Today Magazine • September 2023

Page 1

Covering the Heart of the Farmington Valley

Hartford Youth Scholars

Empowering City Students For School Success

Executive Director Anthony Byers
FAWN FUN A white-tailed deer fawn visits a Canton yard — in Connecticut, fawns are typically born in late May and early June and weigh 60-70 pounds by their first winter, per a Fact Sheet Photo by Wendy Rosenberg


4 — Boosting City Scholars

Many Farmington Valley schools partner with the Hartford Youth Scholars nonproft to give city students access to the best education possible

10 —

Scholarly Calling

A key goal of Hartford Youth Scholars is to increase college graduation rates for Hartford youth

16 — Piano Man

Tony Hulme has been a music industry maestro in Connecticut for more than fve decades

25 — Guitar Guru

For over 40 years, Paul Howard has taught guitar and music at the same Avon location

“There is no better example of our vision realized than ... young professionals contributing to the future vibrancy of Hartford” — Anthony Byers

120+ — HYS college grads



Scholar Success

TO BE CALLED a gentleman and a scholar — or a gentlewoman and a scholar — is a great compliment. An area nonproft is aiming to complement the academic success of schools and motivated scholars in Greater Hartford. The vital mission of Hartford Youth Scholars is to boost high school and college graduation rates for Hartford students.

HYS gives city youth academic and mentor support beginning in middle school and seeing them through college graduation. Numerous public and private schools in the Farmington Valley are partnering with HYS to achieve this worthy objective — and the results are encouraging.

In the past 15 years, 99% of Hartford Youth Scholars have graduated from high school — a far higher percentage than the graduation rate for the city’s public high schools. HYS executive director Anthony Byers was born and raised in Hartford and graduated from The Master’s School in West Simsbury and UConn. Our coverage begins on page 4 — BWD

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ON THE COVER — Math teacher Oladipu Mayungbo works with Hartford Youth Scholar Christian Wilfred during The Collegiate Academy summer program


Hartford Youth Scholars: Empowering Students For Success

BY HER OWN admission, Victoria Black was not always a model student.

“In my younger years, I was not always the most motivated,” she says. But one of her elementary school teachers at Hartford’s Jumoke Academy saw her potential and recommended that she apply to Hartford Youth Scholars, a nonproft that provides a pathway of accelerated learning, social enrichment and mentor support with the goal of increasing high school and college graduation rates among Hartford students.

A graduate of Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, Black is now a sophomore at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. She recognizes that Hartford Youth Scholars (HYS) has

helped her develop better study habits, improve her time management skills and navigate diverse environments.

Farmington Valley schools, both public and private, have played an important role in the success of HYS students like Black — and she is not alone.

Over the past 15 years, more than 99% of Hartford Youth Scholars graduated from high school. By comparison, the graduation rate for Hartford’s public high schools in 2021 was 72%, according to district data.

“Our goal at Hartford Youth Scholars is to reinforce, enrich and expand our scholars’ education — and to provide meaningful opportunities, comprehensive resources and accountability that teaches and encourages them to become mature and industrious adolescents,” says




executive director Anthony Byers.

Each year, about 30 rising 7thgraders are accepted to participate in The Collegiate Academy, the frst component of the HYS experience that comprises a decade-long journey to college graduation. HYS gives scholars academic support for 10 or more years, starting the summer before they enter 7th grade and seeing them through college graduation.

The Collegiate Academy features two main ingredients — a summer enrichment program and a required Saturday academic session throughout the school year.

The fve-week summer program takes place at Trinity College in

A half-dozen scholars celebrate their academic success — Timothy Bell, Olivia Cooper, Jasmine Morris, Chyler Bastarache, Azoya Clarke and Zakai Evans

Hartford, before HYS students enter 7th, 8th and 9th grade.

Native American Heritage

Marketing and PR director Melissa Lamar answered this Q&A on behalf of Tunxis Community College

The Saturday class sessions are taught by HYS Collegiate Academy teachers who support HYS students throughout their middle-school tenure to provide a strong foundation for high-school success.

San De Min is a sophomore at Wesleyan University and an Ethel Walker graduate. She attended middle school at Hartford’s Grace Academy and became a Hartford Youth Scholar in 2014.

What inspired Tunxis Community College to name itself after the Tunxis tribe?

Her family immigrated from Thailand in 2009. Growing up in an impoverished Hartford neighborhood with parents who had not graduated

science, literature, history and the arts, university course content taught by college professors is part of the Hartford Youth Scholars program. HYS also ofers students cultural experiences like trips to theaters, museums and sporting events as well as creative workshops and outdoor activities in Greater Hartford.

name “Tunxis” comes from the word “Wuttankshau” which roughly translates to “the point where the river bends.”

Back in the late 1960s, the state decided to establish a community college to serve the Bristol/New Britain area. They had already selected the name Tunxis before choosing Farmington for the college’s location. Tunxis librarians think the name may have been inspired by other Connecticut community colleges which had already formed with local tribal names or Native American words for their colleges — such as Quinebaug and Mattatuck — but there is no ofcial documentation we can readily fnd to support this.

Consistent attendance, exemplary behavior and completed assignments are requirements, designed to help a cohort of middle-school scholars prepare for and excel in high school and college. HYS teachers have no direct connection with the various middle schools that the scholars attend.

