Tag Archive | "Sag Harbor"

Bay Street Theater Announces “Grey Gardens, The Musical” Will Close 2015 MainStage Season

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A film still from the documentary “Grey Gardens” featuring Little Edie Bouvier Beale at her East Hampton home.

A film still from the documentary “Grey Gardens” featuring Little Edie Bouvier Beale at her East Hampton home.

Sag Harbor’s Bay Street Theater Announced last week it will stage “Grey Gardens,” a musical, as the third production of its 2015 Mainstage Season, which runs May 26 through August 30. “Grey Gardens” will open July 28 and run through August 30, with book by Doug Wright, music by Scott Frankel and lyrics by Michael Korie. According to a press release issued by the theater last week, casting and the creative team will be announced soon.

“Grey Gardens” tells the story of Big Edie and Little Edie Bouvier Beale, the eccentric aunt and cousin of Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis. The play is based on the 1975 documentary by Albert and David Maysles, a cult classic which is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2015 and inspired the HBO film of the same name starring Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore. Set at the Bouvier mansion in the Georgic section of East Hampton, the musical follows a mother and daughter on their hilarious and heartbreaking journey from glamorous aristocrats to notorious recluses in a crumbling house filled with memories and cats.

“I am very excited we will bring the daring musical ‘Grey Gardens’ to Bay Street this summer,” says Scott Schwartz, Artistic Director for Bay Street Theater. “This is a story set in the heart of the East End and that is woven into the social fabric of our community. What a thrill it will be to see the lives of the Beales unfold onstage just miles from their now infamous home. This musical is entertaining and complex, featuring a terrific score and delicious characters. With this production, Bay Street will continue to share innovative, contemporary musical theater with our audience.”

Tickets to “Grey Gardens” are currently only available through a full subscription to the 2015 Mainstage Season. For more information, visit baystreet.org.

 

With No Clear Option for Later Start Times, School District Asks Community for Help

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Sag Harbor Elementary School Student Beckham LaRose told the Sag Harbor School District Tuesday.

“I need more sleep,” Sag Harbor Elementary School student Beckham LaRose told the Sag Harbor Board of Education Tuesday, as School Business Administrator Jennifer Buscemi and District Clerk Mary Adamczyk listened. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

By Tessa Raebeck

After hosting seven workshops in less than two months, the Sag Harbor School District has made headway on researching ways to move school start times later, but remains far from ready to implement a change.

A later start to the school day, especially for high school students, has been advocated by health and education experts nationwide, after research has shown a later start time is better for students’ overall health and safety, behavior and academic performance. Despite the indisputable benefits to children, however, implementation faces practical challenges: established schedules for classes, bus routes and classes; faculty and staff contracts, parents’ work requirements, and cultural behaviors that are in many cases deeply ingrained.

Although Sag Harbor parents have individually advocated for later starts at various times—and to various superintendents—over the past decade, national momentum toward a change surged in August, when the American Academy of Pediatrics released a report calling chronic sleep deprivation in adolescents a national health crisis and recommending no American high school start before 8:30 a.m.

Human sleep cycles change during adolescence; teenagers naturally feel alert later at night and have difficulty falling asleep before 11 p.m. Teenagers also need more sleep, requiring at least 8.5 hours, a mere pipe dream for those who have to get on the bus at 6:45 a.m.

Mirroring the national conversation, the movement has gained significant traction in Sag Harbor, which, like many other schools on Long Island, has one of the earliest start times in the country. The Pierson Middle/High School schedule runs from 7:25 a.m. to 2:26 p.m., with many students waiting for the bus in the dark to make it to first period on time. Sag Harbor Elementary School starts the day with morning program at 8:35 a.m. and goes to 3:10 p.m.

Spectators are rare at school board meetings, perhaps not surprisingly, but on Tuesday some 30 parents, students and teachers filled the Pierson Library to hear the board discuss its options. The district’s administrative team compiled extensive data on various aspects and costs of a potential switch, including the effect on athletics schedules and bus routes, the two primary challenges of a change (data available at sagharborschools.org). The plans would range in cost and effectiveness, but none was selected by the board or highly favored by those in attendance. Some options come with significant price tags, while others do little to solve the problem.

Several options would continue operating separate bus runs for the elementary school and Pierson, which are “what saves us the most money,” Jennifer Buscemi, the school business administrator, said. Under other plans, however, the bus runs would have to be combined, which would require significant costs and the potentially problematic situation of 5-year-olds riding the bus alongside teenagers.

The probable annual costs for the first three options, which start both schools after 8 a.m., could range from $401,986 to $625,799, Ms. Buscemi projected. Options 4 and 5 have no additional costs, but Option 4 simply swaps the schools’ times, starting the elementary school early instead, and Option 5 starts Pierson at 7:35 a.m., a mere 10-minute improvement, but a possible starting point, Ms. Graves said.

