 13-year-old Catalynd Jewett Hamilton on a journey of recovery after a car accident leaves her badly injured and her mother battling depression. She finds solace in art and literature, encouraged along the way by the kind neighborhood painter, Benton Whitman — a descendant of Huntington native Walt Whitman. 

What was your childhood like? Were you interested in writing early on?

I was born in Detroit, and then we moved to Toledo, Ohio — we stayed there until I was in high school, and then we ended up in Jacksonville, Florida. I’m an only child, so I’ve always enjoyed being by myself. 

I loved both art and writing from a young age. Art was a huge part of my life — Detroit has an incredible art museum — and I loved to write letters to pen pals and friends. As a preteen, I got to take art classes in Toledo and spend time at their art museum as well. I grew up in a standard suburban neighborhood, but we also had a cottage near Lake George in Michigan. I loved to explore in the woods and go swimming in the lake.

It was around the age of 13 that I really felt that writing was what I wanted to do. I even came up with two of the characters from a later book in the Sourland Mountain series at that time. 

What was your favorite book as a child?

My favorite book was From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg.

Did you go to college? What did you end up doing for work?

I did my undergrad at the University of Delaware. They have an amazing art history program there, and my mom suggested I would enjoy it because it combined both writing and art. I learned so much from the Northeast, getting to visit museums in D.C., Philadelphia, and New York.  

After graduation in 1992, I moved back down to Florida and got a job as the assistant curator of education at the Norton Museum of Art. I learned a lot, and I’m so glad I went on that journey, but after a while I realized it wasn’t where I wanted to be. The desire to pursue writing was still there. I ended up going back to school at Florida Atlantic University and got my master’s in English literature in 2013.

How did you start writing professionally? Was it hard to take that step? 

I had a strong belief in myself, and I really wanted to introduce kids to art through writing, so I left the museum and began writing full-time. I went to a lot of writers’ conferences to learn everything I could about the profession.

Why did you decide to write a middle- grade novel? 

When I first started working on the book, I actually wrote for a general audience. But as I began to formulate Cat’s character, and the ins and outs of being 13, I was really drawn to that age. You’re not in high school yet, and a lot of people that age still have a more childlike curiosity. It’s an interesting time. The stories I want to tell don’t have any violence or sex, so that also fits in well with middle-grade readers. 

When did you first come up with the idea for the Sourland Mountain series? What inspired it?

Sourland Mountain is a real place in central New Jersey — my parents moved there around the time I went to college. It started with the idea of incorporating art lessons into a narrative. I

In graduate school, I took a class on Walt Whitman and read a lot of his work. There’s a book of his called “The Wound Dresser,” a collection of journal entries and incredible letters written to his family that I really enjoyed, and I wanted to find a way to incorporate him into the book somehow. 

He was a great patriot and his work is still relevant today, and I want to share that with kids to hopefully inspire them. So that’s how I developed Benton Whitman, a landscape painter who is a descendant of Walt Whitman.

Your characters have very unique names. How did you decide on them? 

It’s funny, because Cat’s name is Catalynd Jewett Hamilton, but then her brother is named Buddy! I sat down and started playing with names, and for Cat it started with the name Caitin, and the word “catalyst.” Jewett comes from a favorite author of mine from the late 1800s, Sarah Orne Jewett, and Hamilton is honestly for the Broadway musical. I saw a commercial on TV and it just fit!

As for Benton, he gets his name from the American painter Thomas Hart Benton, and of course his ancestor, Walt Whitman.

This book deals with a lot of tough issues. Why did you decide to write about injury, depression, and loneliness? 

It feels like an act of service to address the tough things that kids can go through. When I was researching the kind of books that were out there for middle grades, I had trouble finding books that featured a parent living with depression. It can be hard for kids to understand what’s going on when someone they love has a mental health issue, and I wanted to write something that made them feel understood and supported. For Cat, who is in casts and a wheelchair after an accident, she finds that art is an outlet for her to figure things out and make sense of her experiences.

Is this your first book? 

I wrote a picture book called “Andy’s Snowball Story” about the contemporary artist Andy Goldsworthy. But this is my first chapter book, and my first book for middle grades. 

How did you go about getting published? 

It’s incredibly difficult to get an agent, especially as an unknown author who’s never been published before. Self-publishing has gained a lot of respect in recent years, and I knew I wanted to publish my first book quickly, in time for Walt Whitman’s 100th birthday. I found an amazing self-publishing company called Girl Friday, and they helped me put the book together and connected me with the cover illustrator, Kristina Swarner, who did a beautiful job.

Working with Kristina was such a cool experience. I had an idea of what I wanted — to have a mountain and a barn in the background, and for Cat to look a certain way. Even the most basic pencil sketch she sent me was so sweet and detailed. There were very few changes in the final version. I was really happy.

What message do you hope kids take away from the book? 

I want them to know that, sometimes, there’s a lot that can happen to a family unit, and that they don’t have to go through difficult times alone. It’s important to express what you’re going through in a healthy way, whether that’s through therapy or talking to a trusted adult.  

What’s next for you? 

I’m working on the next book in the Sourland Mountain series, called “Listen.” The main character is Cat’s next-door neighbor, Gwilym Duckworthy, a 13-year-old boy who loves jazz music and plays the trumpet. His mother left the family behind to pursue a career in music when he was very small, and now she’s returned. There will eventually be a total of four books in the series.

