Archive | November, 2012

TJ’s All-Star Band set to rock the Narrows

27 Nov

Todd Salpietro, Owner of TJ’s Music in Fall River

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

FALL RIVER – “This is a large scale show for such a young group, and I hope people will come out to see them,” Todd Salpietro said of TJ’s Music Concert Night, set for Dec. 6th beginning at 7 p.m. at the Narrows Center for the Arts located at 16 Anawan Street in Fall River, Mass.

The show will feature TJ’s All-Star Band, which is comprised of at least 35 children ranging in age from 10 to 19 who take music lessons at TJ’s Music. The students have been divided into groups and will be performing a few songs apiece.

“It’s not like, ‘Oh, look at the kids. They are cute.’ No – they are rocking,” Salpietro said. “These kids are good.”

Salpietro is the owner and operator of TJ’s Music, a music shop at 347 South Main Street in Fall River that opened in 1997. He used to play drums for Trendkill, an international acclaimed tribute to Pantera, and offers music lessons, as well as sells instruments and music gear, to musicians and aspiring artists alike. These days, he devotes his time to TJ’s. Currently, about a dozen staff members teach more than 300 students a week.

To help their youngest students develop skills that allow them to succeed as members of bands, Salpietro created “Jam Night,” a music program at his shop about three years ago. Every Tuesday evening, students of all ages visited the store and played together, along with their teachers.

During lessons, students learned the basic fundamentals about their instruments. But at “Jam Night,” they got a flavor of what it’s like to perform with a full band.

“I used to watch them and they’d take their half hour lesson and go home,” he said. “I’m like, ‘They’re not in bands; they don’t play with anybody and these kids are great players.’ So, I said, ‘We’ve got to get these kids in, put them together in groups, and see what we can make happen.”

Using a 25-foot stage that’s located on the second floor of the shop, as well as a full PA system and light set, the children got the opportunity to get a feel for what it’s like to perform as a band. After a few months, Salpietro said the students got the hang of it and were performing comfortably with other musicians. Some of them even formed bands together aside of “Jam Night.”

“Getting them together to play gave them a goal,” said Salpietro.

To further give the children a chance to shine, Salpietro chatted with Patrick Norton, the Executive Director of the Narrows, as Norton recently stopped by the store. He once took music lessons there, along with his children.

“He came in one day and started talking about the kids and said, ‘Would you maybe want to do a show at the Narrows?’” Salpietro said.

For Salpietro, agreeing to the gig was a no-brainer.

“It’s the greatest venue locally,” he said. “The kids are going to play on a real stage, with real lights. They are all going to leave with band photos and action shots of themselves playing.”

In no time, Salpietro and his staff began prepping the children for the show. Students signed up for a 12-week program that started in September, and visited the store every Sunday afternoon from 3 to 5 p.m. to practice as groups.

“This program really works out a lot of bugs for kids,” he said. “If you’re learning how to play with a bass player and you’re a drummer, you know what to listen for. You watch the singer and see the singer’s cues.”

Not only does the experience teach them how to further develop musical skills, the children have made close friends and are learning the importance of teambuilding. Additionally, it helps them build confidence.

“I’ve had kids that were lacking stage confidence, as well as confidence in life, and we were able to get them to play together,” Salpietro said. “They are not scared to get on stage anymore. They get up there and are running the entire show. It’s amazing. It’s been a huge hit. They are working together. I see them talking things out, and that to me is just magic. I love seeing these kids grow.”

Since he created the program, participating students were invited to play on WSAR, a radio station in Massachusetts. They played live in the studio twice, and performed during Fall River Mayor William Flanagan’s slot, per Flanagan’s request. From there, Flanagan invited them to perform at the third annual 2012 ‘Eat 2 the Beat Festival,’ a summer showcase which consisted of New England tribute acts such as Dirty Deeds, Klassik Kiss, Scarab, and more.

“The kids did a great job,” said Salpietro. “They were unbelievable. They got a lot of recognition.” The students also appeared on Fall River Community T.V., and are set to take part in the Fall River Christmas Parade on Dec. 1.

Salpietro said the children are excited about the parade, as well as the Narrows show. To purchase tickets, which are $10 each, visit http://www.narrowscenter.org.

“The tickets are selling like wildfire,” said Salpietro, noting that he’s looking forward to the Narrows gig, too, and is hoping it is the first of many shows like it. “I do this because I think it’s something that they need. I enjoy introducing them to the other side of it. I have tons of experience playing and touring, and it’s a great way for me to share that side of my professional life.”

Learn more about TJ’s Music, as well as the program, at http://www.tjsmusic.com or call 508-673-9100.

Film festival creates quite a buzz

6 Nov

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

The first annual Buzzards Bay Film Festival, set to debut Nov. 9th and run through Nov. 11th in Falmouth and New Bedford, Mass., is a tribute to the Bay itself, its watershed, as well as the 360,000 people who live in surrounding cities and towns. The Bay is a 233-square mile estuary in Southeastern Mass. between the mainland shore, western Cape Cod, and the Elizabeth Islands.

