Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Changeable Qualities of Art

The School of Visual and Performing Arts (SVPA) in Stroudsburg, PA held an Artists’ Reception on Saturday September 20th for their exhibition titled, “Changing Seasons, Changing Scenes” featuring the work of local artists. With the hues indicative of the Autumnal season already touching the local vegetation, the school’s exhibition arrived at an opportune time as the foliaged beauty many of the attendees have come to admire were reflected in the work presented. The array of colors and images echoed the enormous talent of the artists who participated in the exhibit as their unique approaches to the theme blended well together while maintaining the creative voice of each distinctive artists.

The many art lovers who attended the Reception soon found themselves swept away by the qualities of the work as the individual intricacies if each piece began to produce a seasonal change within the viewer. Yet, as one moved through the gallery, the enchantments embodied in the art of Aerial Acrobatics enticed the gathering as Alexandra “Sashka” Apjarova of Fly With Sashka encased herself in a silken hammock while her flowing movements were being photographed by the renowned photographic artists who came to capture her maneuverings in their cameras. It was a delight to watch Ms. Apjarova share her considerable skills as the beauty of the discipline went beyond the physical attributes of the art form and allowed the soul of each person who experienced the performance to become entwined within the claming cocoon of its aesthetic qualities. She was joined by her son during several routines which made them all the more enjoyable to watch.

As the mesmerizing effects of Ms. Apjarova’s exhibition encompassed the gathering, the gallery’s curator, Jody Singer, publicly shared the school’s welcoming words with the crowd along with several announcements relating to the establishment’s future endeavors as well as those of other groups and individuals such as Project Street Art that will enhance the local community through the arts. It was soon after Mr. Singer concluded his remarks did students from The Diane Verdi Ballet Class take the stage to perform the neo-classical ballet titled, “Rhapsody” with the music of Rachmaninoff. The gentle touching of the floor by the dancers brought a sensation of lightness to the audience who soon felt like leaves softly falling collectively to the ground. It was at the conclusion of the performance did Ms. Verdi take the stage in order to enhance the appreciation of the art of Ballet by sharing many of its technical intricacies with the audience. Lessons in dance are taught by Ms. Verdi at the school and you can learn more information about them as well as how to register by calling 570-619-4113 or by emailing her at

It was after Ms. Verdi shared the art of dance with the crowd did their attention return to Ms. Apjarova who presented a more expansive demonstration of her skill in Aerial Acrobatics. The beauty of her movements cast further enchantments on the gathering and touched the hearts of many. Ms. Alexandra “Sashka” Apjarova was born and raised in east Slovakia and immigrated to the United States in 1994 to pursue her dreams relating to the art of dance. While in the US, she developed a career as a professional dancer, aerialist, model, actor, singer, and coach upon she became internationally recognized for her outstanding talents. She Along collaborated with Michael Jackson in the “This is it” project until his untimely passing and Cirque du Soleil’s “Delirium” tour. Ms. Apjarova will be teaching courses in Aerial Acrobatics and other related subjects at The School of Visual and Performing Arts in October. Please contact her at or by calling 646-732-8054 for more information and to register.

As the performance given by Ms. Apjarova concluded, Rick Delgado of the duo known as “Public Displays of Rejection” took the stage. With the use of a great deal of technology, Mr. Delgado strummed his guitar and shared his voice in a series of sounds which inundated the senses through their echoing harmonies. Many of his renditions of the works he performed had a haunting effect upon the crowd as the spirits embodied in each note moved within and without them until their presence materialized in the rooms of their souls. Mr. Delgado is usually joined by fellow musician Shane Reimer but he was not present during the event.

The soothingly haunting sounds of Mr. Delgado were heard throughout most of the evening until the 9pm hour arrived and the much anticipated announcement that the Art Raffle was about to begin was shared. Many of those present eagerly engaged in making last minute purchases of Raffle Tickets in hopes this would be their lucky night. Many of the artists who participated in the exhibition donated their work to be utilized as Raffle Items and their inherent qualities made them all the more desirable to obtain through the Raffle process. The work was further enhanced by Ms. Ashley Fontones who elegantly held each piece so it could be viewed by the gathering.

Soon, the numbers began to be read and each digit became a source of excitement that built to a fevered pitch until the ecstatic peals of the winners were heard. The disappointment those who didn’t hold the winning tickets were slighted by their own desire to share their congratulations with those who did and to celebrate in their victories. It was after the last item was given to the final ticket holder did the gathering of friends begin to share their farewells with one another and sought to go home so they could reflect upon the wonders of the evening while anticipating the arrival of the next event to be held at The School of Visual and Performing Arts (SVPA). You’ll find more photographs taken during the Artists’ Reception in The SVPA 2014 Gallery at

The School of Visual and Performing Arts is located in Stroudsburg, PA and has been instrumental in the creative development of its students for over 20 years. The facility holds classes in dance, ballet, and movement led by Diane Verdi, Paula Heeschen, and Kathy Kroll as well as classes in the theater arts led by Jazmin Ospa and Shellie Bransford. The school also offers a number of workshops with each focusing on a variety of creative disciplines. You can learn more about The School of Visual and Performing Arts by exploring their Website at or their Facebook Page at