The recipient of the 2019 Moonbeam Silver Medal Award for Pre-Teen Fiction, Drawing with Whitman is available online at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and Target.com. Keep up with Kristin McGlothlin at her website, www.sourlandmountainbooks.com, and on Instagram @McGlothlinKristin for updates and live readings.

Hog Wild
A visual and virtual feast for the eyes opens in Huntington

By Melissa Arnold

As the Heckscher Museum of Art marks 100 years since its founding this year, they have taken time to explore both the past and future through art.

Over the next few months, the Huntington museum will exhibit the work of contemporary abstract artist Amanda Valdez, whose deep appreciation for art history, beauty and feminism have led her to a unique and interesting style. While Valdez has an extensive commercial exhibition history from coast to coast, this will be just the second time she’s exhibited a range of paintings from various points in her career.

log punch

“I came to art as a teenager by the grace of an amazing high school art teacher. I had the false assumption that artists were the kids who draw naturally and render everything they could see to everyone’s astonishment,” said Valdez, 37, of New York City. “My teacher exposed me to the concept that art could be learned — that I had a creative pulse — so if I worked hard I could make something with that pulse.”  

The exhibit, titled Amanda Valdez: Piecework, is aptly named for the way the artist creates complex works of art with a variety of techniques, including embroidery, sewing and painting.

“While we think of a painting as putting paint on a canvas, [Amanda] reminds us that canvas is, in fact, cloth. She hand-dyes other types of cloth and sews them to the canvas to create her works of art,” explained Karli Wurzelbacher, curator at the Heckscher Museum. “The different types of media she combines are very interesting. For example, embroidery is very feminine — she likes to celebrate feminine things. But while embroidered fabrics are usually delicate, she works with thick, heavy layers. She also hand-dyes her own fabric. She even lent the museum her dye notebook, where she keeps track of how she achieves certain colors.”

Amanda Valdez

Wurzelbacher said she’s been aware of Valdez for about 10 years — they both studied at CUNY’s Hunter College, albeit in different programs. Wurzelbacher always found Valdez’s work beautiful and interesting, and thought that she would be a good fit for this historic milestone at the museum.

“We’re dedicating a lot of time to looking back through our history and where the museum has been, as well as looking forward into the next 100 years,” the curator explained. “Amanda is a contemporary artist in the middle of her career. Part of her practice is looking back at art history and then making something new out of that. She also celebrates the traditional ways that women have made things — textiles, embroidery, sewing, dye, quilting — while also tapping into modernist history and ideas. She marries those two traditions and brings them into dialogue with each other.”

Valdez said she enjoys abstract art for its ability to portray aspects of humanity without having to assign elements of age, gender or nationality in a painting. “Human history is endlessly inspiring to me. I find moments of interest, such as Islamic patterning, women’s history as told through fiber objects, or pagan iconography in Renaissance art, and I spend time researching these moments and movements, and slowly let it seep into my work. I love thinking about all the things all the humans have made with their hands over time,” she said.  

Nine Patch Tanit

The exhibit features a total of 19 paintings chronicling Valdez’s career from 2013 through 2019. She has also included one pencil sketch to show a bit of the preparation and brainstorming behind her artistic process.

The included paintings show an evolution in style over time, Wurzelbacher said. “Diamond Pressure,” a piece from 2013, has minimal embroidery and features bleeding, blending acrylic paints. Later pieces include more complex embroidery or the use of oil sticks, which can be handheld like pastels for a more immediate mark.

The unique exhibit will be on display at the same time as the Long Island’s Best exhibit, a juried collection of art from 100 high school students from Nassau and Suffolk Counties with impressive artistic talent. Wurzelbacher said she believes the young artists and their loved ones will appreciate sharing space with Valdez as a relatable contemporary and possible inspiration.

“This is the first time Amanda’s work is being made accessible right here in our community, and while it’s beautiful to see in print and online, it’s even more impressive viewed in person,” Wurzelbacher said. “You’ll get to see the incredible detail, colors, layers and textures in each piece. It’s special.”

The first recipe will be Spaghetti and Meatballs inspired by the iconic scene from 'Lady and the Tramp'. Image courtesy of Disney

By Melissa Arnold

With non-essential businesses closed and restaurants limited to take-out and delivery only, many of Long Island’s popular hangouts have gone dark.

The Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington might not be able to show films or hold special events right now, but that’s not stopping them from finding creative ways to bring people together in the comfort of their own homes.

Their newest initiative, “Forks and Films,” invites viewers to open a bottle of wine and settle down for a family-friendly movie, then head to the kitchen to prepare a quick and simple recipe that connects to the film. 

The weekly series will be hosted by Jacqueline Strayer, who will introduce the movie and share some fun facts, and Chef Martin Butera, who will prepare the recipes. Strayer will also showcase viewer’s stories, photos and videos in each subsequent episode. 

While the CAC doesn’t have the rights to stream the films over the Internet, their selections are all readily available on popular streaming services such as Disney Plus. All of the streaming services offer free trials for new subscribers and can be canceled anytime.

Strayer, a professor at New York University and Columbia University, and Butera, owner of Butera’s Restaurant in Sayville and Woodbury, are both on the CAC’s Board of Directors.

