Tag Archive | "music"

Sara Nightingale Gallery Presents Fourth Edition of #Blinddates/MusicLab

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Ryan Messina on trumpet, Will Jhun on tenor sax and Nick Lyons on alto sax will perform improvisational music together at the Sara Nightingale Gallery Thursday. Photo courtesy Sara Nightingale Gallery.

By Tessa Raebeck

Inspired only by each other and the energy around them, tonight three friends will present an evening of improvisational music at the Sara Nightingale Gallery.

"Drumming Circle" by Gus Yero, acrylic on canvas. Photo courtesy Sara Nightingale Gallery.

“Drumming Circle” by Gus Yero, acrylic on canvas. Photo courtesy Sara Nightingale Gallery.

The show, MusicLab edition #4, is part of the #Blinddates series that pairs two musicians—and strangers—together for a concert. Tonight’s performance gives the evening a new take; the artists are all friends, having met in Brooklyn through a shared connection, pianist Connie Crothers.

Playing his trumpet, Ryan Messina will be joined by saxophonists Will Jhun on tenor sax and Nick Lyons on alto sax. The trio will feed off each other, developing the performance as it goes along.

While listening to the show, guests can view the gallery’s exhibition, including works by Malin Abrahamsson, Bill Armstrong, Eric Dever, Cara Enteles, Glenn Fischer, Brian O’Leary, William Pagano, Ross Watts and Gus Yero.

Refreshments will be served at the event, Thursday, April 10 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Sara Nightingale Gallery, 688 Montauk Highway in Water Mill. For more information, call 793-2256 or visit saranightingale.com.

Last Party for Merry Maker Vivian Walsh

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Vivian Walsh.

Vivian Walsh of Vivian and the Merry Makers Steel Drum Band died last Thursday.

By Kathryn G. Menu

After 40 years of bringing island music to East End audiences, Vivian Walsh, the frontman and founder of Vivian and The Merry Makers Steel Drum Band, died last Thursday morning at Southampton Hospital. The 76 year-old Sag Harbor resident had been battling pancreatic cancer.

As news of Mr. Walsh’s death spread through the community, a Facebook page dedicated to the band and created by Mr. Walsh’s friend Willow Keller became a virtual memorial to the singer and steel drum player. Scores of people, from the East End and beyond, logged on to share memories, and offer their condolences to a man known for his music, his straw hat, Hawaiian shirt, and stage presence.

“We will miss this gentle soul with a big heart, who made this world a happier place,” wrote Sag Harbor resident and friend Chris Tice last Thursday, after announcing the news of Mr. Walsh’s death.

“I will always love and miss you Vivian Walsh,” wrote longtime friend Mariah Kelly. “You’ve been a big part of my life for 47 years. I will miss our Sunday chats. Rest in Paradise, you sweet, kind soul.”

“You will surely be missed, your booming voice, boisterous laugh and twinkling eyes,” wrote Sag Harbor resident Melissa Ann Mitchell.

Mr. Walsh was born on December 3, 1937, on the Caribbean island of Dominica. According to his goddaughter, Debra George, already an accomplished steel drum player, Mr. Walsh moved to the East End in the mid-1960s, and quickly began booking gigs for his steel drum band. Over the next 40 years, Vivian and the Merry Makers became synonymous with outdoor summer traditions, whether it be Montauk’s Blessing of the Fleet, or outdoor concerts at Southampton’s Agwam Park and Sag Harbor’s Marine Park.

Merry Maker drummer Jerome Liggon has played with the band for 21 years. He met Mr. Walsh when his band played the Westhampton Beach Village Green. Mr. Liggon, a drummer with the band Déjà Vu at the time, reached out to Mr. Walsh and the next week the gregarious bandleader called him and asked him to join the Merry Makers.

“What impressed me so much about Vivian is how everyone gravitated toward him,” said Mr. Liggon. “I learned stage presence from him. You don’t realize the impact someone has had sometimes until that person is gone when it is someone that great.”

Ms. George said the family had originally planned for a small gathering of friends and family at Yardley and Pino Funeral Home in Sag Harbor last Sunday, but after posting an announcement on Facebook, over 100 people turned out for the event, which morphed into an impromptu concert.

