Teach Western Mass works with schools in Holyoke and Springfield to attract, train, and retain high-quality teachers. The non-profit just received a $250,000 grant from the Barr Foundation to facilitate its mission. Teach Western Mass’s Pema Letshang and Baystate Academy Charter School teacher Kayra Lopez joined host Carolee McGrath to shed light on the organization’s efforts to improve teacher quality in the region.
Divided: Scenes from Inauguration 2021
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.
Magic Triangle Jazz Memorable Performance (Digital Exclusive)
May 12, 2022
Since the inaugural show in 1990, the Magic Triangle Jazz series has offered the Amherst region unique performances by a wide array of artists in an intimate venue. In this digital exclusive, Founding Director Glenn Siegel reflect
Since the inaugural show in 1990, the Magic Triangle Jazz series has offered the Amherst region unique performances by a wide array of artists in an intimate venue.
In this digital exclusive, Founding Director Glenn Siegel reflects on one of the most memorable performances he experienced.
Learn about the Magic Triangle Jazz Series in our full interview with Founding Director Glenn Siegel.
Read the full transcript:
Glenn Siegel, Magic Triangle Jazz Series: Well, one concert, which I think is probably the most unique concert, was done by a bass player who I've also worked with quite a bit. His name is Joe Fonda, and he actually lived in the Pioneer Valley for a time, but he's in New York now.
He did a program called From The Source, which not only had, you know, a drummer and a pianist and a trumpet player, but it had a tap dancer, Brenda Bufalino, and it also had a sound artist. She's actually a healer -- Vicki Dodd is her name.
And she had a table, a massage table, on the stage. And we actually brought up a member of the audience, and she did this sound work, this vocalizing, which was so unbelievable and so out of the ordinary. And the tap dancing, which was also pretty unique.
So, that concert with Joe Fonda and From the Source was...I don't know if I would say it was my favorite, but it was certainly the most unique concert that I've done.
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Well, and it brings me to another question: what is the experience like at one of these series for those who didn't have the opportunity to experience it?
Because I imagine everyone is it's a different situation for everyone.
Glenn Siegel: So, the experience was very intimate. People are very close to the musicians, physically, and very quiet. You know, there was no bar or comings and going, so it was really a quiet listening situation.
So, people had varying reactions, but we had a very, very loyal audience, a core audience of people who would come almost all the time. And then we had other people who would, you know, come and go and students, of course, would come and go.
So, the experience was pretty intense, I would say, generally speaking.
Zydalis Bauer: And as curator, did it ever make you nervous when the concert would happen, because, you know, this is your baby?
And so, how -- were you ever, like, hesitant or worried about how the audience would receive each series?
Glenn Siegel: Well, one of the things that I'm most grateful for over the years is that I had full creative curatorial control over the programing. And because we were subsidized by the University and not dependent on ticket sales for most of our revenue, I could lead the audience. Most presenters that I know have to be aware of not getting too far ahead of their audience and be worried about audience reaction. I could educate audiences and produce concerts of artists that people should know about, even if they didn't know about them.
And I should say that even though most people didn't know the names of the people we were producing, we produced many, many MacArthur Genius Grant recipients and Doris Duke Awards and NEA Jazz Masters. So, these are people who, while maybe not in the public eye in the same way as larger venues would present, their -- their critical reputations were stellar, and these were world-class musicians.
Zydalis Bauer: Now, as curator, what will be the thing that you miss the most now that this series has ended?
Glenn Siegel: Well, you know, having the budget to be able to produce artists of that stature, I'll certainly miss that.
You know, Pioneer Valley Jazz Shares is a small, grassroots nonprofit. And so we don't have the resources that -- that the Magic Triangle Series had. And but -- but even so, the Magic Triangle series had a pretty limited budget compared to some of my peers at the Fine Arts -- at the UMass Fine Arts Center.
There are so many great musicians working in my field, in the creative music, the jazz field, that I can produce for the rest of my life and not even scratched the surface. So, I'm looking forward to producing more concerts.
Pancake Sundaes Kitchen Manager on Sobriety (Digital Exclusive)
May 12, 2022
In this digital extra, Pancake Sundaes' kitchen manager Frank Baldwin talks about overcoming addiction. Baldwin also shares how his family – and the restaurant – help him maintain his sobriety. Watch our full feature on Pancake Su
In this digital extra, Pancake Sundaes' kitchen manager Frank Baldwin talks about overcoming addiction. Baldwin also shares how his family – and the restaurant – help him maintain his sobriety.
Watch our full feature on Pancake Sundaes, a breakfast hot spot located in downtown Westfield.
Read the full transcription:
Frank Baldwin, Pancake Sundaes: I struggled with addiction when I was younger and even into my twenties and thirties, but my family never gave up on me. They believed in me and through a lot of hard work and dedication, but also a lot of love, I was able to to get to get my life back in order.
And then my mom presented me this company -- or the opportunity to open this company -- and to really create something. So in a way, you know, I owe my sobriety and my -- my newfound life to Pancake Sundaes because, you know, something I didn't realize in...when I was struggling when I was younger was, that it's --it's a job every day. You know, it's hard work every day. You got to get your butt up and put that effort in. You know, everything worth having, you got to work for, you know?