The exhibition titled, “Changing Seasons, Changing Scenes” will be on display in The School of Visual and Performing Arts until October 13th. The entirety of the work in extremely well done and explores the theme in various ways with every piece presented holding something wonderful for each individual who views it. Their next exhibit is titled, “Beyond the Harvest” with an Artists’ Reception scheduled for Saturday October 18th beginning at 6pm. The exhibit will continue to be on display until December 15th. All area artists are welcomed to participate by placing their work related to the theme in the exhibit. The drop off dates are October 16th and 17th. Please contact Jody Singer at for more information.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Healing Folk at The Bookhouse

While entreating the healing energies found in music to permeate the sizable gathering of music lovers who attended, Guitarist Matt Watroba shared his gifts at The Eastern Monroe Public Library in Stroudsburg, PA on Friday September 19th which was presented as part of their 2014 Bookhouse Season. The evening began with some introductory remarks relating to the event and the library itself given by Linnae Cintron who was followed on stage by Mr. Watroba who offered his own welcoming remarks. He then proceeded to lead the audience in a harmonic exercise which created a choir of souls sharing the experience of an amazing grace.

Mr. Watroba continued his performance of folk and country selections with a voice that sang the melodies of dreams which awakened the heart to a refreshingly new state of being. Each song was a shared experience as the audience lent their voices to each composition and enhanced the essence of the piece. Stories relating to each song were delightfully spun by Mr. Watroba enhanced the sing alongs aspect of the show as an insightful understanding of the piece brought forth a relationship between the song and the audience members who were able to reflect it in their voices. The entire concert fulfilled the immortal vision of the late Folk Legend Pete Seeger who once said that his goal was not only to place a song in the ear of his listeners but upon their lips as well.

The evening was a joyous one filled with wonderful music and great storytelling in which the intricacies of the music roots were explored to the audience’s delight. The exploration proved to contain a great number of twists and turns but, as Mr. Watroba pointed out, roots tend to be quite intertwined when one pulls them out of the ground and so are the multitude of musical influences on any particular genre of music. The unraveling of these intertwining roots made the evening an even more enjoyable one. You’ll find more photographs taken during the Matt Watroba concert in The EMPL 2014 Gallery at

Matt Watroba has performed at various venues and festivals throughout his extensive career which include the Ann Arbor Folk Festival, the Detroit 300 celebration, the Spirit of the Woods Festival, the New Jersey Folk Weekend, and Louisville’s Kentucky Music Weekend. He has often performed alongside Pete Seeger, Tom Paxton, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Arlo Guthrie, Shawn Colvin, Christine Lavin, Peter Yarrow, and Richard Thompson. He has also given numerous school and community presentations throughout the Great Lakes Region. Mr. Watroba has received numerous awards for his musical talents which include the Detroit Music Award for the Best Overall Folk Performer of the year 2000. He has interviewed a great number of renowned folk and country musicians on his former radio program titled, “Folks Like Us” which was broadcast on WDET-FM (Detroit, MI) for 20 years and continues to share his love for music with his listeners on WKSU at Kent State University. You can learn more about Matt Watroba and his music by exploring his website at

The Eastern Monroe Public Library (aka The Hughes Library) Bookhouse Series takes place in the Edinger Community Room which is located on N. 9th Street (aka route 611) in Stroudsburg, PA. The Hughes Library is the main branch of the Monroe County, PA library system which includes 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 programming designed to provide a venue for literary and musical events which are outside of the commercial and literary mainstream. In addition to the Bookhouse concert, the work of Joyce Everitt is on display throughout the library in an exhibit presented by the Pocono Arts Council

The next program in The Eastern Monroe Public Library 2014 Bookhouse Series will feature Sage on Friday October 17th beginning at 7:30pm with the doors opening at 7pm. Admission to the event is free, but donations would be gratefully accepted. Refreshments will also be available for a small charge. Please Contact Linnae Cintron at 570-421-0800 x28 or explore The Eastern Monroe Public Library Facebook Page at to learn more information about the library, their Bookhouse series, and all the institution has to offer the community.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Before, During, and After COTA

The 37th Annual Celebration of the Arts (COTA) Jazz and Arts Festival was held from Friday September 5th to Sunday September 7th throughout the town of Delaware Water Gap, PA. The event has become a haven for those who not only enjoy the qualities of the musical form of Jazz but of the many creative offerings those who participate each year share with the many who attend. These include a Music Motif exhibition held at The Antoine Dutot Museum and Gallery along with Classical Music, Dance Performances, and Theater presented at The Presbyterian Church of the Mountain. In addition to this, the festival offered the works of several artists and artisans throughout the Saturday and Sunday portion of the event in which attendees could leisurely peruse the booths and make a desired purchase.

Although the festival officially began at the town’s The Antoine Dutot Museum and Gallery, my adventures began a bit earlier. These were at The Castle Inn Art Gallery which is located within The Shoppes at The Castle Inn Complex in Delaware Water Gap, PA The gallery held an Artists’ Reception on Friday September 5th for their exhibition titled, “Listen With Your Eyes” featuring the work of Emilio Arostegui, James Chesnick, Laurinda Faye Rubin, Clavertis Miller, and Susan Molina-Washington. The work was as varied as the artists who created it and the entirety of the show enticed the many who attended the reception to experience each piece from within.