“These are our own teachers who we hire and recruit to work at the academy,” says Byers, who underscores that the Saturday education class is an enrichment program that goes beyond homework help or tutoring.

Why the Tunxis tribe and not another Farmington River Native American tribe?

from high school, Min says her love of learning and her parents’ focus on her education attracted her to HYS.

That bend in the Farmington River is in Farmington. The territory of the Tunxis sachemdom included what is now the towns of Farmington, Plainville, Bristol, Berlin, Southington, Burlington, Avon, New Britain and part of Wolcott — among the many towns Tunxis serves. What importance does being named after the Tunxis tribe hold within the college culture, mission and identity?

The HYS staf helps the scholars, most of whom are students of color, navigate challenging school environments. Due to economic and social disparities, they often face micro-aggression and cultural misunderstandings in afuent suburban schools where the student populations are predominantly white.

Our mission is to ofer students a quality yet afordable education in an accessible and supportive environment, fostering the skills necessary to succeed in an increasingly complex world. We embrace our diversity and strive to be a vibrant educational and cultural center responsive to current as well as emerging student and community needs.

This school year, the HYS faculty consists of six teachers. The required Saturday sessions run from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The Tunxis tribe was the largest settled tribe here in the Farmington River Valley and surrounding areas. The

“The coursework was defnitely more accelerated,” says Min, “and the expectation was to push ourselves beyond our comfort zone.”

In addition to the middle- and high-school curriculum in math,

“We aim to provide a holistic approach to the education of our scholars,” says Byers. “Whether our scholars are at Hartford High or Simsbury High or Westminster School, our aim is to help them not only academically but also socially and emotionally. Our support isn’t just about preparing for academic success—

Considering this, our emphasis is outward-focused on our students and the communities we serve. We incorporated some of the symbolism of what our name Tunxis means when we designed our

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“ We aim to provide a holistic approach to the education of our scholars ”
— HYS executive director Anthony Byers

we want to give them a toolkit to be self-advocates once they get on campus.”

For students of color in a mostly white environment, Byers says it is vital to cultivate a sense of belonging.

“It can be easy for our scholars to feel they don’t belong there,” he says, “and that makes it harder to ask a question for fear that it’s something you should already know. … We have a lot of conversations around leadership and helping students fnd their voice — and once they get on campus the hope is they won’t need us as much to come and step in. We’re teaching self-advocacy skills, and they can still reach out to us when needed.”

Born and raised in Hartford, Byers is a 2007 UConn graduate who majored in economics, with a focus on the

socioeconomics of race and gender. He is also a graduate of The Master’s School in West Simsbury. In 2015, he received a Hartford Business Journal 40 Under 40 Award.

Among more than 235 current HYS participants, 54% attend public, magnet or charter schools, while 46% attend private schools.

HYS students have attended public schools in four of the fve Farmington Valley towns, according to Byers — Avon, Canton, Farmington and Simsbury. Today Magazine focuses on community news that matters statewide and nationwide in those four towns plus Granby.

HYS students have also attended numerous private schools in the Valley and Greater Hartford, including Avon Old Farms, Master’s, Farmington-based Miss Porter’s, and Simsbury-based Ethel Walker and Westminster.

The HYS website lists more than 50 partner high schools, accompanied by this robust statement: “Hartford Youth

Scholars who complete The Collegiate Academy program matriculate into some of the most prestigious high schools in the country.”

Elaine White, an HYS trustee and head of school at Westminster since 2021, says Westminster has enrolled a Hartford Youth Scholar every year for the past 15 years, providing full scholarships as part of the $6 million in fnancial aid the school provides annually. White reports that about 25% of her institution’s 430 students are persons of color, which she believes is an important part of the school’s educational objective.

“We continue to build diversity and make sure we are providing students with skills and experiences that will make them good citizens in a diverse and multicultural world,” she says.

For acceptance to a private high school, HYS students and their families must go through the same application and fnancial aid process as every other student — HYS doesn’t give scholarships to scholars but instead ofers guidance throughout the application process. For enrollment in a public school, HYS students go through the state’s Open Choice program — see the brief sidebar article for details.

Research has shown that low-income children who have more cross-class interaction are more likely to rise out of poverty, due in part to access to networks of higher-income earners.

Data from Harvard-based Opportunity Insights — a nonpartisan research and policy institute focused on improving economic opportunity — indicates that economic connectedness is a strong predictor of upward mobility. Yet Hartford County ranks only in the 43rd

accelerated and the expectation was to push — San De Min • Hartford Youth Scholar

percentile nationwide for economic connectedness.

Nationally, upward mobility tends to be more difcult to realize in communities with higher poverty rates, greater income inequality and signifcant racial segregation.

The climb toward upward mobility requires support and mentors. For KeShawn Adams, a student-athlete boarding at Avon Old Farms School, that support has come from his cohort of fellow HYS students and HYS staf, including chief program ofcer Armanthia Duncan.

A Windsor resident who was born in Hartford, Adams is a high-school senior. He has committed to play college football as a safety at ACC stalwart Virginia, per online recruiting sources.

“Ms. Duncan … taught me the importance of being more than just an athlete, and being around my cohort was great,” Adams says. “Everybody was pushing everyone to get better.”

The formula is evidently working.

