Sunday, October 30, 2011

Gillette and Mangsen at The Bookhouse

The Eastern Monroe Public Library (EMPL) in Stroudsburg, PA presented Steve Gillette and Cindy Mangsen on Friday October 28th as part of their Bookhouse concert series. The event was well attended and, after a brief introduction from Linnae Cintron of the EMPL, the atmosphere of the library’s Edinger Community Room became filled with a wonderful array of folk tunes written throughout the ages as well as some original works written by the duo either together or individually. The performance was enhanced by the duo’s gentle demeanor creating the pleasant sense of community the room was designed to inspire.

Each song had it’s own history and it was shared not only through the entertaining introductions the couple conveyed but also through the expertly crafted narrative renditions of each piece and the instruments they employed (which included concertinas). Their entire musical arsenal allowed the essence of each song to become prominent as each theme and its subtle nuances were explored and revealed. The varied effect of the selection of songs could be seen in the faces of the audience whose countenances ranged from smiles and laughter to reflections upon the haunting melodies that entered their imagination and memories.

During the course of the concert, a friend of the duo who performs with them often took the stage to join them in a few wonderfully performed tunes. Anne Hills’ vocals added additional texture to the already splendid interpretations of the music performed throughout the evening. Ms. Hills’ performance proved to be a wonderful treat to the audience as it added to the delight the Steve and Cindy established earlier. You’ll find more photographs in The Music 2011 Gallery at

Steve Gillette and Cindy Mangsen began traveling, performing, and recording together since their marriage in 1989. Their CDs include a “Live In Concert” album recorded in 1991 at The Ark in Ann Arbor, MI, “The Light Of The Day” which was named Top Folk Album of 1996, “A Sense of Place” which was released in 2001, and “Being There” which was released in 2006. In addition to her musical talents, Anne Hills is also known for her literary and theatrical skills. She has received numerous honors thoughout her career which includes the WFMA 2002 Kate Wolf Memorial Award and The Kerrville Music Foundation’s Outstanding Female Vocalist of the Year Award (1997). In addition to the Bookhouse performance in which she accompanied Steve and Cindy, she performed on a children’s CD titled, “Never Grow Up” in 1998 with Cindy and participated in a collaborative endeavor with Steve and Cindy for a CD titled, “Fourtold.” Please Explore The Steve Gillette and Cindy Mangsen Website at and The Anne Hills Website at to learn more information about their music, future concerts, and how to obtain a CD for your music collection.

##The Eastern Monroe Public Library (aka The Hughes Library) is located on N. 9th Street (aka route 611) in Stroudsburg, PA. It is the main branch of the Monroe County, PA library system which include their Pocono Township Branch in Tannersville, PA and their Smithfield’s Branch in Marshalls Creek, PA. The library offers access to numerous books, DVDs, Audio Recordings, and cultural programs free to the public. The library’s BookHouse series is part of its cultural programs designed to provide a venue for literary and musical events which are outside of the commercial and literary mainstream. Please Explore The Eastern Monroe Public Library Website at to learn more information about the library, their BookHouse series, and all the institution has to offer the community.

Duality and Robots Muses The PCT

The Pocono Community Theater in East Stroudsburg, PA presented a special Haunted Halloween edition of their Silent Films to Loud Music Series on Thursday October 27th featuring the 1920 Horror Classic “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” starring John Barrymore and 1927 science-fiction classic “Metropolis” directed by German expressionist Fritz Lang. Also featured were music performed by Willbium, King Dead, and Rez Lep and the Apparatus. The combination of these artistic forms created a newly inspired experience which led to a deeper appreciation of each approach expression of talent. The event was well attended and emceed by Derek McCauley of The Pocono Internet Broadcasting Company (PIBCO).

The evening began with the screening of  “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” as accompanied by Willbium whose instrumental explorations enhanced the film’s qualities by providing a score denoting the psychological implications of the film. The film is based upon The 1886 novel written by Robert Louis Stevenson titled, “Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” and is about a London lawyer named Gabriel John Utterson who investigates strange occurrences between his old friend, Dr Henry Jekyll, and the evil Edward Hyde.

The film departs from the novel in several ways which includes the introduction of characters not found in the novel along with deleting some that were. However, the film remains cinematically effective through it’s beautifully constructed scenes and thoughtful ##intertitles (aka title cards) which not only revealed the content of the dialogue but the inner workings of the characters. This added a depth as well as a sense of dread as the audience began to become involved in the story and wonder where the actions of the characters (especially those of Jekyll and Hyde) would lead.

The next film to be shown was “Metropolis” which was first accompanied by King Dead featuring Charlie Abriel on drums, Wil McG on 6-string bass, Will Sovinski on slide guitar and harmonica, and Kevin Vanderhoof on bass and later by Rez Lep and the Apparatus. King Dead’s music is often associated with a sound similar to the music found in what has become known as  “Spaghetti Westerns” #(aka Italo-Westerns or Continental Westerns) which were films made popular during the 1960s and were a sub genre of Westerns made in Italy. Utilizing this musical genre as a soundtrack added an uncommon dimension to the film which reinterpreted much of its classic imagery. It was the stuff film historians get overly excited about but those who attended the event were able to simply sit back and enjoy the film.

Rez Lep and the Apparatus accompanied a later portion of the film and his performance added an eerie texture to the work even beyond the considerable one it had gained a reputation for. Rez Lep’s familiar use of electronic voiceovers, demonic vocalizations, and peculiar instrumentalities allowed the audience to explore the deeper and darker aspects of the film and themselves. In spite of the technical difficulties that plagued the performance, Rez Lep and the Apparatus created a dystopian environment reflecting that of the film while creating a Hellishly unique realm derived from his imaginative performance.

“Metropolis” takes place in a futuristic mega-city in which society is divided into two classes. These classes are managers (about 1 percent of the population) and workers (well, the rest). The city is a repressive and controlled state where those worker who are enslaved by the city’s managers live a meager existence while those who rule live in luxury. The conflict of the film derives from the love that blossoms between the city’s founder’s son named, “Freder” and a worker Named, “Maria.” Freder soon realizes the horrors the workers must endure and begins to sympathies with their condition as his love for Maria increases.

After his son leaves, #Joh Fredersen is disturbed by the news he had become aware of. However, his disturbance doesn’t inspire him to make life better for the workers but to find ways to secure the status quo and to discredit or do away with any thoughts of self determination among the workers. This later approach  becomes more imperative when Maria begins to preach to the workers the need for a mediator to explore the needs of management and the worker so they may both be accommodated in equanimity.

Fredersen discovery of this threat to his way of life and control of his domain leads him to seek out his old collaborator Rotwang. Rotwang introduces Fredersen to a Machine-Man he has constructed. A plan is put into place in which Maria would be abducted and a replica of her would go before those whom she swayed with her oratories. This occurs and the Machine-Woman imitating Maria endeavors to discredit her reputation through various methods including presenting herself as “The Whore of Babylon.”

I wish I could share with you how the film progressed, but, like the screening of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” the film was discontinued as the musical performances came to an end. This was an unfortunate aspect of an otherwise enjoyable evening which included a costume contest. Still, it was a good night to get out and enjoy some good music and films with friends. You’ll find more photographs in The Music 2011 Gallery at

The Pocono Internet Broadcasting Company (PIBCO) is a radio station which broadcasts its programming over the internet with a desire to help support and promote our community, local musicians and artists, locally owned small businesses, and give the surrounding communities a locally owned broadcast outlet that it has been missing for many years. Towards these ends, PIBCO offers a variety of programs covering a wide array of interests and musical styles. Please Explore #The Pocono Internet Broadcasting Company (PIBCO) Website at to listen to their programs and for more information about all the station has to offer.

The Pocono Community Theater is located in East Stroudsburg, PA. The relatively small theater houses three screening rooms in which films ranging from the commercially popular films of the day to the Independent and Foreign films not readily available in larger venues are shown. The Pocono Community Theater also holds special events throughout the year including a Red Carpet Event at The Stroudsmoor Terraview on Friday November 11th, and a screening of the 1959 film “The Diary of Anne Frank” on Sunday November 13th in remembrance of Kristallnacht followed by a special presentation given by Ken Wolk. Please Explore The Pocono Community Theater Website at or call 570-421-2036 for more information about these event and all the theater has to offer.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Color, Pattern, and Design at PCT

The Pocono Community Theater Gallery in East Stroudsburg, PA is currently presenting an exhibition titled, “Color, Pattern, and Design: Highlighting the work of local Artist Marcos Oksenhendler of Monroe County.” I stopped by the gallery on Sunday October 23rd to experience the work as did a number of patrons who came to the theater to view one of their films. It was interesting to note how these patrons took time to view the work instead of going directly into the screening room after purchasing their tickets without giving the pieces a second glance. Instead, I saw many linger at the work as if they were visiting a long time acquaintance with the desire to catch up on all the news that occurred since they last seen each other.

Mr. Oksenhendler works are mostly abstracts whose properties have a tendency of bringing the viewer deeper into their compositions. This is a pleasurable tendency as one begins to feel a swimming sensation which nears the point of becoming hypnotic. I can’t say the effects are actually hypnotic as I, for one, was in full command of my facilities during the time of my visit to the gallery. However, I have heard many who have experienced hypnotism claim the same full command of their facilities so who knows.

In any case, the work is interesting and well worth the pause given to them while venturing into the Pocono Community Theater’s screening rooms. The Exhibition Continues Until January 8th. You’ll find more photographs in The Visual Arts 2011 Gallery Part 2 at

The Pocono Community Theater Gallery is located within The Pocono Community Theater which is located in East Stroudsburg, PA. The relatively small theater houses three screening rooms in which films ranging from the commercially popular films of the day to the Independent and Foreign films not readily available in larger venues are shown. The Pocono Community Theater also holds special events throughout the year.