After exploring the work and sharing a great number of thoughtful conversations with the artists and others, I left The Castle Inn Art Gallery to partake of the official commencement point of The Celebration of the Arts festival at The Antoine Dutot Museum and Gallery. Upon arriving at the gallery, I was greeted by the Classical Musical Trio known as Calliope playing in the parking lot. The ensemble consists Gina Bertucci and Barbara McMahon on Flute along with Laura Goss on Bassoon. It was a delight to be bathed in their musical renditions of Classical and Americana melodies until the desire to experience the art within the gallery grew too strong to resist.

The Antoine Dutot Museum and Gallery in Delaware Water Gap, PA held their Artists’ Reception for The Delaware Water Gap Celebration of the Arts Music Motif Show on Friday September 5th. The incredible work consisted of pieces created by local artists, photographers, and sculptors who imagery blended with the exhibit’s musical theme. Colors and images flowed through the gallery like familiar melodies allowing the multitude of art lovers who were present to experience their own visual songs anew. The exhibit was a juried one with prizes award to those whose creative skills exceeded those of the contemporaries. I was not present during the award ceremonies but I could surmise the selection of the winners was a difficult one as the caliber of the work made the task a daunting one. The jurors for the show were Rick Chamberlain, W. Andrew Worthington, and Bill Lowenburg. The exhibition continues to be on display until September 21st.

I left the gallery to continue my festival journeys to The Presbyterian Church of the Mountain which is located across the street of the Dutot. The program presented at the church was titled, “The Other Arts” which featured an evening filled with classical music, theater, and dance. The evening began with some welcoming remarks given by The Reverent Sherry Blackman who will be installed as the new minister of the church on Sunday September 21st, 2014. Her words delighted the sizable audience who eagerly anticipated the night’s offerings.

The conclusion of Rev. Blackman’s words brought The Marsha Cahn Ensemble to the stage. The trio of classical musicians consisted of Marsha Cahn on viola, Linda Kistler on violin, and Dan King on cello. Together they played a selection of serenades that wooed the audience with their  beautiful melodies ranging from the jovial to the thoughtful. The performance moved the audience’s dreams as they learned the realities of their imagination through each measure.

The Marsha Cahn Ensemble were followed by The Totts Gap Dancers who are from The Totts Gap Arts Institute (TGAI) located in Bangor, PA The dancers consisted of Laura Buzzard and Maeve Godshalk who performed a piece titled, “Celebration” which was choreographed by Angeline Wolf Gloria. The work was danced to the music of the Cello Suite in G. Major, BWV 1007, by J. S. Bach which was performed unaccompanied by Max Watkins. The performance brought a profound sense of joy to the audience as the movements of the dancers created a soaring sensation within each soul who experienced it.

The Totts Gap Dancers were followed by The Sounds of Strings Quartet who was introduced by Carlena Back. The group consists of Olivia Reed and Joe Snyder on violin along with Emily Geiger on viola and Sophia Rostock on cello. The foursome enchanted the audience with their selection of recently composed pieces which are often heard on classic rock radio stations. Their insightful musical interpretations allowed the modalities of classical arrangements to manifest themselves into the essential elements of each piece. The performance proved to be a delight especially for those who chose to quietly sing along.

The Sounds of Strings Quartet were followed by the return of Laura Buzzard and Maeve Godshalk of The Totts Gap Dancers who performed an improvised piece titled, “Just Like in Church” with music composed by Eric Doney and performed by pianist Mitchel Cheng. The flowing gestures of the dancers touched the audience with their truths as their soulful originations echoed those found within the experience of each viewer. A quiet serenity was felt as the final steps of the dance were taken leading the audience to a journey further on.

The Totts Gap Dancers were followed by The Water Gap Players Theater Group consisting of Denny Carrig, Dave Hymes, and Greg Back. The one act play they presented was titled, “Waiting for Bar O” which was written by Greg Back. The work was a satirical piece based upon the classic play titled, “Waiting for Godot” written by Samuel Becket in 1948 and debuted in 1953 at The Théâtre de Babylone in Paris, France. This variation of the original work explores numerous political issues of the day. The performance was a very amusing one encouraging each member of the audience to seriously contemplate the far reaching consequences of the national political system if things remain they as they presently are.

The Water Gap Players Theater Group were followed by another return of The Totts Gap Dancers who consisted of Sophia Villano, Amanda D’ Orsi, and Kristen Stopfer. The piece they presented was titled, “Kansas City” which was performed on tape by BJ Micheal and Pattie with the dance choreographed by Duane Gosa. The theatricality of the performance delighted the audience with its energies and enthusiasm. Each movement accented the song’s joyfulness and inspired numerous smiles from those who followed the dancers on their quest to go to Kansas City.

It was at the conclusion of The Totts Gap Dancers number did the evening at The Presbyterian Church of the Mountain come to a sudden end. It was at this point did the flavor of the first day of the festival embrace those who partook of its qualities. Like many, I went home with a heart filled with fond memories of the day coupled with an excitement as I anticipated the start of a new day in which I would continue my experience of The 37th Annual Celebration of the Arts (COTA) Jazz and Arts Festival in the morning. I was surprised by the relative ease in which I found myself asleep and I awoke afresh with a invigorating readiness to begin another day.

This day began at 8am on Saturday September 6th as I arrived at the festival site to learn what duties were to be performed in my capacity as a member of the COTA Security team. The site was nearly empty except for a few vendors who were completing the placement of their merchandise and members of the COTA Stage Crew who were making the last preparatory adjustments to the technical aspects of the concert. I greeted a number of friends whom I had made during the years as I journeyed to the Security Command Center located in the back stage area to meet with my fellow members.