“I could not believe the turnout,” said Ms. George. “We had more than 100 people come and the band rocked it out. It was exactly what he would have wanted.”

Mr. Walsh is survived by twin daughters, Valencia and Valantine Walsh, as well as four grandchildren. In planning a final farewell for Mr. Walsh, Ms. George said the family will likely hold an event this May or June, ideally in Sag Harbor. Mr. Walsh’s cremated remains, she said, would be floated out to sea at the memorial, which she hopes will feature several bands.

And that will include he Merry Makers, according to Mr. Liggon.

“The last time I was with Vivian when he was coherent he communicated to me that he wanted the Merry Makers to continue on,” he said. “We have to find a new steel drummer, but I think we can come up with something. I believe we already have someone who can sing. Scott Hopson is a second generation Merry Maker and is up for it.”

“I know I wouldn’t want to be the steel drummer who has to follow Vivian’s act,” Mr. Liggon laughed. “No, no, no, thank you.”

“To me, the perfect way to celebrate Vivian would be to do something in Sag Harbor,” he added. “Sag Harbor was his home and he loved that village.”

Nancy Atlas, Caroline Doctorow & Inda Eaton are Bringing the West to Bay Street in “Way Out East”

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Inda Eaton, Caroline Doctorow and Nancy Atlas will perform at Bay Street Theatre Saturday.

Inda Eaton, Caroline Doctorow and Nancy Atlas will perform at Bay Street Theatre Saturday. Photo by Grover Gatewood.

By Tessa Raebeck

Like many great ideas, it started at the kitchen table.

Building upon years of dinner conversations, East End singer songwriters Nancy Atlas, Caroline Doctorow and Inda Eaton will come together Saturday at “Way Out East…A Journey in Song,” the second show devoted to the combination of their talents.

After selling out the inaugural “Way Out East” concert at East Hampton’s Guild Hall in October 2012, the trio is reuniting, this time at Sag Harbor’s Bay Street Theatre.

“There’s a thing about harmony singing,” said Ms. Doctorow, “and it’s kind of hard to beat three women singing together, because it’s a very appealing sound and situation and it sort of creates one new voice out of the three voices.”

“It seemed like a natural idea to take to the stage for sure, as we all have a certain vocal pocket and timbre that we sing in,” agreed Ms. Atlas. “This definitely grew from pure roots.”

The artists first crossed paths at a songwriter series many years ago, but had never had the chance to get to know each other. That first get-together quickly evolved into regular dinner dates; they have now been meeting at least once a month for the past four years. They’re not unanimous on whose idea or house it originally was, but that doesn’t matter.

“Before we knew it, guitars came out and we were singing at the end of the meals,” said Ms. Atlas, who lives in Montauk and performs with her band, The Nancy Atlas Project.

“Those dinners really feed our souls,” said Ms. Doctorow, who leads Caroline Doctorow and the Steamrollers, “because we talk about everything and it makes you feel—it ’s very comforting to know that other people have felt the same as you.”

“There’s not been one time that I didn’t leave one of these gatherings feeling a bit more inspired,” said Inda Eaton, who lives in Amagansett and lends “a tad bit of maverick energy” to the group with her grassroots band and Western roots.

Between them, the three acts have opened for Blues Traveler, Hootie and the Blowfish, The Band, Alison Krauss, Elvis Costello, Toots and the Maytals, Jimmy Buffett and Crosby, Stills and Nash, just to name a few. Ms. Atlas, Ms. Doctorow and Ms. Eaton, who will be joined Saturday by a few members from each woman’s band, have combined their rock, folk and indie music into a western, distinctly American sound.

With her two friends in tow, Ms. Eaton will return to her home state of Wyoming for a short tour at the end of April.

“This is our hometown show before we go out West,” said Ms. Doctorow, a native New Yorker who lives in Bridgehampton. The set list on Saturday is comprised of “the exact songs we will be playing out on the prairies,” Ms. Atlas added.

Since moving their collaboration from the dinner table to the stage two years ago, the artists have been working together when they can, singing backup at each other’s shows, playing on one another’s records and using each other for inspiration.

“What really helps is the camaraderie,” Ms. Doctorow said. “If one of us is having a problem—the music business is a very tough business—what’s so great is to lean on the experience of the others and the wisdom and the advice.”

