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Music

Carter Rubin won the season 19 finale of The Voice Dec. 15. Photo by Trae Patton/NBC

One talented Shoreham teen is going to join the list of other famous Long Island artists. 

Carter Rubin won the season 19 finale of The Voice Dec. 15. Photo by Trae Patton/NBC

Carter Rubin won over the hearts of Americans after they voted him as season 19 champion of NBC’s singing competition, “The Voice” the night of Tuesday, Dec. 15.

The 15-year-old Shoreham-Wading River High School sophomore is the youngest male winner on the show, who participated on Team Gwen, headed by No Doubt singer Gwen Stefani. 

“Gwen’s taught me so much, but the best piece of advice she’s given is for me to be myself when I perform and just in general,” Carter said the morning after his victory. “She’s helped me believe in myself more and she’s boosted my confidence.”

Carter began his “Voice” journey over the summer at just 14, when he auditioned for the show. He previously told TBR he had to keep it a secret until the show’s airing early October. And since then it’s been a whirlwind for the teen, spending months away from Long Island, his family and friends while performing and competing on the show. 

“For the blinds, battles and knockouts, I stayed in LA with my mom for almost three months,” he said. “It was hard being away from the rest of my family, but I knew I was there for a reason. Luckily, I got to go home and see my family and friends before coming back to LA for the live shows.”

But after weeks of singing and traveling, the two-part season finale aired eventually on Nov. 16 and 17. Carter, along with his competitors, performed one last time and waited for America’s votes. 

During the finale, Carter premiered his own new song, “Up from Here,” and then sang alongside Stefani on her — and fiancé/fellow judge Blake Shelton’s — hit Christmas song, “You Make It Feel Like Christmas.”

This was Stefani’s first win as a judge while Shelton’s team with singer Jim Ranger, came in second place. 

And while singing his original song was incredibly special, he said, his favorite performance came from the semifinals last week, when Stefani asked him to sing “Rainbow Connection” from “The Muppet Movie.”

Carter was ecstatic and dedicated it to his autistic older brother, Jack. 

Carter Rubin performed on Team Gwen with Gwen Stefani on the season 19 of The Voice. Photo by Trae Patton/NBC

“He could not be more happy for me,” Carter said. “He’s been so proud and understanding throughout this whole experience, and I’m so happy to call him my brother.”

Carter’s mother, Alonna Rubin, founded the Shoreham-based nonprofit Families In Arms, which helps to support families with autism. 

“I am so grateful that Carter was given the opportunity to show the world his God-given talent on such an iconic stage,” she said. “But more importantly, the world now sees how beautiful he is on the inside as well. Proud is not a big enough word to describe how I feel. We will be forever grateful for all of the love and support out there. This is just the beginning for him.”

Carter added that as his coach said, it’s time to start writing and recording more music. 

“Gwen says that it’s time for me to start writing songs, and that’s exactly what I plan on doing,” he said, enthusiastically. “I also want to get in the studio, record some music and I want to perform for live audiences again — once COVID is over.”

Confetti poured around Carter when Carson Daly announced his name. He buried his face in his hands, while Stefani repeatedly yelled, “You won!” Carter was in disbelief. On camera, Stefani was heard asking if she could hug her winner but, due to COVID-19 guidelines, they had to celebrate while social distancing. 

Miller Avenue School second graders and teacher Courtney Von Bargen
congratulate Shoreham-Wading River’s Carter Rubin. Photo from SWRCSD

“I’m still in shock,” he said. “It hasn’t hit me yet, but I just want to say ‘thank you’ to everyone who’s voted for me and supported me throughout my entire journey on this show. I couldn’t possibly be more grateful.”

And his community couldn’t be prouder. Earlier this week, the new star met virtually with second-graders in Courtney Von Bargen’s class at Miller Avenue School. In Google Classroom, they listened to Carter talk and asked him questions. 

Claudia Smith, principal of the school, said, “Carter is bringing so much joy to the Shoreham-Wading River school community.”

The second-graders created posters and banners to continue cheering on Carter before the finale. 

“I come from a small town where everyone knows everyone, and the support that I’ve gotten from my community means everything to me,” he said. “I couldn’t possibly thank them enough.”

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Shoreham teen Carter Rubin went team Gwen as he moves on with NBC’s “The Voice.” The show will follow his journey and viewers will get to see how far he goes. Photo by Chris Haston/NBC

He had two judges to choose from when he wowed viewers on “The Voice.”

Carter Rubin, 15, from Shoreham, auditioned for the NBC show back in July and had to keep it a secret until it aired last week.

“Early on in 2020, I went to an audition in Boston,” Rubin said. “And I was lucky enough to keep progressing after that.”

Things halted for a bit because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but eventually he was flown out to California to do a live, blind audition in front of some big names: Gwen Stefani, Blake Shelton, John Legend and Kelly Clarkson. 

After taking the stage, he wowed both Stefani and Legend with his cover of Lewis Capaldi’s “Before You Go.”

