By Barbara Anne Kirshner
Excitement abounds in Stony Brook Village!
On June 21, the Long Island Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame (LIMEHOF) and the Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO) held a press conference in which they announced that they are joining forces by signing a long-term lease to house the LIMEHOF’s first physical facility at the WMHO’s Educational and Cultural Center in Stony Brook Village Center.
This perfect melding brings together two organizations built on highlighting cultural as well as educational elements. The WMHO is rooted in the contributions of Ward Melville to the educational landscape of the Three Village Area. Its Educational and Cultural Center, an impressive white colonial-style building, opened its doors in 2002, offering interactive programs and events, exhibits, and theatrical productions.
The Long Island Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame, a non-profit organization founded in 2004, recognizes, honors and preserves Long Island’s musical heritage. The organization’s educational initiatives include annual scholarships, a concert series, speaker series, and its Hall of Fame with such inductees as Billy Joel, Tony Bennett, Eddie Money, Connie Stevens, Clive Davis and Neil Sedaka. The organization recently expanded its mission to recognize all forms of the arts including, but not limited to, comedy, film, television and theater.
Now that LIMEHOF has joined forces with WMHO, their ambitious collaboration intends to create a physical facility in the Educational and Cultural Center space that will showcase Long Island’s rich and diverse musical and entertainment history. Plans are for exhibits, a permanent “Hall of Fame,” a library, classrooms for educational programs and master classes, and a theater.
Dr. Richard Rugen, chair of board to WMHO said, “We are looking forward to a long partnership with LIMEHOF. Our trustees feel this is a perfect fit with the other not-for-profits located in Stony Brook Village, namely, The Long Island Museum, The Jazz Loft and The Reboli Center.”
“With all the other attributes in Stony Brook Village, such as restaurants, shops, parks, Discovery Boat, kayaks, historic buildings and hotel, this is a perfect addition. The multi-purpose building was constructed to hold exhibits, performances, classes and is wired for distance learning. When I heard that LIMEHOF was looking for a permanent home, I called Ernie Canadeo and the rest is history.” said Gloria D. Rocchio, President of The Ward Melville Heritage Organization.
The festivities were kicked off by the LIHOF 2022 inductees, the band Barnaby Bye, featuring the Alessi brothers, Billy and Bobby, and Mike Ricciardella, treating the audience to a rendition of their song Sea Birds.
Hosting duties went to the LIMEHOF Chairman, Ernie Canadeo, who proudly stated, “I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say there is no place in the country and even in the world that has produced as many extraordinary musical composers or entertainers than Long Island. We have inducted over 100 from every musical genre. Today we are thrilled to announce that we have expanded our mission and our name to include major figures in comedy, film, television and the arts in addition to music. This beautiful building will become the home to honor, respect and preserve LI’s diverse musical and entertainment history and its future.”
He continued, “In addition to a permanent Hall of Fame that will honor all our inductees, we will have 2 changing exhibitions a year. The first will be called LI’s Legendary Club Scene 1960s, 70s and 80s. It will be a tribute to clubs and bands who played on Long Island and created the unbelievable club scene that no one who lives here will ever forget. We expect to draw people from all over with nostalgia for those wonderful days. We are planning a grand opening in November 2022.”
Canadeo then introduced the world-renowned visual designer, Kevin O’Callaghan, who will oversee all things creative.
“I love this community. I am thankful for this opportunity; it is really amazing,” said O’Callaghan. “For this first exhibition, we want to focus on the people, because the people of Long Island are what made so much of this happen. The club scene, the music scene — it all started here. We want to get the stories, the stories behind the musicians and the shows and what people saw and experienced and what it felt like to be in Speaks and what it felt like to be in Hammerheads and what it felt like to see Twisted Sister. It’s amazing; Billy Joel, in his early days, just playing a piano, no band behind him. We want to hear those stories, so we’re reaching out to the public looking for stories, memorabilia. I don’t think there is anything too small that wouldn’t be important in here. We’re going to have a theater upstairs; we’re going to have a library upstairs. It’s going to be educational. I just can’t wait. I’m unbelievably excited!”
It is of special interest to note that the space where the Educational and Cultural Center is located was once the site of the famed Dogwood Hollow built by businessman and philanthropist Ward Melville. It was a 2,000+ seat outdoor amphitheater that hosted greats such as Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Liberace and more between 1955 and 1970.
In deference to this space, Canadeo said, “It was one of the most significant theatres on Long Island and it was right here where this building was built. So, you talk about karma and us being meant to be here; it’s really unbelievable. And if you look at the history, it was one of the first places that had no regard for racial issues. You look back and a lot of the artists here spanned everyone and it’s really a significant space. We are proud that our building is in this space.”
The crowd was treated to a tour of the upstairs space that will house the Hall of Fame, exhibits and a small theater. The official ribbon-cutting and public opening of the completed space is scheduled to take place this coming November. For more information and to see artist renderings of the exhibits, visit www.limehof.org.