Theses special events include a screening of the films “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” and “Metropolis” along with musical guest “Beasts of Traal,” “Willbium,” “King Dead,” and “Rez Lep and the Apparatus” on Thursday October 27th as part of their Silent Films to Loud Music Series, a screening of the 1973 film “The Exorcist” on Saturday October 29th as part of their film revival series, a Red Carpet Event at The Stroudsmoor Terraview on Friday November 11th, and a screening of the 1959 film “The Diary of Anne Frank” on Sunday November 13th in remembrance of Kristallnacht followed by a special presentation given by Ken Wolk. Please Explore The Pocono Community Theater Website or call 570-421-2036 for more information about these event and all the theater has to offer.

Abandoning Phantoms with Flair

The Gallery at Local Flair in Mountainhome, PA held a Pre Halloween Party and Artists’ Reception featuring the works of Sue Tatterson in an exhibition titled, “Spirits of the Abandoned” and Shane Izykowski in an exhibition titled, “Phantasmatography” on Saturday October 22nd. Numerous aficionados of the magazine gathered in the small but elegant gallery to partake of an enjoyably spooky evening out. They were met with imagery ranging from deeply haunting structural apparitions allowing reflections of a bygone era to depictions inspiring blood curdling terror to be experienced in the dreams of those who find it possible to sleep after cautiously laying their head upon their pillows.

The photographic work of Sue Tatterson depicts the ruins of the now dilapidated The Inn at Buck Hill Falls which opened in 1901 and ceased operations in 1991. During its tenure, the Inn became known for its elegant beauty and grandeur while reflecting their humble geographical surrounding by maintaining a rustic flavor throughout its dwellings. This could be seen clearly in the beautifully haunting images captured by Ms. Tatterson.

There were several attendees of the reception who have visited the Inn throughout its illustrious history. They presented a countenance while viewing the images suggesting they were once again walking along its corridors and resting upon its many alcoves. One could not help but to be touched by these silent remembrances while marveling at the photographic skills that inspired them.

Upon Ms. Tatterson’s website, she writes “We live in a constant cycle of abandonment and renewal, discarding the old for the new as we strive to build bigger and better facilities - erasing the past in our process.” While this is certainly true of the man made structures such as The Inn at Buck Hill Falls serves as an example, one can easily expand the theme to envelop the human condition as well. After all, the reason one is touched by the images depicted in Ms. Tatterson’s work is derived from the many times we have felt it necessary to discard aspects of ourselves in order to make room for a new perspective of how to continue living it.

Sometimes we find the act of removing these traits from our spiritual makeup to be a liberating one allowing us to live a more enhanced life freed of the chains keeping us from moving forward. Yet, there are times we wonder if what we’ve given up was worth the endeavor as we begin to feel there is something missing which wasn’t the case before. We become haunted by ghosts we may never be able to make contact with again and yearn to hear their wise council as we face the challenges their absence creates. And, our regret is compounded when we recall how cavalierly we cast them out.

This cavalier approach is often associated with property owners who have no sense or regard to the intrinsic value of what they see as unprofitable. They replace buildings with soulful histories which touched the lives of many with structures which have the sense of being a hollow echo inadequately replacing what had stood in their place. Many developers declare their love for the community as they present plans to improve the area by demolishing meaningful parts of it. But, it’s not difficult to decipher their proposals as means to make a profit regardless of what is right for the community.

It is said, “When the power of love becomes greater then the love of power (which includes an unconscionable desire to accumulate large amounts of money), the world would be a better place.” Perhaps if such developers would consider how the love their “unprofitable” acquisitions have empowered those with their beauty, they may find replacing it for the sole purpose of increasing there income is not as a worthwhile endeavor as their business plan suggests. Such considerations may not only make the community they claim to serve a better place, but the world as well. And, if we apply such considerations (on a more spiritual level) to the changes we contemplate as we develop ourselves, we may become a better world as well.

The photographic work of Shane Izykowski depicts unfathomable horrors made popular by the film genre along the fiction and video games associated with it. Yet, Mr. Izykowski’s work goes beyond the contrivances of the medium as the images he captures travels deeper into the human psyche. The viewer of his work knows intellectually Mr. Izykowski had created the images through the use of models, makeup, and set designs. However, each image gives each viewer the unnerving certainty these photographs are of their deeply concealed terrors which were taken clandestinely without their conscious knowledge. As a matter of fact, these images may have been captures without our sub conscious knowledge as well; as impossible as it sounds.

Although the images Mr. Izykowski are clear and concise in their uncanny composition, they remain difficult to describe through the usage of words. How can one describe the unfathomable dimensions of a dream? And, how much more daunting the endeavor would be when, in the process of doing so, one would encounter their own terror which has been high on their list to avoid since the age of three? I choose not to release such daemons by opening the doors one much in order to explore Mr. Izykowski’s work in depth as such avenues to the mind are best left alone.

However, I can tell you the quality inherent in his photographic approach is par excellence and perfect for the subjects he presents. Perhaps there are those of you reading this who may be more apt to disregard your cautious nature more than I am to share your unshielded perceptions of Mr. Izykowski’s work as displayed in The Gallery at Local Flair. I invite you to do so as the Exhibition Continues Until October 31st. You’ll find more photographs taken during the reception in The Visual Arts 2011 Gallery Part 2 at

The Gallery at Local Flair is an extension of Local Flair Magazine which was first published in 2005 celebrating excellence in every aspect of the communities located through the Pocono Area in Northeast PA while striving to maintain the highest quality publication possible. The magazine has earned a reputation for being an informative guide to what is truly beautiful and life enhancing with a savvy, creative edge offering a refreshing view of the Poconos. Local Flair Magazine is published bimonthly and is available to be read free of charge at numerous distribution sites. Please Explore The Gallery at Local Flair Website at to learn more about the gallery and to learn more about the magazine.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Theatrical Review: Sold

Theatrical Review: Sold
Directed by: Stephanie French
Based on the Novel: Day of Tears by Julius Lester
Adapted to the Stage by: Stephanie Daventry French and Ahleea Zama
Theatrical Review by: Paul Adam Smeltz

The East Stroudsburg University (ESU) Department of Theatre presented their production of “Sold” which was adapted by Stephanie French and Ahleea Zama and directed by Stephanie Daventry French. The production is based upon the novel “Day of Tears” written by Julius Lester which is about slavery in the United States which existed as a legal institution prior to the 1860s. Like the novel, the play is presented through first-person points of view from the perspectives of both the slaves and the slave holders and is centered around the lives who were effected by that has become known as “The Weeping Time.”

The weeping time was an event which took place at a race track in Savannah, GA on March 2nd and 3rd in 1857. The two day event was the largest sale of human beings on record in the United Sates with hundreds of Africans being sold into slavery. During the sale, rain touched the area and many interpreted this weather conditions to mean the heavens were crying at the spectacle of men, women, and children being sold off like cattle to the land owners. Several of the Africans died while standing at the race track waiting to be sold while the remainder were bought to continue their lives of slaves until those surviving the conditions associated with slavery were freed when the Civil War concluded.

The ESU production of “Sold” wasted no time to indicate how the issue of slavery remains a prevalent one for the audience of 2011. During the announcements known as “housekeeping” in which theatre goers are reminded to turn off their cellular and electronic devices while refraining to take pictures during the presentation, the audience was reminded slave trafficking still exists in many areas of the world and is especially prevalent in the sex trade industry. The cast’s reminder concluded with an equally powerful appeal for the audience to do whatever they can to stop the abduction of women and children by those who profit from these practices.

The play itself remained a powerful production throughout as it explored the lives and circumstances around the characters (mostly historical ones) that were depicted. The play begins at the home of Pierce Butler (as portrayed by Douglas Saint James) who was the 2nd largest Slave Holder in Savannah, GA. Hi wife, Fanny Kemble Butler (as portrayed by Shannon Leigh Christmann) who is an abolitionist and objects to how the slaves on her husband’s plantation are being treated. The marriage is seen in its deterioration as Fanny leaves the unacceptable situation to return to England and is forced to leave her two daughters, Sarah (as portrayed by Stephanie Clare) and Frances (as portrayed by Cassandra Daily), in their father’s care as he and the law of the 1800s saw children the property of their father.

As they play progresses, so do the lives of Pierce Butler and his children. Frances adopts a mentality which allows her to accept slavery and all its implications while Sarah re-examines the culture in which human bondage and the suffering it inflicts is an acceptable means of maintaining a high standard of living. The play also examines the lives and varied perspectives of the slaves which range from acceptance to the point their lives are seen as preferable to the challenging life they would lead once freed to those who either pray for freedom or death to come so their misery that accompany a life filled with a lack of dignity and self determination could end. The play also explored the lives of other slave owners which enhanced a revelation of a thread connecting all the characters of the play which is woven to the realization that no one is free in an oppressed society.

While it’s obvious those who are slaves have little or no say in their fate, the need of their “Masters” to suppress their property enslaves them as well. The “Masters” are unable to recognize their slaves as human beings deserving of the dignity and respect entitled to each person. The “Masters” must meet societal expectations and look upon their “Niggers” as sub human in order to justify their place in society. The “Masters” are not free to refrain from perpetrating the abuse many slaves experienced during those times nor are they free to comment upon the morality of such practices to their colleagues, friends, or family out of fear of losing their acceptance.

Although the play centered around the historical period of the 1800s, this reviewer began to reflect upon the references the cast made to slavery in the modern era. I began contemplating how many in our world are suffering the effects of slavery whether it’s imposed by others or self inflected. These effects pertain to relationships and situations many find themselves in throughout the course of their lives. Those who are abused in relationships are kept in fear of seeking a change in their condition and are immobilized by those who enslave them. It is often easy for those who wish to share their wisdom to say such life conditions are best avoided but the reality is they often can’t as emotional attachments come into play and these are not easily controlled.

There are also those who are enslaved by their own thoughts and prejudices. Many of us become attached to certain ideas or concepts and merely entertaining a contradictory one creates a great deal of anxiety. This is often due to our perception that to change our thoughts would deny us of our steadfast certainties and we lose our ability to control our part of the world. We then become prone to second guessing ourselves to the point where we begin to mistrust our every decision. Some may seek out individuals or groups who are willing to enslave them while others may isolate themselves in order to maintain a certain illusionary control over their environment. In either case, they become both the enslaved and the enslaver as, like several of the slaves portrayed throughout the production, they become accustomed to their enslavement as it allows them to live life without having to live it.

