Tag Archive | "Sag Harbor American Music Festival"

Kelly Dodds

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Kelly Dodds. Photograph by Steve Kotz

Kelly Dodds. Photograph by Stephen J. Kotz.

By Sam Mason-Jones

Kelly Dodds is the founder of the Sag Harbor American Music Festival. Now in its fourth year, 2014′s festival will take place the weekend of September 26 and 27, with a village-wide celebration of the roots of American music.

What was it about the Village of Sag Harbor that moved you to set up the Sag Harbor American Music Festival?

KD: Sag Harbor is so unique and special and we really wanted to utilize the layout of the village to show off the feeling of the town and the community to the locals, the visitors, everybody. We were influenced by festivals like the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, but wanted to do it on a Sag Harbor-sized scale.

We have been allowed to set up in lots of unusual venues around the town. Last year we created what we call the “Off Main Stage” in an alley just off Main Street, and received tremendous response and congregated a large crowd for each of the three acts who performed there. Performances will also take place in Geekhampton, Lifestyle and a lot of restaurants, as well as local landmarks like the Windmill beach and the Old Whalers’ Church.

What sort of acts have you booked to fill the array of venues at this year’s festival?

We’ve got everything from non-traditional hip-hop to the  jazz, rock and folk of roots American music. It’s a huge mix, but with a focus on genres specific to the U.S. like blues, Americana and bluegrass. When we created the festival, even in naming it, we decided to focus on the music that is uniquely American, which people often don’t recognize. We wanted to expose visitors to the real roots of American music.

This year we’re particularly excited to have booked virtuoso bassist Christian McBride and his Trio, who will kick off the Friday night, and for which I would recommend getting tickets early. Also Edith Gawler and Bennett Konesni, who are up-and-coming in the folk world, and curate a festival on Shelter Island each summer. We are also looking forward to welcoming a number of fabulous musicians local to the East End. A comprehensive list of acts and locations will be announced in the coming weeks.

Have you made any changes to the festival since last year?

This year’s festival will differ from the previous three in that we are going to have a wider selection of performers; we are going to tack on a few hours at the beginning and end of the day to squeeze a few more acts in. The layout is also going to act in a way that allows you to walk along and follow different genres at different times, so you can pick and choose what you want to see. The timings this year will also allow the possibility to hear a little bit of each and every performance, as Sag Harbor is small enough. That’s one of the great things about Sag Harbor, its manageable. You can just park your car and walk around the village all day long.

Is there anything unique in the format of the Sag Harbor American Music Festival?

We are different from a number of festivals in that we are sponsored completely by local businesses and individuals. We are a 501(c)(3) charitable organization and 85 percent of the money we raise goes toward paying the musicians and our production teams. The festival is helped by a large number of volunteers because we don’t have any staff. That’s how we keep the overhead so low. The remaining income is reinvested back into musical projects in Sag Harbor.

Which projects will you be looking to invest said income into?

In the last three years we have made substantial donations to the Pierson High School music department, and we’ve partnered with them to produce specific things. One year they purchased a new piano, the next they purchased a new software system. This year we are talking about purchasing some new instruments. In addition to that, we support free live music year-round. We help pay for music during the winter-time; for instance, the Chamber of Commerce puts on HarborFrost in February, and we will sponsor the music for that day. As much money as we have, we will reinvest into live performances and the school and any other deserving musical ventures.

School District Receives Donation

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Eric Reynolds, Dr. John Gratto and Kelly Connaughton at Tuesday's announcement.

Eric Reynolds, Dr. John Gratto and Kelly Connaughton at Tuesday's announcement.



Giving back to the young musicians of tomorrow, the Sag Harbor American Music Festival donated a $500 check to the Sag Harbor School District this week.

District Superintendent Dr. John Gratto said the money would go toward the purchase of a new electronic piano. The total cost of the instrument will exceed $1,000, but Dr. Gratto said the district will make up the difference in the cost.