“You do not look like your voice,” Stefani told Rubin. Legend said he’s the youngest contestant he has ever turned his chair for. 

This led the two judges to battle over the Shoreham-Wading River High School sophomore. He ultimately chose Stefani. 

“She is the sweetest person ever,” he said. “She gives great advice and that’s why I went with her.

Rubin has been performing publicly at venues across Long Island since he was young. 

“I’ve been singing ever since I could talk,” he said jokingly. 

He chose Capaldi’s powerful ballad because it meant something to him. His older brother, Jack, was diagnosed with Autism. Rubin said the song, to him, is about being there for someone in need. 

“My brother and I have a strong connection,” he said. “And I always want to be there to help him.”

He said his brother, along with his family and schoolmates, are beyond proud of him now that the cat’s out of the bag. 

“They were so surprised because I had to keep it a secret for so long,” he said. “So, I was excited to be able to share what I’ve been doing this past summer.”

A singer in the school choir, and always involved with theatre, he decided to take a chance on “The Voice” to inspire others.

“I wanted to inspire others to follow their dreams,” he said. “It’s brought me so much joy and I want to heal other people with my voice, especially with times like these … People need music now more than ever.”

His mother, Alonna Rubin, founded the local nonprofit Families In Arms, which helps to support families with Autism. Rubin often performs at events for the organization, and she said she couldn’t be prouder of both her kids. 

“The biggest compliment that I’ve gotten since his audition is that he has the most beautiful, genuine soul,” she said. “To me there’s nothing more that I can be proud of …. Once again, he amazes me.”

Along Nicolls Road, where dozens of people held signs thanking the hospital workers both leaving and arriving at Stony Brook University Hospital, another truck, one bearing a large screen and speakers, rumbled down the road bearing another kind of thank you to the folks on the front lines.

Christian Guardino, a Patchogue resident, came down to the hospital late on Thursday, May 22 to serenade the workers just after their 8 p.m. shift change. The singer, a America’s Got Talent’s Golden Buzzer and Apollo Theater Competition Grand Prize Winner, sang three songs to a crowd gathered in front of the children’s hospital. Others watched from the windows above, even waving lighters from a dark room as Guardino finished a rendition of Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind.”

He said he too has been stuck at home because of the pandemic, unable to perform because practically all venues have been shut down. First performing at Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson, he came to Stony Brook to make sure those workers knew they were top in people’s hearts and minds.  

“The one thing I want to say and for them to get out of this is just thank you, how grateful we are for everything they’re doing for us,” Guardino said. “They’re on the front lines taking care of the people who are sick, risking getting the disease and I just want to thank them.”

Nicole Rossol, the chief patient experience officer at SBUH, said Empire Entertainment, a New York City-based event management company, reached out to Stony Brook looking to do a late show. At the same time, the patchogue singer also made mention he wanted to give back to the hospital. Guardino’s mother, Beth, had worked as a nurse at the hospital previously for nearly a decade.

“We thought if we could do it together, it would be a very beautiful thing for our staff,” Rossol said. “I think the staff has been looking for things to keep them upbeat and help them through this time. Every piece of support from the community really makes a difference.

Empire Entertainment, with their Illuminate Our Heroes tour has brought crews from the city, to New Jersey, and now out to Long Island. Alyssa Bernstein, a senior producer for empire entertainment is herself a Setauket native, and she said she made it a point to come back and support her hometown during the ongoing pandemic.

“We decided, what is a way that we can give back and say thank you, and that’s putting on a little show, that’s what we do best,” Bernstein said. “The work that they’re doing means that we’ll get back to work.”

 

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The VFW, county government and the Mike DelGuidice-led Big Shot put on a massive concert for thousands Aug. 27. Photos by Greg Catalano

By Rich Acritelli

It was during this past week that classic rock could widely be heard throughout the North Shore. 

The Billy Joel “Big Shot” band that is led by local native Mike DelGuidice sang to a packed audience at Saint Anthony of Padua R.C. Church in Rocky Point Aug. 27. With almost 8,000 people on hand to watch the musical event, it was a great night enjoyed by all. For the last several years, Big Shot has been the main attraction of the summer concert series and a driving force of Post 6249 Rocky Point Veterans of Foreign Wars’ local efforts.

VFW Post 6249 Commander Joe Cognitore speaks at the Aug. 27 concert.
Photos by Greg Catalano

For the entire day, veterans of this military post diligently worked to ensure that this production was enjoyed by the many residents of this community. This operation was organized by Post 6249 Commander Joe Cognitore with eighteen members of the veterans organization that helped set up tents, directed where chairs could be placed, the positioning of garbage cans and worked with the church to ensure the success of this night. Cognitore was pleased to be working with Reverend K.J. Augustine, a new addition to the parish of Saint Anthony’s. It was a united effort by members of the church, VFW, county officials and local leaders that all participated in making this night come alive. Cognitore was thankful for the guidance that Augustine demonstrated to bring various organizations together through a musical tradition that has flourished at Saint Anthony’s during the summer months.

