JANUARY 19, 2021
A Photo and Interview Series by Barry Goldstein
In America, the inauguration of a Commander In Chief is traditionally a time of celebration. Politicians, special guests, and everyday Americans converge on the National Mall in front of the U.S. Capitol building to mark the swearing in of the next President of the United States. Full of pomp and circumstance, inaugurations are an important democratic ritual and a symbol of the peaceful transfer of power.
October 22, 2021
Autumn has finally arrived in western New England, bringing with it changing leaves, chilly nights, and of course, plenty of fall fun like apple picking, pumpkin carving, and corn mazes. Through the months of September and Octobe
Autumn has finally arrived in western New England, bringing with it changing leaves, chilly nights, and of course, plenty of fall fun like apple picking, pumpkin carving, and corn mazes.
Through the months of September and October, locals and travelers alike can make a pitstop at Hicks Family Farm, located along the scenic Mohawk Trail. The farm boasts an impressive corn maze that hosts a family-friendly scavenger hunt by day and a frighteningly good haunted maze by night.
Now in its 11th year, the maze has grown more popular and gets bigger each year to accommodate the growing crowds that show up looking to get lost in the stalks. Connecting Point's Brian Sullivan traveled to Franklin County to bring us this next story.
Read the full transcription:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Autumn has finally arrived in western New England, bringing with it changing leaves, chilly nights, and of course, plenty of fall fun like apple picking, pumpkin carving, and corn mazes.
Through the months of September and October, locals and travelers alike can make a pit stop at Hicks Family Farm, located along the scenic Mohawk Trail. The farm boasts an impressive corn maze that hosts a family-friendly scavenger hunt by day and a frighteningly good haunted maze by night.
Now, in its 11th year, the maze has grown more popular and gets bigger each year to accommodate the growing crowds that show up looking to get lost in the stalks. Connecting Point's Brian Sullivan traveled to Franklin County to bring us this next story
Brian Sullivan, Connecting Point: From this vantage point, it looks just like a field of corn. And this one as well. From this vantage point, it appears there's a place inside the cornfield to gain an even better vantage point. From here, we can see people walking in and out of the cornfields and families actually buying tickets to do the same.
Maybe this isn't just some run-of-the-mill side of the road corn maze.
Shahid Jalil, Corn Mazer Goer: We've been doing this at the Hicks Family Farm for, I think, since our daughter was one years old. So, maybe like last seven years. And so, it's a family tradition every October we come here.
Brian Sullivan: Every Saturday and Sunday from the first weekend in September to the last day of October, visitors travel from near and far to the town of Charlemont, Massachusetts, to be a part of this fall festival. The corn maze that began as a means of supplementing income has now turned into an annual tradition.
Paul Hicks, Hicks Family Farm: Eleven years ago, my family went out of the dairy business. And we wanted to continue to keep the farm going, so we did go into the beef business. We do have thirty five head of cattle, but we needed somehow to, you know, support the farm.
So, we came up with the idea of starting up a corn maze.
Brian Sullivan: Of course, the fun goes beyond just the corn maze. There's a giant game of checkers available to renew a sibling rivalry. Mini golf, where a dad can teach his daughter the finer points of putting -- or not.
They've got baby goats who's cute factor breaks the scale, and for many of the local kids, this place is their rite of passage.
Autumn Kersavage, Corn Maze Worker: Yeah, I've been doing it since I was really young, so probably like five years.
And originally I just did the one during the day because I was -- I didn't really want to get scared because I was so young. But now, I work in the night one and I scare people and it's it's pretty good.
Brian Sullivan: Yes, it's true that when the sun goes down, these winding paths where the kids and adults get to have fun doing a scavenger hunt during the day, turn into one of the spookier haunted corn mazes in the Commonwealth. But the haunting doesn't start until early October. And since the maze changes shape every year, none of this happens without a plan.