The Sag Harbor American Music Festival held its inaugural event this past October and featured a plethora of local artists who performed in various shops throughout the village.

According to music festival organizer Kelly Connaughton, the intent from the get-go was to offer a donation to the school district for its music program as part of the fall event. However, the event didn’t generate enough funds to make a profit.

“We learned to keep it small in the first year so we could finish in the black,” Connaughton explained.

This month’s donation is a result of profits from the music festival’s participation in HarborFrost this year. By teaming up with the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce the music program was able to keep overhead low and generate a small profit for the school.

Connaughton said the goal is to keep growing from here, trying to get more local stores to participate in the second annual event this fall.

“If more businesses participate,” she added, “we’ll have a much larger donation for the school.”

Music Fest Set to Go

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The music festival was announced at the home of John Landes in Sag Harbor.

The music festival was announced at the home of John Landes in Sag Harbor.



by Emily J. Weitz

Last September, The Sag Harbor American Music Festival turned the village into one giant musical performance, with 22 groups playing in 17 different venues over the course of two days. This year, Kelly Connaughton, co-artistic director of the festival, hopes to ride on the previous successes and to infuse new energy to make it even bigger. At the kick-off party at John and Lindsay Landes’ Sag Harbor home Tuesday night, the musical community turned out to show its robust support.

“This time last year, we were just explaining what the Sag Harbor American Music Festival is,” said Connaughton at the event. “Nobody knew what to expect, and to be honest, we didn’t know what to expect. We had a vision. We had an idea that Sag Harbor is a beautiful place and we wanted to share it with the world.”

The festival was a success, said Connaughton, so much so that they came out in the black and, combined with proceeds from HarborFrost in the winter, had some extra to give back to the community. Connaughton explained that, from the beginning, the plan had been to give back.

“One thing we wanted to do was start a scholarship fund,” she said.

While that fund is still a hope for the future, this year they were able to donate $500 towards a new digital piano for the Sag Harbor Schools. Dr. John Gratto, Superintendent, was there to express his gratitude.

“This digital piano will benefit all our music students,” said Gratto as he accepted the check from Connaughton. “Many students will touch this, and be practicing on this great piano. We at the school are very appreciative, and look forward to collaborating over the years. This is the start of a great partnership.”

The 2012 Sag Harbor American Music Festival will take place on September 28 and 29. This year, the mainstage will be in the Old Whaler’s Church.

“Pastor Mark Phillips is donating the space,” said Connaughton, “so all the money we are raising goes to more grants and more musicians.”

The mainstage artist, already signed on, will be legendary blues musician John Hammond. Inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2011, Hammond has won many awards and accolades over the years. He also has a connection to the East End.

“He used to play regularly at the Talkhouse,” explained Connaughton, “and this is a homecoming. Ticket price will be limited to $20, until we sell out.”

Though no specific names or venues were revealed for Saturday’s musical offerings, the after-party will be held at Bay Street Theatre. Connaughton explained they will book musicians and promote shows as sponsors sign on. Sponsorship varies from supporting a solo artist, duo, trio, or quartet to sponsoring at a Founders’ level. Advertising and promotion is offered in exchange. Email Kelly@sagharbormusic.org for details.


Sag Harbor American Music Festival Aims to Bring Community Together through Music

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Festival Painting by maryann lucas

Image painted by Maryann Lucas.

Sag Harbor resident Kelly Connaughton’s mission in life is to make music accessible to everyone, and in doing so create new generations of listeners eager to take in a live performance, bolstering the ability of local musicians to thrive.

Connaughton, the former director of the Henry Mancini Music Festival in Los Angeles and former regional director of the Grammy Awards, didn’t necessarily expect to find a hot bed of local music when she first arrived in Sag Harbor two years ago.

And then she walked into the Bay Burger Jazz Jam Session on a random Thursday night.