To date, HYS has celebrated the college graduations of more than 120


Hartford Youth Scholars


City community leaders and mayor Eddie Perez launch Hartford Youth Scholars as a scholarship program via his Blue Ribbon Commission Report


HYS partners with Boston-based Steppingstone Foundation and establishes a Hartford Steppingstone Academy to prepare middle-school students for academic excellence in high school


HYS adds high school and college programs


HYS and Steppingstone end formal partnership but continue collaboration — HYS middle-school program rebrands as The Collegiate Academy


Anthony Byers becomes executive director — he joined HYS in 2007

scholars, and about 91% of HYS college students earn a degree within fve years.

In contrast, only 17% of Hartford residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to 2020 American Community Survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

More than 85 Hartford Youth Scholars are currently attending more than 50 colleges across the country.

Victoria Black is one of those scholars. She is pursuing a degree in environmental engineering with a focus on community health.

Black says that the staf, faculty, mentors and donors of HYS are fully vested in ensuring that opportunities are available to her and the HYS cohorts.

This kind of dedication helps Black believe in herself and encourages her to want to achieve more.

“I am representing not only myself, but all the Hartford Youth Scholars with me and who will follow me,” she afrms. +

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KeShawn Adams

Open Choice opens doors for all students

THE STATE’S Open Choice program isn’t just a one-way street for urban students to attend suburban schools — this is perhaps a common notion, yet is clearly a misconception.

Administered by the Connecticut Department of Education, Open Choice opens the door for urban youth to attend public schools in a nearby town and for suburban and rural youth to attend public schools in a nearby city — including magnet and charter schools — on a space-available basis in grades K-12.

Open Choice is an equalopportunity initiative for students statewide of every race, color, religion, gender and national origin.

Lotteries are used to place students when there are more applications than open spaces. +

Source — website

Simsbury resident Matthew Broderick has been a frequent freelance writer for magazines statewide — he formerly served as the vice president of development for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hartford

Bruce Deckert is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Today Magazine — he was a Simsbury resident for 27 years, a reporter and editor for Imprint Newspapers , and a longtime editor for ESPN Digital Media

HYS middle-school student Christian Hilerio at The Collegiate Academy 2023 summer program at Trinity College HYS director Anthony Byers and board chair Denis Horrigan — Horrigan grew up in Simsbury and Byers is a grad of The Master’s School in West Simsbury

Calling All Scholars: HYS Supports Studious Youth

Executive director Anthony Byers has answered this Q&A

Year Established — 2005

First year of programming — 2007

Mission — Our mission is to help Hartford students change their life through education. Hartford Youth Scholars (HYS ) helps highly motivated Hartford students gain access to and graduate from best-ft high schools and colleges. The organization provides Scholars and their families with academic and mentoring support for 10 or more years, beginning the summer before students enter 7th grade and continuing through college graduation.


Changing lives through education

Most fulflling aspect of your work?

The most fulflling aspect of our work is the joy that providing support and equitable opportunity for our Scholars

Hartford Youth Scholars • HYS



Instagram + Facebook @hartfordyouthscholars

and their families brings, enabling Scholars and families to change their lives through educational opportunity. Your biggest obstacle, and how you overcome it?

For a small nonproft organization, secure and stable funding is always one of our biggest obstacles to overcome. Since the pandemic the opportunity gap has widened, and our Scholars were some of the hardest hit. As a


result, we face an urgency to step up in ways that we never had to before. In 2021, HYS went through a strategic planning process and identifed that the overall health and wellness of our Scholars negatively impacted the way our young people were showing up in academic spaces.

Absent proactive and intentional supports in place to inform our work and support our Scholars, we feared a notable decline of our future outcomes. Due to the generosity of our network of supporters, we were able to host town hall discussions about COVID-19 and vaccinations facilitated by Hartford Health Care, shift our programming to a Social Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum, provide SEL experiential learning experiences through our Beyond

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The Books program, and establish a Memorandum of Understanding with Charter Oak Health Center to provide access to our own school-based clinician to support our Scholars and train our staf. HYS identifed a need, and our community of board members, friends and volunteers rallied to fnd comprehensive support, but there is so much more to be done!

Most satisfying accomplishment?

It is hard to name one when there are 300-plus families that have been positively impacted by our programming. After 15 years of existence it is most satisfying to say that our programming works, and to have over 100 college graduates who are gainfully employed is evidence to support it!

Goals for the next 1-5 years?

We aim to increase our donor base to enable us to continue to do this important work. We currently have a small endowment, and my goal is to build the endowment to ensure program sustainability and enhance outcomes. We are also in search of meaningful partnerships throughout the state with like-minded organizations, colleges and other educational professionals.

Volunteer opportunities:

We have 30 board members and a host of volunteers. There are many ways to get involved outside of joining our board — contact Katie Powers, our Director of Development & Operations, to learn more: 860-297-5272 •

Anecdote that illustrates how you fulfll your mission:

We have employed three HYS alums in full-time and leadership roles within our organization. It is our mission to see students graduate college, and the overarching vision is for those graduates to come back home to the city they love and make an impact through service. There is no better example of our vision realized than these three young professionals contributing to the future vibrancy of Hartford.

Interesting stats + numbers:

We are currently serving nearly 300 students from 6th grade through seniors in college, and we have over 100 college graduates, many living and working in Hartford. Besides donations, how is your work funded?