“It’s going to be really fun and unique,” said Festival Director Tom Gidwitz. “It’s hard to bring all these different communities together, so this is a way to become more of a unit. We share the same stories in many ways.”

The event is part of the Buzzards Bay Coalition’s 25th Anniversary celebration and offers viewers science fiction, documentaries, animation, and the long-anticipated local premiere of the feature film Fairhaven. One-hundred percent of the proceeds will be dedicated to the Coalition, a membership-supported, non-profit organization dedicated to the restoration, protection, sustainable use and enjoyment of the Bay and its watershed.

The Festival will kick off Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at the First Congregational Church, which is located at 68 Main Street in Falmouth, and continue at New Bedford’s Gallery X at169 William Street at 8 PM, Saturday, Nov. 10th.

“They show edgier stuff there and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” Gidwitz said of Gallery X.

The Zeiterion Performing Arts Center at 684 Purchase Street in New Bedford will host a day of films Sunday, Nov. 11th beginning at 11 a.m. with the 1968 science fiction classic, The Green Slime, and continue with an afternoon of other works. The day will wrap up with Fairhaven at 8 p.m.

“The Zeiterion is a big, beautiful theater and it’s a great place to show features,” Gidwitz said.

According to a press release, Fairhaven tells the story of three thirty-something friends who reunite in their hometown, a homecoming that forces them to reassess their friendship, as well as themselves. It stars Chris Messina of Vicky Christina Barcelona and Six Feet Under; Rich Sommer of Mad Men; Sarah Paulson of Mud and Deadwood; as well as the film’s writer and director Tom O’Brien, who grew up in Medford, but spent much of his time in Fairhaven, as his mother lived there for nearly a decade.

“That’s what inspired the screenplay,” O’Brien said in an e-mail interview. “I feel really great about bringing the film back to what inspired it. It completes the circle of the entire process for us.”
O’Brien plays Jon, a former high school football star and one-time college athlete, who feels dissatisfied with life and ends up back in Fairhaven, where he reunites with two old friends. It isn’t long before “old dreams and simmering resentments” come to the surface.

The film also stars a number of area residents.

“The production was made possible by the people of Fairhaven and the surrounding towns opening their homes and businesses to shoot in and volunteering to do everything from make lunch to be extras in the movie,” said O’Brien.

O’Brien went on to say that it felt much like a “grass roots community project” and that he is pleased that people have responded “warmly” to the film.  He noted that many of the locals told him they feel as if the film does justice to the area.

“There’s that saying that if you can touch one person in the audience you’ve done your job and I’ve had so many people reach out to say nice things,” O’Brien said. “A local Fairhaven guy came up to me after the world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival and said that his father had helped build the hurricane barrier and, as soon as he saw it in the opening shot, it brought tears to his eyes. I loved the entire process of directing the film, but knowing that it affected people emotionally is all I could ever ask for as a filmmaker.”

Aside from Fairhaven, the Festival will feature The Green Slime, a 1968 sci-fi classic, screened as a tribute to Robert Dunham, an American Korean War veteran who starred in Japanese monster movies and returned to the United States in 1975, residing in Cape Cod.

While his part in the film is small, he can be seen battling invading space aliens, which Gidwitz said, “look remarkably like the rusty tide algae that has been clouding Buzzards Bay waters for several summers.”

“We call it rusty tide,” said Gidwitz. “The Green Slime is fun because it’s over the top. It has all these special effects, [plus] it’s very campy and hilarious. The monsters are these green things with tentacles that they wave about.”

Further, the release notes that other films include Into the Gyre, an award-winning look at Falmouth Sea Education Association scientists as they study plastic pollution in the North Atlantic; Patrimony, an intense drama about family and loss, starring television star Robert Vaughan; and a selection of cell phone videos submitted to the Festival in a weekly contest held throughout the summer.

“That was fantastic,” Gidwitz said. “We’ve got sailboats, powerboats – a guy riding his bicycle off a diving board into the water, people doing back flips off the dock in Fairhaven – just peoples’ impressions of the summer. It’s was nice to see how much energy people put into them.”

Tickets for all screenings are available online at buzzardsbayfilmfestival.org. Tickets for Sunday’s films, including Fairhaven and The Green Slime, are also available at the Zeiterion Box Office, in person or by phone at 508-994-2900, or online at http://www.zeiterion.org.

Ayla Brown paves her own path to success

2 Nov

Ayla Brown

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

From singing and writing music, placing among the Top 16 on season five of American Idol, serving as a correspondent for The Early Show on CBS, to being a former hotshot basketball player, Ayla Brown seems to excel at everything.

