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Music

Port Jefferson School District SCMEA Division I students. Photo from PJSD

In-person student musical performances are back, and Port Jefferson School District students represented at the recent Suffolk County Music Educators’ Association All-County Festival held at Ward Melville High School.

In the fifth and sixth grade Division I, students Josie Amtmann, Jenny Cheung, Isabella Fratticci Cseri, Nina Gnatenko, Kai Gronenthal, Ruairi Hogan, Patrick Hutchinson, Nila Manian, Austin Nam, Adyson Nocito, Clara Pearce, Violet Pryor, Sara Puopolo, Aiden Fraticci Rodriguez, Sebastian Salzman, Dylan Sproul, Kaho Sugimoto, Leilani Von Oiste and Elizabeth Yin were selected. Seventh and eighth graders Rowan Casey, Crystal Reustle, Sadie Salzman and Daria Zakharova were selected for Division II, and Division III’s ninth and 10th graders welcomed Earl L. Vandermeulen High School student Andi Kelly.

“Congratulations to all of our outstanding student musicians who were fortunate to perform in the FIRST in-person county music festival in nearly three years!” said Dr. Michael Caravello, district director of music and fine arts.

Thomas Manuel inside The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook. Photo by Julianne Mosher

The Long Island Arts Alliance is asking artists, performers and creators to share their stories amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lauren Wagner, executive director of LIAA, said that over the last two years, the group has been asking creatives to share the experiences pre-pandemic and onward in hopes that new legislation will be created to further help the art and culture sector locally.

“The percentage of job losses in the arts is three times worse than other nonprofit organizations,” she said. 

LIAA serves as an alliance of and for the region’s not-for-profit arts, cultural and arts education organizations.  LIAA promotes awareness of and participation in Long Island’s world-class arts and cultural institutions in both Nassau and Suffolk counties. 

Formed in 2003, LIAA offers leadership and diverse support services to arts organizations, serves as an advocate for arts education in our schools and collaborates on strategies for economic development and community revitalization.

An advocate for artists, painters, sculptors, dancers, performers and musicians, Wagner added that when things were shut down two years ago, LIAA decided it wanted to reach out to its community to find out how people were handling the stressful changes.

That’s when LIAA came up with surveys to give a platform for creators to explain what’s going on in their lives.

“The surveys are to poll everyone’s status,” Wagner said. “Then, we use those numbers to go back to our new legislators and say, ‘Hey, this is what’s going on and we need help.’”

Most recently, a 2022 update has been posted to the LIAA website. This is the third survey to make its way around the arts community.

The survey states, “As COVID-19 extends into 2022, it is important to secure updated information about the continuing impact of the pandemic on the creative sector and creative workers. The information you provide is critical to advocacy efforts for the arts and culture sector across Long Island.”

Wagner said the more creatives who participate, the better.

“Artists/creatives were — and remain — among the most severely affected segment of the nation’s workforce,” she said. “The arts are a formidable industry in the U.S. — $919.7 billion (pre-COVID) that supported 5.2 million jobs and represented 4.3% of the nation’s economy.”

She added that they have not seen significant relief funding earmarked for the arts from the local government despite the impact the sector has on the local economy.

“The American Rescue Plan provided $385,003,440 to Nassau County, $286,812,434 to Suffolk County, and an additional $170 million to our local townships,” she said.

But when it comes to the higher levels of government, Wagner said that things often get “skewed” because of the Island’s proximity to New York City.

“I hate to say compete with the city, but we do,” she said. “We’re a great economic driver on Long Island and we get forgotten about.”

She said the surveys could “paint a real picture of what it’s like to be an artist on Long Island.”

The artists

Patty Eljaiek. Photo from Patty Eljaiek

Patty Eljaiek, a visual artist from Huntington Station, said that many people might not realize the impact art has on the community — especially financially.

“I think it’s part of the perception that art is not a business,” she said. “Art is a business.”

Elijaiek added that if an artist is looking to share their expertise with the world, they are, in fact, a business. 

“Art has been something that people appreciate but they don’t know how to put value to it,” she said.