What Connaughton, along with the throngs of regular jazz jam session attendees, walked into was a group of varied and talented local jazz musicians, who had found the right venue to share their art. For Connaughton, it was the beginnings of the realization that Sag Harbor Village was the kind of community on the East End ready, willing and able to celebrate music.

“I thought, this is amazing,” said Connaughton this week. “So I kept going, and then I started to go to see Jim Turner play and then the singer songwriters started performing in Sag Harbor and when the jazz jam session ended at the close of the season, Bay Street Theatre opened its doors for free to host them. It was inspiring, and I knew then it was possible to host a music festival in Sag Harbor.”

Two years later, with the help of drummer and jazz jam founder Claes Brondel, and fellow board members including co-artist director Kerry Farrell, Grenning Gallery owner Laura Grenning and Bay Burger co-owner John Landes, Connaughton’s dream is about to become a reality.

The Sag Harbor American Music Festival will debut at the end of this month, September 30 and October 1, bringing the musicians who often find a place to play in the village together over the course of two days, to celebrate the genres of music created and loved in the United States, including jazz, folk, blues and rock.

While the schedule for the festival is not quite set in stone, Connaughton shared the tentative line-up, which will feature musicians playing at local businesses, churches and not-for-profits throughout Sag Harbor, meant to move residents and visitors throughout the village, ideally supporting the local economy while enjoying a Saturday afternoon and evening bursting with live music.

The festival will open on Friday, September 30 with a concert and fundraiser for the festival at Bay Street Theatre featuring double Grammy Award winning artist Monica Mancini, in a tribute to her father Henry Mancini, and Randy Brecker’s All Start East End Band, starting with a reception at 7 p.m. It is one of the only events of the weekend that will come with an admission price, of $30, in an attempt for the festival to break even in its inaugural year.

On Saturday, solitary street musicians with be posted in two to three locations throughout Sag Harbor’s Main Streets during daylight hours. Starting at noon, musicians will perform free hour-long performances throughout the village, starting with the Who Dat Loungers at the Old Whalers’ Church at 12:30. Throughout the day other groups, including the Richie Siegler 4tet, Dick Johansson & the Highlanders, the Keve Wilson Duo, Caroline Doctorow, the Vanessa Trouble Trio and Dan Bailey, among others.

An after party at Dodds & Eder, which will cost $10, will feature Gene Casey and the Lonesharks at 9 p.m. to close out the festivities.

Connaughton said festival organizers have tried to keep things small for the first year, aiming for success, and hopefully making the Sag Harbor American Music Festival one of the many annual events in the village that help bring visitors to the region, and its restaurants and stores.

“A lot of people can be jazz-a-phobic,” noted Connaughton. “Because this is a free event our hope is people check it out and realize there is something special there.”

The concept of having the festival and including street musician performances was born out of Connaughton’s work with the Henry Mancini Institute. Mancini was a composer, conductor and arranger who developed the jazz arrangement to Peter Seller’s “The Pink Panther,” and wrote the music for “Moon River” and “Days of Wine and Roses.”

“We held free concerts, and part of my whole mission in life became making music accessible to everyone and building audiences for people,” sand Connaughton. “We brought music to the streets, and Sag Harbor’s wide sidewalks happen to be very conducive to that kind of performance.”

In general, said Connaugton, the community and businesses alike have rallied around the idea. The American Hotel, the Grenning Gallery, LifeStyle, Page at 63 Main, Phao, the Romany Kramoris Gallery, La Superica, Sylvester & Co., Tutto il Giorno, Pomme Café, as well as the Old Whalers Church, The Whaling Museum and Marine Park will all host musicians during the Saturday festival.

“The general community also loves that it is after the summer rush and they can participate,” said Connaughton. “It has been kind of a rough summer and people are happy the festival will come after the season is over, when locals can come but we can also bring business to Sag Harbor.”

“But mostly, I think this is a time we can hopefully all get together and celebrate our community, and of course, great music.”


Village Considers Ban on Bamboo

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Sag Harbor resident Pat Field has tried everything to destroy bamboo that spread from her neighbor’s Madison Street property across her driveway and 15-feet into her property.