So , I'm truly blessed to have my family and my girlfriend and all my, you know, my extended family with the customers. They've been a huge, huge part of our lives. You know, it's -- we may only be here Friday, Saturday, and Sunday open right now, but, you know, they -- they send me messages.
They're always encouraging. They're always looking for that next thing that we're going to do.
Pancake Sundaes Dishes Up Breakfast That Doubles as Dessert
May 12, 2022
Nestled in downtown Westfield, you’ll find a diner-like weekend breakfast spot that also has the touch of pizzazz found in old school ice cream shops. Since 2015, Pancake Sundaes has served up unique dining experiences to custome
Nestled in downtown Westfield, you’ll find a diner-like weekend breakfast spot that also has the touch of pizzazz found in old school ice cream shops.
Since 2015, Pancake Sundaes has served up unique dining experiences to customers from all over western New England.
Connecting Point’s Brian Sullivan dropped by during the morning rush for a taste of a breakfast that can also be dessert.
In a digital exclusive clip, hear how kitchen manager Frank Baldwin overcame addiction – and how the restaurant and his family help Baldwin stay sober.
Read the full transcript:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Here in the city of Westfield, there's a weekend breakfast spot that has all the elements of a diner with a touch of ice cream shop pizzazz.
Since 2015, customers from all over have been coming to Pancake Sundaes for a unique dining experience and Connecting Point's Brian Sullivan dropped by during a breakfast rush to bring us this next story.
Brian Sullivan, Connecting Point: When it comes to owning and running a restaurant, oftentimes like the song says, it's a family affair. For Frank Baldwin here at Pancake Sundaes in Westfield, that could be anything from Dad working the mixer; Mom on the phone and running the register; and little sister on the grill.
That family can also extend beyond just bloodlines. Maybe it's a childhood friend or the kids of childhood friends. If it's someone who's known and been close to Frank Baldwin in his life, chances are they pulled a shift at his restaurant.
Frank Baldwin, Pancake Sundaes: Everyone in the family has worked here at one time or another. Right now, it is -- it is kind of all of us. It's mom, dad, me, my younger sister Lisa. But my six-year-old nephew has even come in and bused tables when I've needed his mom to fill-in as a server.
You know, that phone rings at six in the morning and somebody's calling out, you've got to call your sister and wake her up at six in the morning on her one day off of the week.
And they come in. They may -- they're not even reluctant about it. They're here. They're always here for me.
Brian Sullivan: As nearly anyone who's had to work closely with family can attest, it's not always the most enjoyable experience. Sometimes it's mission impossible.
Little sister Lisa sees that challenge and ups the stakes by making it look easy.
Lisa Lafond, Pancake Sundaes: We've been best friends since since I was born. That's what we always say. Like we lifelong best friends, like, yeah, he's my brother, but it's kind of an ongoing joke that he calls me his brother as well, because that's just we're -- we're brothers.
Like, we work together, we hang out. We're still, like, best friends, so working together, I think it makes it better because we are so close.
Brian Sullivan: And it's been help from his family that's allowed Baldwin to pursue his culinary dreams of managing a kitchen and taking on a creative endeavor like this one.
It's the kind of place where the meals are made to order. Bricks of bacon are sliced by hand on the regular, and customers get to hang their pictures up, whether they color inside the lines or not.
It's also the kind of place where a grandfather can bond with his grandson over a stack of pancakes and an omelet.
George Randall, Pancake Sundaes Patron: Thank you very much.
George Randall: It means something to me because growing up, I didn't have the luxury of a grandfather. So, it's kind of hard to know how to be a grandfather. But I love my grandson.
Brian Sullivan: Located in a structure that was built in 1890, part of the charm to the dining experience here is the nostalgia that's baked into it. That includes everything from handwritten meal tickets to the pictures on the wall showcasing just how historic this little section of Westfield is.
The building here on the corner of Elm and Orange has been here for longer than most people can remember. But since 2015, this has been the spot that people have been coming to for that unique pancake experience.
Vidal Guelen, Pancake Sundaes Patron: It's actually my first time here. It was actually the best, best breakfast I've had, honestly.
It's just a good time to get together and have time, especially if you're working, you know, all week. You don't really get to see family as much as you want. So, Sunday is a good time to unite, and you know, over a special, delicious breakfast.
Brian Sullivan: Meanwhile, at the back of the house, any semblance of sibling rivalry is out the window. Here, it's just about making the best tasting meal with outstanding presentation each time they take to the grill.
That, and the gratitude they have for being able to work with each other.
Lisa Lafond: I want the presentation to be amazing because whether they know it or not, I know that I put it out there and I want it to be that like, "Oh my God" moment. And that I gave that to them.
Frank Baldwin: It's been such a blessing. The atmosphere is much more low key, but it's also I know that person next to me, they're going to dig just as hard as I am when there's 15 orders up and there's a line out the door.
