Thursday, October 18, 2012

Darby Day at TLR

The Living Room (TLR) in Stroudsburg, PA presented another installment of their weekly Open Mic Nite Series on Sunday October 14th. In addition to welcoming poets and musicians who seek to share their talents with those who come to experience such endeavors, The Living Room presented a performance by Chris Darby who traveled from Chicago, IL to partake of the evening’s festivities. And, what an evening it was.

The festivities began with a performance by host Billy Mack who cordially welcomed the large gathering before he began singing while playing his Ukulele and Guitar. As always, the happiness embedded in his lyrics and musical tempo proved to be contagious as smiles infected every face a person can have. Billy Mack was followed by guitarist Eric Funn who was joined by Billy and the performance artist known as Zeki Bird. The trio performed well together adding to the enjoyment of the evening.

Eric Funn and his accompanists were followed by guitarist Michelle Leanna whose powerful voice echoed the empowering effects of her songs. She was followed by Poet David Wranovics whose words touched the imagination of all who encountered them. He was followed by Guitarist Dave Pugh whose electric instrumentals enticed the consciousness of all who embraced each chord to travel to numerous psychedelic realms. He was followed by Poet Donovan O’Brien whose words painted images upon the soul’s canvas.

Guitarist Tom Teslik took the microphone at the conclusion of Donovan’s reading. Tom traveled from Madison, WI until he met up with the evening’s special musical guest, Chris Darby, to be a part of the event. He would later don a bass guitar in order accompany Mr. Darby during his performance but, for now, he presented a solo performance rendering songs displaying an extraordinary song writing skill. Lyrics and music blended together allowing each composition to weave in and out of the innermost ears of those who became mesmerized by it all. You can learn more about Tom Teslik, his music, and his individual endeavors by exploring his Facebook Page at

Although the performance given by Tom Teslik could easily stand upon it’s own merits, it seemed to serve as a sound foundation to that given by Guitarist Chris Darby. As mentioned earlier, Mr. Teslik joined Mr. Darby on Bass guitar along with Kyle Ollah who performed on drums. Together, their instruments combined enhancing the powerful voice of Chris Darby whom, for some reason, inspired my comparative thoughts to turn to the recollection of the vocal qualities found in Johnny Cash and Cat Stevens. Like the famous singers I mentioned, Mr. Darby has a soul in his voice that reaches out to its kin.

There was also a haunting quality to his songs which was often emphasized by the electronically induced whispers he deftly presented during a number of his renditions. Although no one present wanted the set to end, it did with a song performed vocally by the entire band with an additional vocal provided by Natalie Day. There was a pronounced quite filled with a reflective comprehension before a deeply expressionistic applause filled the air. You can learn more about Chris Darby and his music by exploring his Facebook Page at

Poetry followed the Chris Darby performance through the deftly crafted words of Wendy Sheeran. She was followed by the performance artist Zeki Bird whose musical stylings and renderings led those present to the undiscovered countries teaming with life with those who have experienced such journeys the ability to return with a renewed comprehension of the world they have yet to discover. However, for those who haven’t experienced such journeys prior to attending the October 14th Open Mic Nite, I’m sure they’ll acquire these same abilities when they eventually return. Zeke Bird was accompanied on stage by his son Isaac and the evening’s host Bill Mack both on percussion.

Zeki Bird was followed by guitarist Crystal Rose whose voice held those who heard it in a soft embrace through its whispered vulnerability inspiring many to express their desire to hold each word she sang with their love. It’s the same feeling one has when seeing a child hurt and wanting to hold that little person to heal their boo boo. In doing so, we soon encounter a sensation which we find heals all the hurts we have lived with prior to that moment. Crystal Rose was followed by a duet known as Justin and Sandy who played a number of kick ass songs with Justin on guitar and Sandy on vocals. Later, Sandy resumed her role as an audience member as Justin was joined by his comrade Jordan. The evening concluded with a crowd pleasing performance by little Isaac who was accompanied by his father Zeki Bird on drums and Billy Mack on Ukulele. The kid is cool.

The Living Room Open Mic Nite series will continue on Sunday October 21st beginning at 7pm (sign up begins at 6:30pm) with featured musical guest Sunny Shading. The evening will also feature a release party of the East Stroudsburg University Student Literary and Arts magazine titled, “Calliope.” And, as always, musicians, poets, writers, and anyone who would like to share something with an audience are welcomed to do so. You’ll be able to find more photographs taken during the Sunday October 14th Open Mic Nite in The Living Room 2012 (Part 2) Gallery at

In addition to the Open Mic Nites, The Living Room Gallery is currently presenting an exhibition featuring the works of Vanessa Mae Kresge, Earl Kess, Keyaira Lynn Ozkenel, and Andrew Ozkenel. The exhibition will continue to be displayed until October 31st. I, unfortunately, was unable to attend the exhibit’s Artists’ Reception due to being ill. However, I did manage to explore the work during the open mic nite event. I found the work captivating and suggest a visit to The Living Room in order to view the work is well worth the diversion.

Their next exhibition will be a group show with participation open to the artistic community. It’s titled, “Art in the Dark” featuring Glow in the dark, Light up, and Black Light Response pieces. The drop off date for artists wishing to share their work is Friday November 2nd with the artists’ Reception taking place on Saturday November 3rd. The exhibition will continue to be displayed until November 25th.

The Living Room opened in April of 2012 and is located on Main Street in Stroudsburg, PA next to The Sherman Theater who owns the building. The Living Room is organized by members if the community who include Shane Izykowski, Martelle Jones, Elisa Byrne, Tom LeFevre, Darlene Farris Labar, Sarah Bouma, Toby Sabatine, and Billy Mack. Please Explore The Living Room Facebook Page at for more information on The Living Room, all they have to offer, and how to be a part of it all.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Art so fine. Chang lang do lang do lang

The East Stroudsburg University of PA Art Department held an Artists’ Reception on Sunday October 14th for “The Chang Family of Artists” Exhibition in The Madelon Powers Art Gallery located within the university’s Fine and Performing Arts Center. The exhibition consists of works created by members of Chang family whose ancestral home is in Korea with many presently living in Canada and the state of New York, USA. The majority of the work featured sculpted pieces created by the family’s patriarch, Yeon-Tak Chang, which were made from terra cotta, marble, sandstone, and other materials.