“It’s impossible to kill,” she said at a Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday night. “I’ve tried.”

Field has proposed that the village consider adopting a law similar to one proposed in Smithtown banning invasive species of bamboo that, when planted and not properly controlled, can spread quickly and destroy neighboring properties. Under Field’s proposal, homeowners who plant bamboo must keep it from spreading within 20-feet of neighboring properties, noting the plants can “destroy brick patios” and even grow through air conditioning units. She proposes that violators would be charged with having to remove the plants from neighbors’ properties if it spreads and should be fined $500 a month if they don’t comply with the law.

“If someone wants it so badly, they must put a steel barrier at least three-feet down to contain the plantings on their property,” states Field in her proposal to the board.

Both Mayor Brian Gilbride and Trustee Robby Stein appeared supportive of the village at least exploring legislation.

“Nothing will happen overnight, but you have brought us something we will look at and send to the other boards,” said Gilbride.

Village Needs County Okay For Binocular Viewer on Wharf

The Long Island Chapter of the United States Lighthouse Society has petitioned the Village of Sag Harbor to allow a binocular viewer on Long Wharf for residents to view the historic Cedar Island Lighthouse.

The society is working towards the lighthouse’s restoration and is hoping the viewer will bring attention, and support to their cause.

On Tuesday night, Gilbride told Michael Leahy, the Chairman of the Cedar Island Restoration Committee, that he supported the idea, but due to ongoing debates between the county and the village over the ownership of Long Wharf, he was hesitant to allow the viewer to be installed.

However, Gilbride agreed to allow the viewer to be placed on the wharf as long as Leahy could secure a letter from the county supporting the concept.

Resident Wants Trees Removed

A Hempstead Street resident approached both the village Harbor Committee and Trustees this week asking that trees she says were planted on village property over 30 years ago, blocking her water view, be removed.

Rebecca Curtis contends that former village mayor Bill Young had trees planted in the portion of village land next to the Havens Beach drainage ditch that took away a water view from the rear of her house. Curtis said she was promised they would be removed, but 32 years later they remain.

She added that she would like the village to explore restoring the wetlands around the drainage ditch instead of its current plan. The village trustees have proposed to address bacteria in the ditch through a combination of bio-filtration in the creation of a restored wetland in the ditch itself, as well as the use of mechanical filtration units at the beginning of the ditch at Hempstead Street and at its end where it discharges into Sag Harbor Bay.

“I moved here just to have a view of that water and I no longer have that due to the village’s actions,” said Curtis on Tuesday night.

Gilbride said he was reluctant to “chop down” trees on village property. Trustee Tim Culver added that the village’s plans for Havens Beach were developed out of years of study by village environmental planning consultant Rich Warren, as well as the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Riverhead.

After the meeting, Superintendent of Public Works Dee Yardley questioned whether or not the trees Young had planted on village property were the trees now blocking Curtis’ view. He furnished two maps, one from 1997 that showed two perfect lines of trees planted next to the ditch at Havens Beach. Yardley said it is those trees, which were cut down two years ago, that he believes were planted by the village. A cluster of trees blocking Curtis’ view, visible on a 2009 map of the area, Yardley said he believes grew naturally.

In other village news, the board formally adopted a new law regulating restaurants as accessory businesses to motels in the resort-motel district of the village.

Under the law, the restaurants cannot occupy more than 20-percent of the gross floor area of an entire restaurant, can only be open when the motel is open, cannot offer take-out to non-motel guests and cannot contain a separate bar or nightclub.

Lastly, the board approved the Sag Harbor American Music Festival’s request to have outdoor musicians perform on two spots on Main Street and have an outdoor performance at Marine Park to kick off their inaugural festival on Friday, September 30 and Saturday, October 1.

In addition to a Friday night performance at Bay Street theatre, 11 local businesses will host musical events featuring American music styles like blues and jazz, over the course of the weekend.