The sixth option gives Pierson a 7:45 a.m. start time, with 9 a.m. at the elementary school, and would have a much lower cost of $75,000 for contracting out additional sports runs, which Ms. Buscemi said would “not be a very large impact on our tax cap,” whereas that of options 1, 2, and 3 is substantial.

“My general feeling,” said school board member David Diskin “on this is that to make a significant change, it’s obviously a huge amount of money.” Although Mr. Diskin said he saw the benefits of a change, he added he “would hate to see us reduce programs because we made the switch.”

But advocates of later times maintain its better to be roughing it in the beginning of a change than catching up at the tail end, and the momentum is definitely growing. Parents in Southampton, which starts its high school at 7:30, have also urged the board to adopt later times. While Sag Harbor was debating Tuesday, a school district in Dorchester, South Carolina, voted to move its start time later next year.

Switching times is difficult, but not impossible. Schools in Pierson’s athletic conference, the Ross School and Shelter Island High School, both start at 8 a.m.

“I don’t think we have found the right solution—the right option—yet,” said school board vice president Chris Tice. “I think we needed to go through this process to say what are the big rocks, what is the data—I’m not convinced that all the options that are potentially viable are on the table yet…the average district that has made a change takes six months to two years to explore this, we took a month.”

The board spoke in favor of putting the issue on the back burner for now, with hopes of reconvening with better preparation after the budget season. They urged community members to use the extensive data and information compiled by the administration to research more cost-effective, sustainable options.

The community appeared ready and willing to take the reins.

Jackson LaRose, a sixth grader at Pierson, asked the board to consider moving the elementary school schedule from 9 a.m. to 3:35 p.m. and Pierson from 7:50 a.m. to 2:50 p.m., “So the buses have enough time and I don’t think it would cost anymore money,” he said. His little brother, 8-year-old Beckham, agreed, saying, “I need more sleep.”

Laurie Marsden, a parent, said after transitioning to middle school this year, her daughter is “struggling still and it’s December. She’s never had a headache in her life and she had headaches the first two weeks of school straight.”

“I know that every single parent that I speak to says they wish the school was later and they talk about how they’re struggling. They talk about how difficult it is not just for their children, but for their whole family,” said Ms. Marsden.

Jean Cowen, the mother of a seventh grader and a former teacher, suggested moving the academic support to beginning of the day, rather than at the end as it stands now, and making it optional. The teachers’ school day—and contracts—would not be affected, nor would bus routes. School would start at 8:05 a.m. for students whose parents can drive them later, with students who need academic support or to be at school earlier so their parents can get to work riding the bus at the regular times.

“Asking kids to get up and perform at the 7 a.m. hour is equivalent to asking an adult to get up and perform at the 4 a.m. hour,” said Susan LaMontagne, adding there are ways to make the change with very little or no costs, and she and other parents are willing to find out how to make it work in Sag Harbor.

Harbor Committee Has Questions About Fill

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Questions about whether it should approve the unauthorized addition of fill to the waterside property of a house at 188 Redwood Road occupied the Sag Harbor Harbor Committee’s attention on Monday.

Joshua Schwartz, through the application for 188 Redwood LLC, has been before the board in recent months, seeking permission to have a 2-foot-tall, 76-foot-long retaining wall in a buffer zone that was planted with native plants. The committee previously approved a new bulkhead along the waterfront, but members balked at the need for a second retaining wall, arguing that Mr. Schwartz had added fill without a permit.

That’s important, the board’s environmental consultant, Richard Warren, said, because “what you are doing here is changing the flood plain.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Schwartz’s attorney, Dennis Downes, told the board that when earlier work was done at the property, about 50 yards of sandy fill was excavated and spread over the existing lawn. Another 10 yards of topsoil were added.

The committee’s chairman, Steven Clarke, had scolded Mr. Schwartz at an earlier meeting for putting in the fill and said on Tuesday he was not inclined to sign off on letting it stand.

“We had lots of discussions with him about the project,” Mr. Clarke said. “I personally don’t cut him any slack on that aspect at all.”

Mr. Clarke proposed a compromise that would allow Mr. Schwartz to keep some of the fill and simply regrade it down to the buffer zone, eliminating the need for any retaining wall at all. When Mr. Downes protested that would punish his client, Mr. Clarke replied, “The punishment in this situation would be to make him start over again” without any additional fill.

“The irony is he is asking for a retaining wall to protect stuff he put in without asking us,” added member Tom Halten.

The committee tabled the matter and will revisit it at its next meeting.

SOFO Holding Toy Drive

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The South Fork Natural History Museum and Nature Center has announced that it will hold its first annual Holiday Toy Drive this year. The drive began on Monday, December 1, and will run through Friday, December 19, and will benefit local families in need.