“In 2013, I came up with the idea of showing a film at the center and then cooking some of the foods from the movie,” said Butera, who’s been on the board for 10 years. “It was very successful, and we held a similar event a few years later. I was working on putting another one together not too long before the pandemic.”

As shutdowns rolled through the Empire State last month, Strayer started brainstorming ways they could continue to reach people in the community, including more than CAC 10,000 members and tens of thousands more who visit the theater.“When I realized people were going to be remote, I sent a note to Martin and said, ‘Remember how you always wanted to do another dinner and a movie event? Well, maybe now is the time,” she recalled.

Every Thursday, the CAC will upload the “Forks and Films” video for families to watch and rewatch at their convenience, removing the need for everyone to be available at the same time. It’s a low-key, laid back experience that the staff and board hopes will have a broad appeal to all kinds of people while providing some badly-needed distraction.

“The cinema is a very community-focused organization, and we have personal connections with many of our patrons that we’ve come to view as family,” said Nate Close, CAC director of marketing and communications. “[Before the pandemic] there were some people who were here every single day, watching films, giving us feedback, just wanting to chat. We still want to be there for everyone.”

Butera will be filming from his kitchen, while Strayer will be welcoming viewers to her basement. “Is it going to be perfect? No. We’re not professional television people and we don’t have fancy equipment. But we want to give people a little bit of joy in a time that’s so difficult for all of us,” Strayer said.

Of course, it takes a team effort to spread the word about any event, and “Forks and Films” is no exception. Strayer has enlisted the help of enthusiastic graduate students in her Public Relations and Corporate Communications and Integrated Marketing programs at NYU to promote the event. A group of seven students volunteered to help without any academic incentives, even as they complete coursework remotely.

“I was amazed at how quickly they jumped in and how hard they’re working. We meet over [the video chatting platform] Zoom every few days,” Strayer said. “They’ve been highly engaged and have wonderful ideas to share. And none of them are from New York. I feel so fortunate to have talented students from all over the world.

For Butera, “Forks and Films” will be another way to share his love of cooking with the world.

“I’ve always had a passion and affinity for food as well as an appreciation for film,” he explained. “My wife and I have been members of the CAC for 25 years. The center has been a great place for us to see foreign and independent films … but it’s also been a wonderful place for people to grab a cup of coffee and share their ideas and experiences with a film. It’s a community, and you can’t get that by watching Netflix.”

The first episode, which kicks off tonight, April 9, at 6 p.m., will encourage viewers to watch a beloved Disney classic, Lady and the Tramp. Released in 1955, the animated film follows the blossoming romance between Lady, a lovely Cocker Spaniel from an upper class family, and a scruffy stray mutt named Tramp.

One of the most iconic scenes from the film finds Lady and Tramp sharing a big plate of spaghetti and meatballs by candlelight in the back alley of Tony’s Italian Restaurant while Tony serenades them with the love song “Bella Notte.” Appropriately, Butera will demonstrate how to make his famous chicken meatballs on “Forks and Films.” The episode’s title? “Sunny with a Chance of Meatballs.” 

The chef is planning on recreating the classic French stew ratatouille during the April 16 episode to compliment the 2007 Disney Pixar animated film of the same name. The ingredients for each featured dish will be posted on social media a week in advance of each episode,

“I wanted to choose recipes that weren’t too hard to make, but a bit more challenging than just opening a can. Ideally they’ll have all or most of the ingredients at home already, and we’ll release the ingredients list ahead of time,” Butera said. “Cooking has a way of grounding people, of connecting them to good memories and feelings, which we think will be good for everyone.”

“Forks and Films” will be uploaded each Thursday on Facebook.com/CinemaArtsCentre, and on YouTube.com — search for Cinema Arts Centre Huntington. 

For other remote opportunities from the Cinema Arts Centre, including staff-curated film recommendations and the opportunity to rent films at home, visit www.cinemaartscentre.org.

To better prepare you for following along as Chef Martin recreates the classic meatballs from Lady and the Tramp, here is the ingredient list:

●  2 pounds ground chicken or ground chop meat

●  2 large fresh eggs

●  1 small onion, diced

●  1 large garlic clove, minced

●  1 ½ cup water

●  1 ¼ cup plain dried bread crumbs

●  ½ cup fresh chopped parsley

●  ½ cup freshly grated Romano cheese

●  1 teaspoon salt

●  ¼ teaspoon black pepper

●  ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

 

By Melissa Arnold

As most businesses come to a standstill to aid in social distancing, many people are looking for ways to help their neighbors and community. While there’s plenty to do for one another, local wildlife organizations have their own plea: Don’t forget the animals.

It’s a tough time for places like the Save the Animals Rescue (STAR) Foundation in Middle Island, a non-profit which rescues and rehabilitates a wide variety of injured wildlife. They also provide a place of sanctuary for those animals not well enough to return to their natural habitats.

Photo courtesy of STAR Foundation

“We rescue those unusual pets that people have abandoned, birds and reptiles, guinea pigs, rabbits, and we’ve been doing this for 25 years,” said STAR Foundation co-director Lori Ketcham. “We are 100 percent reliant on volunteers, and have no paid staff or municipal support. [Normally] about 30 hands-on volunteers assist with rescues, provide animal care, clean cages, help with transport and do whatever else we need help with.”