We are primarily privately funded. Most of our funding comes from grants and foundations and individual gifts. We also receive corporate sponsorship and currently have one federal grant partnership as part of a collaboration. HYS operating budget this fscal year — $1 .2 million

Number of employees:

Full-Time: 9 — Part-Time: 10

How closely do you work with other agencies/nonprofts?

We have many partners within the community that we work with on matters both small and large. As part of our strategic plan we are thoughtfully cultivating partnerships that will enable us to expand our reach and impact. What do you appreciate most about the Farmington Valley?

The multitude of outstanding educational opportunities there are for young people. +

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“ It is our mission to see students graduate college, and the overarching vision is for those graduates to come back home to an impact through service ”
More HYS Photos — next two pages
— Anthony Byers
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— KeShawn Adams • Hartford Youth Scholar HYS scholar Sterling Mayar
HYS COLLEGIATE ACADEMY • 2023 Summer Program
HYS scholar Asina Malendo

HYS scholar Blair Farquharson-Williams is evidently enjoying her studies on a summer’s day at The Collegiate Academy at Trinity College

— Anthony Byers • HYS executive director

Hulme in Tune with CT’s Music Realm for 5 Decades

A HISTORICAL QUESTION: What is diferent about the Farmington Valley today compared with the 1960s?

If you were born after that notable decade, or if you didn’t live in the Valley then, you can still ascertain the answer — for you can ask someone like Tony Hulme.

And if you have the opportunity to ask him, your question will be not only a historical inquiry about life in the Valley six decades ago, but also a personal and business inquiry — because Hulme has personally resided in the Valley for nearly 60 years, and he is the owner of a long-standing local business, Hulme & Sweeney Piano Service.

Initially located in Bloomfeld and now based in West Simsbury, Hulme & Sweeney is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year — yet Hulme has owned two other music stores, dating back more than fve decades.

A native of Connecticut, he earned a Piano Technology diploma from the North Bennet Street School, a prestigious trade school in Boston, and moved from Massachusetts to West Simsbury in 1965.

In those days, the Farmington Valley was a slower-paced and less populated place. One prime example: In the 1960s, trafc congestion in the Valley was essentially a nonissue.

Piano Company Celebrates 20th Birthday

“When I traveled on Route 10 from Simsbury to Farmington to tune the pianos at Miss Porter’s School, I would barely see one car at 8 o’clock in the morning,” Hulme says. “Route 44 was a two-lane road, before I-84 was in the Hartford area. There was nothing here. This was all farm country.”

Imagine that — rush-hour trafc on Route 10 throughout the Valley with virtually no cars on the road. These


with a long -U sound , a ftting serendipity given the onomatopoeialike connection with the long -U in tuning — one of his lifelong professional pursuits.

Hulme & Sweeney technicians ofer piano tuning and repairs, piano rebuilding and restorations, piano appraisals, and a variety of pre-owned pianos for sale, per the company website — including Baldwin, Kawai, Mason & Hamlin, Steinway and Yamaha.

days, Hulme is 83 years young, and he is still tuning pianos. This begs a question: Why hasn’t he retired? His answer is straightforward.

“I love working on pianos and servicing pianos,” he says. “When I was a kid, I worked for a piano store, sweeping foors and helping deliver pianos — that’s how I started.”

His company website echoes this sentiment: “Working on a piano is a labor of love.”

By the way, Hulme is pronounced

When Hulme frst moved to West Simsbury, he worked as a piano tuner for Houston & Sons (pronounced: Houseton) of West Hartford. In 1967, he established Clavier Music with Larry Gillman in the SimsburyTown Shops.

“In terms of commercial space, that’s all that was in town then,” Hulme says. Today, the SimsburyTown plaza is home to Starbucks, Popover Bistro, Berkshire Hathaway and Andy’s Italian Kitchen, among other businesses.

Gillman and Hulme were co-owners for a few years until Gillman opted out of the partnership, making Hulme the sole owner.

“Larry Gillman was a genius with sheet music,” says Hulme. “He was a

“ Our sheet-music business was gigantic — business in the state of Connecticut … Church organists and choir directors would come to the store and — Tony Hulme

teacher at Westminster School and the head of the music department — he has since passed away.”

Clavier Music was a full-line music retail store — a clavier is defned as a keyboard instrument — that sold pianos, guitars, band instruments and sheet music, while ofering music lessons for the same range of instruments.

Over time, Clavier served more than 400 students, Hulme says. If students didn’t own an instrument, they could rent one.

Clavier also sold records (aka albums) by popular Top-40 bands and musicians — back in the days when albums were available not on CDs or MP3 players (such as the iPod) but instead on thin black plastic disks with spiral grooves called records that, yes, required a record player for listening pleasure.

Granted, for Generation X and the Baby Boomers and earlier generations, the preceding sentence is unnecessary, yet for Millennials and subsequent generations the record explanation is likely essential.

• • • • • • •

In terms of band instruments, Clavier initially provided about 50 instruments as rentals, and that number grew exponentially to about 1200 — no kidding. Specifcally, Clavier rented clarinets, futes, trombones, trumpets, saxophones and string instruments such as cellos and violins and occasionally guitars.

“We worked with school systems,” Hulme says, “and rented instruments for school bands in Greater Hartford.”