SoFo is asking visitors to drop off at its center at 377 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike in Bridgehampton new or gently used, unwrapped toys for children from infant age through early teens. The First Church of God in Christ, The Bridgehampton Child Care & Recreational Center, and the First Baptist Church of Bridgehampton, all located nearby, will distribute the toys to children for the holiday season.

“SoFo is committed to giving back to the East End community,” said Frank Quevedo, the museum’s executive director, in a press release, “and we can’t think of a better way to honor our families than by helping ensure that all children enjoy this special holiday season.”

“We are delighted to work with our neighbors, the First Church of God in Christ, the Bridgehampton Child Care & Recreational Center, and the First Baptist Church of Bridgehampton on this important project,” added Mr. Quevedo.

“We invite everyone who can to join us in our Holiday Toy Drive,” said Diana Aceti, the museum’s new director of development. “We thank all of our donors for helping SoFo brighten the holidays of children in our community.”

The mission of the South Fork Natural History Museum & Nature Center is to stimulate interest in, advance knowledge of, and foster appreciation for the natural environment, with special emphasis on the unique natural history of Long Island’s South Fork. SoFo is a not -for-profit  membership, nature organization chartered by the New York State Department of Education in 1989. SoFo is dedicated to promoting nature education, in the museum and in the field, through hands on study of the South Fork’s native flora, fauna, and ecosystems.

SoFo is located at 377 Bridgehampton, Sag Harbor Turnpike in Bridgehampton. It can be found at sofo.org on the web. The museum is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  For more information, call (631) 537-9735.

AFTEE Lends a Helping Hand to East End Charities

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Heller_AFTEE at Dodds & Eder 12-2-14_3964_LR 

Members of the charitable organization All For The East End held a gathering at the Dodds & Eder store in Sag Harbor on Tuesday night, to raise awareness and inform interested parties on the current status of the organization. Among those attending were AFTEE board members, from he left, David Okorn, Myron Levine, Danielle Cardinale, Claudia Pilato, Dottie Simons and Bob Edelman. Photo by Michael Heller. 

By Stephen J. Kotz

To celebrate what has become known as “Giving Tuesday,” All for the East End, or AFTEE, a grassroots charity that was formed just two years ago with the goal of keeping charitable donations local, held a reception at Dodds and Eder in Sag Harbor on Tuesday, December 2, to celebrate the grants it awarded this year and get a kick start on raising money for 2015.

And what a start it got. After it was announced that Bruce and Luke Babcock through their Pope Babcock Foundation and Bridgehampton National Bank would donate $10,000 each and Myron Levine, one of AFTEE’s founders, would give $7,500, Dan’s Papers chief executive officer Bob Edelman said the company would give $12,500.

With $40,000 already in hand, Mr. Edelman and Claudia Pilato, BNB’s marketing director, who are both on AFTEE’s board, both pledged personal donations of $1,000, an amount Kevin O’Conner, BNB’s CEO, matched.

Soon, another half-dozen pledges from the audience had brought the unofficial total raised for the evening to $47,000.

That’s nearly as much as AFTEE distributed this year when it provided 20 different nonprofit organizations with micro-grants of $2,500.

“We’re hoping it can be a model around the country,” said Mr. Edelman of the idea of targeting local nonprofits with meaningful donations.

“There is a great need, and every organization is doing really valuable work,” added Ms. Pilato.

Mr. Levine, who has become an active fundraiser for a number of causes after the death of his son, Josh, in an accident at Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett in 2010, said he hoped that East End residents with the means to do so would consider making bequeaths in their wills to AFTEE so an endowment could be established to allow the organization to become self-sustaining.

“If they are passionate about the East End, they should consider leaving something to AFTEE,” he said.

To demonstrate firsthand the impact the organization has had, Ms. Pilato asked recipients of this year’s grants to tell the audience what they had done with the money.

Theresa Roden, the founder of i-tri, a program that focuses on raising the self-esteem of middle-school girls by having them complete a youth length triathlon, said her organization, started a nutrition program. Girls in the program and their families were able to learn the importance of eating a healthy diet, she said.

Sarah Benjamin, the director of Community Action Southold Town, said her group had used the money to set up a program to encourage parents of young children to both read to them and play with them, basic activities that help children get a head start in school.

Angela Byrnes of East End Hospice said her organization had recognized that children are often overlooked in the grieving process. To raise awareness, the organization held a conference that was attended by more than 100 representatives of schools, hospitals and other community organizations to discuss ways to provide better services for children who have lost a loved one.

Zona Stroy of Open Arms Care Center in Riverhead, an organization which over the years has found its niche as a food pantry, said her all-volunteer organization used its grant money to buy food.

“We decided people should eat all year long, not just at the holidays,” she said.

AFTEE received 82 applications this year. The task of determining where that money should go fell to the Long Island Community Foundation, whose executive director, David Okorn, said he established a committee with one member from each of the five East End towns to make the decisions.