Once there, I was partnered with a woman named Fran and was told our first shift would be at the front gate area where people who would purchase their tickets to enter the festival. The start of our shift was set for 9am and was scheduled to last until 11am so I had enough time to stop by The Presbyterian Church of the Mountain’s food booth to purchase an egg, ham, and cheese sandwich on a croissant which has become a traditional breakfast on mine every year I participate in the festival. It was as delicious as I remembered.

After I munched on the small feast, I met my partner at the command center prior to our traveling to our first post of the day. The festival wasn’t scheduled to open it’s box office until 10am so those who were assigned to work the point of sale spot busied themselves in preparing for the arrival of the many festival goers who were expected. This included positioning a tarp to protect those purchasing their tickets from the rain that threatened the day. The 10am hour soon came close and the box office crew finalized their preparations as the final vendors drove out of the festival site after unloading the last of their merchandise in their tent.

A sizable crowd of music lovers gathered at the booth eagerly awaiting the words, “Can I help You” to be spoken by the Box office Staff. A quiet joy was felt among the company as the first of many tickets was purchased and a wrist band was affixed to the happy buyer so they could enter the festival and  begin their day of bliss. It was then that my partner watched the exit to make sure no one snuck in without paying while I stood at the entrance greeting people of which many I had gotten to know throughout the years at the festival while handing out programs. It was a pleasurable shift that was enhanced by the distant echoes created by the sound checks that were taking place as our time at the front gate was coming to an end.

Our relief team arrived so I took leisurely strolled back to the command center while visiting the many artists, artisans, and merchants who shared their talents and merchandise with those who entered their booth. These included a number of vendors outside the festival grounds who were able to utilize spaces granted to them by shop owners who populate the town. I visited an author of a newly published book who was offering copies to interested readers for purchase and a gentleman who created sculpted pieces out of slate rock which included insignias of local fire departments. Those whom I visited inside the festival grounds included Patrice Jiunta (The Jeweler’s Workbench Jeweler’s Workbench, Susan Bradford and Anita Bondi (Madala Design Works), Don Conklin (Music Lamps), Tim Helman (mixed media), David Coulter (Photography), Linda Newswanger (Git Lit Stained Glass), Bud Nealy (Knives), Susan Lange (Massage Therapist), Jim Smeltz (Artist), Elizabeth Smeltz (Jeweler), 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.

It was during the delightful conversations I shared did I hear the welcoming words of the announcer declaring the 37th Annual Celebration of the Arts Festival was about to begin. The soothing melodies Nancy (on bass and vocals) and Spencer Reed (on guitar and vocals) are well known for gently woke the festival goers with their harmonies. They were accompanied by Drew Siciliano on drums whose rhythmic beats moved the essence of each selection’s tempo among the audience and covered each member with a warm welcoming sensation. It was during the performance of Nancy and Spencer Reed when I finally made my way back to the Security Command Center to check in and to learn where my next station would be and, as I did, I went to my chair which I previously set up to partake of the wonderful effects of their enchanting stylings.

It was prior to the completion of their set did my second shift as a member of Security of the day began. I returned to the command center and was reacquainted with my partner who joined me in one of the golf carts made available for transportation so we could travel to our assigned station known as “The Intersection.” It is there where members of security help direct traffic assisting those who are musicians and other participants where to obtain their festival credentials and parking spaces along with helping festival goers determine where to park their cars.

The Intersection is a good spot to be as it affords the opportunity to greet a great number of people. However, its proximity from the stage makes it an impossibly to hear the music being played it. So, unfortunately, I missed the performances of Najwa Parkins and The After Hours Trio with Najwa Parkins on vocals, Tal Shtuhl on tenor saxophone, Dan Hanrahan on guitar, Justin Sekelewski on bass and most of The Evan Gregor/Matt Vashlishian Quartet with Evan Gregor on bass, Matt Vashlishian on saxophone, Vic Juris on guitar, and Jeff Hirschfield on drums. Still, the ephemeral essence of the music was in the air and I enjoyed its sensations when I returned to the park from my shift.

It was while I bathed in the musical aroma did I feel a hunger touch my stomach. So, I explored the food court to determine which of the wonderful choices of delicious cuisines would touch my lips. There were many to choose from which included offerings from Buddy’s Barbeque, Zoe’s Ice Cream Emporium, The Delaware Chamber of Commerce, The Presbyterian Church of the Mountain, and The Notara Dance Theatre along with newcomers to the festival such as Quench who offered a variety of wraps and other health conscious dishes and the Girl Scouts who offered a variety grilled sandwiches. Leon’s Fireside Café was also there to serve their Middle Eastern cuisine and whose presence especially touched the hearts of those who visited the festival as the passing of Chef Leon Shiner was made known. The decision what to eat was a difficult one to make but I eventually decided upon a bowl of Black Bean and Rice with Chicken mixed with some sour cream and hot sauce I got from The Willow Tree Inn

After my meal, I met up with The Dixie Gents who were strolling around the festival grounds entertaining people while the musicians set up for the performances on the main stage. The joy of toe tapping Dixieland Jazz filled the air as Bob Levie on Trumpet, Ken Foy and Rick Chamberlain (one of the festival’s co founders) on Trombone, Ray Schweisguth on Banjo, Paul Hubble on Soprano Saxophone, and Jim Daniels on Tuba played to a delighted crowd. It was soon after their performance did Bob Dorough and Friends take the stage which consisted of Bob on piano and vocals, Steve Berger on guitar, Pat O’Leary on bass, Jimmy Mcbride on drums, Chris Persad on trumpet, and Michael Hornstein on alto sax. The bippity bop rhythms Mr. Dorough is known for filled the festival with smiles and dancing as youthful hearts and feet moved to each beat of the songs he played.