“Both Inda and Caroline have given me some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten in this business and I would hope they could say the same about me. We are truly lucky to have found each other,” said Ms. Atlas.

That mutual understanding enables the singer-songwriters to turn their stylistic differences into a harmonious collaboration of their songs for “a lovely, laid back experience,” according to Ms. Atlas.

“Because of the camaraderie, we’re able to bridge our own music styles,” Ms. Eaton said. “Music is its own camaraderie, but there’s an additional camaraderie that goes on that I think comes from the uniqueness of our careers, there’s not too many other women singer-songwriters.”

“To spend time with other women singer-songwriters is very empowering,” she added. “We deal with a lot of the same issues…it’s great to run things past each other and get some of that professional support.”

Each woman also brings distinct skills to the business side of the table. Ms. Eaton is technically savvy—a “multimedia wizard” according to Ms. Doctorow—and can direct the effects and equipment side of a show. Ms. Atlas deals with financial logistics and the people that come with them, negotiating money and ticket prices.

“She’s really a good person to have to go to bat for us if something’s not right with a venue, etc.” said Ms. Doctorow. “She’s very strong in that way.”

Ms. Doctorow covers the “nuts and bolts” of an event, she said, booking the radio, writing the show description and making sure everything is in order to move forward.

“Caroline writes all the time,” said Ms. Eaton. “She’s very prolific and so she’ll put something together and I’ll think, ‘Wow, I didn’t think about that.’ Or Nancy will come up with this real powerhouse song and you walk away thinking, ‘Oh, I didn’t think about that, how inspiring was that?’”

Ms. Doctorow wrote a song for Ms. Atlas, aptly called “Song for Nancy” in 2011 and “My Sunday House,” a song she wrote for Ms. Eaton, is on her latest record.

“What it’s about,” she explained, “is how music becomes your religion when you’re on the road. You live and breathe it and it becomes a vehicle for revival of your spirit.”

“Inda and Caroline understand me in a way that few others do,” Ms. Atlas said, later adding, “We are able to discuss things at a very real and deep level with all the fat cut off. I truly cherish my monthly dinners.”

“You get invited to someone’s kitchen table and that’s where the music sounds the best,” said Ms. Eaton. “That’s the best way to hear music and harmony, just as it comes out of the kitchen table. That’s my hope for the show, is that people get a sense of the authentic essence of a song.”

 “Way Out East…A Journey in Song” is Saturday, April 5, at 8 p.m. at the Bay Street Theatre, 1 Bay Street in Sag Harbor. For tickets and more information, call the box office at 725-9500 or visit baystreet.org.

Salon Series Returns to the Parrish Art Museum

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Pianist Assaff Weisman will perform at the Parrish Art Museum Friday.

Pianist Assaff Weisman will perform at the Parrish Art Museum Friday.

By Tessa Raebeck

Back by popular demand, Salon Series, a series of concerts by award winning and internationally acclaimed young Classical pianists, will return to the Parrish Art Museum Friday.

At the first show in the four-concert program, on consecutive Fridays this month, Assaff Weisman, who had his solo debut at age 12, will perform.  A graduate of the Juilliard School, Mr. Weisman was reviewed by the Palm Beach Post as having a “purity of approach” and a style that “is clean and free of posturing, the kind of pianism that allows the listener to admire the architecture of the works under consideration while also appreciating the poetry of the flourishes.”

On Friday at 6 p.m., Mr. Weisman will perform classics such as Beethoven’s “Sonata in D minor, Op. 31, No. 2,” as well as pieces from modern composers, like the French Olivier Messiaen.

The upcoming concerts in the series are Russian pianist Daria Rabotkina on April 11, winner of the 2008 Pro Musicis International Award, Tanya Gabrielian on April 18, and Taiwanese pianist Ching-Yun Ju on April 25.

Tickets for all concerts, which begin at 6 p.m., are $20 for the general public and $10 for Parrish members. For more information, visit parrishart.org or call 283-2118 ext. 142.

Viva Vivaldi! Choral Society of the Hamptons Celebrates Spring

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Choral Society of the Hamptons. Photo courtesy of David Brandenburg.