The STAR Foundation has a long-standing relationship with the Animal Emergency Service clinic in Selden. Temporary limits on staffing and social distancing measures have added additional pressure to the clinic, and for now, STAR is no longer able to send animals to them for immediate care.

“They’re short on equipment and supplies, and what can they do? We [in the animal care field] need gloves and masks just like every other profession, and when those things are gone, they’re gone,” Ketcham said. “And while we’d happily welcome vets who are willing to provide care, not every vet is certified to work with wild animals, so we can’t turn to just anyone.”

The warmest months of the year are also the busiest times for animal rescue organizations, between the arrival of new baby animals and those that sustain injuries while out and about. STAR cares for about 150 animals at a time — currently they’re bottle-feeding baby squirrels and rabbits, caring for woodchucks and all kinds of birds, from quail to great horned owls, and small exotic pets with nowhere to go thanks to suspended adoptions.

While the foundation is keeping a skeleton crew of two to three people on-site, sanitizing regularly and staying separated as much as possible, each new person that enters the building resets that process and introduces new risks, Ketcham explained.

At Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown, they have the same concerns. 

“It’s certainly a big challenge for us — since we’ve been closed to the public, we have only one or two people coming in to work,” said Sweetbriar’s education director Eric Young. “Volunteers have taken some of the animals home for care, but that’s only temporary.”

Photo courtesy of Sweetbriar Nature Center

The center is home to countless animals of all kinds, from bustling ant colonies and hissing cockroaches to box turtles and groundhogs, the occasional goats and foxes, to name a few. Young estimates there are around 50 different kinds of animals on site. At the moment, its on-site Wildlife Rehabilitation Center is caring for several owls and rabbits, a hawk that suffered a gunshot wound, gulls and Canada geese, among others. 

As education director, Young said he’s feeling the loss of the many students who visit the center at this time of year. Sweetbriar interacts with thousands of students annually, including in-school presentations and class field trips.

Now, with schools closed and students adjusting to digital learning in varied forms, Young is trying to find creative ways to bring the animals online.

“We’re thinking about sharing our animal presentations on YouTube, and I’m in the process of putting together resources to share with teachers,” he said. 

At this point, Director of Wildlife Rehabilitation Janine Bendicksen is simply hoping for a quick end to the pandemic so that they can ensure the wellbeing of the staff.

“The Town of Smithtown covers our utilities and major repairs, but we still depend on financial support to pay the salaries of our staff, care for the animals and purchase formula, medicine and food,” Bendicksen said. “Our greatest need right now is to continue to support our staff.”

Ketcham echoed the need for continued donations in these difficult times. 

“We plan our fundraisers well in advance, and without doing five or six fundraisers a year, we’re not going to make it,” she said. “We don’t know what events we will be able to hold. Everything is up in the air right now. It costs about $8,000 a month to keep the center going, and donations have slowed to a trickle.  We have utility bills and insurances, cleaning, food and medical supply bills, no matter what else is going on. Without programs or fundraisers, it will become critical in no time.”

Both the STAR Foundation and Sweetbriar Nature Center are encouraging those who wish to support them with donations to send money only at this time — please protect the staff and do not bring supplies to their physical locations.

To donate to the Save the Animals Rescue (STAR) Foundation, visit www.savetheanimalsrescue.org. Call 631-736-8207 for urgent assistance with wildlife.

To donate to Sweetbriar Nature Center, visit www.sweetbriarnc.org. For those who find an injured wild animal, call 631-979-6344 and leave a message.” All our phone calls go directly to an answering machine that we check each day, we will call them back and give advice. We will accept wildlife if possible,” said Bendicksen.

You can also visit the Department of Environmental Conservation website at www.dec.ny.gov and search for “wildlife rehabilitator near me” to connect with other rescue organizations in your area.

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Ketogenic Diet
Making sense of the latest health trends

By Melissa Arnold

Low fat or full fat? Splenda, stevia or cane sugar? Three large meals or six small ones? New schools of thought and trends surrounding healthy eating are cropping up all the time, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or confused, especially when the advice is conflicting. 

Whether you’ve been using a particular weight loss plan with accurate information is key. Dr. Konstantinos Spaniolas, Associate Director of the Stony Brook Medicine Bariatric and Metabolic Weight Loss Center, has given us his take on three of the most popular diet trends, the Ketogenic Diet, Clean Eating and Intermittent Fasting.

The Ketogenic Diet 

(also known as keto)

The basics: The keto diet uses the body’s metabolic processes to its advantage. In keto, carbs are drastically limited, which lowers glucose and insulin levels. Without glucose to use as its typical fuel, the body enters a state called ketosis, where fat is burned almost exclusively. Lots of unsaturated (healthy) fats, dairy products and moderate amounts of protein are central to going keto. Say goodbye to carbs and sugar, not only in forms like bread and pasta, but also in most fruits and some vegetables.

What it’s like: Tom Walheim, Sr., a 56-year-old engineer from Mullica Hill, N.J., started to search for a diet plan in 2018 when he acknowledged he wasn’t feeling as good as he did when he was younger. After trying other diets, he chose keto because it was easy to implement and would fit in well with his lifestyle. All three of Walheim’s children have celiac disease, so their home was already gluten free.