The remainder of the work exhibited were created by Mr. Chang’s children and children in law who included Jae-Sook Chang, Hogie Chang, David Chang, Yoon Chang, and Dominic Kozerski along with his grand child Kinga Kozerski and his four year old grand daughters Anais and Colette Kozerski. The family’s work ranged from oil and drawn pieces to photography mixed media pieces along with other creative expressions. The exhibition was well attended inspiring a number of conversations shared by those who enjoyed exploring the work.

To a casual observer, it seemed the sculpted pieces created by Yeon-Tak Chang and other members of his family drew the most attention among those who attended the reception. This may be due to the fact local galleries rarely display sculpted works in stone or ceramics in their featured exhibitions. The physical constructs of sculpture offer a dimensionality to the viewer which isn’t as evident in two dimensional forms such as paintings or photographs. It’s much easier to expand our perception of a sculpture as all we need to do is travel from one point to another to discover its variations.

However, although the physical constructs of sculpted forms can expand our ability to perceive all they have to convey, the same experience can be found by delving deeply into the two dimensional work one encounters as well. All one needs to do is to realize the source of all our perceptions, whether their inspired by exploring a two dimensional piece or three dimensional one, is from within and is influenced by our life’s condition and the remembered experiences we choose to make relative to what we see. Both the sculpted and two dimensional pieces entreated our inner eyes to perceive our perceptions with renewed visions which made the exhibit very perceptive. You’ll be able to find more photographs taken during “The Chang Family of Artists” Reception in The ESU 2012 Gallery at

Yeon-Tak Chang’s work is a critically acclaimed sculptor whose work can be seen in various venues throughout the world. His children and grand children are also pursuing their creative endeavors and achieving a great deal of acclaim for their gifts. Yeon-Tak Chang is represented in Stroudsburg, PA by Gallery 705. You can learn more about the artist, his family, and all the gallery has to offer by exploring The Gallery 705 Facebook Page at

The East Stroudsburg University of PA Art Department Exhibition of “The Chang Family of Artists” will be presented in The Madelon Powers Art Gallery located within the university’s Fine and Performing Arts Center until November 20th. The East Stroudsburg University of PA Art Department’s next exhibition will be their Semester Review exploring the work of the student population. The Exhibition will begin Tuesday November 27th with an Artist’s Reception held on Tuesday December 4th beginning at 1pm. The exhibition continues until December 11th. Please Explore The Madelon Powers Art Gallery Facebook Page at for more information.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

COTA Rains COTA Shines

The arrival and departure of the Labor Day Weekend often signifies the ending of the Summer Season for a number of people whose thoughts are touched with the sadness of saying farewell to a warm friend and all the gifts it has given them. However, during the weekend following Labor Day for the past 35 years, many are not only able to embrace the warmth of the season for a little while longer but are also able to enhance their memories of the season with the warmth of a loving community who endears itself to the arts. This community consists of art lovers who are geographical neighbors to one another as well as friends from around the world whom we meet for the very first time as The Celebration of the Arts Jazz and Arts Festival becomes a home to all who attend it.

The 35th Annual Celebration of the Arts (COTA) Jazz and Arts Festival was held from Friday September 7th to Sunday September 9th. The three day festival in the little town of Delaware Water Gap, PA (which has become a Mecca for Jazz lovers throughout its long existence) brought together the elements of the visual and performing arts centering upon the musical form the area has become known for. The festival began with an Artists’ Reception and an evening of performing arts which were both held indoors on its first day and continued with an outdoor festival during it’s second and third days.

The artists’ reception was held on Friday September 6th at The Antoine Dutot Museum and Gallery which is located in Delaware Water Gap, PA. Its Annual Exhibition titled, “The Music Motif Show” featuring the work of a variety of artists from the Monroe County, PA and surrounding areas. Although the Gallery was scheduled to open to the public at 5pm, there were many who arrived considerably earlier in their eagerness to partake of the works of the juried show which has gained a reputation for bringing creative insights into the realm of music by the proficient artists who participate in the exhibition presents.

However, 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. Their performance was back dropped by depictions of earlier Celebration of the Arts Festivals through a display of posters created for those years. The transpiring music performed by these virtuosos played on until the doors of the gallery opened to welcome all to experience the gifts within it.

Upon entering the gallery, one cannot help but to be overwhelmed by the colors and variations to the theme of the exhibit. This overwhelming sensation was enhanced by the enormity of the crowd who quickly filled the small gallery space to capacity. However, the beauty of the work along with the like mindedness of the gathering who lovingly engaged one another in conversations about the experience of being there soon overshadowed the initial anxiety one may have felt about their overwhelments transforming them to a desire to embrace more.

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 Eric Doney (Music), Molly Kichoff (Education), and Sharon Cosgrove (Visual Arts). Awards were given to artists in several categories touching upon a wide variety of style and artistic approaches reflecting the overall beauty of the exhibit.

These Award recipients included Jim Gloria who received The Bob Doney Award for his work which was considered “The Best of Show.” Contributors to the Music Motif Show Awards included Andrew Moore's Stone Bar Inn, Carbon Oral Surgery Associates, A. C. Henning Enterprises, Judith A. Magann, DMD and W.E. Magann, Sr., DDS, Marshall Anders, Esq., McKeown Real Estate, Michael Cooke Carpentry and Contracting, The Minisink Hotel, Morning Glory Gardens, Inc., Sarah Street Grill, Shear Design Salon and Spa, Stone, Trembly, and Associates - CPA's, Stroud Television and Appliances, and The University Store located on the campus of The East Stroudsburg University of PA.