Choral Society of the Hamptons. Photo courtesy of David Brandenburg.

By Tessa Raebeck

Along with an organ, trumpets, strings and at least one oboe, over 70 musicians will fill the East Hampton Presbyterian Church Sunday for the Choral Society of the Hamptons’ spring concert, a festive and joyous celebration of the season.

“Viva Vivaldi!” will feature guest conductor Walter Klauss. Several guest soloists and the South Fork Chamber Ensemble will join the choral society in an energetic concert to welcome spring.

“A lot of the themes in the text of the different pieces reflect renewal and simple expressions of joy, which reflect the season very aptly,” said David Brandenburg, the society’s executive director.

Guest conductor Walter Klauss.

Guest conductor Walter Klauss.

The chorus will perform J.S. Bach’s cantata, “Gott ist mein König,” with themes of aging and renewal sung in German, Bach’s native tongue.

“Bach, for one,” said Mr. Brandenburg, “was extraordinarily prolific in his writing for chorus and orchestra…. He at one point was writing one of these pieces almost every week. It’s really quite amazing.”

The cantata will feature the chorus soloists, as well as a small chamber orchestra with five string instruments, several wind instruments and an organ.

The cornerstone piece of the program is “Gloria, Cantata 71” by Antonia Vivaldi, another baroque master and an 18th century contemporary of Bach’s. The popular, often performed piece is sung in Latin with the unusual instrumentation of strings, a single oboe and a trumpet. It includes two female soloists and the chorus and has “sprightly tempos and rich harmonies,” according to Daniel McKeever, the society’s president who is also in the chorus.

“That’s perhaps the favorite piece of the program for fans of choral music,” Mr. Brandenburg said of the exultant and popular song.

The third feature is “Five Mystical Songs,” a collection written between 1906 and 1911 by Ralph Vaughan Williams, a leading British composer of the early 20th century, who urges, “Let the world in every corner sing.”

“It’s very accessible and very melodic, but it will be a nice, more contemporary contrast between the two older works,” Mr. Brandenburg said.

The work sets four poems by George Herbert, a 17th century English poet and Anglican priest, to music. “Easter” is divided into four parts, resulting in five songs of metaphysical verse: “Easter,” “I Got Me Flowers,” Love Bade Me Welcome,” “The Call” and “Antiphon.” Although Vaughan Williams was an atheist at the time of his writing, he enjoyed using the imagery and mysticism of faith.

Some of the songs have a “very folk-like element to them,” Mr. Brandenburg said, adding that Vaughan Williams often used English folk melodies as inspiration and wrote for various types of instrumentation, including orchestra and band, as well as for chorus.

The concert will combine the chorus, made up of members of the local community who rehearse for 10 weeks in preparation for each concert, with professional conductors, soloists and instrumentalists.

Part-time East Hampton resident Walter Klauss, who is “terrific,” according to Mr. Brandenburg, will act as guest conductor. The founder of the Musica Viva concert series, Mr. Klauss has been the minister of music at All Souls Unitarian Church in New York City since 1976. He made his debut as an organist at the Cleveland Museum of Art at age 17 and recently performed at the Old Whalers’ Church in Sag Harbor, to which he will return for the 10 a.m. worship service Sunday.

“And then we’ll be joined by four very talented soloists who have all worked with Walter before and some of them have worked with us before,” Mr. Brandenburg said. “There will be eight instrumentalists, strings, oboe, trumpet and organ, so there will be quite a number.”

“It’s quite an impressive collection,” he continued, adding that some 70 to 80 musicians will be featured in the concert.

A benefit dinner featuring selections from Chef Mathias Brogie’s new spring menu at c/o The Maidstone, 207 Main Street in East Hampton, will follow the concert.

The Choral Society of the Hamptons will present “Viva Vivaldi!” on Sunday, March 30, at 5 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of East Hampton, 120 Main Street in East Hampton. Tickets cost $30 in advance and $35 at the door. Youth tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. Preferred-seating tickets are $75. Tickets to the concert and benefit dinner are $300. For tickets and more information, call 204-9402, or visit choralsocietyofthehamptons.org or the Romany Kramoris Gallery, 41 Main Street in Sag Harbor. 