Paul Hicks: Around March or April, we'll get together on a rainy day and think of, you know, some different paths, different directions where we want to have the people go. And, you know, we kind of map it out on a piece of paper. And come, you know, June we plant the corn, and come out and process the paths.
Brian Sullivan: And the processor-in-chief is none other than Paul Hicks sister Joanne.
Joanne MacLean, Maze Maker: I come out when the corn is just this high, and I just start making paths. I do have a map that I work with. If some corn doesn't come up in one spot, I might move the path over.
I got a little John Deere tractor with a blade on it, and that's why there's no sharp angles, everything's circles. And I start around 4th of July.
Brian Sullivan: Luckily, it's a labor of love, because it wasn't always this easy when they planted the first cornfields years ago.
Joanne MacLeanMy brother says, 'JoJo, we need a corn maze." And I went, "well, OK."
So, I just saw --I only had a hoe and rake. And I'm out here every morning by six, before it gets too hot. And just so ... I like making things.
Brian Sullivan: Aside from making these trails, Joanne is also responsible for making all of the signs along the way, including the jokes that the maze wanderers pass by in their quest to find everything on the scavenger hunt list. The theme this year was chickens. I think I passed a couple of them in my travels.
My original plan was to stick around until nightfall for the haunted maze, but the scavenger hunt has been plenty of fun and I'm not sure my heart can take being scared tonight.
For me, I'll use any excuse just to head out to the country, but it was extra special to be joined by so many others who also decided to stop by this cornfield on the Mohawk Trail in the little town of Charlemont.
Joanne MacLean: I like it that it's entertaining people. And we get people from all over and you know, some people never been on a tractor before, or even seeing a live chicken or things like that. And so we're bringing that to everybody.
October 22, 2021
With plenty of local farms in the area, most of us are familiar with farm shares, where in exchange for paying a local farmer up front, they provide you with a share of their harvest each week. For the past decade, that same comm
With plenty of local farms in the area, most of us are familiar with farm shares, where in exchange for paying a local farmer up front, they provide you with a share of their harvest each week.
For the past decade, that same community support model has also helped sustain local music. Pioneer Valley Jazz Shares uses the same money upfront - product later concept to maintain a vibrant jazz scene here in western Mass. Producer Dave Fraser brings us this story.
Read the full transcript:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: With plenty of local farms in the area, most of us are familiar with farm shares, where in exchange for paying a local farmer up front, they provide you with a share of their harvest each week. For the past decade, that same community support model has also helped sustain local music.
Pioneer Valley Jazz Shares uses the same money up front - product later concept to maintain a vibrant jazz music scene here in western Mass. Producer Dave Fraser brings us this story.
Glenn Siegel, Pioneer Valley Jazz Shares: I have always responded to music and sound in a more profound way than other senses, I would say. And grew up playing baritone horn in junior high school and high school and always had a deep relationship to to music.
Dave Fraser, Connecting Point: In an effort to bring more jazz to the region, Glenn Siegel, along with his wife, Priscilla Paige, started Jazz Shares in 2012. It's based on the community sustained agriculture CSA or farm share model, where stakeholders ensure the success of the farm by prepaying for food.
Pioneer Valley Jazz Share members purchase shares to provide the capital needed to produce concerts at various venues throughout the valley.
Glenn Siegel: The idea was to produce 10 concerts in a season, basically one a month. But because the number of outstanding musicians far outstrips that, and we have adopted a culture of "yes," as far as we can take it, this year, we're doing 16 concerts.
Dave Fraser: It's a grassroots, all-volunteer organization that Siegel and his wife first introduced to some friends at a backyard party.
Priscilla Page, Pioneer Valley Jazz Shares: Why don't we invite some friends over and like, pitch the idea and see if we could get one hundred people to buy in at $125 each, and then we could produce a season of concerts.
Dave Fraser: That was 10 years ago, and Jazz Shares is still going strong, producing at least 10 and sometimes more concerts each year in Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties.