Clavier also sold the above instruments, of course, along with pianos, the big-ticket item. In addition to band-instrument lessons, Clavier

ofered organ classes for a dozen or more people on a weeknight. Hulme was one of the teachers.

Meanwhile, the company’s presence and reputation in the sheet-music realm likewise fourished.

“Our sheet-music business was gigantic,” Hulme notes.

“It was probably the biggest sheet-music business in the state of Connecticut — people would come from New Haven and all over the state. We sold to churches and institutions, schools and colleges. Church organists and choir directors would come to the store and select from our large library of sheet music.”

Circa 1974, Hulme moved Clavier Music from Simsbury to the Caldor shopping plaza in Avon on Route 44, leasing the building at 176 West Main Street aka Route 44 — now this edifce is the home of Carpetland of New

Tony Hulme (left) and Randy Sweeney are the namesakes of Hulme & Sweeney Piano Service — their business venue was once the second location of the West Simsbury post ofce — to learn about the frst and third locations, you are invited to read this story

England and Paul Howard’s Valley Music School. Howard opened his school in 2009, but he began his music teaching career as an independent instructor at Clavier in 1979.

As an aside, if you’re wondering why circa precedes the year in the preceding paragraph, perhaps you’ve never tried to recall with specifcity the date of an event that occurred about fve decades ago.

The word circa is synonymous with the words about and approximately , and when a Today Magazine reporter asked Hulme about the chronology of certain aspects of his business history, he commented at times that he wasn’t exactly certain and ofered the caveat, “It was about [insert year here]” — and after several answers with that qualifer, he quipped, “Say ‘about’ about everything!”

But we digress, so let’s return to our regularly scheduled program — and to the earlier theme of the Farmington Valley as a more undisturbed and less developed region 50 to 60 years ago.

“The Caldor plaza in Avon was the frst shopping center that went up in the area,” Hulme says. “There was

almost nothing else on Route 44.”

Once more, imagine traveling through the Farmington Valley along Route 44, and instead of driving by countless buildings and commercial plazas and parking lots, you were surrounded by countless trees and meadows and open space.

Circa 1979, Hulme purchased 176 West Main Street.

By the way, Clavier’s role as an ofcial Baldwin Piano dealer had prompted the move to Avon about fve years before. Baldwin and Steinway are two of the top piano companies in the country, according to Hulme.

“The Baldwin franchise was up for grabs in the Hartford area,” he says,” and I fnally became a Baldwin Piano

Company dealer. I was lucky to get it.”

The catch — Baldwin required Hulme to relocate Clavier Music in Avon: “They said, no, you can’t stay in Simsbury, you’ve gotta go to a more traveled place,” he recalls. Later, Hulme opened a second Clavier store in Wethersfeld.

When Hulme was the owner and manager of Clavier Music, he hired an employee named Randy Sweeney, and they have worked together since then. In case it isn’t clear — yes, Randy lends his name to the business known as Hulme & Sweeney Piano Service that was established in 2003.

Sweeney, 71, is a West Simsbury neighbor of Hulme.

“He answered a Clavier Music ad and I gave him a job in the early 1970s,” says Hulme. “He had just graduated from UConn.”

Hulme is the company’s majority owner. Sweeney and Hulme’s oldest son, Tony Hulme Jr., are equal partowners. A longtime West Simsbury resident, Tony Jr. and his family moved to Maine in early 2022, so he is no longer involved in day-to-day operations.

with sheet music — he was a teacher at Westminster the music department ”
— Tony Hulme

Tony Sr. and his wife Evelyn (aka Evie) raised four children, initially in West Simsbury and then in Simsbury. They have two sons (including Tony Jr.) and two daughters, whose names are being withheld for the sake of privacy. Evie has worked part-time in the ofce since the company’s inception — currently she works one day per week.

Today, Tony Sr. and Evie are West Simsbury residents once more, having lived in town since 1965.

Let’s return to the career history of Tony Hulme Sr. — the Baldwin Piano Company wanted him to open a third Clavier store in Greater Hartford, but Hulme went in a diferent direction: He sold Clavier Music in 1982 to Carl Bulgini, who also owned Saybrook Piano & Organ Company in Old Saybrook, Conn.

At this juncture, the story enters the ballpark of the classic baseball saying, “You can’t tell the players without a scorecard” — or, keeping in tune with the music theme, a complicated game of musical chairs ensued.

“Bulgini was only interested in Clavier’s piano and organ business,” says Hulme. “He didn’t want the band-instrument business or the sheet-music business.”

After buying Clavier, Bulgini maintained the Clavier brand name and the Baldwin dealership at the Avon location. However, he sold the band-instrument component to George Sullivan and the sheet-music component to Jamey Roberts and his wife Vera, according to Hulme. George and Jamey had been Hulme’s employees at Clavier’s Avon store.

Further, Bulgini relinquished the Wethersfeld store, handing that baton to Harold Niver, who had managed the Wethersfeld location as Hulme’s employee. Niver called his new store Sherlock Piano & Organ.

Meanwhile, Jamie and Vera started a new venture called The Music Score — focusing on sheet music, of course — in a small section of the Wethersfeld building newly occupied by Sherlock Piano & Organ.

George Sullivan, a longtime Simsbury resident, had

enjoyed a distinguished career at Clavier. He managed the Avon store’s band-instrument department for Hulme.