“Having already eliminated carbs, I had already separated myself from the things that would be tough for a lot of people to give up,” Walheim said. The first 15 pounds came off quickly, and within about six months he’d lost 40 pounds. Ultimately, Walheim has maintained a ketogenic diet for more than two years and plans to continue. 

“I love to grill, and I’ve rediscovered cooking through learning different keto recipes, like Instant Pot chili. And I’ve never felt deprived — I will occasionally have a cheat day when celebrating a special occasion with my family. For example, I enjoyed the cake at my daughter’s wedding this fall.”

Pros: Weight loss can be significant and quick, especially early on. Lovers of fatty foods can enjoy plenty of their favorites — keto is sometimes nicknamed the “butter and bacon diet.”

Cons: It takes time for the body to adjust to going keto, and you may feel moody, groggy, constipated or just unwell. The body can rebel when you begin to transition off of keto as well, causing gastrointestinal issues and even weight gain.

Dr. Spaniolas’ take: “In the keto diet, there’s an introductory week that is very low calorie, and that can be a problem for some people. With any diet that restricts certain foods, you can expect a period of adjustment, but most people tolerate it well. It’s important to stay well-hydrated to minimize risk of constipation and boost your overall wellbeing.

Clean Eating 
Paleo Diet

(also known as the Paleo Diet or Whole30, among others)

The basics: Generally speaking, eating clean is about sticking to foods that are in their natural, whole or unprocessed form. According to the Paleo Diet’s official website, this healthy eating strategy emphasizes foods eaten by our hunter-gatherer ancestors. That means lots of veggies, fruits, meat, eggs and some fats and oils are in, whole grains, dairy, processed foods and refined sugars are out. Different plans will vary their lists of acceptable foods.

What it’s like: As a captain in the U.S. Air Force, Gemma Fiduk works hard to ensure she remains healthy and fit. When it comes to dieting, she takes a balanced approach of eating well-rounded, nutritious meals along with occasional treats.

“In 2015, I was stationed in Little Rock, Arkansas. I was a physical training officer at the time, so I was trying to take a lot of courses on fitness and nutrition to better support my airmen,” said Fiduk, who’s now stationed in Fairborn, Ohio. “The gym on base offered a lot of different seminars and workshops, and one of them was about Whole30.”

Armed with information from the seminar and the official Whole30 book by Melissa Hartwig Urban, Fiduk said she was excited to give the program a try. 

“The program doesn’t hide that it takes discipline, but they prepare you well for the experience and I love a good challenge. Besides, it’s only 30 days,” she said. “I came away with a better understanding of my own body and the foods that were and weren’t best for me.”

While she didn’t weigh herself after completing Whole30, Fiduk noted a definite reduction in bloating and positive changes in her figure. After the initial cravings passed, she loved the sense of physical wellbeing and accomplishment that came along with cooking at home.

She admits that it can be easy to fall into eating the same meals repetitively or feeling bored with the menu, but said it’s easy to find a wealth of clean recipes online for those willing to look. The Whole30 website offers meal planning and grocery delivery services for a fee.

Pros: In the case of Whole30, the diet has a defined start and end date.

Cons: Lots of advance planning and shopping is required, and finding compliant ingredients or condiments can be tricky in regular grocery stores.

Dr. Spaniolas’ take: “The idea with clean eating is to take yourself back to the most basic nutrients. It’s less about weight loss than it is about overall wellbeing, and in the case of Whole30, it’s not meant to be a forever plan — you take it on for a set period of time and then return to eating normally.

Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent Fasting

(Also known as intermittent energy restriction)

The basics: Fasting is as simple as it sounds — not eating anything for a set period of time. By restricting the time spent eating, the body is said to better regulate blood sugar and increase the ability to burn fat. Options abound with fasting, including daily fasts of 12 to 20 hours, restricting eating hours only on certain days, or not eating at all for one or two days each week. During eating periods, a normal diet is consumed — calories are not restricted.

Pros: You can eat whatever you want — there are no forbidden foods. Fasting requires little preparation and can be started and stopped as your lifestyle requires.

Cons: Getting used to hunger pangs can be tough, and social situations might be hard to deal with if you’re the only one not eating.

What it’s like: Jeena Rudy, 26, of Setauket, was a college athlete and swim coach in her native California before becoming a missionary three years ago. She admitted her work with college students can make it too easy to make unhealthy food choices or overeat.

“One of my brothers is two years older than I am, and a few years ago he mentioned that his cholesterol was too high,” Rudy said. “I started to gain a little weight once I wasn’t swimming 40 hours a week, and I didn’t want to end up developing health issues. That conversation really motivated me to try intermittent fasting.”

Rudy fasted daily for 16 to 20 hours over a period of several months. She ultimately lost some weight and said she became more mindful about what she was eating.

“Fasting changed the way I think about food. I learned more about what foods help me to feel my best, too. Like right now I need to eat breakfast and could just grab a bagel, but making eggs would be a better, healthier option for me. I’m planning to take up fasting again in the future.”

Dr. Spaniolas’ take: “Again, staying hydrated will help you in fasting because it can quell hunger pains by keeping something in your stomach. I tell people to aim for at least 64 ounces a day, and if they can get closer to 100 ounces, that’s even better. Very low caloric plans, where people consume 600 calories a day for extended periods of time, should only be done under medical supervision, especially if you have health issues.