However, freedom does come to those who are tired of accepting the unacceptable whether it originates from others or from within. Those who accept a new life without oppression may find it to be a better one. Those who don’t may choose to remain in the comfort being enslaved provides them. Still, knowing one can be free if they’re willing to accept its blessings and challenges does empowers one whether they choose to embrace it or not. In other words, it’s the ability to choose and not the choice itself that makes one free; even if that choice is slavery.

As mentioned earlier, the production of “Sold” was a powerful one. It was well cast by exceptional actors who brought to life the characters they portrayed (both historic and fictional) in a very believable way. One often felt the soul of the person embodied the actor making it difficult to distinguish one from the other. This added significantly to the quality of the production along with the set design and direction the play was given by its director Stephanie Daventry French.

Besides those mentioned earlier in this review, members of this production’s cast included Tyler W. Adams as Will, Bob, and Samson, Esther Joseph as Emma, Shawanda Davis-Farber as Mattie and Aunt Hager, Andrew M. Confair as Auctioneer Weems, Brad Reigner as Mr. Denman and Jeremiah Henry, Michelle Jones as Mrs. Denman (who also served the production as its Dialect Coach), Tyler Whitman as Mr. Ellington, Michael Lloret as Mr. Powell (who also served the production as its Music Arranger and Choral Director), Brandon Luis Cabrera as Jeffery and Charles, Melquis Reyes as Anson, Mary Dennis as Mary and Winnie, Gabryal Rabinowitz as Joe, Joseph Dougherty as the Auctioneer’s Assistant, Tinesha Davis as Dorcas, and Marie Steeger as Mistress Henfield. The cast also included Karen Guilliams who added depth to the production by lending her voice in song and served the production as a member of its Running Crew. There were also understudies mentioned in the program and they were Aaqilah Lewis and Shannon Long

The East Stroudsburg University (ESU) Department of Theatre production of “Sold” was directed by Stephanie Daventry French who also adapted the novel by Julius Lester and was assisted by Ahleea Zama who also adapted the novel by Julius Lester and served the production as an understudy. The production was Stage Managed by Zenobia Colah who was assisted by Elyse Burnett and Katie Dembesky. Yoshinori Tanokura designed the set as assisted by Gillian Reinartz. The Lighting was designed by Robert McIntyre as assisted by Kelsey Pulzone who also served as a member of the production’s Carpentry Crew along with Eric Lang. Michael Thomas was the production’s Technical Director, Devon Sparks was the Master Electrician, Molly Bunkard was the Wardrobe Mistress, and Michelle Tuite was the Property Mistress as assisted by Briana Tyler and Mari Pollock. The Poster and Program Cover Design for the production was done by Michael Marshall.

This production of “Sold” will continue its run at The East Stroudsburg University (ESU) in East Stroudsburg, PA at The University’s Fine and Performing Arts Center in it’s Smith-McFarland Theatre until October 23rd and is recommended for those who wish to not only learn more about the plight of slaves in the United States during the 1800s but to reflect upon the insidiousness of its nature which persists to the modern day and may do so as long a humans inhabit the earth and themselves. The only drawback to this production is it only lasts until the 23rd so it is also recommended to be expedient in making arrangements to attend a performance. The next production to be presented at The University’s Fine and Performing Arts Center will be “A Christmas Carol” December 1st through 4th. Please contact The East Stroudsburg University (ESU) Theatre Department at 570-422-3483 for more information about future productions and to reserve your ticket.

Photograph provided by The East Stroudsburg University of PA.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Oooo. Look What COTA Did.

It has long been a tradition for The Celebration of the Arts (COTA) to take some time after their annual festivals come to a conclusion to reflect the event and explore what aspects of it could be improved upon so next year’s celebration can be even better. This tradition continued at The Deer Head Inn in Delaware Water Gap, PA on Tuesday October 11th as jazz lovers and those who have volunteered their time and talents for The 34th Annual Celebration of the Arts Jazz and Arts Festival gathered. Although the gathering itself was a small one due to many going on trips abroad and becoming ill, there were many topics offered up for discussion and many issues were either resolved or tabled for further examination.

The meeting also included a sharing of information by friends of the festival which included a representative from East Stroudsburg University who will present their “Zoot Fest” on Sunday November 13th in The Keystone Room located on the University’s Campus. The event is dedicated to honoring Zoot Sims and Al Cohn who spent a good portion of their distinguished careers performing together in various Jazz venues. One of these venues was known as “The Loft” and the festival will have special presentations relating to the establishment including performances by musicians who not only played there but were also seen during the recent Celebration of the Arts Jazz and Arts festival last September. Please Contact East Stroudsburg University at or visit their website at to reserve tickets and to gain more information about Zoot Fest.

Besides taking time to reflect upon the festival and to learn how we can improve upon our loving endeavors, it was good to see some of the friends we’ve made throughout the years. These moments and the conversations they inspired encouraged us as we begin to envision The 35th Annual Celebration of the Arts Jazz and Arts Festival which will take place in September 2012. The next volunteer meeting to begin planning for the festival will take place in March with a specific date and time to be announced. You’ll find more photographs taken during the October 11th gathering in The COTA Meetings 2011 Gallery at

The Celebration of the Arts (COTA) presents and supports the arts and the music of jazz in all its forms and historical breadth through youth education, performing arts presentations, scholarship opportunities, and community outreach throughout the Pocono area. The festival and all its functions is organized and run by volunteers. You’ll be able to read my article about The 34th Annual Celebration of the Arts Jazz and Arts Festival and see the pictures I took at and More information the festival can be obtained by Exploring The COTA Website at or by calling 570-424-2210. I hope to see you there.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

The Abandoned Found at ESU

The East Stroudsburg University of PA (ESU) held an Artist’s Reception in their Madelon Powers Gallery located within the Fine and Performing Arts Center on Wednesday October 5th for their exhibition titled, “From Dublin to Durango” featuring the work of Professor Herb Weigand. The work depicted geographical areas located in The Wicklow Mountains which are South of Dublin, Ireland and the cliffs Mesa Verde which are in the South Western United States. Both areas have been abandoned by those who dwell there and each has its own haunting unexplained story to why this is so.

Professor Weigand captures the haunting aspects of these areas although one can sense in more prevalently in the images of the Mesa Verde. This may be due to the arid environment of the region which cries out for the assumption of barrenness to be applied by those who view its depictions while the plush greenery of the Irish landscape connotes an area teaming with life and abundance. However, as with many things we encounter throughout our lives, appearances have their ability to deceive our initial perceptions and a deeper revelation can be gained upon further explorations.

These explorations may encourage one to go beyond the geographical images displayed in the exhibit to ponder our perceptions of the nature of abandonment and its effects on those who are left behind. Many such people have the obvious signs of the state which resemble the desolation found in the Mesa Verde. Yet, many who have been abandoned present themselves as nonchalant survivors whose busy lives are filled with so many distractions there is little time to reflect upon the pain they suffer when they first realized something or someone they once held dear will never be with them again.

The exhibition continues it showing at The Madelon Powers Gallery until November 22nd. It is filled with work capturing the flavor of it’s landscapes along with the essences (obvious and layered over) of their abandoned state. Those who would like to explore the ruins of an abandoned site which may lead them to discover the depths of the concept within themselves are encouraged to visit. You’ll find more photographs I took during the “From Dublin to Durango” reception in the Visual Arts 2011 Gallery Part 2 at

The next Exhibition at the gallery will be the university’s semester review featuring the work of students enrolled in their art studio classes. The exhibit is scheduled to take place from November 29th until December 7th. The date of the Artists’ Reception is yet to be announced. Please Contact The ESU Art Department at 570-422-3483 for more information.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Monsters, Rezlep, and Dreams. Oh My

The Dreamland Creations in Stroudsburg, PA held an Artists’ Reception on Sunday October 2nd for The Monsters Show. The exhibition was designed to provide an opportunity for artists to have some fun exploring the monstrous side of art in celebration of the upcoming Halloween season. This is a wonderful extension the Tattoo Studios offers local artists who would like to share their work in an atmosphere which encourages a cutting edge approach to creative expression that established galleries would be too frightened to alienate the conservative patrons to present.

While much of the work in The Monsters Show presented pieces depicting famous monsters like Frankenstein, Dracula, and other in a very interesting way, quite a few artists created monsters of their own creation. Some creations were inspired by children book such as “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” while others derived from their own psyches and lives. Regardless of their point of origin, each piece took those who peered into it on a journey to a darkened realm which was as perversely enjoyable as it was fascinating.

The music for the reception was provided by Rezlep and his Apparatus. His unique performances of macabre multilayered cabaret music is a perfect fit for any exhibition who seeks to present work that challenges the perceptions of the ordinary mind. However, the evening’s performance upped the psychological ante of the monstrous depictions found within the imagination of the artists who presented them. Not only did Rezlep expand upon the delightfully disturbing effects of the work shown throughout the gallery, he did so with great revelry. Many who listened were infected by the performance as they desired even more of it. May the lord have mercy on their souls and provide more Rezlep to them all.

The visual artists participating in “The Monsters Show” include Myke Maldonado and Brandi Merritt, Victoria Penna, RenDi (who also collaborated in creating a piece with Shirley Escribano ), Ka-son Reeves, Emilio Arostegui, Shirley Escribano (who also collaborated in creating a piece with RenDi), Michael Parsons, Abby Braman, Sigurdur Sigurdsson, Tim Nebel, Brianna N Ace, Thomas W. Dillon, Gallows, Pawel Alexander Lijewski, Morgan Crespo, Shane Izykowski, Sander Martijn, Zaiah Kulano, Ana Marie Hendricks, and Paul (yeah, that‘s me). The Exhibition continues until November 28th. You’ll find more photographs taken during the reception in The Dreamland Creations 2011 Gallery at

The Dreamland Creations in Stroudsburg, PA serves as a studio where individuals can adorn their forms with a variety of body art such as tattoos and piercing reaching out to the vast community of conventional and non mainstream artists throughout the area. Their next Artists’ Reception will feature the work of Shane Izykowski with the reception taking place Sunday December 4th beginning at 4pm. The Exhibition will continue until December 31st. Please Explore The Dreamland Creations Website at or call 570-421-6313 for more information about the artists, the current and future exhibitions, and all they have to offer.