“I sent him to school to learn band-instrument repairs,” says Hulme. “George became one of the best fute repair technicians on the East Coast.”

As part of the Clavier sale agreement, Hulme and Sweeney became Bulgini’s employees in Avon for four years, from 1982-86, but Hulme maintained ownership of

• • • • • • •
Tony Hulme managed Clavier Music for about eight years in this building in Avon on Route 44 aka West Main Street — Valley Music debuted here in the 1980s after Hulme sold Clavier and later Carpetland became the featured tenant — In 2009 Valley Music rebranded as Paul Howard’s Valley Music School

Unearthing History: The Discovery of a 12,500 year old Paleo-Indian Site Along the Farmington

River in Avon, CT

SEPT. 21

Paleoindian Sites, Site Patterning and Travel Corridors along the Southern Arm of the Champlain Sea, presented by Jess Robinson, Vermont State Archaeologist, Vermont Archaeology Heritage Center, Barre, VT. He will compare and contrast Paleo sites in Vermont with the Brian D. Jones site in Avon.

OCT. 12

Update on the scientific analysis of the Brian D. Jon (BDJ) site in Avon, CT 2019, presented by Eric Heffter, Senior Prehistoric Archaeologist, Archaeological and Historical Services, Storrs, CT His presentation will be 90 minutes with time after for Q&A October is Archaeology Month in Connecticut!

Watch the webinars from the 2021 and 2022 series on the Avon Library’s YouTube Channel:



Archaeological andHistorical Services,StorrsCT
Webinar series created by : Avon Historical Society, Avon Free Public Library, Avon Senior Center
2023 series sponsored by a grant from

the building at 176 West Main Street in Avon. In 1986, Hulme’s second ownership venture began when he established Piano & Organ Warehouse in Bloomfeld, leasing a place on Cottage Grove Road. That same year, he sold the Avon building to Bulgini.

“The timing was fortuitous,” Hulme says of the sale. “I’ve had a lot of miracles, and that was one of them.”

After the property sale, Sullivan managed his original Valley Music business, the predecessor of Paul Howard’s music school, at Clavier’s Avon location via a sublet agreement with Bulgini. Meanwhile, Howard continued as a music instructor in conjunction with Valley Music — remember, he had taught music at Clavier. More than two decades later, when Sullivan died in 2009, Howard debuted Paul Howard’s Valley Music School in the same West Main Street building in Avon.

In 2003, Hulme sold Piano & Organ

“ The Caldor plaza in Avon was the frst shopping center that went up in the area — there was almost nothing else on Route 44 … this was all farm country ”

Warehouse to Tony Falcetti, the owner of Falcetti Music, and launched his third ownership venture — you guessed it, Hulme & Sweeney Piano Service.

Tony Falcetti maintained the Piano & Organ Warehouse brand name after the sale. Hulme continued to lease the Bloomfeld building, subletting a larger space to Falcetti while running Hulme & Sweeney in a smaller section of the building.

“The music industry is a small world,” says Hulme. “We did all the service and tuning for Falcetti’s pianos — that was part of the agreement.”

Based in Springfeld, Mass., Falcetti Music opened a Simsbury space in 2022. The company previously had locations in Connecticut that closed years before the Simsbury grand opening.

For a decade, Hulme & Sweeney’s home was in Bloomfeld until the move to West Simsbury in 2013.

Whew, let’s pause to catch our breath — indeed, the musical-chairs comparison is ftting given the complex maestro-like maneuvering required of Hulme and his business contemporaries to achieve their desired objectives.

Before Tony Hulme Sr. pursued a professional career as a music store owner, he enjoyed a four-year tenure in the world of military music. As a 20-year-old, he enlisted in the Marine

Tony Hulme has been tuning pianos professionally for nearly 60 years — such as this grand piano in Hulme & Sweeney’s West Simsbury showroom

Corps in 1960 and served in the military police for a few months. Then he joined the renowned U.S. Marine Drum & Bugle Corps via a competitive audition.

The Marines feature four Drum & Bugle units — in Washington D.C., North Carolina, San Diego and Okinawa, a group of islands that’s part of Japan.

“The main Marine Corps band is in D.C.” says Hulme. “That’s the top one — you’ll see them on TV.”

Hulme was stationed in Okinawa for about two years and then was assigned to the band at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, traveling as a promotional musical arm of the Marine Corps.

“That’s what I did for a job,” he says. “I loved it — it was fantastic. I played the bugle, a two-valve bugle, like a trumpet.”

After serving in the Marine Corps from 1960-63, Hulme returned home

to Connecticut and sought employment at the aforementioned piano store of his youth, the Greenwich Music Store, where he worked in the summertime and on weekends from age 13 through high school, and up until he joined the Marines at age 20. • • • • • • •

Store owner Irving Kaufman asked Hulme a question that changed the trajectory of his life: “When I went back to Kaufman to see about getting a job, he said: Instead of being a clerk behind the counter, how about becoming a piano technician?”

Hulme decided to answer in the afrmative.

“That’s when I went up to the North Bennet Street School in Boston, one of the best piano technician schools in the country,” he says. “Bill Dowd was a harpsichord builder in Cambridge — while going to school in 1964 and ’65, I worked for Dowd in the afternoons.”

In 1965 he moved to West Simsbury from Bedford , a Boston suburb , and opened Clavier Music two years later. Kaufman gave the new store a major assist.