The best dietary plan is the one that works well for you. But just because a particular plan works well for one person doesn’t mean it will be the right one for someone else. For some people, giving up carbohydrates is easy, while others can’t give up fruits or go longer periods without eating. It’s about finding what fits best with your preferences, habits and lifestyle, and ultimately whether or not you can stick with it. 

Try something out for a week or two and see how you like it, but don’t combine diets. For some, dieting isn’t the best way to lose weight. If you’re having difficulty losing weight on your own, checking in with a physician to consider more targeted options can help. Remember to stay active as well, aiming for at least 10,000 steps a day or 30 minutes of exercise several times a week.” 

Remember to talk with your doctor before making any significant changes to your diet or exercise routine.

 

'Hope and Freckles'
Retired police officer encourages empathy for refugees in powerful first book

Reviewed by Melissa Arnold

Author Bill Kiley

Every year, tens of thousands of people from around the world flee their homes. They have any number of motivations, among them political turmoil, threat of violence, discrimination and climate change, to name a few. 

Retired police officer Bill Kiley has deep compassion for asylum seekers of all kinds, and recently felt a strong desire to help them in some way. Kiley, 71, of East Northport, hopes that educating children about the plight of refugees can bring about a more supportive, empathetic culture in the next generation. 

His new book, “Hope and Freckles: Fleeing to a New Forest” tells the story of a white-tailed deer named Hope and her spotted fawn, Freckles, as they attempt to escape the growing number of hunters in their forest and go in search of a place where they will be safe. The sharply written story and whimsical, beautifully-illustrated characters will stir the hearts of children and adults alike.

What was your childhood like? 

I was raised in Brooklyn, lived in Queens after I got married, and came to this area when I started working for the Suffolk County Police Department years ago.

Were you creative from an early age?

I wasn’t creative at all. I’m one of nine children, and we lived in an apartment with one bathroom, so you can imagine what that was like! We played a lot of sports with our friends, and I started working during the summers when I was 11 to help contribute to the family.

What did you end up doing for a career?

After high school, I spent a couple of years working at the FBI as a clerk while I went to college at what is now John Jay College at night. My initial plan was to become an agent. Simultaneously, when I was 17 I joined the Army National Guard. I went away for six months of training right after my 18th birthday, and continued to go for additional training at other points which meant some breaks from school. I ultimately began working for the Suffolk County Police Department in 1972.

You must have met a lot of people from diverse backgrounds, then.

Of course. That was part of my motivation for writing this book. I wanted to shine a light on the struggles of refugees and asylum seekers all over the world. After 30 years in law enforcement and serving as an Army reservist, I recognize that this crisis threatens free democracy if it’s not dealt with. If we don’t step up, then our children and grandchildren will be left to deal with the global implications of people being pushed out of their countries and living in tent cities. Something needs to change.

When did you first start writing? 

In retirement, I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of babysitting for my granddaughters. We’re a few blocks away from a local library, and so when the kids were with me we’d sometimes go down to the library and head to the children’s section. I began reading to them, and then as they grew I’d read along with them. At that point I began to see the incredible power that children’s books have on young minds. All the while, I’d been looking for a way to help with the refugee crisis, and I began to think that maybe I could help young children understand what’s happening and have some positive influence on the future. I never had any ambitions to become an author.

How did you learn about publishing and sharpen your writing skills?

I read a lot with my grandkids. But in the spring of 2019, I found out about an annual convention in New York City called Book Expo at the Javits Center. I spent three days there. For me, it was a three-day immersive educational experience. I had the opportunity to meet lots of people from every aspect of the writing and publishing world, including some very generous folks who were authors of children’s books. They spent a lot of time sharing their experiences and advice with me, and then I went home and continued to read and learn as much as I could. 

‘Hope and Freckles’

How did your family react when you told them you wanted to write a book?

Well, my wife, Kathy, and I were in school together since the first grade. We go back that far. And no one in my life has been as supportive of their spouse in life as my wife has been for me. In everything I’ve ever tried, she’s been there, and this was just another one of those things.

My granddaughters have been involved in this project from the get-go. They gave great feedback and I’ve had the chance to share the book with their classmates, too.

Is there a reason why you chose to make the characters animals instead of people?

I thought that since this is such a sensitive subject to explain to children, it would be less upsetting to use animals. The national animal of Honduras is the white-tailed deer, and as many refugees come from that area, I thought it was an appropriate choice.

How did you go about getting published?

I met a number of people from traditional publishing companies, independent publishers and hybrids. One of them was a man who recommended his publisher, Mascot Books in Herndon, Virginia. I submitted my manuscript and was happy to learn that they were going to accept it.

What about the illustrations?

I contacted freelancers all over the world, and Mary Manning’s work is so unique and beautiful. I’m so happy with what she’s done for the book. Once the manuscript was finalized, Mary broke the manuscript into logical scene breaks, then made pencil sketches for me to approve. She took it from there. To see the final copy was like holding my children and grandchildren for the first time. There was a feeling of, “Oh my gosh, we just gave birth to a book!”

This book also includes vocabulary words and questions for discussion. Why did you choose to add those?