Like, I know she's putting in 110% effort, and that's been the biggest and best part.
Sarah the Fiddler’s Unique Sound Combines Several Musical Styles
May 12, 2022
When she first started playing in New England fiddle contests, Sarah Michel was known less for her music and more as the girl with the red hat. Over time, Michel became recognized for her playing as opposed to just her colorful wa
When she first started playing in New England fiddle contests, Sarah Michel was known less for her music and more as the girl with the red hat. Over time, Michel became recognized for her playing as opposed to just her colorful wardrobe.
Today, Michel is more commonly known as Sarah the Fiddler. Combining elements of classical, bluegrass, and Celtic music, Sarah and her band create a high energy performance with their unique style of music.
Producer Dave Fraser brings us her story and how she went from playing traditional Suzuki violin to becoming Sarah the Fiddler.
Read the full transcript:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: For the first few years of her playing career in New England fiddle contests, Sarah Michel was known as the Girl with the Red Hat. Eventually, it was her playing that was being recognized.
Today, Sarah the Fiddler, as she is more commonly known, combines the influences of classical, bluegrass and Celtic music to create a unique style and sound.
Producer Dave Fraser brings us her story.
Dave Fraser, Connecting Point: Sarah the Fiddler's passion for music is evident both in her playing and on the walls of her Southampton home.
Her musical journey began at the age of four, when she started violin lessons using the Suzuki method. By age six, she was introduced to the fiddle and began competing in contests all over New England.
Sarah the Fiddler: I do recall getting my first violin at the University of Hartford at a Suzuki convention. I also vividly remember my mom inviting the entire family over to watch me for my first performance at my house and dropping it. Hahaha!
Dave Fraser: Despite that little blunder, Sarah has continued to share her love of fiddle music all over the region, playing at festivals, in nursing homes, at weddings and parties.
A quick side note for those who might be wondering: the words fiddle and violin are two names for the same stringed instrument. In the context of classical music, it's typically called a violin. In a bluegrass band, it's more likely to be called a fiddle.
Sarah the Fiddler: As a classical violinist, you -- you kind of have to play by the rules and you have to do things very specifically.
And the beauty of fiddling is you can change it every time you play it. You can play it differently. And no two fiddlers should ever sound the same.
Dave Fraser: Sarah's fiddle collection started about ten years ago and currently stands at 102. And of those, only 12 were made in the United States, with the oldest being made in 1870 in Boston.
Sarah the Fiddler: Every fiddle has a different story. Every fiddle has a different voice to tell that story. I have a couple that were made from pinewood, but usually it's spruce and maple that make up these instruments.
Some sing a little more sweet than others. Some have a little bit more character. Some of the older violins have dings and show their scars.
And to me, that's what makes them beautiful. That they're not pristine and perfect.
Dave Fraser: On stage, Sarah is often accompanied by husband Keith DaSilva on drums, Joseph Dziok on piano and accordion, and Will Gorry on guitar and mandolin.
Their performances take audiences on a musical journey, from old time sing-alongs to lively polkas and rousing reels.
Sarah the Fiddler: What I like to do in a group setting is to let every musician that's working with me shine. If somebody comes to a Sarah the Fiddler show, you never really know what you're going to get. We always try to feed off of an audience.
We're not a group that typically follows a very strict set of rules and guidelines when we play, meaning set lists and things like that. We kind of like the spontaneity of our program.
("Devil Went Down to Georgia" plays)
Sarah the Fiddler: When we're, as a group, having fun and laughing while we're playing. We've had so many folks say to us, "We love watching you on stage because of your interaction."
And although all of us, on our own rate, are pretty serious musicians, when we get together, it is not about perfection, it is about fun, it's about feeling, it's about connecting with one another. And when we do that, they connect with us.
Author Leslie Bulion’s Nature Tips (Digital Exclusive)
May 12, 2022
In this digital exclusive, children’s author and poet Leslie Bulion shares some tips and tricks for children and adults on how to explore and get up close and personal with nature. Learn more about the Bulion and her latest book
In this digital exclusive, children’s author and poet Leslie Bulion shares some tips and tricks for children and adults on how to explore and get up close and personal with nature.
Learn more about the Bulion and her latest book Serengeti Plains of Grass in our full interview with the author.
Read the transcription:
Leslie Bulion, Children's Author & Poet: I love to go outside and explore, and I take lots and lots of photographs when I do that.
And I also keep field journals and I draw what I see. And I make little notes about where I've seen it, and maybe what the critter was doing. And when I want to draw something, I can put it in a bug viewer and then take a really close look at it and take my time drawing. And then, of course, you know, let it go back outside.
And, you know, bug season is just starting now, which is so fun! So you can get out and see things.
And of course you go with a buddy or a grown up, at night with a little headlamp on and you can see the critters that are nocturnal like spiders, which of course I love.
And if you don't have a headlamp, you can just take a flashlight and hold it next to you. You just need to have it near your eyes. Look about 20 feet ahead and the spider's eyes will be shining back at you.
So, that's a great thing to do in the summertime.