Glenn Siegel: What you're likely to hear at a Jazz Shares concert can vary wildly from the most free, atonal, arhythmic way of organizing music to, you know, in the pocket jazz. You know, Orrin Evans Trio, who's coming up in a few weeks that'll be in the tradition, and, you know, recognizable.
So, what we're providing is, you know, a different slice; a wider slice of of what jazz is.
Dave Fraser: With COVID restrictions still in place, admission to Jazz Shares concerts comes with proof of vaccination at the door and the wearing of masks.
But for this season, Siegel and Page have many concerts scheduled through February, including four this month.
Priscilla Page: They're always a little bit different because we work in so many different venues. That's another thing -- we sort of travel through the Valley.
So, you know, we were at the Shea Theater, we'll be in Goshen at the Institute of Musical Arts, we'll be here in Northampton at 33 Hawley Street, we'll be down at the Community Music School. So, each venue is a little different, so the feeling is a little bit different.
Dave Fraser: Our cameras were able to catch Steph Richards and Supersense at the Institute for the Musical Arts in Goshen. Richards is known for her experiments in jazz and her collaborations with pioneer artists including Henry Threadgill, Laurie Anderson, and David Byrne.
Jason Robinson, Harmonic Constituent, performed at the Northampton Community Arts Trust recently. Robinson is a saxophonist and composer and teaches music at Amherst College.
Glenn Siegel: It is truly satisfying, it's -- it's my calling, I would say. You know, when we're pulling in the driveway, we'll just say "another one in the books!"
We've done about a hundred Jazz Share shows, and, you know, in my career in the valley, I've produced, you know, over three hundred shows. And so, we keep adding more to the book and it is...it is truly gratifying.
October 22, 2021
This fall, a new bachelor's degree program launched at Westfield State University that harnesses the power of music to aid in healing. Westfield State is the first public university in Massachusetts and just the second public inst
This fall, a new bachelor's degree program launched at Westfield State University that harnesses the power of music to aid in healing. Westfield State is the first public university in Massachusetts and just the second public institution in New England that offers Music Therapy as a college major.
Zydalis Bauer spoke with Timothy Honig, Assistant Professor of Music Therapy and director of the Bachelor of Music in Music therapy degree program at Westfield State University to hear more about why the program began and the benefits that music therapy has to offer.
Read the full transcription:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: This past fall semester, a new bachelor's degree program launched at Westfield State University that taps into the power of music to aid in healing. Westfield State is the first public university in Massachusetts and just the second public institution in New England that offers music therapy as a college major.
I spoke with Timothy Honig, assistant professor and director of the Bachelor's of Music and Music Therapy Degree Program at Westfield State University, to hear more about why the program began and the benefits that music therapy has to offer.
Professor Timothy Honig, Westfield State University: Music therapy is using what we know about the power of music to help people affect real, lasting change in their lives. We draw together knowledge from a few different professions, and in relationship with a professional music therapist, we can tailor usually interactive music experiences that help tap into what motivates and drives clients, and also leads towards lasting change in physical needs or emotional needs or social areas.
Zydalis Bauer: Tim, Westfield State University is the first public institution in Massachusetts and only the second in New England to offer a degree in music therapy.
Why did the university want to add this degree to its program?
Professor Timothy Honig: Westfield State University has a robust music department with a wide range of offerings. And Westfield also has a lot of energy around the arts and health sciences and other departments. And they found this whole where music therapy would fit quite well.
It aligns really well with how the university envisions itself connecting with the community and serving real needs in the community. And we're finding that the network of expertize that our faculty have worked so well for helping to educate and train new music therapists to serve our community here in western Massachusetts.
Zydalis Bauer: So, this program is designed to be four years long, including an internship, and is individualized to meet the student's specific skills and background.
Tell me more about what the program looks like and the process to pursue this degree at Westfield State.