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 Stratton.

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 16th. The Gallery’s final exhibition for 2012 features the works of Jan Selving which opened with an Artist’s Reception on Friday September 21st and continues to be displayed until October 7th. 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 35th 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.

After some welcoming remarks given by the evening’s host Denny Carrig, The Marsha Cahn Ensemble featuring Marsha Cahn and Mark Woodyat on Violin along with Dan King on Cello took the stage. The music of Mozart and other classical composers filed the church’s sanctuary along with the souls of those who listened to it. The Ensemble also included a solo performance given by Mr. Woodyat whose interpretations of the pieces he performed proved to be quite astounding. Yet, once Mr. Woodyat rejoined his compatriots, the music they brought forth from their instruments moved in a singular chord embracing the heart.

The Marsha Cahn Ensemble was followed by another group of musicians who were called, “The Sounds of Strings Quartet.” The quartet consisted of Olivia Reed and Joe Snyder on violin along with Emily Geiger on Viola and Sophia Rostock on Cello. Some of these young people (and I wonder how I’ve become old enough to refer to anyone as a young person) are children of musicians and singers who have gained considerable renown in the Jazz Community. However, the musical influences they may have experienced in their homes were transcended by the individual talent each musician displayed in their stellar performance.

In a departure from The Marsha Cahn Ensemble, The Sounds of Strings Quartet performed pieces created by composers who are presently alive. Their transcription of familiar songs to reflect the classical style was quite impressive as their endeavors added a cadence to each piece. Many members of the audience were heard softly humming along with a lyric or two gently escaping their lips. There were also members of the audience whose eyes began to water as memories inspired by the music brought them back to a time they either longed to relive or a regret they wished they could undo. I had plenty of both.

The Sounds of Strings Quartet were followed by The Totts Gap Dancers who originate from The Totts Gap Arts Institute (TGAI) located in the Bangor, PA area. A piece composed for the Ralph Hughes Scholarship and performed on piano by Eric Doney was choreographed by Angeline Wolf titled, “One Flight Up” was presented. The dancers included Laura Buzzard, Rose Gloria, Maeve Godstalk, and Angeline Wolf along with Francesca Marinaro and Emily Parkins of the DM Dance Company. The exuberance of the music compelled the dancers as they moved vibrantly across the floor while their spirits joined with the audience inviting them to dance with their imaginations.

The Totts Gap Dancers were followed by a theatrical performance given by The Water Gap Players. The troupe has become a favorite throughout the years as they have gained a reputation for shining a humorous light upon many of the issues of serious concern. The introduction of the troupe’s participation in the evening’s festivities was presented in a monologue titled, “A Warm Welcome” given by David Hymes as the devil. The piece’s humorous assaults on the concepts many (including ourselves) become attach to helps bring about a realization how the ideas we become defined by creates a space for us in Hell.

After the audience found their place in the realms of the nether world, the grace filled voices of a group called to them. The Miller Sisters 4 a cappella  renditions of spiritually minded songs flowed in between the thoughts and concerns many have while living a worldly life until the higher meaning found in the lyrics and chords overshadowed them. The Miller Sisters 4 consisted of Lachelle Lee, Shayna Lee, Jamaica Lee, and Georgia Lee. Their A to the Men performance lifted many to a place beyond the roof of the church.

As the last notes sung by The Miller Sisters 4 began to fade, The Totts Gap Dancers returned to the stage to present a piece titled, “Duncan Estudes” featuring music composed by J. S. Bach and the choreography created by Isadora Duncan who was born in 1877 in San Francisco, CA but lived most of her life in Western Europe and the Soviet Union until her death in 1927. She is considered the creator of modern dance as her philosophy of dance moved away from rigid ballet technique and towards what she perceived as natural movement.

The piece performed by Laura Buzzard, Rose Gloria, and Maeve Godstalk along with Nadia Murry of the DM Dance Company reflected the famous choreographer’s naturalistic approach to the art form through their deftly executed movements and Grecian garb. The performance faithfully echoed Ms. Duncan’s beseechment to “let them come forth with great strides, leaps and bounds, with lifted forehead and far-spread arms, to dance.”

The Totts Gap Dancers were followed by another performance of The Water Gap Players with a monologue written and performed by Ann Mathews titled, “Pick On it.” Ms. Mathews’ talent to combine the words she shared with a wide variety of body movement made the piece very humorous and inspired many not to regard mayonnaise the same way ever again. Her performance was followed by one given by her brethren in The Water Gap Players in a piece titled, “Mini Drama” featuring David Hymes as a more than a little disturbed London Cab Driver and Dennis Carrig as a Lord from London who becomes disturbed. The voice of the Radio Dispatcher was provided by Jim Gloria of The Totts Gap Art Institute. It was too funny to describe so……

The performances presented by The Water Gap Players were followed by another set presented by The Miller Sisters 4 whose conclusion led to another performance by The Water Gap Players. Betsy Jackson took the stage to deliver her monologue titled, “Even If Your Prairie Hat Flies Off” which she had written. The piece contained an expertly measured amount of humor and pathos which brought smiles and contemplation to those who heard it not only with their ears but with their heart.

Ms. Jackson’s was followed by another performance by The Totts Gap Dancers featuring a solo presentation danced and choreographed by Angela Wolf titled, “Martin’s Day” featuring a musical piece composed by Eric Doney titled, “Being There Wasn’t There.” The work proved to be a thoughtful one and brought the evening’s events at The Presbyterian Church of the Mountain and the first day of the Celebration of the Arts (COTA) Jazz and Arts festival to an end.

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 film making. You may learn more about  The Totts Gap Arts Institute (TGAI) and all it has to offer the community by exploring their  Website at

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 Facebook Page at to gain more information about the church and all it has to offer the community.