They learned, he said, that it is difficult choose one organization over another because all of the applications were for well-deserving programs.

AFTEE is a registered nonprofit organization. More information about making donations or applying for a 2015 grant can be found at aftee.org.

Merrell and McMullan Will Speak at Book and Author Luncheon

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McMullan Photo

James McMullan is one of two authors who will speak at the John Jermain Memorial Library’s annual Book and Author Luncheon this Sunday. 

By Stephen J. Kotz

Two Sag Harbor writers, Susan Scarf Merrell and James McMullan, who have both published new works this year, will be the featured speakers when the Friends of the John Jermain Memorial Library hold their annual Book and Author Luncheon on Sunday, December 7, from noon to 2:30 p.m. at the American Hotel. The event is already sold out.

Both writers said they are happy to lend a hand to the library, which they both described as a community treasure.

“I love this library. I’ve spent a lot of time writing in the old building, and the people at the library have always been so good to me,” said Ms. Merrell who won a seat on the first elected library board. “I’m very committed to what this library brings to our community.”

“I’m so happy this little town of Sag Harbor has such a vital library,” added Mr. McMullan. “On the human level, I’m very impressed. We’re so lucky to have those kind of people on the library staff.”

Ms. Merrell describes her second novel, “Shirley: A Novel,” as a book of suspense and obsession that was based on her own fascination with the writer Shirley Jackson, who lived in Benington, Vermont, with her husband, the critic Stanley Edgar Hyman.

Merrell Photo

Susan Scarf Merrell

In the novel, a young woman named Rose moves into the writer’s former home with her professor husband and slowly begins to believe she is living in a gothic horror writer’s novel, Ms. Merrell said. She is haunted by the ghost, real or imagined, of the writer who both idealizes and believes is linked to the disappearance of a student from Benington College years earlier.

Rose, Ms. Merrell said, “doesn’t really now how to be an adult and a mother and she becomes obsessed with Shirley Jackson who she thinks is a brilliant writer and great mother.”

Like her two previous books, Ms. Merrell said “Shirley” grew out of her own deep interest in Ms. Jackson and she weaves events from the writer’s life throughout.

Ms. Merrell is also the author of “ The Accidental Bond: How Sibling Connections Influence Adult Relationships” and the novel,  “A Member of the Family,” and other short stories and essays. She teaches in the MFA in Creative Writing and Literature program at Stony Brook Southampton College and is fiction editor of TSR: The Southampton Review.

Her speaking partner, Mr. McMullan, is well known for his theater posters and book illustrations. He described his memoir, “Leaving China: An Artist Paints His World War II Childhood,” as “a project I had started myself, with no editor or art director involved. I did more than half the book before I ever approached the publisher. I knew this was a book I was going to do whether or not it ever gets published or not.”

In the book Mr. McMullan pairs each page of prose with an illustration, which describes his childhood in China and the moves he made halfway around the world and back, following the Japanese invasion in World War II.

Although Mr. McMullan said he would not characterize his memoir as “a heavy” book, he said it explored the complicated relationship he had with his parents and the upheaval in his life that came with the war.

“I’m going to speak about why it took me so long to write the book and the feelings I had about the story, the anxieties the story brought up,” he said, “and how it was an amazing act of moving through the process. It’s some of the best painting I’ve ever done in my life.”

Besides his freelance work, Mr. McMullan is the principal poster artist for Lincoln Center, the illustrator with his wife, the author Kate McMullan, of 12 children’s books, the designer of U.S. postage stamps, and a teacher for many years at the School of Visual Arts in New York. He is also the author of three books on his work, “Revealing Illustrations: The Art of James McMullan,” “The Theater Posters of James McMullan” and “More McMullans: The Lincoln Center Theater Posters, 1987-2012, a book on drawing,  many articles and reviews.

A Comprehensive Cultural Center Slated for Sag Harbor

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Heller_Bryan Downey @ Sag Harbor Cinema 12-2-14_3948_LR

Bryan Downey is currently looking for artists of all sorts to showcase their talent on New Year’s Eve at the Sag Harbor Cinema. Photo by Michael Heller. 

By Mara Certic

New Year’s Eve is a time to reflect on the past and look forward to what the coming year has to offer. On December 31 of this year, with the inaugural event of the Sag Harbor Art Group, the Sag Harbor Cinema will provide East Enders with a preview of coming attractions, to make 2015 a year to welcome.

From 8 a.m. until 7 p.m., on New Year’s Eve, the theater will exhibit locally created paintings, sculptures and photography in the lobby, while musicians, actors and poets will have the opportunity to perform original works in the theater’s 480-seat auditorium. If the event proves popular, the organizers hope to make this an ongoing, possibly monthly event.

And it seems as though the power of social media played a leading role in bringing the project to fruition. Contractor, photographer, musician, recording studio-owner and Sag Harbor resident Bryan Downey had an idea, and he took it to Facebook.