As I was researching and reading different children’s books, I found a couple that had some variation of continuing discussion. My hope is that this book isn’t just read by 7 to 10 year olds, but that their families will read along with them and share in the experience and conversations that can happen afterward. A parent or other adult might feel ill-equipped to start a discussion on their own, so I thought having some starter questions might be helpful.

What do you want children to take away from reading this book?

The response from the classes I’ve read to so far has been wonderful. Kids have shared that they never thought about what it would be like to leave your home because of danger; to not have a school to go to or books to read; that they are grateful for what they have. That has been like gold to me. 

It’s easy for people in our country to automatically look at the U.S,-Mexican border as the only place of crisis. But this is a global issue. The U.N. estimates that around 26 million people around the world have had to flee their homes, often to places where they are unwanted. Half of those refugees are children. I hope kids who read this book come to understand that there are people their age that are in that situation, and empathize with the plight of refugees all over the world.

What’s next for you?  

My hope is to do a series of four books, all with these same characters, following their journey as it continues on. I’ll be reading from the book at Barnes and Noble stores around Long Island and New York City in the future. I am also available to speak about the book at schools, religious congregations and events.

Author Bill Kiley visited with his granddaughter Keira and fourth grade students from Mrs. Dennis’ class at St. James Elementary School in the Smithtown Central School District on Feb. 4. Kiley spoke to the students about the writing, editing and illustration processes of producing a book. He then read ‘Hope and Freckles’ to the class followed by a Q&A session.

“Hope and Freckles: Fleeing to a New Forest” is available online at www.mascotbooks.com, www.Amazon.com or www.BN.com. To learn more about Bill Kiley, this book and future projects, visit www.hopeandfreckles.com.

The cover jacket of Cucinello’s latest book

By Melissa Arnold

The author with her grandaughter Lia Paris when she was 5 years old.

Regardless of gender, age or hobbies, just about all kids are surrounded by “stuff” — games, toys, dolls and LEGOs are perennial favorites. Joanne Cucinello’s granddaughter, Lia Paris, was no exception in her younger years, her childhood bed literally overflowing with stuffed animals. It’s a cherished memory for Cucinello, a longtime poet, storyteller and resident of Port Jefferson. In late January, she published “Lia Paris Sleeps in a Zoo,” an adorable book for children that explores little Lia’s vivid imagination and those of her stuffed friends.

Tell me a bit about your upbringing. Were you creative as a child?

I grew up in Brooklyn and Queens, and came from a family of five children. I wound up being the caretaker of my younger brothers and sisters, whom I love very much. I ended up having five children myself!

When I was younger, we didn’t have much money, and we learned how to create things out of nothing. All of us were very resourceful and creative. I loved reading and writing, and I always had a pencil in my hand.  

When did you first start writing? Was it a part of your career?

I have probably 10 children’s stories that I’ve written so far, though this is the second one that I’ve published. I’m also a poet at heart — I’ve published a book of poems, and have a blog called “I See the Bridge” that I’ve been writing on since 2007. 

My husband and I had a few hair salons, first in Queens and then out here in Suffolk County. I also grew up cooking beside my mother, and ended up starting my own small catering business. When my children were grown, I partnered with my daughter Lisa to open up Tiger Lily Cafe in Port Jefferson. We’ve been in business for more than 20 years. 

What made you want to write for children?

I love all stories, but I especially enjoy fairy tales. I think they’re very important for children to listen to. Fairy tales can connect with a child on a very deep level. My first book, “Wanda the Wilopent,” is a fairy tale.

The cover jacket of Cucinello’s latest book.

What inspired you to write this book? Is it based on a true story?

It seems like today children never have just one favorite toy. There’s always more being added. That was the case with my first granddaughter, Lia. She and her parents lived with us for the first year of her life, and so I was able to be closely involved with her as a baby. She was a very sensitive child and very imaginative. She refused to put her stuffed animals in the closet, saying that they would start to miss her and cry. 

For a while, Lia and her younger sister, Simone, shared a bedroom. Eventually, her parents turned an office into a bedroom, allowing both girls to have their own room. It seemed that initially she was feeling lonely being the big sister in her own room. Relatives saw how much she enjoyed animals and her stuffed pig, so they began to bring her additional stuffed animals for her collection. Over time, she kept putting more and more of them on her bed, until there was no more room and she ultimately fell out of bed.

How does Lia Paris feel about having a book written about her? 

Lia is 16 years old now, a wonderful human being. She’s been thrilled about the whole process from the beginning. Her little cousins, my grandchildren, are always asking if I’m going to be writing a story about them, too. I do have plans to bring them into stories in the future.

How did you go about getting published?

My first book was self-published, but this time I was published through Austin Macauley Publishers. They were accepting submissions, and I looked at the kind of books they were printing. While they didn’t have any fairy tales, they did have funny, touching stories about children and their life experiences. I had written “Lia Paris” years ago, when she was around 5 years old, and it was dear to my heart. 

What about the illustrations?

Austin Macauley has its own illustration department. I sent them pictures from when Lia was young, along with sketches my niece helped me with. Lia actually has many of the stuffed animals from the story still in her closet, so she got them all out for us to photograph. It was a lot of work, but they did a great job.

Is there a particular lesson you’re trying to teach with this book?