When I went home after the first night of the festival, I reflected upon the presence of the previous COTA posters which were on display during the Calliope performance in front of the Antoine Dutot Gallery and Museum. Many of these posters were designed by Thomas Mann who also created the poster for The 35th Annual Celebration of the Arts (COTA) Jazz and Arts Festival. The image presented on this year’s poster (along with the design Thomas Mann created for the new Bob Dorough CD titled, “Duets”) were on display during the Music Motif Exhibition as shadow boxes.

Thomas Mann was born in Northampton, PA and, in addition to designing posters for COTA, has been an active participant in the contemporary American craft movement for the past forty years as an artist, gallery owner and lecturer while living and working in New Orleans where he oversees a jewelry design and production studio, a sculpture studio, and gallery. He currently exhibits his jewelry and sculpture with some 250 galleries and stores in the US and abroad, and at premier craft events around the US. Earlier this year the East Stroudsburg University Art Department and the Pocono Chapter of the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen featured “Thomas Mann: Design for Survival” which you can read about in and article I’ve written titled, “A Cyclical Storm Touches ESU” at You can learn more about Thomas Mann and his work by exploring his Facebook Page at

Throughout the years, I have grown accustomed to receiving little sleep during the festival. Much of this was due to the excitement of the experience I’ve enjoyed the previous day which included contemplating the work of Thomas Mann and the girl I met at the Artists’ Reception along with the anticipation of the wonders of the festival yet to be discovered. This year was no exception. The Friday evening’s delights still filled my memories as I arrived at the festival’s outdoor venue early Saturday September 8th to assume my duties as a member of The 35th Annual Celebration of the Arts (COTA) Jazz and Arts festival’s 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.  We joined with one another as we made the final preparations for welcoming those who would come to enjoy the festival. As there were reports of an impending storm to the Delaware Water Gap area, part of these preparations included “flipping” the main stage so the festival can continue under the tent located behind the stage in order to keep the performers and their audience dry. After this work was completed, I went with my partner to the area known as the Back Gate to begin one of my security related tasks for the day.

The Back Gate area is a point of reception for the musicians and a few other designated individuals who are authorized to park behind the main stage. I have been placed here at the beginning of the festival during the past several years and it has proven to be an enjoyable experience greeting the many musicians who will perform throughout the festival. I have made friends with many talented people and their friendship never ceases to inspire me.

However, from my vantage point, I was unable to experience the first few performances of the day. They began at noon on the main COTA Stage with a set titled, “Niewood Plays Niewood” featuring Adam Niewood on saxophone, Vic Juris on guitar, Tony Marino on bass, and Bill Goodwin on drums. Together, they honored the music composed by Gerry Niewood with their talents.

Adam Niewood and his fellow musicians were followed by Craig Kastelnik and Friends which consisted of Craig Kastelnik performing on the Hammond Organ and keyboard as well as supplying his vocal talents, Pat Flaherty on percussion while also sharing her vocal talents, Bill Washer on Guitar, and Will Calhoun on drums. Again, I couldn’t see this group of friends due to my vantage point but I did manage to hear the audience as they responded favorably to their performance.

The next performance was given by Fernando Otero and Nick Danielson with Fernando on piano and Nick Danielson on violin. My shift at the Back Gate ended and I was able to briefly capture the performance. The musical combination of piano and violin created a soft classical quality to the performance which was enhanced by addition of trombonist Rick Chamberlain who is one of the cofounders of COTA and also performs in the New York City Ballet Orchestra. It was great being able to take the tonal aspects of the performance in.

However, it was around this time did I hear my stomach begin to growl so I decided to go visit some of the many food vendors at the festival grab some lunch. The most difficult decision I or anyone else has to make during the festival is to choose from which food vendors to partake a meal from. There were restaurants such as The Willow Tree Inn who offered salads, wraps, and rice and bean dishes, Lemon Squirt who offered lemonade and knishes, Leon’s Fireside who offered Middle Eastern cuisine, Buddy’s Barbeque who offered some great ribs, and Zoe’s Ice Cream who offered, well, Ice cream. There were also several non profits organizations who offered their variety of foods such as The Delaware Chamber of Commerce, The Presbyterian Church of the Mountain, The East Stroudsburg Lions, The Notara Dance Theatre, and Scout Troop No. 84. Although the decision was a difficult one, I was assured by past experiences that I would be eating something good no matter whom I chose my meal from.

It was while I was eating something very delicious when a member of the security staff approached me to cover a shift at the front gate which is the point of entry for those who attend the festival. I happily agreed as my past experience at the station never failed to help me become reacquainted with those friends among the audience I’ve made throughout the years. So, after ending my meal and taking some time to capture some images of Sherrie Maricle and Skip Detrick playing drums with the kids in the Children’s area, I took my place at the front gate.

My anticipation in meeting the friends I’ve come to know were quickly realized as I became reminded of the warmth of their smiles. A brief rain came into the festival as well during my shift. Sometimes you miss a wristband. However, the rain quickly left and my sift ended soon afterwards. So, I decided to spend some time exploring the offerings of the artists and artisans who adorned the runway leading from the front gate to the outdoor stage. 

I’ve met with many friends who’ve presented their talents at the festival in previous years along with several new comers to the event. The vendors who shared their talents and skills with those who come to the festival included Ingrid Blackert (Jewelry), Harriet Ford (Jewelry), Patrice Jiunta (The Jeweler’s Workbench), Ursula Pooley (Me Crazy Jewelry), Dawn and Steve Linden (Mixology), Susan Bradford (Madala Design Works), Rachel Val Cohen (Polymer Clay and Knitting), Don Conklin (Music Lamps), Tim Helman (mixed media), John Sittig (River Front Studio), David Coulter (Photography), Ron Ford (Photography) Linda Newswanger (Git Lit Stained Glass), Paul Reiche (Furniture), Constance Fowlkes (Art), Bud Nealy (Knives), Lynette Rodriguez O’Brien (Lynoopie Creations), Ruth Sypian (Fluir Herbals), and JoAnn Stratakos (Mudworks Pottery) who share their talents and insights to their endeavors with those who visited their space. There were also representatives from The Totts Gap Institute, The Al Cohn Memorial Jazz Collection, Wish Designs (Festival Sportswear), and The Shoppes at The Castle Inn who were also present to share their wares and endeavors. It was great to visit them all.