It was after the performance of Bob Dorough and Friends did I return to Security Command to meet with my partner to begin our final assignment for the day which was at the much coveted area known as “The Steps.” This area is next to the stage and the duty of those stationed there is to make sure only those individuals authorized to go back stage are permitted to travel up the steps to go there. This is a very desirable spot as it affords one not only the opportunity to see and hear the performances during the shift but to meet the performers as they go back stage to prepare for their set.

It was during our shift did Phil Woods and The COTA Festival Orchestra begin to play. The orchestra was conducted by Phil Woods who is one of the co founders of the festival and consisted of a large number of who’s who in the Jazz Community. The power of the sound emanating from the orchestra and its musical qualities was only surpassed by the caliber of talent embodied in the musicians who played each piece with the graceful precision a big band is known for. Phil Woods and The COTA Festival Orchestra was followed by The Diva Trio who consisted of Sherrie Maricle on drums, Noriko Ueda on bass, and Tomoko Ohno on piano whose melodies and sense of fun proved to be a contagion no one in the audience sought a cure for. The trio was joined by vocalist Sue Giles whose voice and gentile demeanor further enhanced the qualities of the music as she moved her stylings from her being which were favorably reminiscent of those employed by Jazz Great Ella Fitzgerald.

Our shift ended during The Diva Trio performance and we returned to the Security Command Center to share our farewells to our comrades and to express our eagerness to return the following day to participate in the festival. It was then I returned to the festival to continue enjoying the music presented by The Diva Trio and Sue Giles. It was at the completion of their set was an announcement made that the storm that threatened the day was expected to arrive shortly and, if it was accompanied by a great deal of lightning, the concert would be halted and attendees would be able to take refuge under the back stage tent. This was being done to safeguard the audience and musicians from any hazardous effects of the oncoming storm. It was after this announcement did the final performance scheduled for the day take the stage.

When Miss Ida Blue took the stage, she TOOK the stage with her bold and sassy countenance and shook the audience with her sultry rendition of some honky-tonk jazz reminiscent of the compositions heard at the best of the New Orleans Juke Joints and Bordellos where one would devilishly dare to enter. Her straight forward interpretations epitomized the bluesy wisdom of her songs and created the feel of the venue where they were first played. Miss Ida Blue was accompanied by Lil Jim Fryer on trombone, John “Showboy” Gill on guitar, Dan “Choppin’” Block on clarinet and saxophone, and Moanin’ Jay Rattman on bass saxophone. Their instrumental finesse enhanced the performance and added a great deal of atmosphere to the set.

But, alas, the performance ended much too quickly as torrential rains began to fall and I left the festival site to gain the safety of an automobile to take me home. It was there where I removed my drenched clothing and fell into my bed in order to rest up for the final day of the festival while allowing my dreams to fill my soul with the wonders I experienced through the music and the conversations I engaged in. The rhythm of the raindrops touching my window aided in my sleepy endeavor as I drifted off toward another morning.

I awoke refreshed and arrived at the festival site around 9am on Sunday September 7th. I met with my comrades at the Security Command Center where my partner, Fran, and I received our first assignment of the day. We were scheduled to begin our first shift at 11am at The Children’s Area of the park in which parents with school age children leave their little ones to be playfully occupied while in the care of loving adults. However, since we had time before our first shift began, I ventured down to The Presbyterian Church of the Mountain’s booth where I obtained my customary Ham, Egg, and Cheese Sandwich on a croissant prior to the beginning of the festival’s Annual Jazz Mass.

The Annual Jazz Mass has become a favorite among festival goers for the music and for the meaningful messages conveyed through the insights shared by the clergy who participate. The service began with a call to worship led by The Reverend Karen Nickels (Retired from The Presbyterian Church of the Mountain) who served as Worship Leader along with Reverend Sherry Blackman (The Current Pastor of The Church of the Mountain) and Bill Cohea (former Interim Pastor of The Church of the Mountain) who served as Liturgists. The music for the Mass was composed and conducted by Rich Chamberlain (co Founder of COTA). The orchestra’s performance given by numerous Jazz greats roused the spirituality of the sizable audience as did the songs rendered by  the Jazz Mass Choir under the direction of Teresa Marino along with solo performances given by Michele Bautier, Denny Carrig, and Bonnie Childs. The days meditation (aka Sermon) was given by Reverend Karen and took note of how the musical art form of Jazz reflects God’s Kingdom with every musician’s creative gift is allowed to come to the fore under the direction of a loving conductor.

I took my place at the Children’s area while the Jazz Mass was coming to an end but left the area when the mass concluded in order to join with my fellow members of security in 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 of waiting in line an enjoyable one. The Lost Ramblers consists of John Updike on the Five String Banjo, Neil Morris on Guitar, Jim Schaffer on Bass Fiddle, H. David Husic on Fiddle, Anthony Hannigan on Mandolin, and Jillian Bronsan on Flute and Pennywhistle.