Baritone Michael Maliakel to Sing at Sag Harbor’s Old Whalers’ Church

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Vocalist Michael Maliakel will sing at the Old Whalers' Church in Sag Harbor Sunday.

Vocalist Michael Maliakel will sing at the Old Whalers’ Church in Sag Harbor Sunday.

By Tessa Raebeck

Operatic baritone Michael Maliakel will appear as the guest soloist at Sunday’s 10 a.m. worship service at the Old Whalers’ Church, Sag Harbor’s First Presbyterian Church.

Mr. Maliakel sang as De Brétigny in the Peabody Opera Theatre production of Massenet’s Manon and was praised for his “smooth singing” by the Baltimore Sun. A New Jersey native, Mr. Maliakel recently made his first solo appearance in Musica Viva of New York’s January performance of the Duruflé Messe Cum Jubilo.

Walter Klauss, minister of music at All Souls Unitarian Church in Manhattan since 1976, will accompany Mr. Maliakel, who will perform two of the “Five Mystical Songs” by 20th century British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams.

The Old Whalers’ Church is located at 44 Union Street in Sag Harbor. For more information, call the Reverend Mark Phillips at 725-0894.

Friday Night Dance Parties for the Public

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Dance parties in Southampton Friday night. Photo courtesy of Hamptons Dance Authority.

Dance parties in Southampton Friday night. Photo courtesy of Hamptons Dance Authority.

By Tessa Raebeck

Hamptons Dance Authority invites the public to come warm up with the cold with a Friday night dance party. All you need is some stamina and a desire to leave it all on the dance floor. The music will include genres and styles for every taste. Munchies and soft drinks are included, and dancers are welcome to bring their own alcoholic beverages.

The dance party will be Friday, March 21 and Friday, March 28 from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. Dancers can pay $10 for the night or $35 for the month. The first five to arrive will get in for half price. Hamptons Dance Authority is located at 425 County Road 39A, Lower Level Suite 1 in Southampton. For more information, call 283-1488 or visit hamptonsdance.com.

Student Musicians in Classical Concert for Katy’s Courage

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Christopher Ritter, Benjamin Hoertnagl-Pereira, Georgia Bennett and Kivlan King, who will perform as Classical Students for Katy's Courage Sunday. Christopher Golden photo.

Christopher Ritter, Benjamin Hoertnagl-Pereira, Georgia Bennett and Kivlan King, who will perform as Classical Students for Katy’s Courage Sunday. Christopher Golden photo.

By Tessa Raebeck

They have performed everywhere from Carnegie Hall to the Pierson High School auditorium, but on Sunday 10 classical musicians will join together with a sole purpose: to honor Katy Stewart.

At the sixth annual Classical Students for Katy’s Courage Benefit Concert at Bay Street Theatre, student musicians from across the East End will perform in memory of Katy, a beloved Pierson student who passed away in December 2010 from a rare form of liver cancer. At just 12 years young, as her parents Brigid Collins Stewart and Jim Stewart say, Katy had already touched the Sag Harbor community with her bright personality, inherent kindness and contagious positive energy.

The 10 students, who come from East Hampton, Southampton and Sag Harbor and range in age from 13 to 19, will perform 12 classic pieces by composers such as Handel, Mozart and Chopin. Local professional pianists Ellen Johansen of East Hampton and Alvin Novak of Water Mill, as well as 21-year-old Manhattan School of Music student Ge Gao, will accompany the students.

The classical concert is a fitting celebration of the life of Katy, who had a true love for music. Katy played the piano and treasured her violin, taking lessons with David Fox every Saturday morning. Mr. Fox, also the strings teacher at the Sag Harbor Elementary School, will introduce the students on Sunday.

All proceeds from the 100-minute concert will benefit the Katy’s Courage Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research and Katy’s Kids @ CMEE, which will open in the fall to provide counseling and play therapy opportunities for grieving children and their families.

“Through performing for Katy’s Courage, I hope that I am able to honor Katy’s memory, as she was able to touch so many hearts herself, and use my gift to support this cause,” said Matthew Maimone, 19.

A Sag Harbor resident, Mr. Maimone started playing the piano at age 6 and was accepted to the Julliard Pre-College at age 10, receiving an education that helped him to earn acceptance to the Juilliard School College Division last year.