Marlana Holsten and Friends at ArtSpace

The PoconoArts Community Cultural Center in Stroudsburg, PA held an Artists’ Reception on Sunday October 2nd in their ArtSpace Gallery. The featured Artist in the main gallery was Marlana Holsten who presented her latest series of photographic work. Ms. Holsten’s love of color and her subjects enhances each piece and it’s vibrancy seldom fails to bring a smile to the face of its viewer. Her images manages to not only bring out the features of her subjects in great detail but their essence as well. Among the artists who were showing their work alongside these photographs created by Marlana Holsten were Linda Kreckel, Thomas Augusta, Irene Bartz, JoAnn Castrillo, Sharon Cosgrove, Wil Daskal, Shirley Epstein, Jim Hannan, Helen Heeren, John Kopp, Bud laRosa, Maria Livrone, Don Manza, Marcos Oksenhendler, Ka-Son Reeves, Joan Sayer, Leslie Nagy, Batik, Alyson Doria, and Clarissa Jan Ward.

In addition to the ArtSpace Gallery, The PoconoArts Community Cultural Center also houses a Studio Gallery which featured works created by Penny Ross along with additional works by Don Manza. Ms. Ross works a great deal in pastels and she was seen working on a piece while the reception was taking place. This was a treat to those who desire to lean more about the technique by seeing a piece created in their presence. There were a number of questions asked her about her work and the ensuing conversation proved to enhance the exhibit. Don Manza also had a number of photographic pieces in the Studio Gallery which presented scenes with a darkness to their nature contrasting well with the pastel colors found in Ms. Ross’ work.

The PoconoArts Community Cultural Center also contains a Hall of Poetry and Writings on which poets and writers may share their talents with those who enter. This month the wall continued to feature the poems of Ka-Son Reeves. This exhibit was enhanced by illustrations created by the poet who is best known for his visual stylings. While the combination of these illustrations with the words did guide one to a clearer image to what the poem was to convey, it still encouraged the viewers’ imaginations to explore the deeper meaning of the piece that goes beyond what is read and seen. You’ll find more photographs taken during the reception in the Visual Arts 2011 Gallery at

The current exhibition continues until October 31st. The next exhibition at The PoconoArts Community Cultural Center will be presented in The ArtSpace Gallery and begin with an Artist’s Reception on Saturday November 5th. It will continue until the end of the month. Please Explore The ArtSpace Gallery Website at for more information.

The PoconoArts Community Cultural Center is part of The PoconoArts Council which is an organization designed to build the communities in which it serves artistically and culturally by providing leadership, service, and education. It does so by offering avenues for artists to display their work through the ArtSpace and other galleries, educational opportunities for those who would like to explore and/or enhance their creative natures, and encouragement to those who seek to express and/or support the arts. You’ll be able to learn more about The PoconoArts Council and all they offer at for more information.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Drawn to A Room with A View

The Cheeky Monkey Coffeehouse in Stroudsburg, PA held an Artist’s Reception in one of their back rooms for a Small Format Art Show featuring the work of Bethany Wert on Friday September 30th. Contrary to what one might have expected due to the modest amount of advanced publicity it received, the reception was a relatively a well attended one. There were quite a few people there and this is taking in account the size of the room which could make a very small crowd look more enormous than it is.

The exhibit was a very interesting one for me. Not only was the work incredibly well done, but the presentation of it impressed me as well. It was very small with only 7 images on display along with a video feed of additional works created by the artist, but this simplicity added much to the potency of the entire show. One was able focus on each work at a leisurely pace which allowed one to explore it’s intricacies.

There were much to explore as these pen and ink renderings contained lines resembling mazes creating images entrapping the imagination of the viewer. The more one explores each piece the ore one finds it difficult to move away to explore another. Yet, each piece has its siren like call and one does eventually move towards it’s beckoning song.

There is one piece in particular that lingers in my mind. It is an untitled piece and it is of a womanly figure walking into what appears to be a shadowy domain. She seems to ignore the bright Autumnal colors which are part of the environment she is walking through as she begins to traverse into the darkness. The imagery in the work reminded me of the myth of Persephone who leaves the world at the end of each Autumn and goes into the underworld to be with her lover Hades before returning to her mother in the Spring. I realize it may be too bold for me to suggest a title for this well crafted piece, but if I were forgiven for doing so my suggestion would be to name it “Persephone’s Journey.”

Bethany Wert is currently finishing her bachelor's degrees in the field of Art and Design as well as in the field of Psychology. It seems to this observer she fully utilizes her interests in these areas to enhance their effect upon those who peers at them. I would encourage those who venture into The Cheeky Monkey to go through their corridor to experience the show as the work is an example of what wonderful things one can discover by peeking into a back room. You can learn more about Bethany Wert and her work by exploring her website at You’ll find more Photographs I took during the reception in The Cheeky Monkey 2011 Gallery at

The Small Format Art Show is part of The Cheeky Monkey’s Espresso Yourself Art Shows Series and will continue to be exhibited until October 30th in a room located near the rear of the establishment. The Cheeky Monkey Coffeehouse is also displaying the work of Kim Pollard in a photographic exhibit titled, “Show on Shuffle.” This exhibition can be seen upon the establishments walls as one enters its front door and will continue being displayed until November 1st. The next Artists to be presented in the Espresso Yourself Art Series will be John Kolbek and Michael Parsons featuring an Artists’ Reception on Friday November 4th beginning at 6pm with the exhibition continuing its run until January 1st.

The Cheeky Monkey Coffeehouse offers a variety of coffee, drinks, and culinary treats along with events such as the one described in this article. Other events include their Tuesday evening Open Mic Nites and their “Spoken Word Symposium” on Thursday evenings. In addition to these, The Forwardian Arts Society  will hold its final Film Lovers Gathering for the season on Friday October 14th beginning at 7pm until we resume in April with our Forwardian Film Festival kicking off another season of gatherings. The gathering will feature a free screening of the film, “Student Bodies” which is a 1981 parody of the horror genre. Please Explore The Cheeky Monkey Coffeehouse Website at or call 570-236-5574 for more information.

Celebrating Jazz with Bob

 The 34th Annual Celebration of the Arts (COTA) Jazz and Arts Festival was held in Delaware Water Gap, PA September 9th - 11th. In honor of his many achievements in the arts and his major contributions to the worldwide community, the festival gave special recognition to the life and career of Jazz Legend Bob Dorough. Bob is best known to those growing up during the 1970s who watched the Schoolhouse Rock segments shown between the Saturday Morning cartoons on the ABC Television Network. They were created to be educational tools to teach English Grammar, Civics, Mathematics, and other subjects. Even those who weren’t born during that decade can easily sing along to many of it’s classic tunes such as “Conjunction Junction,” “Mother Necessity” and “Three is a Magic Number.” Many forms of tribute to the work of Bob Dorough took place during the festival which included performers adding one of his many compositions to their set and the screening of scenes of the upcoming Documentary “Devil May Care.”

However, the festival itself began on an ominous note as the recent weather conditions around the area seemed to many as a threat to this year’s celebration taking place. The first of these threats was Hurricane Irene whose winds and perception caused a great deal of flooding in the area just two weeks prior to the festival. The second (and more devastating) threat was Tropical Storm Lee which caused widespread flooding throughout the Susquehanna Area destroying thousands of homes. The storm provided the area with a great deal of precipitation the day before the festival which caused a great deal of concern. Yet, on the first day of the festival, the abating rains renewed the anticipation of another festival filled with the music, arts, and camaraderie found in previous years in the fullness of its grandeur.

The festival began on Friday September 9th at The Antoine Dutot Museum and Gallery in Delaware Water Gap, PA who held an Artists’ Reception for their Music Motif Show. Prior to the Reception, those waiting to enter the gallery were entertained by the classical music performed by the ensemble known as Calliope which featured Gina Bertucci and Barbara McMahon on Flute along with Laura Goss on Bassoon. This gave a delightful air to the reception as those who stood to hear the enchanting sounds prepared themselves for the wonderful images that awaited them. It seemed as if no time had passed at all until the doors opened and the eager art lovers commenced their explorations of the wonderful work inside.

As each art lover did so, they were pleasantly overwhelmed by the enormity of the work placed upon the gallery’s walls. The exhibition featured the works of Artists, sculptors, and photographers who have created pieces to honor the art of music. The Annual Exhibition is a juried one with representatives from the Music, Educational, and Visual Arts Community who have shown a great degree of distinction in their fields serving as Jurors for the exhibit. This year’s jurors were Sue Terry (Music), Jill Howell (Education), and John C. Kopp (Visual Arts). Awards were given to artists in several categories touching upon a wide variety of style and artistic approach reflecting the overall beauty of the exhibit.

In the Works on Paper Category, Al Kratzer received the 1st place award for his work titled, “The Trio” done in Pastel while Bob Mancuso received an Honorable Mentioned for his work titled, “LIEB II” which was an Ink on Paper endeavor. Tim Helman received the 1st place award for his work titled, “True COTA CAT” as well as an Honorable Mentioned for his work titled, “Sprayed Jazz” in The Mixed Media Category. Garth Woods received the 1st place award for his work titled, “Nellie McKay at COTA 2010,” Marlana Holstein received the 2nd place award for her work titled, “Sweet Old Music Maker,” and Bud Nealy received the 3rd place award for his work titled, “Iconic” in the Photography Category. Ka-Son Reeves received the 1st place award for his work titled, “Tune Up” done in Acrylic, Jim Gloria received the 2nd place award for his work titled, “Doney Composes” done in Oil, Joseph Coco received the 3rd place award for his work titled, “Last Full Moon of 2009” done in Oil on canvas, and James Doddy received an Honorable Mention for his work titled, “Colors of Jazz” done in Oil in the painting category. The Best of Show Award went to Andrei Protsouk for his original 3-D oil on wood mix piece titled, “Concert for Violin No 1.”