My partner and I returned to the Children’s Area in order to help keep a watchful eye on the little ones so their safety could be assured while being available to the vendors in the food court who may have a need for a security personnel to help in their endeavors. It was during our shift did the first performance of the day begin. From a distance, I heard the gentle sounds of The Bill Mays Trio with Bill on piano, Tim Horner on drums, and Dean Johnson on bass. The flavor of their performance reflected that of the previous day’s beginning presented by Nancy and Spencer Reed but the trio’s nuanced approach to their music created a different feel that was embraced by the audience. I could not see or hear the group clearly from my vantage point, but the essence of their renderings touched me as it did with all who listened.

Soon after the performance given by the Bill Mays Trio concluded, so did my shift at The Children’s Area. The trio were followed by Co-Op Bop who consisted of Alan Gaumer on trumpet, Nelson Hill on saxophones, Tom Kozic on guitar, Rick Chamberlain on Trombone, Craig Kastelnik on Hammond B3 organ, and Gary Rissmiller on drums. The group was joined by Vocalist Pat Flaherty whose powerful phrasings transfixed the audience through every syllable she shared. Co-Op Bop was followed by a performance given by COTA Cats Volume XXXIV.

The COTA Cats is a big band consisting of high school students attending area schools who have an interest and proficiency in the musical art of Jazz. The COTA Cats were established in 1981 through the efforts of COTA Co Founders Phil Woods and Rick Chamberlain who sought to inspire and mentor local area high school musicians in the fine art of big band performance. 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 of these scholarships were Anna Speer who will be attending Elizabethtown College to study music therapy, Ian Denny who will be attending Penn State University to study Music Education, and Elijah Denny who will be attending Kutztown University to study Music Education.

It was during the COTA Cats Volume XXXIV did the time for my second shift of the day was scheduled to begin and I went to The Security Command Center to discover my partner and I were assigned to the Front Gate Area as we were the previous day. From my vantage point, I was able to hear the distant sounds of Expansions: The David Liebman Group with David on saxophones, Bobby Avey on piano, Matt Vashlishan on saxophone, Tony Marino on bass, and Alex Ritz on drums. Although I could not see or hear them clearly, the musical effect of their auditory wanderings could be experienced through the countenance of the people whom I observed who were well within listening range.

As my shift ended, The Vic Juris Trio were about to perform with Vic on guitar, Jay Anderson on bass, and Adam Nussbaum on drums. However, I felt the urge to eat and I traveled to the food court area to explore the culinary delights that were offered. My hunger and I decided to splurge so purchased and ate a quarter rack of ribs from Buddy’s Barbeque. Although I couldn’t see or hear clearly The Vic Juris Trio from the food court area, their musical echoes made the meal all the more enjoyable.

When I completed my meal I was about to leave to become a part of the audience so I could partake of the music more fully. But, I was soon joined by a member of security who wished to share a meal so we went to the tent inhabited by Quench where I bought and consumed a Chicken and Rice dish that was delicious. I had eaten enough to keep me filled for the next couple of days. It was during the completion of this second meal did I notice Drummers Sherri Maricle and Skip Detrick setting up for their Drum Fun Session at The Children’s Area. I quickly moved closer to enjoy watching the drummers and children bang away on various forms of percussions in joyous abandonment. I then returned to finish my meal with my fellow security person as The Vic Juris Trio was concluding their set.

We finished our meal as the announcement Nellie McKay was about to perform. The delight in the prospect of hearing her sing flooded my senses as I eagerly awaited her arrival on stage. She did so wearing a yellow Kimono outfit that moved gently as she made her way to the piano to begin her first song. Laughter and thoughtfulness filled the eyes and hearts of all who heard her as she alternated between piano and ukulele utilizing each instrument’s modalities to enhance the qualities of her songs. Every word she uttered was an enchantment that touched the magic within every audience member who partook of her musical potions.

It was during Ms. McKay’s performance did it become time for me to return to the Security Command Center to meet with my partner so we could begin our third and final shift of the day. I was delighted to discover it would be at the area known as “The Steps” where I could continue to fully hear and see Ms. McKay’s performance. Yet, soon after we arrived at our station, the set had come to an end before it was scheduled to do so and, like a wisp of scented smoke reminiscent of a whisper from the divine, she was gone.

After some time had passed, the final band of the night and festival took the stage. The Shocknaw Mountain Boys consisted of John Skehan on mandolin and piano, Andy Goessling on guitar, banjo, and dobra, and Johnny Grubb on bass while featuring Tim Carbone on violin and guitar. The wild country and bluegrass sounds the musician made delighted the crowd as the creative energies of the audience made for the most artistically performed hoe down dancing I have personally ever laid eyes on. A number of guest musicians joined the group as the conclusion of their set approached. It ended with a crescendo of appreciative applause that were echoed in the final words of the announcer who thanked the band and the audience for bringing The 37th Annual Celebration of the Arts Jazz and Arts Festival to a memorable end.

During the festival, a number of awards and presentations were shared. These included the 2014 Sterling and Dorothy Strauser Award which honors an individual’s contribution to the visual arts, The 2014 Joanne Mayer Award which honors the endeavors of an individual COTA Volunteer, and The 2014 Fred Waring Award which honors an individual’s outstanding contributions to the arts and the community. The festival also introduced its new Executive Director, Kathyn Rudolph, who has assisted Tim Helman (who designed this year’s poster) and other members of the COTA Board of Directors in obtaining grants. The passing of members of the festival’s community were also mentioned and these individual were musicians Richy Barz and Peter Phillips along with (as mentioned earlier in this article) Chef Leon Shiner.