This summer, Brown also did a bit of acting, as she took part in the movie, Cowboy Spirit, playing the role of Molly. The full-length film premieres Nov. 29th at the Orpheum Theatre in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

In the past, she finished high school as one of the top female basketball players in Massachusetts’ history, scoring 2,358 career points before playing for Boston College. She even found a way to combine singing and basketball, as last season she was asked to perform the National Anthem for the Philadelphia 76ers at every home game.

“It was such an honor, so I said yes,” said Brown, who will again take on the duty this season. “They also wanted me to set up a merchandise table and sell CDs.”
The problem, she said, was she was yet to record an album at that point. But that didn’t stop her. As a result, she ended up forming her own record label, Ambient Entertainment, for which she’s released the self-titled Ayla Brown in January.

“I kind of used it as a kick jump and motivator to put out an album – I didn’t want to have to wait for any sort of big guns to get involved,” Brown said. “It’s super easy to start your own label and that’s exactly what I did to make sure that I had content available at every game.”

Brown is grateful for the experience. Founding her own label, she said, has given her more freedom and flexibility as an artist.

“I’m really, really lucky to have put together a CD on my own label because creatively I get to choose all the songs,” she said. “I’m doing everything a major or a larger independent record would do. The only difference is that person is me, not someone else.”

As was mentioned earlier, Brown, who splits her time living in Massachusetts, Philadelphia, PA, and Nashville, TN, released her most recent CD, a self-titled album, through the label. It was recorded in Nashville at the studio of legendary country star, Ronnie Milsap. She hired Jeff King, who has played with country sensation Reba McEntire, to help with the recording process.

“I asked him if he wanted to band lead my session and surprisingly he was excited about it, which made me excited,” Brown said. “He is just absolutely incredible and one of the best session guys in town. And the players on the album have played with Kelly Clarkson, Sara Evens, [and] Jason Aldean. It’s not everyday that you get the best of the best.”

Adding to her long list of accomplishments is the fact that she co-wrote seven out of the nine tracks on the disc, as well as produced the album. She had an engineer handle the technical side of the process.

“As the producer, you’re in the studio with them the whole time and you tell them, ‘Hey, can you redo that solo? Can you make it sound more like this instead of that?’” Brown said. “It was great.”

The album is currently charting on Billboard in the Northeast, which pleases her to no end.

“I got an email from Billboard a few months ago saying, ‘Urgent: Ayla Brown is charting,’” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh. The hard work is paying off.’”

Her next effort will be a patriotic album, Heroes and Hometowns, set to be mastered later this month. She said her goal is to release it by Veteran’s Day, but if not, it will be available in time for holiday shopping.

Part of the proceeds of each CD sale will be donated to Hugs for Heroes, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting military troops overseas through shipments of care packages. Since it was established in 2004, more than 10 tons of goods have been delivered.

“A friend of mine started [it] in 2004 after someone came to her school and talked about how not many soldiers get care packages from the people they love,” said Brown. “Two out of the 10 guys would be getting care packages and the rest of the guys felt really left out. She thought that was a shame. Every person in the unit should get a care package.”

Another non-profit organization Brown is affiliated with is the Songs of Love Foundation, which is dedicated to providing free, personalized songs for children and teens facing tough medical, physical or emotional challenges. She serves as spokesperson and has written 10 songs for the effort.

“I was on The Early Show as a national correspondent for a two years and it was the first story that I pitched,” she said. “The producer I was working with at the time had written many songs for the organization and he told me about it. It was the beginning of a great relationship with Songs of Love. It’s so rewarding. It helps them get through whatever treatment and tough times they are going through.”

Helping children is something she holds close to her heart. While she doesn’t play basketball as much as she used to, coaching kids in the future would be ideal.

“If I were to ever coach I would love it to be for a middle school or an elementary school where it’s still fun and you get to teach the kids and have a good time doing it,” said Brown. “At the college, and even high school level, there’s too much pressure to excel and succeed.”

So, where does Brown find her inspiration to succeed? Her parents are former WCVB-TV Channel 5 reporter Gail Huff and Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown.

“They’ve been so supportive,” she said.

In turn, she also supports them, as her father, a Republican, is facing Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren in Tuesday’s election. During his campaign, Brown has performed at many of his functions and participated in several events.

“I do everything I can to support him and that means going out and holding signs, doing different video messages on YouTube and being in commercials,” she said. “My dad is not only a great father, but he’s a wonderful senator. He’s doing such a great job for Massachusetts. There’s no one else as bipartisan as he is. I want someone like that as my senator. There are a lot of people who complain about the way this country is run and then they don’t even vote. I would say to those people, ‘Get out there and make a difference.’”

To learn more about Ayla Brown visit aylabrown.com.

 

PUBLISHER’S NOTE: JKB Management & Booking/Limelight Magazine does not endorse political candidates, platforms, or parties. However, we support ALL local musicians from New England regardless of their political affiliation or involvement.

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