Professor Timothy Honig: So, the degree is a bachelor of music, and that speaks to how it really is a music-focused degree. So, we help students learn a high level of artistry, but also to become really versatile performing musicians -- learning guitar, learning, singing, learning, percussion, learning, digital music production technologies.
We also weave in learning from courses in psychology and in health sciences and in cultural studies, that let students really know the breadth of all these different clinical scenarios that they might be working on.
And so, students will have four years of coursework. Beginning in their second year already, they start individual mentorship relationships with actual professional music therapists out in the field, providing music therapy to real clients.
Then, after that four years of coursework we'll help them set them up with an internship at a facility for usually about six months. And that's the case for almost every music therapy degree program in the country.
Zydalis Bauer: Upon completion of this program, what would a career in music therapy look like, more or less?
Professor Timothy Honig: One of the things about music therapy that I find so exciting is that there's a place for everyone and there's a place for every interest.
So, a career in music therapy might look like getting a job in an area facility, in an area institution, like Bay State Hospital in Springfield, which employs a couple of music therapists. It could be working in a school working with, let's say, students who have learning disabilities or are autistic or have some learning difference or non-neurotypicality where they can benefit from music.
A career might also look like a private practice, where the music therapist is actually a business owner. About a quarter of music therapists in the country own their own business, where they serve clients at lots of different institutions and even in their homes to provide, well, a really well-rounded practice.
So, any music therapist will find their niche where they can tap into their passion and their strengths in music.
Zydalis Bauer: Now, Tim, you are a board certified music therapist. You've worked in inpatient and outpatient psychiatry, cancer care, general medical, and more.
What are the benefits of music therapy and have you seen and witnessed a growing demand for this profession in recent times?
Professor Timothy Honig: Nationwide, there are more music therapy positions than there are music therapists to fill them, which is a really interesting position to be in as a music therapist, right?
But music therapy is underdeveloped in New England, and we're really looking forward. Something that's inspiring to me is training a workforce that's going to allow music therapy to grow so that we can provide these therapeutic benefits to our clients in the community. Some kinds of benefits that I've seen and that's grounded in research, are areas like helping clients more fully manage chronic pain. In my work in psychiatric care, I would work with clients who have PTSD to help them learn how to better manage flashbacks and develop coping skills to help them function in a community without being so vulnerable to to their trauma.
But music is always touching us at many different levels. So, if we're in a school working on helping a student learn better, it's also helping them socially. It's also helping them emotionally. And I think that's one of the things that we as music therapists can provide that's unique, that's working with people at all levels of their human experience.
Zydalis Bauer: Now, as somebody who has presented your work regionally, nationally, and even internationally, what does it mean to you to now have this opportunity to be directing this new degree locally here at Westfield State University?
Professor Timothy Honig: It is so inspiring to me to work with students who have such strong connections to our community here, who want to be able to use their passion for music to give back to the people that have touched their lives.
So, being in this position to help cultivate really stellar music therapists is so inspiring to me, not just for them, but thinking about all of the consumers in our area that they can touch and whose lives that they can improve.
October 22, 2021
After living through a global pandemic, we can use a little more laughter in our lives, and Happier Valley Comedy is looking to bring the joy back to western Mass as they expand their operation in Hadley. The organization will now
After living through a global pandemic, we can use a little more laughter in our lives, and Happier Valley Comedy is looking to bring the joy back to western Mass as they expand their operation in Hadley.
The organization will now include the space next door to them to be appropriately called, The Next Door Lounge, which officially opens its doors on October 30th.
Happier Valley Comedy President Pamela Victor to hear more about the expansion, the programs Happy Valley offers, and how the organization fosters community through connection and laughter.
Read the transcription:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: After living through a global pandemic, we can use a little more laughter in our lives and Happier Valley Comedy is looking to bring the joy back to Western Mass as they expand their operation in Hadley.