In addition to its annual festival, The Celebration of the Arts presents Camp Jazz which is offered every summer to those who seek an intensive, week long immersion in jazz music and technique mentored by renowned jazz greats. Camp Jazz 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 offering a staff of mentors who are well established in the national and international Jazz community. Scholarship are available to those who wish to attend but are unable to afford the participation fee. These include the newly established Richard (Richy) Barz and the Stanley Kay Scholarships.

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.

Those who would like to lend their time and talents to The 38th 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 Back and Front gate workers along with Security and Stage Crew personnel. I hope to see you at a future meeting so we can serve the festival together while creating some wonderful memories. Please feel free to explore The Celebration of the Arts (COTA) Facebook Page at or visit their 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.

Just as I began my adventures in COTA before the official event commenced, it didn’t end for me when the final notes and farewells were shared at the festival site. As the many music and art lovers were traveling to their cars to make their way home to relive their memories, I traveled across the street to partake of the COTA After Party that was being celebrated at The Deer Head Inn with a Jazz Jam led by Bill Goodwin. Numerous musicians and singers joyfully demonstrated their profound talents through the sheer joy of playing together. It was a delight to see and listen to the love these individuals expressed for one another as the music they embraced bonded them together. It was a wonderful end to a fantastic festival and I look forward to coming back next year. You’ll find the photographs I took before, during, and after the festival in The COTA 2014 Gallery at Thank you for reading this article.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

And Now The Festival Begins

The Celebration of the Arts (COTA) held its final General Meeting for 2014 at The Deer Head Inn in Delaware Water Gap, PA on Tuesday September 2nd to make the final preparations for their 37th Annual Jazz and Arts Festival which is scheduled to be held September 5th - 7th. However, I arrived at the meeting just as it was coming to a close so I don’t know what transpired during it. Yet, by the expression of the faces I’ve seen and the mood of the company I felt, I could tell the meeting afforded the large number of people present a time to prepare for the festival both physically and spiritually.

After I shared some good byes and expressed my eagerness to see my comrades in music at the festival, I traveled to the neighboring Presbyterian Church of the Mountain as I did last week where the final rehearsal for The Celebration of the Arts Jazz Mass Choir led by Teresa Marino was under way. The Jazz Mass will take place on Sunday Morning at 10am at the COTA site. You’ll find more photographs taken during the final Celebration of the Arts General Meeting for 2014 and the last rehearsal of the Jazz Mass Choir at The COTA Meetings 2014 Gallery at

The mission of The Celebration of the Arts (COTA) is to present and to support the art of jazz in all its forms and historical breadth through youth education, performing arts presentations, scholarship opportunities, and community outreach throughout the Pocono area. Please Explore The Celebration of the Arts Facebook Page at, their Website at, or by calling 570-424-2210 to learn how you can become a volunteer and to learn for more information all about COTA has to offer.

Pictorial Perfection at The SOHO

As the 8th Annual Stroudfest event whose day long celebration of all things Stroudsburg was coming to a close, The SOHO in the BURG in Stroudsburg, PA held an Artists’ Reception for their “Picture Perfect” show on Saturday August 30th. The exhibit featured work created by a multitude of local artists and photographers with nearly 150 pieces lining the gallery’s walls. The outstanding quality of the work touched the imagination and inspired the mind of each attendee to not only to experience the fullness of the images conveyed in each individual piece but to allow their complimentary visions created from within to merge with the work.

The lively conversation shared by the numerous art lovers and artists who were present reflected the excitement the work generated. The variety of subject matter and techniques employed by each artist enchanted the viewer enticing one to delve deeply into the essence of the piece. This was particularly true of the more abstract of the work presented as their colors and curvatures led each person who were touched by them on an inner journey that remains indefinable.

Along with the art being shown for the exhibit, a special area was set up which featured the work of Lui Jun who came to the area in 2011 to study Art Research at The East Stroudsburg University of PA. He returned to the area this year to do more research and to share his talents so the citizens of the Monroe County area can benefit from them. In this endeavor, his work was offered as Raffle items whose proceeds would benefit either Women’s Resources, Pocono Area Transitional Housing (PATH), The Salvation Army, or The Y. M. C. A. The decision on which of these charitable organizations the monies raised will go to will be left to the individual who wins the raffle. You may purchase your tickets at The SOHO in the BURG Gallery during their business hours of 12-5pm on Thursdays as well as on Fridays and Saturdays from 12 to 8pm.