Wagner agreed. She said that early on during the pandemic, people looked to the arts for solace.

“Artists are second responders,” she said. “First responders save lives, but artists put everything back together.”

Alex Alexander, a musician in Rocky Point, said that people who work in the arts — such as being a working musician — don’t have the typical 9-to-5 routine.

“You can plan with a 9-to-5,” he said. “I can’t plan my life as other people would.”

And Tom Manuel, executive director of The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook and a musician himself, said that his venue was shut down for 15 months throughout the pandemic, but still continued to serve its community with outdoor shows despite the lack of revenue coming in. 

Manuel said that while big industries were being saved by the federal government, the nonprofit sector was “left out” and they had to look to their sponsors to help save them. 

“We were really blessed in that we had a lot of our donors and sponsors step up and say, ‘Hey, we know that you’re closed, but we’re going to still give our sponsorship and don’t worry about programming, just stay open,’” he said.

Board members at The Jazz Loft began raising money themselves for other artists who were struggling, raising nearly $20,000 worth of assistance.

But the pain and struggle were still there as they helped their peers. 

“The statistics show of all the things that could close and not reopen, the most unlikely place to reopen after being shuttered is a performing arts venue,” he said. “That’s the data.”

Manuel said that jazz is all about improvisation — which is what musicians did — and to work through the blues.

“I think that one of the beautiful things that did come out of the pandemic is people realized how important the arts were to them,” he said. “I think there was a reconnection that was established, which is a beautiful thing.”

Artists can participate in LIAA’s survey until Feb. 16 online now at longislandartsalliance.org.

“People don’t realize this is their livelihood on the line,” Wagner said. 

Photo courtesy of The Jazz Loft
Offering six Thursday evenings to stroll four stages of entertainment

Still facing the challenges of bringing live music and other cultural events to people during a pandemic, the Jazz Loft in Stony Brook, in partnership with Suffolk County Presiding Officer Kara Hahn, Michael Ardolino of Realty Connect and other community businesses have come up with a unique and imaginative way to do just that. Called “Summer Stages With A Purpose ( Summer SWAP),  it will offer visitors a walking experience through the Stony Brook Village area, with four stages presenting music, art, history, educational lectures, activities and other cultural happenings.

“Summer SWAP will be the ultimate collaborative celebration of music, art, history theater and activities right here in our Stony Brook Village,” said Jazz Loft founder Tom Manuel. “People can wander from stage to stage and take in a new experience at each one. It’s outdoors, it’s spacious and it’s a little back to normal for all of us.”

The SWAP is made possible through funding from Suffolk County Presiding Officer Hahn’s office and a Department of Economic Development and Planning grant.

“I am excited to join with Tom Manuel and the Jazz Loft in helping Stony Brook village businesses and visitors to SWAP the memory of this past year with one of a summer that is closer to normal.” said Suffolk County Legislator Hahn.  “Stony Brook has a proud cultural history, and through this innovative program, we encourage tourists and residents alike to rediscover all of the art, music and creativity this region has to offer and help reinvigorate the local businesses that suffered mightily during their absence.”

“The SWAP concept speaks to everything that we need in terms of diversity, inclusiveness, and bringing our community together,” said Ardolino, one of the generous sponsors of the event. “When I heard about the idea I said ‘Let’s do it!’”

Summer SWAP nights are scheduled for Thursday evenings, May 27, June 3, 10,17 , 24 and July 1, all from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The four stages will be set up throughout the Stony Brook Village area. Entry is FREE.

Stage areas will include: Front lawn of the Jazz Loft where musicians will perform atop the Jazz Loft’s own mobile Jazz stage dubbed the “Jazz Dispatch”; Sand Street Beach, Stony Brook Village Inner Court, and the Brookhaven Town Lot by the kayak launch.

Patrons can also take advantage of the numerous local restaurants in the area, with menus accessible online. Order your food, pick it up to go and head to the stages of your choice.

Tiered sponsorship opportunities are available, ranging from $100 to $1500 with all proceeds going to support the Jazz Loft which has been closed for over a year due to the pandemic. For more information contact the Jazz Loft at: 631-751-1895.

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.