Cognitore said he was delighted that everything came together for all of the people on the beautiful evening to hear the DelGuidice sing the hits of Billy Joel, Elton John and Aerosmith.  For well over twelve hours, members of Post 6249 were seen in their blue shirts selling raffle tickets, pointing people to their seats, dancing, all with big smiles on their face, excited to watch this event unfold in front of a packed house. Even as DelGuidice now calls Florida his home, this local kid recalled his roots with good-hearted banter with the crowd. 

Since this series was created under then county legislator Dan Losquadro and continued with the aid of his successor Sarah Anker (D-Mount Siani), DelGuidice has been the key event to end these shows on a high note. While the musician performs next to Joel through the longstanding franchise at Madison Square Garden, DelGuidice is a proud figure from Miller Place. The former resident has mastered the songs of Joel and has members of his band playing with Big Shot to round out this talented group. With cheers that could be heard up and down Route 25A and Main Street in Rocky Point, DelGuidice played for almost three hours. 

It is this music that resonates well with many people that can identify with the local lyrics and spirit of Joel mastered by DelGuidice.  Like that of Bruce Springsteen, John Cougar Mellancamp, and Zac Brown, the combination of Joel and DelGuidice music will continue to stand the test of time and local residents will surely enjoy these shows for many years to come.

The VFW, county government and the Mike DelGuidice-led Big Shot put on a massive concert for thousands Aug. 27.
Photos by Greg Catalano

The importance of this concert series is that the local government and Cognitore are able to bring solid musicians to this area to present their multitude of talents. Instead of worrying about paying an expensive ticket price and traveling into the city, many people are able to come home from work and within minutes hear the unique voice of DelGuidice play some of the most memorable rock hits. This leisurely event allows people the opportunity to see an outstanding show that is free, close to home and they also observe the likes of Post 6249 work for the betterment of the North Shore.

One of the finest songs that DelGuidice sang on this night was “Good Night Saigon.”  Immediately, DelGuidice invited all of the veterans to be present on the stage and be next to him and his band. Much of this tribute was presented to the Vietnam Veterans that were led by Cognitore. He had tears in his eyes by the overwhelming applause from the crowd. Standing next to the post commander, they looked out to the crowd as they raised phones over their heads.nThey turned on their flashlights and cameras creating a clear path of light across the fields of Saint Anthony’s.  

Veterans, young and old were continually thanked by DelGuidice and his band for sacrificing for this nation. In an evening with many highlights, this one surely hit home for the members of Post 6249 and for those with history of defending this nation at home and abroad.

Already, Cognitore is looking forward to next year. He wanted to thank all of the political leaders, the church, officers of the Suffolk County Police Department of the 7th Precinct for their role in handling crowd control, parking, the traffic, and being a presence to ensure the safety of an audience of thousands.  

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The Como Brothers play a set at the Port Bistro Pub in Port Jefferson. Photo from Kevin Wood

By Leah Chiappino

A small crowd gathered at the Port Bistro Pub to see The Como Brothers, a Long Island-based singer-songwriter duo, and see a new music video all about Port Jeff.

Kevin Wood on the red carpet with the Como Brothers. Photo from Kevin Wood

The band has toured the country playing its music, recorded with Grammy-nominated engineer Kenta Yonesaka, and even has had its songs featured on “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.” The two brothers were in Port Jefferson Aug. 27 to perform a set and release their new music video “Take Me Home,” which is centered around the Village of Port Jefferson.

The video was produced by Kevin Wood, the village’s parking and mobility administrator who doubles as the owner of his own production company Kevin Wood Media and the Port Jeff Pulse.

Wood petitioned the singing duo, whom he had known from them performing at Rocketship Park, to make a song “that was centered around the beauty and majesty of Port Jefferson.” Wood said despite the fact he may have “many friends that write music, few can write the catchiness of The Como Brothers.” 

Wood said that he immediately loved the song once he heard the music duo recorded it and decided to try and make the music video. It centers around a character, Lily, who returns home to Port Jefferson after traveling around. It maintains simple shots of the band playing music on the streets of the village, as well as on the  dock. Shots of the village are further showcased by video of Lily wandering around in contentment at being back “where she belongs.” 

This was perfect for the actress who plays her, Kiley Holmes, as she is a Navy wife and has traveled around the world. “I knew Kevin had a game plan and I trusted him,” she said. “It fits perfectly because I’m so used to moving. It talks about traveling and then wanting to come back home.  This is the fifth state that I’ve been in and I’ve even lived abroad for a while, so I totally got that feeling.”

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Mike DelGuidice and Big Shot, covering Billy Joel hits and more, strode onto the stage in Rocky Point Aug. 27, blowing out the summer concert series with classic rock hits to a packed crowd.

The last in the Downtown Rocky Point Summer Concert Series, sponsored by the Rocky Point VFW Post 6249 and Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) was held on the lawn of St. Anthony of Padua R.C. Church.

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

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

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

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By Julianne Mosher

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

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

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

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

— Michael Opisso

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Jeffrey Nees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Jack Licitra

Jack Licitra

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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