“When I opened Clavier, he was retiring and closing his store,” Hulme notes. “He gave me his cash register, shelving, a glass-front guitar cabinet, all for free. Kaufman was instrumental in helping me start Clavier. He was the Baldwin dealer in Greenwich — I learned a lot from him.”

The music realm in America has changed drastically since the early Clavier days. Hulme cites a magazine article he read about fve years ago that reported these numbers: In 1971, more than 760,000 new pianos were sold in the United States. In 2017, about 30,000 new pianos were sold. The decline has been attributed largely to the proliferation of youth sports.

“It was nothing to sell 10 pianos on

West Simsbury residents Randy Sweeney (left) and Tony Hulme have worked together for about 50 years — ever since Hulme hired Sweeney after he graduated from UConn

a Saturday,” Hulme recalls. “Organized sports have really cut into music. Kids 5 and 6 years old have multiple practices every week. Computer and video games are also a factor — young people aren’t taking music lessons nearly as often.”

Today, Hulme & Sweeney has a tuning contract with UConn. The university has 125 pianos in Storrs, according to Hulme, and most of them are Steinway pianos.

“We’re there almost every day from September through May,” he says. “Some UConn pianos are tuned four times a year and some are three times, and they have tuning needs for all their concert work and recitals.”

Hulme & Sweeney technicians have also serviced Baldwin and Steinway pianos at the celebrated Tanglewood Music Center in Stockbridge, Mass.

Besides the two principals, the company has two full-time and two part-time employees. The full-timers : piano technician Josh Cantania of Simsbury and ofce manager Alysa Carlozzi. The part-timers : ofce assistants Chris Rossetti of Simsbury and Joan Bafo. Three more piano technicians serve as independent contractors : Peter Hickey, Tom

Thornton and Jamey Roberts, who formerly managed The Music Score in Wethersfeld.

Hulme was a founding member of the Avon-Canton Rotary Club. He served as president of the Avon Chamber of Commerce and as a board member for the University of Hartford’s Hartt School of Music. Hulme & Sweeney is a longtime stellar member of the Better Business Bureau.

Oh, in case you’re wondering: Hulme plays the piano most days at home, but he refrains from public performances.

Meanwhile, Hulme & Sweeney’s venue at 247 Farms Village Road (aka Route 309) is a stone’s throw from the West Simsbury Post Ofce — not to be confused with the main Simsbury P.O. downtown on Hopmeadow Street.

Speaking of post ofces: Hulme & Sweeney’s home on Farms Village Road was previously the home of the West Simsbury Post Ofce. Hulme purchased the property from Don Tuller, the owner of adjacent Tulmeadow Farm.

Across the street, at 250 Farms Village Road, Hulme & Sweeney has leased a storage facility from Tuller

for extra pianos since 2021 — and this building was originally the West Simsbury P.O., according to Hulme. So the current post ofce is West Simsbury’s third USPS facility, and all three locations are within easy walking distance.

This begs a question: Why did the post ofce cross the road?

Perhaps a chicken at Tulmeadow Farm knows the answer. If so, it’s clearly debatable whether a human being could understand a chicken’s clucking reply to this joke of a question — but what’s crystal-clear is this: Tony Hulme and Randy Sweeney know plenty about supplying and servicing pianos.

Indeed, Hulme & Sweeney carries forward a robust delivery legacy from these two former P.O. locations — yet instead of delivering mail, this historic company aims to continue a tradition of conveying quality piano service in the Farmington Valley, Greater Hartford and beyond. +

Today editor-in-chief Bruce Deckert is a multiple award-winning journalist — and he believes humans merit awards daily whenever they utilize God-given gifts for good

• • • • • • •
As the majority owner of Hulme & Sweeney Piano Service, Tony Hulme Sr. is in the driver’s seat, fguratively speaking — Randy Sweeney and Tony Hulme Jr. are part-owners

Guitar Guru Offers Lifetime of Teaching Wisdom

MUSIC SCHOOLS abound around the country, across Connecticut and in Greater Hartford. A recent online search — for “Music School Farmington Valley CT” — resulted in a list of 13 links before the Related Searches section of the Google webpage.

Yes, a baker’s dozen of apparently viable options for music education in the area.

Yet what if you’re looking for a music teacher who has four decades of experience? A local luminary by the name of Paul Howard is on this short list.

By the way, according to Google, the above search yielded about 8.29 million results — yes, million. However, if anyone actually believes there are 8.29 million music schools here in the Valley, can we agree that such a literal Google interpretation isn’t exactly accurate?

So much for the consummate credibility of high-tech search solutions and the reliability of so-called artifcial intelligence. Sure, computerized hightech applications have value — this is a digital magazine, after all — yet to naively buy into such 21st-century technology via carte-blanche acceptance is, shall we say, unwise.

Now, without further ado or asides, let’s turn our attention back to the stars of this particular story — Paul Howard and his music school.

Paul Howard’s Valley Music School, based in Avon, ofcially debuted in 2009, but his career as an independent music instructor started while Jimmy Carter was president.

“I began teaching at Clavier Music in Avon in September 1979 [but] I was not an employee,” says Howard, who lives in West Simsbury — previously, he was a resident of Avon and Goshen.