Understandably, the majority of those who shared their wares were doing so with a desire to enhance their income from the sale of their items. However, there was one vendor who desired to donate all the money she gained to the LUPUS Foundation of Pennsylvania in honor of her son who fell victim to the disease. Although the disease in mostly associated with women’s health, men are susceptible as well. Part of her purpose during the day was to help those who visited her booth aware of this. One can obtain more information on by exploring the LUPUS Foundation of Pennsylvania website at

After leaving this artisan’s tent, I began to learn more about the impending storm that threatened the festival with its carnage. Some friends shared with me satellite images of the approaching thunder clouds from their mobile devices. It sure looked ominous and I began to make my way to the back stage area to learn if there was anything I could do to help complete “flipping” needed to transform the outdoor concert to one held under its tent.

However, once I arrived I found the tasks were already completed and preparations for The Jazz Artists Repertory Orchestra (JARO)’s performance were being made by the COTA Stage crew. It wasn’t long afterwards until the denizens of the hillside where the audience of the festival congregate to experience the music began entering the tented area with their chairs and umbrellas. The music began to play as chairs became unfolded along with the anticipation of hearing this band reminiscent of the big bands made popular during the 1930s and 1940s.

The orchestra was directed Wolfgang Knittel who also 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, Paul Kendall on tenor and alto saxophones, 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. The anticipated deluge of heavenly waters fell during their performance but this did little to dampen the spirits of the musicians or listeners as the music provided a great deal of sunshine to counteract any adverse humidification of the day.

As JARO completed its set, “Sweet” Sue Terry and Dangerous Sax took the stage. The group consisted of “Sweet” Sue Terry on soprano saxophone, Nelson Hill on alto saxophone, Bob Keller on tenor saxophone, and Tom Hamilton on baritone saxophone. Ms. Terry is well known not only for musical talents but also for her mischievous approach to presenting the pieces she selects. Both were quite evident in her performance which endeared her and the entire set even closer to the audience’s hearts.

“Sweet” Sue Terry and Dangerous Sax was followed by a group called, “Cohen Green Walsh” who consisted of Joe Cohen on guitar, Jesse Green on piano, Danny Walsh on Saxophones, Paul Gill on Bass, and Tom Whaley on Drums. The band played some very cool jazz and was accompanied by Rachelle Collins whose voice enhanced the music with her gentle qualities and added a substance to the depth of the lrics she conveyed. They were also joined by Bob Dorough who created an excited anticipation which was felt among the crowd gathered under the COTA tent. The smooth mellowness of his voice brought each listener closer until the sudden zap often found in his vocal stylizations electrified everyone to sit up straight in their reclining chairs. This is a feature one has come to expect from a performance presented Bob Dorough and none were disappointed as smiles and laughter filled the tent.

Cohen Green Walsh were followed by the much anticipated Nellie McKay who was accompanied by her Ukulele and Piano along with her enchanting voice. There are few words that can adequately describe the enriching feeling one encounters while listening to Ms. McKay perform. A mixture of thoughtful laughter never fails to touch the experience of seeing her on stage. She’s magic.

Nellie McKay’s performance was followed by that given by The COTA Festival Orchestra who celebrated its 20th anniversary. The orchestra was initially formed in 1988 as the Al Cohn Memorial Orchestra as an expansion to JARO to honor Mr. Cohn’s passing during that year. In 1992, The COTA Festival Orchestra is debuted under its present name at The Celebration of the Arts festival and featured special guest Phil Wood (one of COTA’s cofounders) and Urbie Green. As the years progressed, The COTA Festival Orchestra performs as the festival’s musical ambassadors in numerous venues throughout the world including The Deer Head Inn in Delaware Water Gap, PA, The East Stroudsburg University of PA, and The Sherman Theater in Stroudsburg, PA. The orchestra had recorded several CDs and is presently in the studios recording a CD due to be released in 2013.

The names of the musicians who perform in The COTA Festival Orchestra has changed throughout the past 20 years due to one reason or another, but the quality of its performances along with the love for music and the festival itself by its membership can not only be heard but felt by all who have the privilege to experience them. Those included in this year’s edition of The COTA Festival Orchestra are Phil Woods as the orchestra’s conductor who also performed on alto saxophone, Nelson Hill and Matt Vashlishan on alto saxophones, Tom Hamilton and Bob Keller on tenor saxophones, Jim Buckley on baritone saxophone, Danny Cahn, Eddie Severn, Chris Persad, Patrick Dorian, and Vanessa Meggiolaro on trumpets, Richard Chamberlain, Sam Burtis, and Najwa Parkins on trombones, Jim Daniels on bass trombone, Spencer Reed on guitar, Skip Wilkins on piano, and Evan Gregor on bass along with Bill Goodwin and Marko Marcinko on drums. A great deal of music, history, and appreciation was shared throughout the performance bringing the spirit of the festival to a deeper place in the heart of those who have come to love the musical form of jazz.

The COTA Festival Orchestra was followed by The SheilaMark Band who brought the second day of The 35th Annual Celebration of the Arts (COTA) Jazz and Arts Festival to a close. The band consisted of Sheila Stratton on vocals, Mark Hamza on the Hammond Organ, Big Daddy Dex on guitar and vocals, and Rick Statsmand on drums. The SheilaMark Band is well known as a straight up grab you by the blues band and their reputation of being so considered to be well earned by those who experienced their performance. The excitement and the sounds of the band proved to be a befitting end to the Saturday September 8th portion of the festival. Their set was followed by and appearance of Spencer Reed whose parting words reflected the enjoyment of the day and encouraged all who were present to come back the following day. All present didn’t really need to be encouraged but were appreciative of the sentiment anyways.