Mr. Downey, who is well acquainted with local artists through his photography and his recording studio, Bulldog Studios of Sag Harbor, was looking for one location, one event, one outlet for all local artists.  He put up a status on Facebook, seeking out an appropriate venue for such an event.

“I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could have a location where everything’s all together?’ and I left it at that,” Mr. Downey said. Mr. Downey then received a message from a man he had never heard of, Gerald Mallow, who said he might know just the spot.

Mr. Mallow, he discovered, is the owner and operator of the Sag Harbor Cinema and “has been thinking about doing something like this for a long time,” Mr. Downey said. The two men met face to face this past Saturday and decided to go ahead with their plan.

If all plans are approved by the necessary powers that be, the event will go as follows, Mr. Downey explained. Doors to the Sag Harbor Cinema will open at 8 a.m., when bagels and coffee will be served while old movies play in the restored auditorium. Mr. Downey does not know precisely which films will be shown, but is insistent that both Charlie Chaplin and Laurel & Hardy shorts be featured.

From noon until 7 p.m., local poets, writers and musicians will take to the stage in roughly 15-minute sets to showcase their work. The one catch: performers will not be allowed to do “covers.” All poets, musicians and actors will have to perform original work, which Mr. Downey hopes will amp up the energy.

“Then a singer becomes a writer,” Mr. Downey, “They’ll play their own, sing their own, write their own.” Mr. Downey, who founded Hamptons Singer-Songwriters in 2009, believes that forcing musicians write their own material can bring unknown talent to light.

In addition to professional artists, the men are adamant to allow schoolchildren an opportunity to show off their talent.

“Every school has drama, art and music departments. I can’t flood it all with kids, but they should have an outlet to show their art, where their songs can be listened to,” Mr. Downey said, adding that as of Monday afternoon, Montauk School had already expressed its interest in participating.

“They’re not only in, but way in,” he said.

Throughout the day, and in fact for the weeks leading up to and following the event, local painters and sculptors will have their work on display in the theater’s foyer. Mr. Downey also hopes to involve writers, he said, who could have their own areas in the lobby, alongside visual artists.

In an effort to make the event kid-friendly, Mr. Downey and Mr. Mallow have decided to keep it alcohol-free. Mr. Downey said this will also attract a different crowd and a different energy to the event.

Not offering alcohol—or food after breakfast—will also allow neighboring watering holes and eateries to benefit from the flock of parched and hungry culture vultures.

The $12 price tag, Mr. Downey explained, is another way for the men to “give back to the community.” Those without means to pay will be admitted for free, Mr. Downey said, adding that they’re hoping to invite people from Maureen’s Haven, a homeless shelter and outreach program based in Riverhead.

Two dollars of each ticket will go to the local public radio station, 88.3 WPPB. The remaining money will go directly to the cinema, Mr. Downey said. For the inaugural show, there are so many musicians already lined up it would be impossible to pay anyone, he explained.

“We’ll see how much money they make,” Mr. Downey said, before they can commit to paying performers for future events.

“I’m interested in promoting the arts and promoting artists, that’s why you have a ticket price that is very low,” Mr. Mallow said on Monday.

“I have been doing this for the past 30 years,” said Mr. Mallow, who has rented out his theater for musical and other events in the past.

“But this is a concerted effort to do it on an ongoing basis, to maybe build a following,” he added.

“To you, this is something new, and it’s just happening. I’ve been doing it all along, but this is the first time I’m organizing it,” Mr. Mallow added.

Artists of any sort who are interested in participating should e-mail a sample of their work to Mr. Downey at info@bulldogstudiosny.com.

 

 

 

 

Billy Martin on Medeski, Scofield, Martin and Wood: Not Just a Jam Band

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Billy Martin, John Medeski, John Scofield and Chris Wood.

Billy Martin, John Medeski, John Scofield and Chris Wood.

By Gianna Volpe

Truly groovy tunes are coming to the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center this Saturday as Medeski, Scofield, Martin and Wood take the stage at 8 p.m. to rock the socks off their audience with songs from their new album, “Juice,” released just two months ago.

Billy Martin – drummer of the genre-morphing quartet – took time out of his Thanksgiving weekend to talk with The Sag Harbor Express before the performance:

It seems that every album off “Juice” is ripe for salsa and other styles of dancing. Do people often take to the floor during your shows?

You can always expect that, even if it’s a sitting show, some people will get up and try to dance.

You’re often credited as being the most multi-genre minded one in the band. Where did you learn to appreciate such varying musical styles?