The organization will now include the space next door to them to be appropriately called the Next Door Lounge, which officially opens on October 30th.
I spoke with Happier Valley comedy president Pamela Victor to hear more about the expansion, the programs Happier Valley offers, and how the organization fosters community through connection and laughter.
Pamela Victor, Happier Valley Comedy: So the next door space, the lounge is going to be our box office. So when you come, it will open at five o'clock, our shows start seven, so if you wanted to come in, get a ticket, and especially, order in dinner or bring in dinner, so you can hang out there for a couple hours before the show.
We have a game area. You can play some games. We have this lovely living room area where you can hang out on comfy chairs, then everybody will go next door on a Saturday night, see the show, be wildly entertained, and then they're invited to come back next door if they'd like for more drinks, more fun.
And then our after show, our community-supported show, which is called More Improv, More Better at 9 p.m., is going to take place in our small cabaret theater in the Next Door Lounge.
Zydalis Bauer: Pam, your mission to bring more laughter, joy, and ease to Western Massachusetts has always been what's really driven your business. You will be doing exactly that through the expansion with the Next Door Lounge.
Why was now the perfect time for Happier Valley Comedy to grow?
Pamela Victor: That's hilarious! It wasn't the perfect time. It was a terrible time! But we got the perfect opportunity.
I mean, really, I'm in a small arts nonprofit in western Massachusetts. Nothing has gone perfectly in the last couple of years. As we say in improv, you can't choose the scene that you're in, you just play the scene that you're in. And this is the scene we're in.
We had this great opportunity to expand next door to take on the former Taproom, and we took it because it's been part of our vision at Happy Valley Comedy. My business partner Scott Friedman and I always have wanted to have a space where people can convene. Connection and community are really important core values to us.
Zydalis Bauer: You mentioned that this was an experimental decision, and I want to talk about that a little because for the next 20 months, you will be exploring how to make this new venture a success. And it's not the first time that you have taken this "give it a shot" approach to a business opportunity. In fact, it's how your career started in comedy.
Why do you take this improv approach to new opportunities, and what do you hope comes out of the next 20 months at the Next Door Lounge?
Pamela Victor: To misuse Ted Lasso, a line from Ted Lasso, "improv is life." I'm an improviser in my very core, and I approach -- I use improvization to approach my professional and my personal life. And so this is what's happening. We're going to do an experiment. I don't know how it's going to go. We have this opportunity.
So, I started my company with the can I make a living doing what I love experiment. I gave myself one year to see if I can make a living through improvization in western Massachusetts, which seemed impossible at the time and then ended up working out pretty well.
So, this we're calling the Experiment Next Door, because that's what the lounge is called the Next Door Lounge. And so, we're doing the experiment next door. We're giving ourselves 20 months to see if it is financially viable.
Zydalis Bauer: Now, Happier Valley Comedy is more than just improv shows. You've been around for a little while in the community, offering a variety of resources and programing.
What are the different divisions that Happier Valley has to offer?
Pamela Victor: So, there are three main branches to the company. Like you said, as of October 30th, we're going to start back up our shows every single Saturday night. So, we have a different improv show every Saturday night.
And then another branch is a full multilevel comedy school, where we have a full curriculum of improv classes from terrified and I just want to dip my toe in the water, to I'm ready to get me on the stage coach. I'm ready. So and most of our students take improv because they say it's cheaper than therapy. It's just fun. It's community. It's a way for adults to play together. It's a beautiful connection opportunity. We also have a stand up, storytelling-based standup classes as well.
And then the third branch is the professional development and Workplace Wellness and Wellbeing program, where I'm not teaching improv per say, but I'm using the tenets of improvization and improv training exercises to facilitate growth in professional development like communication, collaboration, innovative thinking. And then we have our new branch, which is wellness and wellbeing. So, it's all about building self-care and resilience habits.
Zydalis Bauer: I love that because it's taking improv to another level that I didn't even think it could go. And I know that one of your commitments as an organization is to use improvization as a tool to amplify a person's voice.