“What I enjoy most about classical music is being able to give whatever story, whatever feeling, whatever aura a composer intended in his composition to an audience,” said Mr. Maimone, who will close the evening with a Chopin composition.

Opening the event will be Pierson graduate Christopher Beroes-Haigis, 19, on the cello and Benjamin Hoertnagl-Pereira, 17, of Southampton High School, on the violin.

“Playing music and writing music, in general, is an art form that people, if they want, could use to express themselves or to send out a message, to form bonds with others, or to give a gift for others to enjoy, which can help them in many ways,” said Mr. Beroes-Haigis, who is now studying at Bard College.

“I feel that music is a beautiful way to express oneself, just like an artist expresses oneself by painting,” agreed Leo Panish, 16, a sophomore at East Hampton High School. Mr. Panish began playing the violin when he was 2 ½, asking his parents if he could learn after watching his brother Maxfield, who will perform on the piano at Sunday’s concert, play.

“What I love about classical music,” he said, “is that I can listen to a piece again and again and each time I get something new from it. There are so many complexities in the music that it requires listening to a piece many times to even begin to understand it.”

Pianist and Pierson sophomore Christopher Ritter, 15, who began studying with Ms. Johansen when he was 6, will play “Toccata in E flat minor” by Aram Khachaturian. His classmate at Pierson, Emmanuelle Bernard, will perform a Mozart composition on the piano, followed by a cello piece by Kivlan King, a student at Southampton High School.

Ross School eighth grader Tristan Griffin began playing piano at 4 ½ and had his first solo concert at Steinway Hall when he was 7. The 13-year-old will perform two piano compositions Sunday.

Vocalist Georgia Bennett, 16, will sing “Lascia Ch’io Pianga,” a sad but beautiful opera piece in Italian.

“It’s a good way to express myself and it is a release from everyday life,” she said of music, adding, “It’s such an honor to be singing to benefit Katy’s Courage.”

“The idea of the benefit concert makes it less about the criticism and the close scrutinizing found in other concerts, and more about giving back to the community,” said Mr. Beroes-Haigis.

“Music is a gift that can change a person’s life,” said Mr. Maimone. “Hopefully, through my music, I can encourage people to give to help support pediatric cancer research. This would make Katy proud.”

The sixth annual Classical Students Benefit Concert for Katy’s Courage will be held Sunday, March 23, at 4 p.m. at Bay Street Theatre. A suggested donation of $15 has been suggested. For more information, call 725-9500 or visit katyscourage.org.

Pierson Middle School Student Earns First Chair in State Honor Band

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Pierson Middle School student Thomas Brooks poses with his award certificate and saxophone at the New York State Honor Band recital in March. Photo courtesy of Austin Remson.

Pierson Middle School student Thomas Brooks poses with his award certificate and saxophone at the New York State Honor Band recital in March. Photo courtesy of Austin Remson.

By Tessa Raebeck

At the beginning of each band class, Austin Remson has a dilemma. Does he tell Thomas Brooks—who is, without fail, playing music from memory on the piano—to stop playing and get to his seat, or does he let him play a little longer?

Mr. Remson, director of the seventh and eighth grade band at Pierson Middle School, has to tell Mr. Brooks to take his seat so the class can begin, but his reluctant strictness has paid off. Earlier this month, Thomas earned first chair for alto saxophone in the New York State Honor Band for middle school students.

Sponsored by the New York State Band Directors Association, the award is “a big honor,” according to Mr. Remson. “He made our school very proud.”

Students have to achieve a certain level on New York State School Music Association evaluations and earn a certain grade in music class in order to be considered. If they meet the criteria, the music teacher recommends the student and a committee of music teachers from around the state selects the best students, about 65 in total from grades six through eight who are then inducted into the Honor Band.

“He received a perfect score at NYSSMA,” Mr. Remson said of Thomas, “so that put him in qualification to be recommended for the honor band. Along with this NYSSMA score, they want to know what his extracurriculars are, whatever music things he does and how he performs in the class—and everything was very high achieving.”

Upon arriving at the symposium, held from March 7 to 9 in Syracuse, Thomas auditioned for his seat, achieving first chair. After rehearsing for two full days for seven hours straight, the honored students performed a concert.