My father was a concert violinist, so he played a lot of classical music and orchestras and New York City ballet and opera. My mom was a Rockette and a dance teacher who taught tap ballet and jazz, so she had me tap dancing when I was very young, and then my older brothers were listening to The Rolling Stones, James Brown, the Allman Brothers, Stevie Wonder and all that music. I was growing up in the 60s and 70s and that music was all seeping in at the time, which was great…When we moved to Closter, New Jersey from New York City, the drums kind of appeared and I just set them up in the basement and started playing them along with our records. In ’74, my dad found me a drum teacher named Allen Herman, who turned out to be sort of a Broadway rock drummer, and he got me started.

How would you define your drumming style?

It’s like speaking a lot of different languages. There’s categories people use – jazz and rock and Brazilian and African and pop and stuff like that – but what I call myself is an experimental musician.

Is that what attracts you to the ‘Jam Band’ style?

‘Jam band’ to me, is just another word for a movement and so I like to use the word ‘experimental.’ Some jam bands aspire to get to that level of improvising and writing and composing and being able to jump around in different genres – and that’s something that we’ve always done in a very serious way.

When we play, we’re very focused and when it comes to playing the “Juice” music, its more tune-based and might even fall more into the ‘Jam band’ thing because I think a lot of jam bands actually have some sort of form; some sort of simple tune progression. I’m not sure because I don’t know what a jam band is, to be honest.

You wrote my favorite track on the album, “Louis the Shoplifter.” How did you do that as a drummer?

I just had this melody in my head – a very simple melody – and I figured I would just sort of sing it to the guys. Modeski had me play a little bit of the piano rhythm and we all just sussed it. A lot of it has to do with how the band grooves together and we have a certain chemistry with Scofield.

What was it like when you first began to play with John Scofield in 1997?

It was great. At first, we weren’t really sure what it was that Scofield wanted to do with us. He had been hearing a lot of our music and became kind of a fan of us and of course we were a fan of his – growing up in the 80s he played with Miles Davis and had really cool jazz rock records – so it was a really cool opportunity for us. He asked us to collaborate and write tunes with him and we said, “You know what – you write the tunes and we’ll interpret them and play them our way” and that was “A Go Go.”

You collaborated again in 2006, but how did you four ultimately become a band?

You know, you start playing live and start to feel a connection and you just know when it feels like a band because everybody gels together. It’s so effortless that you can just anticipate how everything’s going to go – it’s really quite natural. Our relationship and respect for each other – personally and on stage – just works.

Are you working on a new album at the moment?

In February Modeski, Martin and Wood is going to record something live in Boulder, Colorado with a chamber group called Alarm Will Sound. It’s a collaborative, very special sort of project.

Speaking of special projects – as someone who is not only a drummer but an artist who has created album art for the band and the music video for “Juicy Lucy” on the new album – are you working on any special projects right now?

I actually just finished a book called “Wandering” that’s on pre-order exclusively through my website billymartin.net. “Wandering” is a compilation of essays – 22 chapters – on the creative process. It has 30 improvised drawings and it comes with a record. I wanted to share my experiences with others as a drummer with the experiences I’ve had.

 

 

Carrot Tasting Goes to the Root of the Vegetable

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Ric Kallaher photograhy

Ric Kallaher photograhy

By Kathryn G. Menu

Colin Ambrose

Colin Ambrose

It all started with a bland carrot.

Standing in his restaurant kitchen garden on the Sag Harbor-Bridgehampton Turnpike in September of 2013, restaurateur and chef Colin Ambrose crunched down a newly harvested carrot fresh from the soil. It looked great—bright orange, long and tapered—but the flavor wasn’t there. Mr. Ambrose, who has been at the forefront of the local, fresh food movement on the East End since his days at the helm of the original Estia in Amagansett in the 1990s, hatched a plan then and there to gather together local farmers, gardeners and chefs in a growing experiment aimed at identifying keys to successfully cultivating different carrot varieties.

And the results were delicious.

Earlier this month, on a cool Wednesday before the first frost, a group of chefs, farmers and journalists gathered at Mr. Ambrose’s Estia’s Little Kitchen for a tasting of raw and blanched carrots produced as a part of this experiment, as well as a variety of composed dishes inspired by the multi-hued root vegetable. Mr. Ambrose had the event filmed, and hopes to make this an annual tradition—exploring various root vegetables with the experts that grow them, but also the East End chefs that serve them, specifically those that support local farms or have their own kitchen gardens.

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The concept was simple. Mr. Ambrose ordered a control seed, the Scarlet Nantes Carrot, and distributed it to a select group of farmers. These included growers from poet/farmer Scott Chaskey, the director of the Peconic Land Trust’s Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett, Marilee Foster, a farmer and author who runs Foster Farm on Sagg Main Street in Sagaponack to Jeff Negron, a restaurant kitchen gardener who worked with Mr. Ambrose on his own garden, and who currently works the kitchen gardens at Nick & Toni’s in East Hampton and The Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton. Sag Harbor’s own Dale Haubrich, who owns Under the Willow Organics with Bette Lacina just yards away from the Little Kitchen, was also invited to participate. Each farmer also planted their own choice crop of carrots for the tasting and paired up with a local chef who presented a complete dish with carrots as inspiration.