In other happenings throughout the second day of the festival, The Dixie Gents featuring Bob Leive on trumpet, Rick Chamberlain on Trombone, Roy Schweisguth on Banjo, and Jim Daniels on Tuba roamed about the festival site entertaining all who encountered them. They also served as “filler” between performances as the COTA stage crew prepared the stage for each set. In all due respect of the musicians who were about to take the stage, many seldom wanted to hear The Dixie Gents to end their playing.

As I returned home, I resumed by nightly contemplation of the day. I have noted some festival goers were disappointed by the inclement weather which moved the concert from its outdoor venue to being presented under its huge tent. I can understand their feelings as there is a sensation of grandness an outdoor stage can bring to a performance a smaller venue can provide. However, the performances inside the tent had an intimacy about them only the closeness of their indoor vicinity could provide. There is a great deal of “inside work” a musician embarks upon as he/she explores the many possible interpretations he/she can bring to the piece he/she perform. Being so close to the performers, one can see the facial expressions as they go from one possibility to another until they find the one they seek. It is in that moment we become one with the musician and the note or measure.

The 35th Annual Celebration of the Arts (COTA) Jazz and Arts Festival continued on Sunday September 9th. A new day saw the disappearance of the overcast skies of the previous day with meteorological promises of a bright and sunny day. I arrived at the festival site along with my fellow security staffers who shared with me their re-energized enthusiasm for the events marking the final day of the festival into our memories. Yet, there was a certain degree of tiredness about me evident as I entered the port-o-pottie and told by it’s previous occupant that the handle needed to be jiggled after flushing. I spent a few minute looking for the handle before realizing the guy was joking.

The first event of the day was the 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 Presbyterian Church of the Mountain) who served as Worship Leader along with Reverend Bill Schram (Interim Pastor of The Church of the Mountain) who served as Liturgist. The service is also loved for it’s multitude of harmonious voices found within the JazzMass Choir who are too numerous to mention but are inspirationally directed by Teresa Marino along with choral coordinator Robert Hartman (Choral Director Emeritus) who assists her. Michele Bautier, Bob Dorough, 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, Patrick Dorian, 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, and Bob D'Aversa on drums along with 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. It was titled “One Small Act” exploring how a kindness can escalate into something wonderful. The funds collected during the mass went to benefit the Sumer Gazebo Concert Series in order to “Keep the music going.” The Summer Gazebo Concert Series held at The Presbyterian Church of the Mountain every Sunday evening from June until August and is free to the public.

Throughout the Jazz Mass, my duties as a COTA Security staffer had me stationed on the steps next to the main stage. This position requires a great deal of vigilance as it entail only allowing those who are authorized to enter the back stage area to do so. These individuals include musicians, stage crew members, and other security personnel. Personally, this is one of my favorite stations as it not only helps the back stage area from becoming so congested no one can function creatively with so many people interrupting their ability to practice their craft, but it allows one to experience what is occurring on stage as well. It’s also nice to have the opportunity to greet musicians as they enter the back stage area to prepare for their sets.

As the Jazz Mass came to an end, 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. I left my post at the steps to join my security colleagues to help in the process. 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, and Scott Eager on mandolin, and Tony De Marco on fiddle. Those who reentered the festival site regained their seats upon the wonderful hill that is a natural amphitheater to await the first notes of the day’s lineup begin to play.

I, however, decided to meet with again with my friends among the artists and artisans before going back stage to the security command center to learn where I was needed. I learned my second posting for the day would be the intersection which requires one to direct those who come to the festival where to park their cars. Those who are musicians and other authorized personnel are directed toward the back gate area while those who come to enjoy the festival are directed to what is known as the back parking lot where other security personnel are waiting to guide them to spaces for them to park. It was great being able to help those (especially new comers to the festival) to find areas in which they could park their car so they could enjoy the festival. I met a lot of nice people. However, from my vantage point, I could not experience the opening performances of the day.

The performance of the day began with David Liebman/Nancy Reed and Neighbors featuring David Liebman on saxophones, Nancy Reed on vocals, Phil Markowitz on piano, Tony Martino on bass, and Bill Goodwin on drums. They were followed by Bob Dorough and Friends who featured Bob Dorough on piano and vocals, Steve Berger on guitar, Pat O’Leary on bass, Tom Whaley on drums, and Tom Hamilton on saxophone. I’ve heard later, they were great and, from past experiences of listening to these gifted performers, I had no reason to doubt these assessments. Smiles.

When my shift at the intersection area ended, I experience The Spencer Reed “Not All” Blues Band who featured Spencer Reed on guitar and vocals, Jay Rattman on alto saxophone and clarinet, Tony Marino on bass, and Drew Sicliano on drums. The gentle tones of the music were relaxing to the ear and filled the soul with a serenity often found in the musical form of jazz. The Spencer Reed “Not All” Blues Band was followed by COTA Cats Volume XXXII.

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 35th Annual Celebration of the Arts (COTA) Jazz and Arts Festival presented COTA Cats Volume XXXII who were directed by Ryan Churchoe, Tom Fadden, Kayte Clogg, and Lance Rauh. Those students who the 2012 version of the endeavor were Patrick McGee, Henry Cable, and Christina Huddleston on alto saxophones, Elias Frantz, William Mullen, and Alex Testino on tenor saxophone, Damian Kitt on baritone saxophone Kaitlyn Weiss, Robert Ortega, Greg Gilbert, Kyle Schmidt, John Herb, and Andres Sorton on Trumpets, Jaymarie Santana, Michael Brown, Ian and Ilijah Denny, and Shoshanah Harris on Trombones, Peter Bank and Chayton Woods on Guitar, Mitchell Cheng and Christopher Potter on Piano, John Charlton on Bass, and Tyler Williams and Ron Bogart on Drums. The clinicians for COTA Cats Volume XXXII were Matt Vashlishan on saxophone, Vanessa Meggiolaro on trumpet, Rick Chamberlain and Jim Daniels on trombone and Eric Doney, Sherrie Maracle, Spencer Reed, Bob D'Aversa, and Erica Golaszewski who were in the rhythm section.