As with previous years, the task of selecting the recipients of the awards must have been a daunting one as the quality of each piece was astounding. Each work allowed one to discover new aspects of the art of music to love. The inspired conversation was as lively and vibrant as the images sung their song to the eyes and souls of those conversing. Each word and concept shared was hungrily devoured as were the wonderful array of culinary treats that were also on displayed upon a central table additionally adorned with flowers provided by Donna Mason.

Those providing the evening’s varied and fulfilling cuisine included several well established local eateries including Andrew Moore’s Stone Bar Inn, Bruce and Marianne Brandii’s Big A Italian and American Grill House and Bar, and The Deer Head Inn along with several individuals such as Ed Mason, Michael Cooke, Christine Trembly (who also serves on the COTA Board of Directors and helped organize the exhibit), and Susan Wilson (who serves The Antoine Dutot Museum and Gallery). A staff of servers led by Diane Fienemann and Christine held before the attendees many a delicious hors d’ oeuvres that easily swayed anyone away from any desire to maintain a dietary reduction program. Those who joined Diane and Christine in their duties of culinary temptresses were Mary Hayes, Sue Predl, and Melissa Straton.

The Antoine Dutot Museum and Gallery in Delaware Water Gap, PA serves the area as an Art gallery and museum of local history housed in a charming brick school house which was constructed around 1850. The Music Motif exhibition completed its showing on September 18th. Their final exhibition features the works of The Pocono Photo Club membership who regularly schedules special programs, field trips, and other activities for local photography lovers and is currently showing until October 9th. Please Explore The Antoine Dutot Museum and Gallery Website for more information in regards to their exhibitions and all they offer the community.

The first day of the 34th Annual Celebration of the Arts (COTA) Jazz and Arts Festival continued across the street of The Antoine Dutot Museum and Gallery in The Presbyterian Church of the Mountain with an evening filled with classical music, poetry, theater, and dance. The performances at the church allows the festival to honor these artistic forms prior to the commencement of the predominantly Jazz portion of its annual celebration. The evening proved to be a time in which those attending the show could sit back, relax, and absorb all the wonderful occurrences awaiting their attentions.

The performances began with The Marsha Cahn Ensemble led by Marsha Cahn on Viola and Violin with Mark Woodyat on Violin and Dan King on Cello. Their renditions of classical pieces along with some modern compositions proved to be a gentile initiation to the evening’s events at the church. Yet, the ensemble also included humor in their performance as Mark Woodyat improvised an instrumental piece based upon suggestions made from the audience. One could not listen without being reminded of the comedic musical approach of pianist Victor Borge. In fact, Mr. Woodyat may be considered the Victor Borge of the violin.

The evening at the church continued with a performance given by The Water Gap Players whose amusing and down right hilarious theatrics have become a favorite throughout the years. They are known for shining a humorous light upon many of the issues of serious concern and this year proved to be no exception. The wonderfully irreverent troupe consists of Joe Arner, Greg Back, Dennis Carrig, and David Hymes. Their first appearance on stage that night was for a skit written by Greg Back titled “Conspiracy Theory” in which the whole ensemble performed.

It presented a group of men assembled around a bar exploring and debating the merits of various conspiracy theories each of them embraces. They included all the fantastical theories familiar to anyone who ever viewed the history, discovery, or sci fi channels and the audience realizes how deserving each of these alternative approaches to reality are of their dismissiveness as do the characters when they hear of the most fantastical one of all. That is, until they learn this particular one is true.

The Water Gap Players were followed by The Totts Gap Dancers who originate from The Totts Gap Arts Institute (TGAI) located in the Bangor, PA area. A piece choreographed by Angeline Wolf titled, “Happy” featured Laura Buzzard, Rose Gloria, and Maeve Godstalk who danced joyfully to the music of Death Cab for Cuties. Their leaps through the air entertained as they took the smiles of the audience along with them on their journeys upward.

They were followed by another set of dancers from the TGAI who performed a piece choreographed by Jennifer Muller titled, “Burka” featuring Erin Harper, Gwen Little, Francesca Marinaro, Emily Perkins, and Angeline Wolf with music provided by Vicki Doney on Percussions as well as audio excerpts from “Chant.” The work explored the melancholy hopes one encounters throughout life and especially those encountered in the form of womanhood.

The haunting effects of the imagery created by these dancers were only surpassed by its choreographed beauty. There was a delay in applause when the performance concluded as the audience took time to absorb the internal and eternal substance of what they had experienced. However, this soon gave way to an enormous show of appreciation for an opportunity to witness something we have seen all along through new eyes and heart.

Comedy returned to the stage in the guise of Water Gap Players member David Hymes who gave a sermon based solely upon his composition titled, “The Book of No” which parodied several of the biblical mythologies known to anyone who attended a televised church service. It may be debated whether or not the conclusions and interpretations Mr. Hymes draws are more ludicrous than those of his evangelical counterparts, but one may be joyfully assured he and everyone who enjoyed his performance are going to Hell in a hand basket. That is, if one is lucky.

Poetry touched the hearts and thoughts of those attending the evening’s performances as Michael Stephans took his place to share his words. His recitations brought many a smile and thoughtful contemplation to those who listened not only with their ears but with their souls as well. Known as a percussionist, Mr. Stephans played the beats of his words on the drum of human experiences. The measured echoes resonated among the memories they resurrected along with the assurances they inspired.

Joe Arner and Dennis Carrig took the stage as Abraham Lincoln and Samuel Langhorne Clemens (aka Mark Twain) in a speculative skit the actors wrote titled, “Never the Twain Shall Meet.” The work explored what would have occurred if the 16th President of the United States who served from 1861 until his assassination in 1865 and the author of classics such as “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and its sequel “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” would have met during their lives.

Although a fictional encounter, the skit humorously reveals aspects of the two men not readily known by the general population. It was interesting how the work utilized comic techniques very similar to those used by Mr. Clemens in his books and how Lincoln was portrayed as a country bumpkin as many who lived during his Presidency believed him to be. One might infer he was the G. W. Bush of his day. The work amused while allowing the audience to associate this encounter and the conversation with the times we live in during the here and now.

After the actors left the stage leaving their audience to contemplate the inferences of the piece, The Totts Gap Dancers returned to perform another work choreographed by Jennifer Muller titled, “Edge 3” featuring the talents of Laura Buzzard, Rose Gloria, Maeve Godstalk, Francesca Marinaro, and Emily Perkins. The music of Zap Mama filled the ears as the movement of the dancers filled they inner and outer eye. A contagious joy touched the audience from which no cure was sought by anyone inflicted with it. This was largely due to its effects bringing about a state of profound wellness which was eagerly embraced and kept within the petri dishes of the human spirit shared by all.

The evening drew to a close with a screening of excerpts from the documentary exploring the life and talents of Bob Dorough directed by Erin Harper titled, “Devil May Care.” The film was exceptionally well made as it revealed the nature of Mr. Dorough’s talents and the creative processes he employs as he composes his songs. The film accomplishes what many meaningful documentaries strive for and that is creating a desire among its viewers to learn more about the subject and their works. However, the film avoids being a mere cinematic love fest dedicated to Bob Dorough which would have cheapen its integrity greatly.

The film kept it real by allowing the focus to be taken off Bob Dorough and allowing other unplanned characters provide their own commentary from their non fan perspective. An example of this is in a scene in which Bob is making his way to perform at the New York City Restaurant which has become a Jazz Mecca for the city called, “Feinstein’s” through their kitchen. He is finely dressed and accompanied by a small entourage. He passes a waiter who notices him but is completely disinterested in who Bob Dorough is or what he does.

It reminded me of the scene in Francois Truffaut’s “Day for Night” in which a couple is walking down the hall of a hotel they’re staying. The man asks his female companion to walk ahead of him so he can watch her derriere as she moves. She does so with great exaggeration. Meanwhile, an older woman walking down the hall and, upon noticing the couple and their antics, simply passes them by while rolling her eyes at the mundane silliness of their behavior.

This minor act on the part of the older woman allows a breath of reality to enter the scene reminding us there is nothing new under the sun and not all things are important just because they are occurring. The waiter in the Feinstein scene has, for me, the very same effect. Although his disinterest does not trivialize the talents of Bob Dorough, the significance of his music, nor does it undermine the well deserved praise he has received throughout the years, the scene does reminds us the world does not evolve around Bob or his music and there are other realms of human experience he is not a significant part of.

This is not to suggest Bob Dorough holds himself up to the pretentious entrapments often associated with Celebrity. In fact, the opposite it true. Those who have become fortunate enough to know him knows of his approachable, laid back manner that welcomes all whom he encounters regardless of who and where they are in life. Still, the scene does serve a purpose by discouraging anyone to set Bob Dorough on a pedestal he would be uncomfortable upon. What happens later in the very same scene in the restaurant demonstrates why.

A bus person brought in a tray with dirty dishes into the kitchen. The camera shows Bob noticing a glass of half drunk water on the tray from which he took a sip. This simple and nonchalant act illustrates Bob’s “Devil May Care” approach to life which allows him to be an attainable part of the human race.

After the film, one of its producers, Steve Berger, talked about the film. Steve has played guitar for Bob since the late 1980s and passionately shared the reasons why he wanted to make the documentary. He also shared the progress he and others have made since the project’s inception and what is left to do before it can be released for theatrical consumption. Through a subsequent chat I had with Steve, I learned the film has over two hours of footage and funds are needed to edit it down to 90 minutes so it can be more marketable as a documentary film. We shared a few more thoughts about the film which enabled me to learn more about the art and practicalities (the business end) of filmmaking. It was soon after this exchange I went home to rest up in order to partake of the remainder of the festival which was to take place in its outdoor venue. Thus ended the first COTA Day.

The Totts Gap Arts Institute (TGAI) in Bangor, PA was created to nurture artists of all ages and to awaken the excitement, passion, and possibility of both the fine and performing arts by offering classes, showcasing talent, and hosting events that will infuse our community and the region with a love and respect for the creative process. These include the creative disciplines of Visual Art, Dance, Theater, Music, and Independent filmmaking in which TGAI helped provide a cast and crew to make a film directed and written by Erin Greenwell titled, “My Best Day.” You may learn more about the film by visiting their website at as well as exploring The Totts Gap Arts Institute (TGAI) Website at to learn more about the institute and all it has to offer the community.