I think there is a lesson in it for both parents and children, that more isn’t always better. Today, we always have to have the latest, greatest thing. And so much gets thrown out. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Who is the book’s target audience?

I think that it would be best for children ages 4 to 7, though younger children can certainly have their families read it to them.

Any more books on the horizon?

Yes, I have plenty of stories that I hope to publish in the future if this book does well. One story is called “My Name is Rainbow,” about a little girl who has a condition called heterochromia — her eyes are two different colors, and she often gets picked on by other children for it. It’s about learning to love yourself and celebrating the things that make you different.

Meet the author at a Spring Local Author event at BookHampton in East Hampton on April 19 at 10:30 a.m. and at a special Storytime event at Barnes and Noble in Lake Grove on April 25 at noon. “Lia Paris Sleeps in a Zoo” is available for purchase online at www.austinmacauley.com, Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

The Stony Brook University Orchestra

By Melissa Arnold

Long Island’s own Billy Joel was once quoted as saying, “Music is an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by, no matter what culture we’re from.”

The Stony Brook University Orchestra has spent decades working to broaden musical appreciation and exposure not just on campus, but in the community as well. Each year, their Family Orchestra Concert invites people of all ages, including young children, to join them for an hour-long performance full of interesting compositions and audience engagement.

This year’s featured soloist, violinist Sophie Bowden

Dr. Susan Deaver is celebrating her 20th year as the orchestra’s conductor and an artist-in-residence at Stony Brook. With careful planning, Deaver programs each concert around a unique theme. “Brainstorming new themes is certainly a creative process. A particular piece might give me an idea, or some aspect of the music can inspire me,” she explained. 

This year’s theme, titled Orchestral Contrasts, will showcase differences in orchestral sounds and musical styles.”There are so many contrasts in music to explore — tempo, instruments, dynamics, moods, character, even different types of composers,” said Deaver, adding that the audience will get to experience this with the strings, woodwind, brass and percussion sections.

The orchestra is comprised of 79 undergraduates, 1 graduate student, four teaching assistants and four high school students from the University Orchestra’s Young Artist Orchestral Program who were invited to participate for college credit. While the group does contain music majors and minors, most members are pursuing other fields. To accommodate everyone, the members rehearses just one evening a week for three hours. 

“I have students that are studying biomedical engineering, computer science, astronomy, psychology, and many other subjects — the common thread among them is that they all love music and want to continue to be involved in it,” Deaver said.

An annual highlight of the orchestra concert is a performance from a special young guest — the winner of the Young Artist Program’s Concerto Competition. Since 1996, Stony Brook’s Young Artists Program has allowed students in grades 3 through 12 the chance to hone their musical skills and meet other young musicians, all under the guidance of Stony Brook staff. Most students participate on the weekends, while a separate program is available during the summer.

“The concerto competition began years ago as a way of giving our students the opportunity to play with the university,” said Michael Hershkowitz, Stony Brook’s director of concerts and executive director of community programs, including the Young Artists Program.

The concerto winner can be a student of any age and instrument type. Each hopeful soloist performs for a panel of three judges, which includes Deaver and two impartial judges. Past performers have been violinists, cellists, pianists, winds players, and even vocalists.

This year’s winner is 16-year-old violinist Sophie Bowden, a junior at St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington. She will perform the first movement of Violin Concerto No. 3 in B minor, Op. 61 by French Romantic composer Charles-Camille Saint-Saens.

“I like to express myself through my violin, and I like how it puts a smile on the faces of others. I perform a lot at nursing homes, especially during the holidays, where residents aren’t able to go out and see concerts. Bringing live, upbeat music to them does a lot to ease their depression; the vibe changes immediately,” said Bowden, who has played the violin since she was just 4 years old. 

Bowden, who said she is thrilled to have been chosen, admitted the audition process for the concerto competition was nerve-racking.  While she’s had smaller solos in the past, this will be her first time performing as a soloist with an orchestra. 

“Working with the university orchestra has really been a fun, challenging, and rewarding experience. I found that playing this particular concerto with a full orchestra was much more difficult than playing it with a single piano accompanist. The Saint-Saens concerto is a romantic period composition, so it’s less structured and restrained than metered works of the Baroque era,” Bowden explained. “For everyone to stay together, we must listen closely and watch the conductor more than usual. Fortunately for me, the university orchestra has many extremely competent players, and Ms. Deaver has been very supportive.” 

Hershkowitz said that the concert provides a fun and accessible opportunity to learn more about orchestral music and what it’s like to be part of an orchestra.

“There aren’t a lot of concerts out there that are meant for families, and that’s what makes this event so special — it’s not too long, you don’t have to worry about whether or not the kids are going to ‘make it’ through the experience. We don’t concern ourselves with concert etiquette, so it’s OK if a child wants to ask a question, gets up from their seat or makes noise,” he explained. “It’s about giving everyone a chance to have an experience with a full orchestra, to watch a conductor in action, to learn a little about different instruments and to hear the music change.”

The 2020 Family Orchestra Concert will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 3 on the Staller Center’s Main Stage at Stony Brook University, 100 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook. Tickets are $5. To purchase or learn more, call the box office at 631-632-ARTS or visit www.stonybrook.edu/music.

Photos courtesy of Sophie Bowden