Thomas’s music career started five years ago, when he was in third grade, with private piano lessons with Sue Daniels.

After asking to play drums but having to settle for his second choice, the saxophone, because the drum section at the Sag Harbor Elementary School was already full, Thomas could have been disappointed, but instead he was hooked.

“It just happened to be that way,” he said of how he came to play the instrument, “and then I liked it.”

“It’s just a really fun instrument. I like the sounds. I like the way our band sounds when we play a really good song. And I don’t know, it’s just lots of fun,” he added.

Thomas also plays baseball, basketball and soccer competitively and works as a camp counselor at Future Stars at SYS, but music is his true passion.

“I like to listen to all sorts,” he said. “I mean, anything that sounds nice I’ll listen to. I like playing it just as much as listening to it. On iTunes, there’s anything you can listen to, so I listen to anything.”

Thomas likes to buy songs on iTunes, listen to them and then figure out how to play the song on the piano.

“I’ll kind of just think about it and then I’ll try to play it,” said Thomas, who is now in his second year of Mr. Remson’s seventh and eighth grade ensemble.

“He has a very good ear for music,” said Mr. Remson. “He just loves music, I can see it. And as someone who loves music also, I see a lot of myself in some of my students that really love music and it’s great.”

“He’s got a real natural talent and he’s very receptive if I give him a direction in how to play something,” he added. “Two years ago, when he came into the ensemble, he had difficulty articulating the notes. Within a week, he was perfect… He just excelled and excelled and excelled.”

Besides his natural talent, Mr. Remson said, Thomas excels due to his hard work and devotion to constantly improving. NYSSMA evaluates students on levels 1 through 6 and Thomas is already preparing to perform at level 5—despite not yet being in high school.

“I did level 1 in fourth grade and then I just went on,” he said.

At NYSSMA, students prepare a piece at their respective level to perform in front of a judge. They are graded on different criteria—tone quality, intonation, musicality, rhythm—and if they do well enough they can be invited to play in honor ensembles.

Thomas was accepted into the select ensembles for the Hamptons Music Educators Association and the Suffolk County Music Educators Association, but could not attend because he was performing in the state honor band the same weekend.

If Thomas has an upcoming event, such as the state band, he practices about 14 hours a week. If he doesn’t have anything on the horizon, he still dedicates at least six hours a week to practicing.

Thomas is the first Pierson Middle School student to be named to the State Honor Band, let alone achieve a first chair position.

“It’s going to be much more difficult to get into these kinds of things because I’ll be the youngest one [in the high school division] as a freshman,” Thomas said. “But, I’ll still try for HMEA and maybe I could get into the high school honor band…it’ll be hard, I have to work on my NYSSMA solos.”

Of the honor he’s already earned, Thomas said, “I guess it looks good on a college application.”

Thomas’s future plans are up in the air. “I could do that community band in Sag Harbor,” he said.

Injustice as Inspiration: Max Gomez at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center

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Singer-songwriter Max Gomez.

Singer-songwriter Max Gomez. Courtesy of New West Records.

By Tessa Raebeck

From pop charts to dive bars, love songs are rampant. A universal topic, love makes it easy for artists to connect with audiences, but singer-songwriter Max Gomez takes a different path.

“I hate to say this old song-writing cliché, but a little bit of heartbreak will turn you into a songwriter real quick,” explained Mr. Gomez, who will perform at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Saturday, March 29.

That heartbreak stems from more than lost love. Mr. Gomez draws inspiration from any form of injustice, from restless girlfriends and the hold of addiction to the misuse of power and widespread violence. His music is soulful and gritty at the same time, balancing mellow rock instrumentation with blues, country and folk influences.

Growing up with four older brothers in the remote hamlet of Taos, the most northern of the New Mexico pueblos, Mr. Gomez first learned about music on an old player piano his family had.

“We used to have a closet full of scrolls and we would get our different scrolls and pump the pedals and the piano would start playing,” he said. “It was just kind of a fun thing to do. I always was into any kind of music, really…I played music ever since I was a little kid.”

When Mr. Gomez was 9, his older brother got a guitar. He quickly usurped control over it, playing it constantly.

“Eventually, I got my own and I’ve never really put it down,” he said. “And now, it’s gotten way out of control.”