The film “Devil May Care” in a documentary about Bob Dorough focusing on his life and music. The title of the film derives from that of his first album released in 1956 and recorded in Bethlehem, PA. The film is being produced by Beth Bogart and Steve Berger and directed by Erin Harper with Erin Greenwell serving at the film’s editor. The Director of Photography for the project is John Inwood with Erin Harper, Sam Henriquez, Ben Cole, Jeff Hoagland, Adam Benn, and Janis Vogel serving the film as its camera crew. Please Explore The Devil May Care Website at to learn more about the film and how to contribute towards its completion.

In addition to lending its sanctuary Annually to The Celebration of the Arts Jazz and Arts Festival, The Presbyterian Church of the Mountain in Delaware Water Gap, PA offers a weekly Summer Gazebo Concert Series presenting secular music in a variety of forms. They also offer a variety of spiritual programs for those who practice the Christian faith. These include worship services and missionary endeavors to the nations of Kenya and Cuba. They also have retreat facilities available for those hiking the Appalachian Trail which has a section of its route nearby. Please explore The Presbyterian Church of the Mountain Website at to gain more information about the church and all it has to offer the community.

After receiving little sleep due to the reflections relating to the previous evening and the anticipation of the wonders of the festival yet to be discovered, I arrived at the festival’s outdoor venue early Saturday September 10th to assume my duties as a member of The 34th Annual Celebration of the Arts (COTA) Jazz and Arts festival’ Security Staff. I joined with my fellow blurry eyed staffers with whom I felt an immediate kinship with as I knew I wasn’t alone in my experience of a restless night as we made the final preparations for welcoming those who would come to enjoy the event. The sun began to shine dispelling all previous concerns about the weather inspiring one staffer to comment, “There’s not a sky in the clouds.”

As our tasks were nearing completion, the festival opened its gates to admit the many jazz and art fans who would inhabit the day. Those of us who have worked the festival throughout the years were invigorated as we began greeting attendees we have become friends with during our tenures. Their excitement in being a part of this year’s celebrations awakened our dormant enthusiasms and brought us back to life. And what a life it became as the COTA weekend progressed.

The music for the day’s concert began at 12noon with Peggy Stern on piano and “Sweet” Sue Terry on Saxophone and Clarinet. It proved to be a mystically hypnotic commencement of the outdoor festival as the chimes from the clock located within the steeple of The Presbyterian Church of the Mountain began to announce the hour. It was as if the church, who provide such an excellent array of entertainment the night before, were giving its blessings to the remainder of the festival.

As a testament to their talent, as well as to the musical art form of jazz, Peggy and Sue instinctively incorporated the sounds of the chimes into the first piece they presented. This not only pleased the crowd who celebrated their spontaneity but also created a mesmerizing effect which enhanced their enjoyment of the remainder of their set. And, what a satisfying set it was as the music that followed proved to be a wonderful beginning to something many would hope would never end. In other words, it was sweet.

Peggy Stern and “Sweet” Sue Terry were followed by The After Hours Trio plus One featuring Najwa Parkins on Vocals, Luke Brandon on Trumpet, Dan Hannahan on Guitar, and Justin Sekelewski on Bass. Although their youthful appearance may have given the impression they were too young to perform the songs they selected to present with any of the legitimacy found in more aged performers, a few measures into the works created an assurance lifting all doubts of their more than capable talents. The power and steadfastness of Najwa’s voice resonated throughout the festival grounds while blending seamlessly with the melodious sounds of her band mates. Several members of the audience could be seen shaking their heads in amazement while other simply closed their eyes to partake of the enormity of the sounds.

While The After Hours Trio plus One were performing, the COTA Children’s Area was experiencing some musical action of its own. Jazz Drummer Sherrie Maricle of The DIVA Jazz Orchestra set up some buckets and other noise making apparatus to inspire the children to play. This took little coaxing as the kids eagerly took up the pairs of sticks they were provided and banged away with the abandonment associated with the energies abundantly given to youth. Crowds began to gather in order to listen to the vibrant beats as they were guided by the exuberant talents of Ms. Maricle.

When The After Hours Trio plus One concluded their set, the time spent preparing the stage for another musical performance was filled by one presented by The Dixie Gents featuring Paul Hubbell on Soprano Saxophone, Rick Chamberlain (one of the founders of COTA) on Trombone, Roy Schweisguth on Banjo, and Jim Daniels on Tuba. The Dixie Gents continued to entertain the crowds as they strolled about the festival grounds between future sets.

The next performance upon the stage was presented by The Jay Rattman Quartet featuring Jay Rattman on Alto Saxophone and Clarinet, Sullivan Fortner on Piano, Martin Nevin on Bass, and Guilhem Flouzat on Drums. The smooth renditions the quartet’s audiences who had become familiar with came to call like long cherished friends sharing their gentle notes soothing the stressful encounters of our days. The music flowed through the instruments enhancing those who heard it.

The Jay Rattman Quartet were followed by The Jazz Artists Repertory Orchestra (JARO) who filled the stage with a huge ensemble presenting the power of a big band to those reminiscent of those popular during the 1930s and 1940s. The orchestra was directed Wolfgang Knittel and performed on piano. The members of orchestra itself consisted of what may be considered a who’s who of the local Jazz scene. They included Nelson Hill on alto saxophone, clarinet, and flute, Jay Rattman on tenor and soprano saxophones, clarinet, and flute, Pat Turner on tenor saxophone, clarinet, and flute, Richard Barz on baritone saxophone, clarinet, and bass clarinet, Danny Cahn, Peter Hyde, and Patrick Dorian on trumpets, Richard Chamberlain on trombone, John DeVivo on French horn, Jim Daniels on bass trombone and tuba, Tony Marino on bass, Bob D'Aversa on drums, and Judy Lincoln on vocals. JARO was followed by Stephanie Nakasian with the Hod O'Brien Quartet featuring Stephanie Nakasian on vocals, Hod O'Brien on piano, Paul Hubbell on tenor saxophone, Gene Perla on bass, and Bill Goodwin on drums. Unfortunately, I was unable to experience due to performing my duties as part of the COT Security Team. However, I was able to experience a set titled, “Bob Dorough Himself” when my shift was over.

The Celebration of the Arts Festival has gained a well deserved reputation throughout its 34 years to present the very best Jazz performances. The caliber of talent appearing on COTA’s stage is of the highest level so one is hard pressed on which performance could be considered the centerpiece of the event. But, if there ever were or could ever be a centerpiece to any COTA festival, few would disagree with the assertion the performance given by Bob Dorough during this year’s festival was deserving of the consideration.

There was an excitement in the air as festival goers awaited the arrival of Bob Dorough anticipating the familiar joy and quality of his songs and performance. This excitement was heightened by the appearance of
Peter Coyote who took the stage to introduce his long time friend. Mr. Coyote is best known for his voice narrations in numerous audio books and National Geographic documentaries along with appearances as District Attorney Jerry Hardin in “Law and Order: LA.” It seemed to be an impossibility to elevate Bob Dorough any higher in the audience’s hearts than he already is, but Mr. Coyote’s warm and genuine sentiments accomplished just that.

Bob Dorough entered the stage and gave his friend an appreciative hug. He then humbly took his place at the piano, expressed his appreciation to the audience, and began to play. He was joined by Rick Chamberlain on trombone, Steve Berger on guitar and vocals, Pat O'Leary on bass, and Peter Grant on drums. The performance was joyous and a heart felt one. There were times I heard a uncommon reflection in his voice as if his thoughts were upon all the adoration he had received throughout the year and how all they were all magnified in this moment. I can never be certain if this was or was not the case, but I felt it was enough to discover an empathetic tear touch my eye as the thought occurred to me.

In any case, by the time Bob finished his set, it seemed impossible anyone could follow him. However, this year’s festival became one of manifesting impossibilities as members of The Bill Goodwin Experience took the stage. Bill took his place among his drums while he was joined by Adam Niewood on saxophone, Bill Washer on guitar, and Adrian Thomas Moring on bass. The audience began to come down from the high they experienced throughout Bob’s set to rediscover a more tranquil environment within themselves as a new experience emerged through the music.

The Bill Goodwin Experience was followed by a tribute titled, “To Al and Zoot with Love” featuring the talents of Lew Del Gatto on tenor saxophone, Bob Keller on tenor saxophone, Jesse Green on piano, Bill Crow on bass, and Tom Whaley on drums. The performance was as educational as it was entertaining as it revealed a great deal of the history of Jazz and the influence Alvin Gilbert Cohn (aka Al Cohn) and John Haley “Zoot” Sims had on the musical art form.

Al Cohn played Saxophone during the 1940s for the Woody Herman Big Band and arranged many of their popular songs while gaining a reputation as a soloist. “Zoot” Sims also played Saxophone for the Woody Herman Big Band and became well known for his innovative style. Together they were often featured in the band’s song titled, “Four Brothers” along with Herbie Steward and Serge Chaloff. The Composition was noted for its implementation of four saxophones in an arrangement giving each "brother" a solo culminating in a hard-swinging saxophonic chorus. After leaving the Herman group, Al and Zoot developed a long-term partnership by beginning a quintet in 1956. The group was a favorite at the New York club known as “The Half Note.”

Al eventually moved and lived in Stroudsburg, PA until his death in 1988 while Zoot Sims died in New York City, NY in 1985. However, their music lives on as evident by the performance shared during the festival. This was especially true when Saxophonist Jay Rattman joined the tribute and sang a song utilizing Al Cohn’s voice. Many who were familiar with his work found themselves closing their eyes in order to imagine him there. It was a fitting tribute to the two.

The 34th Annual Celebration of the Arts (COTA) Jazz and Arts Festival ended it’s second day with a performance by Zen for Primates. Although they readily acknowledged they were not a Jazz band and openly speculated that may have been the reason they had not played the festival for several years, their existentialistic approach to the songs they selected to play soon entranced the audience as their minds became part of the esoteric arrangements. The band was led by T. Roth who performed on lead vocals and was joined by Mike Krisukas on guitar and vocals, Pete Fluck on saxophone, Jodi Beder on cello, and Shelagh Maloney on violin.