Bay Burger manager and sous chef Andrew Mahoney presented a bright, light carrot panna cotta. Todd Jacobs, of Fresh Hamptons, also located on the Turnpike, offered zesty carrot fritters with a yogurt dipping sauce. Joe Realmuto and Bryan Futterman of Nick & Toni’s in East Hampton offered Harissa carrots, spicy and blanched perfectly, leaving just a slight crunch. Chris Polidoro, a private chef, offered steamed and lightly fried gyoza, and Topping Rose House pastry chef Cassandra Schupp presented mini carrot cake squares, moist and a nice sweet treat at the end of a row of savory dishes.

Mr. Ambrose, having the most fun with the subject, crafted McGregor’s Fall Garden Pie, filled with braised rabbit, leeks, kale, and of course, carrots, topped with luscious mashed potatoes.

And while the room, filled with friends, quieted as the food was served to satisfying groans of approval, it was when discussing the carrots, and the growing process, that it was most alive.

While Mr. Ambrose is a chef, and a restaurateur with a second Estia—Estia’s American—in Darien, Connecticut, it was on his grandmother’s garden in Whitewater, Wisconsin, that he truly developed a passion for food. Serving fresh, seasonal produce is something Mr. Ambrose has made a priority in his kitchens for over two decades. Five years ago he set out to create a kitchen garden like nothing the Little Kitchen had ever had before, working with Mr. Negron for three years before setting out on his own to tend to vegetables and fruits that make their way onto the restaurant’s breakfast, lunch and dinner menus.

Mr. Negron, who noted that Mr. Ambrose was the chef that gave him his first real chance at developing a formal kitchen garden for a commercial business, said for this exercise he grew Purple Haze carrots for Nick & Toni’s and a White Satin variety as well as a mixed bag of carrot varieties for The Topping Rose House.

Both Mr. Negron and Mr. Chaskey (“my guidance counselor in all things,” said Mr. Ambrose) noted that the Purple Haze variety of carrot has a hue that mimics the original carrot in vibrant bright purple with red and orange undertones. Carrots were then bred to the traditional orange hue, said Mr. Chaskey. Interestingly enough, he added, now at markets and on farms, requests for multi-colored, and purple carrots are on the rise, returning to the roots of that vegetable, so to speak. “Orange is not how they started, but we are going back to that,” he said.

Soil nutrients and composition, as well as seed variety and soil temperature, all play a role in the development of each carrot and the characteristics it will have in terms of its flavor profile.

“Today is November 12,” noted Mr. Ambrose at his event. “And it is kind of interesting to note that we have not had a hard frost yet. That was not part of the plan, but that is what happens with growing.”

Carrots, said Mr. Chaskey, become sweeter after the first hard frost—a seasonal moment that sets a natural timeline for when farmers want to harvest their carrot crop. An unseasonably warm fall, and the absence of a hard frost before Mr. Ambrose’s carrot tasting, led to more mild carrot varieties.

“I know one thing in planting,” said Mr. Ambrose, “If I plan on one thing, another is going to happen.”

“It’s kind of the year before that matters,” said Ms. Foster, talking about prepping soil for planting. “Is your pH where you want it?”

Ms. Foster plants her carrots in a raised bed, tilling the soil with a rototiller to allow for depth, but also greater germination. Keeping the soil damp throughout the growing process, she added, is key.

Once the seeds are set, said Mr. Chaskey, keeping an eye on weed growth is critical.

“Well, we don’t have weeds,” said Mr. Chaskey. “They are not allowed.”

“That is what you have to worry about because carrots take a long time to germinate—sometimes in the spring up to three weeks, so there are going to be some weed seeds that germinate before them, so the most important thing you can do is get ahead of the weeds.”

Thinning out the carrot crop, for size and shape, said Mr. Chaskey, is another choice each farmer must make.

“Then you just stand back, watch them grow, and then harvest.”

Mr. Chaskey said after this experiment he intends to plant the Bolero variety of carrot at Quail Hill next year–a hybrid carrot, although the farm traditionally does try and plant open pollinators as much as possible.

“It grew twice the size and it tastes better and has great storability,” said Mr. Chaskey of the Bolero.

As a chef, Mr. Jacobs, who works with Mr. Haubrich and Ms. Lacina for much of Fresh’s produce, said each season brings different challenges.

“One season, carrots might be great,” he said. “Another they might not be great. No two years are ever alike. We plant and we hope.”

“We all had different approaches, but the same goal, which was to put sustainably raised food on the table,” said Mr. Ambrose in an interview after the carrot tasting.

Next up? Beets, said Mr. Ambrose, who wants to spend the next 18 months working on a series of tastings revolving around root vegetables, ending likely with garlic.