At just 15, Mr. Gomez was offered a job to play regularly at “kind of a honky-tonk bar and restaurant” that typically hosted country artists. “It was kind of an unusual thing for a 15-year-old,” he said. “I got a little job playing when I was that age and over the years, I just kind of continued to work at it and study different kind of music and I got different influences.”

Originally listening to and playing only the blues, working at the country venue introduced Mr. Gomez to traveling singer-songwriters and new influences, including writers who worked with John Prine, today a major influence of his, and Mentor Williams, who wrote Dobie Gray’s biggest hit, “Drift Away,” in 1973. The experience helped Mr. Gomez establish himself as a singer-songwriter with diverse influences rather than solely doing a “blues or country kind of thing.”

“The blues has been a major influence, the old recordings of Robert Johnson, which I think kind of started American music in the way that we know it, even today,” he said of the Mississippi Delta blues master, who died in the 1930’s at age 27 after finding little commercial success.

Big Bill Broonzy is another blues influence, “and then in the folk world, I’m big on John Prine, Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt…to me that music really never gets old, I listen to it a lot.”

With a piano, a mandolin and a banjo at home, Mr. Gomez continues to “dabble on this and that,” but his focus has always been the guitar. Although he remains rooted in blues and folk, the constant in Mr. Gomez’s music is not a melody or an instrument, but thoughtful, intent songwriting.

“Rule the World,” Mr. Gomez’s debut album, was released in January 2013 by New West Records, which represents eclectic artists like The Devil Makes Three, The Replacements, Drive-By Truckers and Steve Earle. Jeff Trott, who has worked with Stevie Nicks and Sheryl Crow, produced the 10-song album.

The album’s first single, “Run From You,” was co-written by Mr. Gomez and Mr. Trott. It begins:

“I was walking around with my old friend, where the pavement ends and the trouble began, it’s true, that’s where I ran into you. White blossoms in raven hair, got a funny feeling and a dead man’s stare, wishing I knew, I should have run from you.”

The “anti-love” lyrics are supported by the heartbreak evident in Mr. Gomez’s relaxing melodies and mellow, crooning vocals. He often co-writes songs, drawing influence from talented friends like singer-songwriter Shawn Mullins, best known for the 1998 hit single “Lullaby.”

“We get together and we just kind of start playing and find something that we like the sound of musically, and then we start writing a little story to it,” he said of collaboration.

“But when I write by myself,” continued Mr. Gomez, “I tend to only write when I feel really strongly about something and it just can come out in a fell swoop and you just make a little music to go with it, which is kind of different.”

That’s where the injustice comes in as inspiration.

“I was writing a lot of real love songs—specifically for somebody, in a certain sense—and when that whole thing didn’t really pan out, I started writing the other kind of love song, which is the anti-love song.”

“Run From You” is a story about meeting someone and later wishing you hadn’t, a feeling to which most who have endured a difficult romance can likely relate. A specific experience prompted the song, yet Mr. Gomez keeps the lyrics broad for others to decode, so the audience’s interpretation can still be open-ended and every story can also belong to the listener.

“Sometimes you write very literally and you just kind of write a story,” he said, “but I often try to keep the story buried inside, so that it’s not really that specific or literal and it’s something that can be interpreted into the way you feel, rather than a certain, exact thing. I think that’s a good key in songwriting, to not tell the listener exactly what is going on, but to let them make that decision themselves.”

For Mr. Gomez, performance is an extension of that creative process. He tries to play at least one brand new song at every show, to see how the crowd reacts to it and gauge how it can be improved. The audience is crucial to his craft; a draft cannot be complete until the song is tested live, he said.

Despite his anti-love tendencies, Mr. Gomez remains a romantic at heart: In “Love Will Find a Way,” he writes, “Take a good look around, you’ve got both feet on the ground. Kiss the pain, and taste the truth, while you hang onto your youth. You can fly far away and dream of yesterday, and pray, pray that love’s gonna find a way.”

Max Gomez will perform Saturday, March 29, as part of the Breakout Artist Series, in partnership with WEHM 92.9 and 96.9 FM at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center at 76 Main Street in Westhampton Beach. For tickets, call the box office at 288-1500 or visit here.