Not only is Zen for Primates not a Jazz band it isn’t what many would consider a typical band of any genre. Their presentations are more like performance art as they constrain every note and lyric forcing their audience to focus on what they can’t always hear. It’s as though the band is challenging us to discover a secret we are not meant to know. Yet, there are times when we do and a sense of accomplishing something touches us until we are somehow reminded what we’ve discovered wasn’t all that important to begin with. Still, in some perverse way, it was fun. Thus ended the second COTA Day.

The 34th Annual Celebration of the Arts (COTA) Jazz and Arts Festival continued on Sunday September 11th with it’s Annual Jazz Mass which has become a favorite among festival goers for the music composed, conducted, and orchestrated by Wolfgang Knittel and for the meaningful messages conveyed by The Reverend Karen Nickels (Retired from The Church of the Mountain) who served as Worship Leader, Reverend Bill Schram (Interim Pastor of The Church of the Mountain) who served as Liturgist, and The Reverend Bill Cohea (Retired) who served as Liturgist Emeritus. The service is also loved for it’s multitude of harmonious voices found within the JazzMass Choir as directed by Teresa Marino and assisted by choral coordinator Robert Hartman (Choral Director Emeritus). Michele Bautier, Jerry Harris, and Bonnie Childs also offered their voices in solo performances enhancing the service a great deal. Musicians contributing their talents to the worship service were Nelson Hill, Pat Turner, and Richard Barz on saxophones, Jonathan Searfoss, Vanessa Meggiolaro, Eddie Severn, and Danny Cahn on trumpets and flugelhorns, Rick Chamberlain (who also composed the mass) on trombone and euphonium, Jim Daniels on bass trombone and tuba, Spencer Reed on guitar, Tony Marino  on bass, Bob D'Aversa on drums, and Ed Hudak and Bud Nealy on percussion.

As enjoyable and uplifting as the music was, the days meditation (aka Sermon) given by Reverend Karen touched the hearts and souls of those who heard her in a very profound way. Her words noted the day was the 11th Anniversary of what has become known as the 9/11 attacks. She also noted what a beautifully sunny day it was on September 11th, 2001 and how it was marred by the horrific tragedy ending so many people their lives. She then reminded us how our nation began to pull together soon afterwards as we helped one another and gave comfort to those who were effected by the deaths of their loved ones.

Yet, like the beautiful day that served as a prelude to those tragic events, this show of solidarity and compassion soon gave way to fear which has allow us to justify a great number of actions we as a people would never had considered undertaking before that fateful day. We and our values have become diminished in the eyes of the world as our national confidence has become weakened. We have become a fearful people who have lost the way our nation has forged for us, but we can regain our footing again.

Karen reminded us the principles our nation holds dear did not come from men and men can not take them away. They come from a higher, divine source and we can choose to follow its guidance or decide to forego it to our ruin. And, even if we do forego such guidance, as our nation has done so many times during its history, we can always seek the source of this wisdom and renew our journeys upon our enlightened paths. We can dispel the fears imbedded in our consciousness during the past 10 years and become free to be the people we are meant to be.

I looked around after Karen spoke to take note of the response to her words. I saw many in quiet contemplation while others were smiling and shaking their head in agreement. I also saw others with eyes touched with tears. I began to wonder about the many possible sources of this emotional response. Some may have been tears of hope which comes from releasing the fears instilled in one so now a new beginning can commence while others may have been in reflection of how we as a people have allowed fear to keep us from expressing our better natures. Regardless of the reasons why tears touched so many eyes, the meditation offers of redemption to those who choose to dispel themselves of their fear forged shackles and embrace it’s commission to “Let Freedom Ring.”

After the Jazz Mass, the customary act of asking those attending the service to leave the site so the front gate would be able to meet the festival’s financial needs to determine who paid to enjoy the rest of the event. While the process was being enacted, The Lost Ramblers performed near the front gate area entertaining everyone with their well known renditions of bluegrass and country music making the necessary process an enjoyable one. The lost Ramblers consists of John Updike on the 5 string banjo, Neil Morris on guitar, Jim Schaffer on bass, Scott Eager on mandolin, and Tony De Marco on fiddle.

As those who reentered the festival site regained their seats upon the wonderful hill that is a natural amphitheater, the first notes of the day’s lineup began to play. These belonged to Go Trio who consisted of Gene Perla on bass, Sean Gough on piano, and Doug Hirlinger on drums along with Jeannie Brooks on vocals. The music was smooth and invigorating while Jeannie’s solid voice penetrated the air and sliced through it like a micro waved knife through warm butter. The word, “Wow” does not suffice in describing their performance, but it seems to be the best I can do in searching for a way to do so. Wow. Go Trio plus Jeannie Brooks were followed by COTA Cats Volume XXXI

During the 4th year of the festival in 1981, COTA surviving founders Phil Woods and Rick Chamberlain saw a need for area high schools to develop their music programs to include instruction in the art of Jazz. This realization led to the development of a mentorship program in which established world class jazz musicians would work with students who exhibit interests and extraordinary talent in order to enhance their skills with their chosen instrument. The tutoring and sharing of inspirational experiences cumulate with a performance during the festival by all those students who benefit from the program. Thus, a COTA Cat is born.

The 34th Annual Celebration of the Arts (COTA) Jazz and Arts Festival presented COTA Cats Volume XXXI who were directed by Ryan Churchoe, Thomas Fadden, and Lance Rauh. The school hosting this year’s edition by providing rehearsal space for the band was East Stroudsburg South High School whose music program is directed by Kayte Clogg. Those students who the 2011 version of the endeavor were Josh Smith, Brandon Briggs, Collin Strunk, Elias Frantz, Alex Testino, and Damian Kitt on Saxophones, Thomas DiAgostino, Kaitlyn Weiss, Robert Ortega, Ashley Segarra, Michael Bosetti, and Andrew Sorton on Trumpets, Mark Pages, Ian Denny, Christopher Collins, Skyler Shepp, and Ilijiah Denny on Trombones, Peter Bank and Gage Hojnowski on Guitar, Mitchell Cheng on Piano, Christopher Potter on Vibes, Connor Koch on Bass, and Tyler Williams on Drums.

The performance contained the uncontainable energies of youth showcasing all the vibrant freshness associated with the age. The excitement of each student proved to be contagious as the audience which included many proud family members eagerly devoured each note and contemplated each well crafted arrangement. The talents of these young people (and when did I become old enough to call teenagers “Young People?”) shown like a beacon allowing a glimpse to the future of the musical art form.

Although each COTA Cat possess exceptional talent, there are some who are recognized for having special promise and are awarded scholarships so they may continue their musical education. This year, the recipients were Erica Golaszewski who will be attending The Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA to study jazz base performance, Emily Fox who will be attending East Stroudsburg University of PA to study marine science, and Jason Sandonato who will be attending Catawba College in Salisbury, NC to study music education. Please join with me in congratulating these talented musicians through leaving a sentiment in this regard in the comment section of this posting.

After The COTA Cats Volume XXXI completed their riveting performance, Jazz greats Urbie and Kathy Green took the stage. They were accompanied by their son’s group known as the Jesse Green Trio. The assemblage  featured Urbie Green and John Jensen on trombone, Kathy Green on vocals, Jesse Green on piano, Gene Perla on bass, and Daniel Gonzales on drums took the stage. Their smooth sounds delighted the audience as these Jazz veterans demonstrated the talents and musical skills they acquired over the many years they performed. Notes and vocalizations were played masterfully throughout the set.

Urbie and Kathy Green were followed by 3Spirit which features Vicki Doney on piano, drums, and vocals, Val Hawk on guitar and vocals, and Nancy Reed on bass and vocals. Although each member has gained renown as solo performers, the trio began as back up singers for Bob Dorough and became known as “The Bobcats.” Their experience and the warm reception they received from the audience inspired them to form their own stand alone trio and renamed it “Girl Talk.” After touring under that name for a while performing and developing their unique style, they changed their name once again to “3Spirit.” Although I wasn’t present during their performance at COTA due to may duties as a member of the COTA Security Staff, I know from past experiences their set was filled with the melodious voices and lyrical instrumentations very common in their uncommon repertoire.

They were followed by The David Liebman Group who celebrated their 20th Anniversary. The group consists of David Liebman on saxophones, Vic Juris on guitar, Tony Marino on bass, and Marko Marcinko on drums. My duties is security again kept me busy while the group performed, but I have seen them before this year’s COTA and I have nothing but fond memories of their past performances.

Like many great virtuosos of Jazz, Dave Liebman’s love for the musical form can be traced back to his youth. He began learning how to play the saxophone by the age of 12 and was encouraged to explore the depth of his instrument when he saw John Coltrane in a live performance. Dave enhanced this exploration of his instrument by studying with Joe Allard, Lennie Tristano, and Charles Lloyd. Dave later help form the “Free Life Communication” organization which became an integral part of the New York loft jazz scene in the early 1970s.

After doing a a world tour with pianist Chick Corea in 1977, Dave formed The David Liebman Quintet with John Scofield, Kenny Kirkland and Terumasa Hino. After a successful career with the quintet, The David Liebman Group was formed in 1991. The group’s signature stylings which combining fusion, avant garde, and classic jazz entrances audience as much today as they did 20 years ago.

In recognition to his talent and contributions to the arts throughout the past 20 years, Dave has received a number of prestigious honors. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the Sibelius Academy of Helsinki, Finland and was inducted into the International Association of Jazz Educator's Hall of Fame in 2000. In addition to these honors, Dave received a Grammy nomination for Best Solo Performance in 1998 and Best Arrangement for Big Band in 2005 along with a Artist Grant from the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts in 2005 and a NEA Jazz Masters lifetime achievement award in 2011 from the National Endowment for the Arts. Based upon my experience of his past performances and having had the privilege in being acquainted with the man, I would say all of these honors are well deserved.