“I would like to put together a series of informational videos for potential farmers and home cooks with enough collective knowledge to be able to set a bed, make choices in terms of seeds, learn about the growing cycle.”

“We need to start thinking more about the food we are producing and putting on the table,” said Mr. Ambrose. “Vegetables need to be given greater priority, and grains as well.”

While examining the big picture of sustainable food production, Mr. Ambrose said it just made sense to start at the root.

 

 

Sag Harbor Coalition Hopes to Change the Community Conversation on Substance Abuse

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Volunteers Benito Vila and Pierson High School senior Megan Beedenbender apply stickers to cases of beer inside the Sag Harbor Beverage store during the Sticker Shock program put on by the Sag Harbor Coalition of the Youth Resource Center, HUGS, Inc. and the Sag Harbor Police Department on Sunday, November 23. Photo by Michael Heller.

Volunteers Benito Vila and Pierson High School senior Megan Beedenbender apply stickers to cases of beer inside the Sag Harbor Beverage store during the Sticker Shock program put on by the Sag Harbor Coalition of the Youth Resource Center, HUGS, Inc. and the Sag Harbor Police Department on Sunday, November 23. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

Rounding out its first year, the Sag Harbor Coalition remains determined to change the conversation about substance abuse on the East End. The group of parents, school officials and community experts formed in reaction to a 2010-11 survey that, among other findings, reported that students in Sag Harbor abuse alcohol and drugs more than the national average.

“We know, by and large, kids on the East End drink and drug higher than their peers,” Kym Laube, executive director of Human Understanding & Growth Services, or HUGS, a Westhampton Beach non-profit organization dedicated to alcohol and drug prevention, said on Tuesday.

East End minors are using substances more their peers on Western Long Island, in Suffolk County, in New York State, and in the nation, Ms. Laube said, adding the same results have been found by multiple data sources, including a survey conducted by Southampton Town.

There are many factors that contribute to why East End teens are drinking and using drugs more than those in towns across the country, said Ms. Laube, who co-chairs the coalition with Pierson administrator Barbara Bekermus.

“We live in this area that is based on tourism, with this kind of mindset of ‘Come party in the Hamptons,’” Ms. Laube said. “When they see all the adults socialize—[drinking is] the cornerstone of every social activity, from the advertising to the parties to the jet set scene to working in the industry, [and] parents working three, four jobs just to afford to live on the East End—all these different pieces come together and help paint this picture of why it is.”

Combined with minimal local resources for combating substance abuse and a lack of opportunities for positive social activities aside from youth-initiated parties, “all those things really become part of this puzzle,” she said.

The coalition recognizes the factors contributing to underage drinking and drug use on the East End are largely environmental, and thus began their grassroots, locally-led effort to combat the area’s social norms by pursuing community-wide change, rather than just lecturing to children,

“That’s all the coalition is hoping, that we can get people in the community out and involved, so we’re not serving alcohol to our kids, so that we’re providing alternatives to them and teaching them both by action and example that there are other alternatives,” said Benito Vila, who is a director of the coalition along with Sag Harbor parents Carol Kelleher and Thomas Ré.

“We do live in a resort community—our sense of normal is really, really twisted,” Mr. Vila said, adding the coalition is asking not just high school students, but the East End community as a whole, to change its behavior.

Last year, the coalition collaborated with HUGS and the Sag Harbor Village Police Department to bring “Sticker Shock” and “Two Forms of ID” programs to businesses that sell alcohol in Sag Harbor and Noyac.

The second installment of Sticker Shock occurred Sunday, November 23, when the group placed stickers on alcoholic beverages around town advising adults of the implications of buying alcohol for minors. Through its Two Forms of ID program, the coalition encourages local businesses to require two forms of ID, since minors using fake IDs rarely have two of them.

“We know if we are going to change youth behavior, we need to change community behavior and social norms,” said Ms. Laube. “And so the coalition has been working to begin to bring about education and clear, accurate information and programming to both parents and communities, to really begin to increase some of the protective factors and to reduce some of the risk factors associated with young people’s development.”

In collaboration with the Youth Resource Center, last year the coalition arranged for a teenage band to play at Bay Street Theater and for a “pizza and a movie” night at Conca D’Oro. It also helped organize a series of speakers for Pierson parents on substance abuse and advocated for the adoption of Sag Harbor schools’ new kindergarten through 12th grade life skills/safe decision-making curriculum, which includes a component on drugs and alcohol.

Although the programs are local, the coalition’s message is far-reaching: Underage substance use and abuse across all ages is a national health and safety issue.

“For the coalition to be effective, it really needs to raise the fact that it’s not about the law, it’s about common sense—it’s not healthy…It isn’t about your rights, it isn’t about the law, it’s about good community health, allowing our kids to succeed, empowering them, and giving them things to do that don’t involve alcohol,” said Mr. Vila.