The late afternoon and early evening spent at The SOHO in the BURG Gallery was an enjoyable one filled with wonderful art, good company, and delicious foods. The atmosphere of the venue never fails to delight those who enter it as its owner, Andrea Robbins Rimberg, eagerly greets each visitor as they arrive with her effervescent smile and welcoming demeanor.  You’ll find more photographs taken during the Saturday August 30th Artists’ Reception for The SOHO in the BURG Gallery’s Picture Perfect exhibition in The Stroudsburg Art District 2014 Gallery at

The SOHO in the BURG Gallery is located on the corner of 6th and Main Street in Stroudsburg, PA which was the location of the J. J. Newberry’s store. The gallery opened its doors to the public in April of 2012 and is owned by Andrea Robbins Rimberg who has become well known for her exuberant energies and creativity as many of her pieces are on display in prestigious galleries throughout the United States. The title of the next exhibition to be presented at The SOHO in the BURG Gallery will be announced soon. You can learn more about The SOHO in the BURG Gallery, their future exhibits, and all the gallery has to offer the creative community by exploring their Facebook Page at

A Town Celebrates with Stroudfest 8

The 8th Annual Stroudfest event took place throughout the little town of Stroudsburg, PA on Saturday August 30th. The sidewalks were lined with merchandise the many shopkeepers who has established themselves as part of the local business community had placed in front of their stores along with venders who shared their crafts, retail items, and charitable opportunities with those who visited them. The day was also filled with music as festival goers walked the streets to enjoy the offerings of the event.

My day at the festival began in the alley found between Josephine's Fleur-de-lis and The 14KT Outlet’s Fine Jewelry Design In this alley, there stood the stage where the town’s Music  in the Park Series takes place from which the band “Wolf And The Lost Ones” seduced the audience with their smooth juicy soul renditions flowing through their instruments and voices creating a mellow atmosphere among the gathering until they performed a number of fast tempo pieces that stirred many a heart to dance. I enjoyed listening to the quartet until the whispers of the festival bade me to explore its other offerings.

I walked along the Main Street of Stroudsburg and was met by the sight of commerce. Stores filled the sidewalk with their wares which ranged from sporting goods to shoes while vendors that inhabited the area along the edge of the sidewalk offered even more of a variety to those who stopped by their tent. These included tie dyed apparel sold by Shady River Designs, Melon Gift who will have their Annual Fun Dog Show on Saturday September 27th at The Stroudsburg Intermediate School in Stroudsburg, PA, and Kitchen Chemistry who makes some really good bakery items, and For The Birds who creates some exquisite bird houses. It was during my visitations to these vendors did I come to the vicinity of The Living Room.

The venue was empty except for the presence of the art what was first presented in the gallery at the beginning of August and the gallery sitter whose welcoming demeanor enhanced the beauty of the work. The artists whose visions were on display were Joy Taney, Carolyn Burbage, Hannah Brush, and Michelle Neifert. It was good to be able to quietly explore the essence of each piece and to learn all they had to teach me. It was quite a lot of lesson filled work on display and I became enthralled by their intricacies. The next exhibition The Living Room in Stroudsburg, PA will be their Art is Activism group show featuring the work of local artists. The Artists’ Reception will be held on Saturday September 6th beginning at 6pm with the work continuing to be on display until September 30th. Please explore The Living Room Facebook Page at for more information.

I eventually left The Living Room and continued my journeys through the town. I encountered more vendors with whom I enjoyed sharing conversation with while being fascinated by the wares they offered. These included Nightwind Studios who offers custom art designs, Health Coach Carolyn Caruso who offers individualized healthy lifestyle planning, and Fairy Godmothers who offers an opportunity to all who partake of their merchandise to live their fanciful dreams. I also visited The School of Visual and Performing Arts who will host The Theater Studio: A Confidence Theater production of Sleeping Beauty on Sunday September 7th beginning at 6pm. It was a delight to meet the vendors as our chats enhanced my day.

It was during these explorations did I come upon the tent inhabited by Project Street Art which is a local community art endeavor created to beautify the area through a number of artistic initiatives. The first of these initiatives was the creation of a mural constructed along a section of the town’s Main Street that was touched by fire several years ago. The mural was completed in a one day event on Saturday May 24th, 2014 and can be seen on the 600 block of the town. The next project is scheduled to take place on Saturday September 27th and will consist of murals being painted at 10 different sites in the Stroudsburg and East Stroudsburg area. You can learn more about Project Street Art and how to become involved in this worthy endeavor by exploring their Facebook Page at for more information.

After conversing and being creatively energized by the Project Street Art gang, I ventured to the town’s courthouse square where music was being heard and a variety of foods were being enthusiastically consumed. A great number of people were there and it was good to meet up with many of my friends who were among them. Reacquainting conversations filled me with memories as the nearly forgotten affections we had for each other so many years ago were rekindled. The band that was on stage were completing it’s set so I didn’t hear much of their performance, but I left the area with a song in my heart that I shall continue to sing for quite some time.

I then ventured back to the Music in the Park Stage to listen to Woodrow who consists of Brian Bramcamp on Guitar and vocals and Theresa Ratcliff on vocals. The duet’s renditions of classic songs never fails to surpass the qualities of their original versions as seen in the delighted eyes of those who were listening. It was during their performance did they share a number of original pieces whose calibre favorably compared to the classic tunes they sung. It was sometime afterwards did I bid farewell to the 8th Annual Stroudfest event as my adventurous desires let me to explore elsewhere. It was a good day and I’m glad I was able to attend. You’ll find more photographs taken during the 8th Annual Stroudfest Event in The Stroudfest 2014 Gallery at
The 8th Annual Stroudfest event was organized and presented by the Sherman Theater as one of the festivals it formulated which is designed to honor the town of Stroudsburg, PA. Sponsors of Stroudfest 2014 included numerous local businesses who support the town and its endeavors. In addition to Stroudfest the theater presents The Pocono Raceway Festival which takes place in June as well as numerous concerts, theatrical productions, and other events throughout the year. You can learn more about The Sherman Theater and all it has to offer the community by exploring their Facebook Page at