While Jerry Harris and Sweetlife featuring Jerry Harris on vocals, Marcell Bellinger on trumpet, Jesse Green on piano, Paul Rostock on bass, and Neil Braunstein on drums took the stage after The David Liebman Group finished their set, I was elsewhere performing my security related duties at my assigned position in the Children's Area. It was there when I experienced the delightful sounds Mark Hamza made upon his accordion as he strolled around the festival site entertaining festival goers between sets. I also enjoyed the storytelling provided by Maria Horn and Rick Peoples who touched the imaginations of not only the children but the parents who were present as well.

I finished my shift in time to experience The Grace Kelly Quintet. And, what an experience it was. The Quintet featured Grace Kelly on alto saxophone and vocals, Phil Woods on alto saxophone, Jason Palmer on trumpet, Doug Johnson on piano, Evan Gregor on bass, and Bill Goodwin on drums. If one would look up the word “Powerhouse” online or anywhere else, they would be sure to find a picture of Grace Kelly playing her sax to illustrate the concept. Beyond that word, there is very little I can say to describe the performance. She had an energy that would not quit. It was wild, adventurous, and everything you could possibly associate with the word and I almost became exhausted watching her.

The 34th Annual Celebration of the Arts (COTA) Jazz and Arts Festival concluded its performance schedule with The Erin McClelland Band which featured Erin McClelland on guitar and vocals, Ryan Leaver on  guitar and keyboards, Anthony Lavdanski on bass, and Chuck Cooper on drums. Dancing and laughter filled the street in front of the stage as the band’s highly charged rifts and chords moved the crowd with its rhythms. It was a fitting end to a weekend long journey through the arts and music which led everyone who partook of the trip to a wonderful place within. And, it was fun, too.  I took over 300 photographs during the festival and they could be seen in The COTA 2011 Gallery at

In addition to the music and art presented during the festival, there are many people who help make the event the wonderful asset to the community it is. These include the vendors who shared their talents and skills with those who come to the festival, the Board of Directors who constantly seek to make every festival even more memorable than the one preceding it, and the volunteers who help in making it all happen. It is at this point, I would like to mention these wonderful people who have done so much for so many all because they love the arts and those who come to the festival.

Those who had the good fortune of visiting their tent to the many vendors along the runway were treated to some wonderful items and delightful conversations which enhanced the COTA experience. These vendors included Artists and Artisans such as Jewelers Ingrid Blackert, Shelly Ann D’Anna (along with Clay works), Harriet Ford, Patrice Jiunta, and Ursula Pooley (Me Crazy Jewelry) who presented their works. Clay works, Pottery, and Sculpture by Rachel Cohen, Steve Linden, Don Conklin, Tim Helman, John Sittig, and members of the Madala Design Works (Susan Bradford, Anita Bondi, Marci Molina, and Stan Stewart) were also there to present their work. Also David Coulter and Ron Ford presented their photography, Dawn Linden presented her paintings, and various other works were presented by Emily Gartner, Linda Newswanger, Liz Pemberton, Paul Reiche, and The Totts Gap Institute. Artists Constance Fowlkes, Ka Son Reeves. Jeweler Deirdre R. Nonnemacher of Deirdre Rose Designs, and representatives from The Shear Design Salon and Day Spa were among the many who shared their talents and conversations with all who came to visit their tent.

As mentioned earlier, The COTA Board of Directors has the awesome job of insuring every festival transcends the previous ones. The Board presently consists of Lauren Chamberlain, Bill Goodwin, Tim Helman, Rich Madigan, Karen Nickels, Christine Trembly, Allison Trotter, Garth D. Woods, and Jim Wychoff. They are often known to inspire those who attend the Volunteer meetings with their dedication and the knowledge they have obtained throughout the festival’s 34 year existence. However, they are inspired by an Advisory Board consisting of Susan Bradford, Rick Chamberlain, Carol Dorshimer, Shirley Gilmore, Jill Goodman, and Phil Woods.

In addition to these outstanding individuals, there are a multitude of volunteers without whom the festival could not take place. Although they are too many to mentions, COTA Volunteers could easily be seen throughout the festival site performing various tasks and providing information to many festival goers to enhance their experience. As you well know by now, I’ve been a part of the Security team performing many of the functions the designation suggests since 2005. Every year has been more awarding than the previous one and I look forward to the 2012 festival as I’m sure many of the volunteers serving the festival in other areas are.

Those who have been with COTA as volunteers throughout the years can attest to the meaningful friendships they have developed during their time with the festival. Along with the joys inherent with the experiences of being a part of something truly incredible, there are times for tears to be shed. One of these times relates to the lost of a dear friend of the festival. Those who have visited the COTA Booth may have plentiful memories of Randy C. Shumaker who offered CDs, Posters, and information to the many festival goers who were fortunate enough to come by for a visit. Randy passed away during 2011.

My first memory of Randy goes back to the times before I became a volunteer. I use to go to the festival as an attendee wearing my tie dyed Tee Shirt. Randy would often comment on it and call me “Dave” who is the man who owns and operates The Tie-Dye Dave's Hippie Gift Shop which is located in Tannersville, PA. It was a source of amusement for us both and I looked forward to attend the festival every year to share in a conversation with him. These many exchanges were among the numerous factors leading me to become a volunteer.

After I became a volunteer and began attending the COTA Meetings at The Deer Head Inn. I remember a comment Randy made in regards to the establishment deciding to become a smoke free restaurant. At the time, several restaurants decided against having such a ban while maintaining a No Smoking Area. Randy said, “That’s like having a public swimming pool with a No Peeing Area.” Thank you Randy for all you have done to lighten our days. You will be missed. 

Those who would like to lend their time and talents to the festival are welcomed to attend COTA’s Volunteer Meetings. They are held at The Deer Head Inn in Delaware Water Gap, PA during the Spring and Summer Months. The festival and all its functions is organized and run by volunteers. Numerous volunteer positions are available and they include Program Ad Sales Manager, a Program Ad Salesperson, Back and Front gate workers, Security, and Marketing/PR personnel. I hope to see you at a future meeting so we can serve the festival together while creating some wonderful memories.

In addition to supporting the community and the arts through its annual festival, COTA expands its mission as it seeks to recognize exceptional individuals who contribute to the endeavors COTA aspires to through their awards program. These awards are distributed throughout the festival. The 2011 Sterling and Dorothy Strauser Award was given to in Memory of Barbara Robinson in honor of her contribution to the visual arts, The 2011 Joanne Mayer Award was given to Pat and Terry Gaughan in honor of their Volunteer endeavors for COTA, and The 2011 Fred Waring Award was given to Molly Whalen and Joe Ashcroft for their outstanding contributions to the arts and the community. A special award was given to Brian Hill who was in charge of the Delaware River Bridge Commission and was recognized for all his help and support he gave to COTA. He retired just after the festival and will be missed. Each of these awards reflect an intricate aspect of the spirit that moves COTA to be what it is to so many people.

The Celebration of the Arts Festival also receives a great deal of community support. This support includes the BNY Mellon Jazz 2011 Living Legacy Award to be given to one of the festival’s founders Phil Woods in a special ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. to be held on Friday October 14th. The Award is part of a program created by The Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation honoring living jazz masters who have achieved distinction in jazz performance and education. Please feel free to join in the congratulatory sentiments Phil richly deserves for all he has done and still offers the community through his talent and desires to make it a place were music flows through every heart by leaving your thoughts in the comment section of this posting.

The Celebration of the Arts (COTA) Jazz and Arts Festival began in 1978 by Phil Woods, Rich Chamberlain, and the late Ed Joubert and takes place every year the Weekend after Labor Day. From its humble beginnings which consisted of a 4 hour concert held on risers near the steps of an Annex of the Castle Inn with an audience of just over 500 people which was mostly made up of friends, family, and some ardent jazz fans, the festival has evolved to become a Mecca for jazz enthusiasts throughout the world. The three day festival is presently presented in cooperation with the Borough of Delaware Water Gap, PA, The Castle Hill Development, Inc., and the Delaware Water Gap, PA Joint Toll Bridge Commission. Music presented at the festival is recorded by Chiaroscuro Records for later release. In addition to it’s annual festival, The Celebration of the Arts (COTA) also supports the arts and the music of jazz in all its forms and historical breadth through youth education, performing arts presentations, scholarship opportunities, and community outreach throughout the Pocono area. One of these avenues of support is their Annual Summer Jazz Camp.

The Celebration of the Arts (COTA) Camp Jazz is offered every summer to those who seek an intensive, week long immersion in jazz music and technique mentored by renowned jazz greats. It was formed in 2007 by Phil Woods and Rick Chamberlain (co-founders of COTA) as an extension of the festival and its educational arm to foster and encourage local talent in a more relaxed environment than that found in a school. In addition to Phil Woods and Rick Chamberlain, the camp’s staff of mentors guiding the talents of  the campers include Sue Terry, Jay Rattman, Spencer Reed, Evan Gregor, Bobby Avey, Matt Vaslishan, Michael Stephans, Vicki and Eric Doney, Bob Dorough, Caris Visentin, Jim Daniels, and Sherrie Maricle. Enrollment is open to all aspiring musicians and information about the camp and all it has to offer can be found by exploring The Camp Jazz Website at

As you can see, The Celebration of the Arts is an organization that is more than it’s annual festival. I am pleased, honored, and humbled to be a part of what has been a life changing endeavor for me. In 1986, I went to my first festival and fell in love with it. However, every year after that experience, I had jobs in which I had to work during the time the festival took place. But, in 1999, I had an opportunity to attend the festival and decided I was too old not to experience things that enhance my joy. So, whenever I’m apply for a job, I make sure I share in the interview I need to take the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday after Labor Day off so I can go to the festival. I haven’t been employed much since then, but the opportunity to attend the festival every year more than compensates me.

As difficult it is to believe, this article merely scratches the service of what happened during The 34th Annual Celebration of the Arts Jazz and Arts Festival and all the organization has to offer. More can be learned through their website but even more can be learned through the sharings from those of you who were there. S, please explore The Celebration of the Arts (COTA) Website at for more information about the festival, what the organization has to offer the community, and how you can be involved in all they do and feel free to share your comments and reflections of the festival. Thank you for reading this article.