In what ways is improv effective and empowering an individual, and how can it change somebody's life?
Pamela Victor: So, improvization is fantastic for building community, for building connections between people. But then also, improvization offers this blueprint for life that is so useful. We practice making each other look good. We practice being of service to each other. And we practice using our authentic voices, which I think in business and our personal lives, is the most powerful tool that each one of us has.
Zydalis Bauer: Are there any current classes or events that are happening that the community can partake in?
Pamela Victor: Actually, there are! On October 30th, in the evening we have our show, but at 1 p.m. we still have some space open in our workshop. It's a two hour workshop called Improv for Scaredy Cats. It's a great way to try out improvization in a really accepting setting and get some idea of the stuff we're doing. And if you dig it well, we're -- registration is open for our weekly classes.
We are now offering two Joy and Ease of Improv I, so that's my weekly improv one class. And then I think there's still space in the stand up storytelling class, too. So either way, you can get a space in there.
October 22, 2021
When you talk about fall in New England, you can’t forget the stunning foliage that adorns our region during the fall months. Some of the best views can be taken in from October Mountain in the Berkshires, the largest state forest
When you talk about fall in New England, you can’t forget the stunning foliage that adorns our region during the fall months. Some of the best views can be taken in from October Mountain in the Berkshires, the largest state forest in Massachusetts.
This story originally aired on October 30, 2013.
Read the full transcript:
Alexander Gillman, Mass DCR Park Supervisor: The name October Mountain supposedly came from Herman Melville. In about 1853, he had written a short story called Cock-A-Doodle-Doo!, and in that he mentions the name October Mountain, from its bannered aspect in that month.
Joe Durwin, Folklorist: October Mountain has a very interesting history. One of the first mentions of it was in the Revolutionary War, when one of the more prominent men of Stockbridge, who was accused of harboring a British prisoner of war, took refuge in a cave called Tory's Cave, or Tory's Glen on the mountain.
Alexander Gillman: He soon came down after the Revolution and continued to live peacefully among his townsfolk afterwards. Cave is long gone since, it's been eroded away by Roaring Brook.
Joe Durwin: Over the years, a variety of other inhabitants have lived here.
Alexander Gillman: About the mid 1800s, farming began to decline, and especially here in the rocky soils of Berkshire County. As people moved away, fewer and fewer settlers remain here on October Mountain.
Joe Durwin: Around the 1890s, William C. Whitney, who was the former secretary of the Navy under Grover Cleveland, began buying up lots across the -- what is now October Mountain Forest.
Alexander Gillman: He had built a large lodge called The Antlers. There were horse barns, there was a water tower. There were other cottages on the property. It totaled about ten thousand acres.
Joe Durwin: There were herds of elk and bison. Moose and pheasant and quail were brought in and the lakes were stocked with bass.
Alexander Gillman: It didn't last forever.
Joe Durwin: But thrived for about a decade before finally falling into disrepair after the death of Whitney's wife
Alexander Gillman: When William C. Whitney died in 1904, the estate went to his son, Harry Payne Whitney in a trust. And there was also a movement in Berkshire County to make this a public reservation. There were certain concerns, like Kelton B. Miller, who was the owner of the Berkshire Eagle, who rallied others to venture into purchasing the property.
Joe Durwin: In 1915, much of the former Whitney Preserve was bought up by a private residence and then transferred to the state of Massachusetts.
Alexander Gillman: So, in 1922, this became one of the largest state forests in Massachusetts. Just over eleven thousand acres. Today, October Mountain State Forest is sixteen thousand acres.
People can come fishing here. People can come hunting here. In the winter. There's snowmobiling. There's lots of hiking, mountain bike trails, even horseback riding.
When I go into the woods, I feel energized. I feel as if there's another power, energy, that I can sort of latch onto and I feel invigorated by.