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 compositions performed included “Peel Me a Grape” written by Dave Frishberg and arranged by George Stone, “Whisper Not” written by Benny Golson and arranged by Al Cohn, “One Flight Up” written by Eric Doney as commissioned for the 2012 Talph Hughes Scholorship and arranged by Mitchell Cheng, “Placebo” written by COTA Cat Alumnus Dr. Matt Vashlishan and was commissioned for the 2012 COTA Cats, and “K. C. Blues” written by Charlie Parker and commissioned to be arranged for the 2012 COTA Cats by Dick Lieb.

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 Joshua Smith who will be attending The Penn State University to study computer engineering, Collin Strunk who will be attending Wilkes University to study Pharmacy, and Connor Koch who will be attending William Patterson University to study jazz bass performance. In addition to these COTA Cats, two members who are students who attend The Delaware Valley High School were awarded for their musical talents. These were Jaymarie Santana who received a $500 dollar award from the 2012 Michael Lacey Memorial Jazz Scholarship and Alex Testino who received a $1000 dollar award from the Ralph Hughes Memorial Jazz Scholarship. 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 XXXII completed their performance, Five Play took the stage featuring Sherrie Maricle on drums, Jami Dauber on trumpet, Sharel Cassity on alto saxophone, Tomoko Ohno on piano, and Noriko Ueda on bass. Sherrie Maricle led the band not only rhythmically but also in joyous celebration of the selections they played. One can feel the laughter in the eyes of the performance even at a distance.

During this performance, I was stationed in an area known as “Top of the Hill” which is the highest point of the area the audience sits and always made me think of the “Top of the World” line from the James Cagney film, “White Heat” made in 1949. From this vantage point, one can view most of the festival site and report any unwelcome activity to the central command as well as preventing those walking along the route 611 highway from peering or jumping over the fenced off boundaries to partake of the festival for free. This seldom occurs but any member of security must be ready with a firm, “dude” in case it does.

Five Play was followed by Eric Doney and Zach Brock which featured Eric on piano and Zack on violin. The instrumental sounds of jazz they shared created a calming effect upon all who heard it. The performance not only pleased the audience upon the hill but the forces of nature as well as, during the playing of the final selection, a gust of wind carried some sheet music along with it as if to say, “We want to take this music with us.” I came down off the top of the hill and experienced it and it was cool.

Eric Doney and Zach Brock was followed by a group called, “Lineage” who consisted of David Liebman and Matt Vashlishan on saxophones, Michael Stephans on drums, Vic Juris on guitar, Bobby Avey on keyboards, and Evan Gregor on bass. There was a way the music moved from the instruments as these jazz maestros shared their talents upon the ears and consciousness of those who heard them. It mystified and entranced the audience allowing them to explore the deeper essence of each note.

Lineage was followed by Vinny Bianchi and La Cuchina who concluded the  performance schedule of The 35th Annual Celebration of the Arts (COTA) Jazz and Arts Festival. The group consisted of Vinny Bianchi on tenor saxophone, Marko Marcinko on keyboards and percussions, Bill Washer on guitar, Paul Rostock on bass, Danny Gonzalaz on drums and percussions, and Bob Valez on congas and percussion. The wild Latino Jazz performed by the group led the audience into a night of frenzied dancing adding heat to the chilled September evening. La Cuchina. I took nearly 400 photographs during the festival and they could be seen in The COTA 2012 Gallery at

In other happenings throughout the final day of the festival, The SheilaMark Band was transformed into the duo known simply as SheilaMark with Mark Hamza playing accordion while Sheila Stratton sang along. Those who were fortunate enough to be present during their performance to end the first day of the festival were touched by its memories along with their ability to simplify their musical stylings which not only enabled them to entertain those they met during their journeys throughout the festival site but to serve as a “filler” between performances as the COTA stage crew prepared the stage for each set.

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 Board of Directors who constantly seek to make every festival even more memorable than the one preceding it such as Lauren Chamberlain, Bill Goodwin, Sherrie Maricle, Tim Helman, Rich Madigan, Karen Nickels, Sue Terry, Christine Trembly, Allison Trotter, Garth D. Woods, and Jim Wyckoff. 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 35 year existence. However, they are inspired by an Advisory Board consisting of Susan Bradford, Rick Chamberlain, Carol Dorshimer, Shirley Gilmore, Jill Goodman, Lois Heckman, 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 mention, COTA Volunteers were 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 2013 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 some dear friends of the festival who passed away during 2012. These include Bob Doney who never failed to inspire those who visited his tent through his art and friendly words, Celia Siptroth Cerino whose laughter and energies were contagious, Andy Leon who supported COTA since its inception. These wonderful people have done so much for so many all because they love the arts and those who come to the festival.

Those who would like to lend their time and talents to The 36th Annual Celebration of the Arts Jazz and Arts 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 2012 Sterling and Dorothy Strauser Award which honors an individual’s contribution to the visual arts was suspended this year in honor of Bob Doney, The 2012 Joanne Mayer Award was given to Brian and Anita Labar in honor of their Volunteer endeavors for COTA, and The 2012 Fred Waring Award was given to Elvi and Michael DeLotto for their outstanding contributions to the arts and the community. 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 (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 35th 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. So, 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.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

A Hazard Condition at TLR

The Living Room (TLR) in Stroudsburg, PA presented another installment of their weekly Open Mic Nite Series on Sunday September 30th. Prior to the event, the day saw a number of athletes and their supporters converging on the town as they participated in the Annual IronMan 70.3 Pocono Mountains Finish Line Festival. While I did not attend the pageant, I’ve seen evidence of its grandeur upon the streets which were blocked off from automobile traffic. This may had inhibited many from visiting Stroudsburg as there were virtually no place to park nor was there any way to travel around the town in order to seek out a space. But, those who know of the magic that can occur during The Living Room’s Open Mic Nite allowed no obstacle to stand in their way of experiencing it.

The room filled up quickly as did the list of those who wished to share their talents for the evening. The night’s special guests were Tyler Troutman of Condition Oakland and Tedd Hazard. The festivities began with a performance by host Billy Mack who cordially welcomed everyone before he began singing while playing his Ukulele and Guitar. The happiness embedded in his lyrics and musical tempo proved to be contagious as smiles infected every face a person can have.

Billy Mack was followed by a guitarist known as C. O. G. who played a number of original pieces along with some songs written by established artists such as Bob Dylan. C. O. G. was followed by Emmitt Henry whose voice and harmonica touched upon the bluesy sounds of New Orleans through his original lyrics. Emmitt was followed by Guitarist Henry Schecker whose lyrical depth brought a quiet contemplation to the audience. He was followed the first of the evening’s special guest who was Tyler Troutman of Condition Oakland.

Condition Oakland is from Ashland, PA whose musical styles honors the genre known as Folk Punk. Mr. Troutman’s hard hitting delivery of the lyrics he verbalized enticed the audience to increase their ability to give form to the images he rendered. A wild excitement could be seen in many an eye as the music continued to beat upon the cords found deep within one’s person. A contained frenzy flowed between each person until pairs of hands and feet after another began to release an energy through their rhythmic tapping and clapping. It was effing cool. You’ll be able to learn more about Condition Oakland and listen to their CD titled, “Cuts and Carrions” on their Facebook Page at

After Tyler Troutman of Condition Oakland performed, Henry Schecker retook the stage not as a guitarist but as a drummer as Desmond Lyons joined him on his guitar. Together they performed a number of songs equal in quality to those performed earlier by Mr. Schecker. During the performance, it was announced it was Mr. Lyons’ birthday and the entire company of The Living Room sang the song designated for the occasion. Henry Schecker and Desmond Lyons were followed by Guitarist Theo of SunnyShading whose songs and ecstatic disposition enlivened the audience with a joy beyond measure. Theo was followed by Guitarist Adam Kramer whose rough approach to the music he performed resonated among the audience who enjoyed being artistically slapped by the power of the songs. He was followed by the evening’s second guest musician Tedd Hazard.

Tedd Hazard is from Hazelton, PA and performed upon his steel guitar and harmonica. He was accompanied by Alec Gallagher who performed on his Banjo and Accordion. One could spend some time examining the lyrics of the songs Mr. Hazard performed to delve into their dark natures in order to learn of the aspects of ourselves and society which are disturbing. But, where would be the fun in that. Although the lyrics of the majority of his songs reflected the darkness I mentioned, there was an element of fun in each piece. This fun could be seen in the laughter and frivolity of everyone present. In addition to sharing his music with the gathering, Mr. Hazard also shared his visual talents through his paintings and comic books. You can learn more about Tedd Hazard creative abilities and listen to his music on his Facebook Page at

After Tedd Hazard gave his performance, Zeke (aka Zeke Bird) took the audience to their inner realms as those who have experienced his performance in the past are eagerly enthused to visit. The stylings of Zeke can be best compared to performance artists such as Laurie Anderson and Grace Jones along with a touch of The Talking Heads, but (with respect to the artists I mentioned) such a comparison hardly does the intricacies of Zeke’s performance justice. Zeke was followed by Poet Donovan O’Brien whose words and renditions transfixed the gathering as they were brought deeper into the moods each poem created. Mr. O’Brien’s poetry can be read in past issues of The Forwardian Arts Society’s Literary and Arts Magazine titled, “Forwardian.” You can access their archives at Doncha’ just love shameless self promotion? smiles.

After Donovan O’Brien completed his reading, the duo known as The F. i. T. with Greg Cimmino and Sean Walsh on Guitars splashed the room with the retro sounds of 1960’s rock and roll which could be favorably compared to the styles of Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. One could almost smell something translucent as they played.

The evening ended with a group known as Fried Chicken and the Mt. Olive Police Force who consisted of Chris Cicala on guitar and vocals, Pat Cummings on guitar, and Zeke on drums. A bluesy soul astro-projected itself from the voice of Mr. Cicala and the instruments of his compatriots until it found itself rhythmically writhing with those who let it possess them through their ears. It was a great way to end a great night at The Living Room leaving all with a desire to return to experience more.

The Living Room Open Mic Nite series will continue on Sunday October 7th beginning at 7pm (sign up begins at 6:30pm) with featured musical guest The Chimney Choir. As always musicians, poets, writers, and anyone who would like to share something with an audience are welcomed to do so. You’ll be able to find more photographs taken during the Sunday September 30th Open Mic Nite in The Living Room 2012 (Part 2) Gallery at

In addition to the Open Mic Nites, The Living Room Gallery will present an exhibition featuring the works of Vanessa Mae Kresge, Earl Kess, Keyaira Lynn Ozkenel, and Andrew Ozkenel. The Artists’ Reception will be held on Saturday October 6th and will include a showing of a DVD created by COTE Phenomena Research which will reveal the findings of their paranormal investigation of The Sherman Theater. The Artists’ Reception will also include a performance by This Way to the Egress, a pumpkin carving contest, and a raffle to benefit The Living Room Gallery. The exhibition will continue to be displayed until October 31st.

The Living Room opened in April of 2012 and is located on Main Street in Stroudsburg, PA next to The Sherman Theater who owns the building. The Living Room is organized by members if the community who include Shane Izykowski, Martelle Jones, Elisa Byrne, Tom LeFevre, Darlene Farris Labar, Sarah Bouma, Toby Sabatine, and Billy Mack. Please Explore The Living Room Facebook Page at for more information on The Living Room, all they have to offer, and how to be a part of it all.