After teaching at Clavier, yet more than two decades before launching his own school, Howard likewise served as a music teacher in conjunction with Valley Music, owned by George Sullivan — who had managed Clavier’s

Roots Run Deep at Local Music School

band-instrument department for music industry maestro Tony Hulme.

Hulme co-founded Clavier Music in 1967 and soon became Clavier’s sole owner, and he has been the majority owner of West Simsbury-based Hulme & Sweeney Piano Service since 2003.

Howard was not a formal employee of Sullivan or Valley Music but instead


at the same location until his untimely death 23 years later. Carpetland ultimately replaced Clavier as the site’s featured tenant — for further details about Clavier’s fascinating history, see the Hulme & Sweeney story on page 16.

taught music independently as a sole proprietor.

“I never worked for George,” says Howard. “I sublet space on the second foor from George and [we] had a close working relationship for 30 years.”

Sullivan died in 2009 at 64 years of age.

“When George passed I renamed my business as Paul Howard’s Valley Music School,” Howard notes, “as the

Many music theorists and mathematicians afrm that math and music are inseparable. Naturally, music and math and language are likewise interrelated. In this case, the math is clear-cut and can be reduced to a single independent clause, one of the building blocks of language: Howard has taught music for over 40 years in the same Route 44 building in Avon!

His perseverance has paid dividends, including consecutive Best of Avon Music School honors in 2021 and 2022.

Howard’s resumé contains some rare musical gems. For over 30 years, he performed in a duo with Grammywinning resophonic guitarist and fddler Stacy Phillips — a Dobro is a notable resophonic guitar brand.

Valley Music name had always been associated with both my teaching business and George’s repair business.”

After Hulme sold the Clavier Music business and brand name in 1982, Clavier continued operating at its Route 44 location in Avon — the street address is 176 West Main — in the same building that is currently the home for Paul Howard’s music school and Carpetland of New England.

Hulme maintained ownership of this building and leased it to Clavier’s new owner until he sold the property in 1986. Sullivan managed Valley Music

A longtime quasi-legendary fgure in Connecticut music circles, Phillips grew up in Manhattan and died in 2018 in Hartford’s Saint Francis Hospital. Besides his partnership with Howard, Phillips was part of a half-dozen other unique groups at the time of his death, per the New Haven Independent online news site.

Further, Howard was a founding member of the National Guitar Workshop and served on the faculty for 15 years with a staf that included some of the country’s top guitar gurus.

“We had some of the world’s most famous guitarists as master-class

“ We had some of the world’s most famous guitarists as master-class teachers and
— Paul Howard

teachers and clinicians over the years,” he says.

In terms of performing these days, Howard is a member of Last Fair Deal, a veteran Connecticut acoustic quartet. The group has recorded four albums.

He has produced six guitar instruction books via publisher Alfred Music — the books include a CD, DVD or online audio component, per the Alfred website. His two rock-guitar books have been translated into Spanish.

Paul Howard’s Valley Music School ofers private lessons for students of all ages — from beginners to advanced musicians — in acoustic guitar, bass guitar, electric guitar, autoharp, drums, piano and voice. Lessons can last for 30, 45 or 60 minutes. Guitar teaching styles include bluegrass, folk, jazz and rock.

For about 20 years, Howard ofered a popular summertime Rock Band Camp for area youth that hasn’t convened since COVID hit in the spring of 2020.

Beyond these nuts-and-bolts of teaching, Howard is glad to talk shop about his fruitful tenure in the music realm — and to ofer “expert advice on all things musical,” as his Facebook page says. +

Four-Decade Music Teachers?

• Paul Howard has taught music in Avon for over 40 years — do you know of other Farmington Valley music teachers who have taught for more than four decades?

• If you have inside info — or time for the research to answer this question — email

CLICK HERE — for Today Magazine’s award-winning cover story about Valley-based musician and songwriter Michael Kelly Blanchard

Paul Howard’s studio was afliated with Clavier Music and Valley Music before he debuted Paul Howard’s Valley Music School Photo by Wendy Rosenberg A dragonfy alights on a wishbone fower in a Canton backyard
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Anthology Senior Living — 860-546-8037 — Simsbury > Location

Avon Health Center — 860-673-2521 — Avon

Avon Historical Society — 860-678-7621 — Avon

A Teen Edge — 860-593-2822

Board and Brush — 860-392-8567 — Simsbury

Canton Barn LLC — 860-693-0601 — Canton


Canton Food Bank — 860-693-5811 — Canton

Carmon Funeral Homes — 860-673-8610


Carol Cole Real Estate — 860-212-0687 — Canton

Cherry Brook Health Care Center — 860-693-7777 — Canton


Christensen Insurance — 860-651-8236 — Simsbury

Christopher Bryant Co. — 860-243-3500 — Bloomfeld

Collinsville Bank — 860-693-6935 — Canton

Connecticut Dance Academy — 860-707-4198 — Canton

Connecticut Headshots — 860-263-9277 — Avon

Dynamic Auto Works — 860-693-6359 — Canton

Erica Maglieri: Realtor — 860-324-6842


Fresh Start Pallet Products — 860-266-5726 — Hartford

Granby-Simsbury Chamber of Commerce — 860-651-7307

Green Door Restaurant — 860-693-9762 — Canton

Habitat for Humanity — 860-541-2208 — Hartford

Hartford Symphony Orchestra — 860-246-8742 — Hartford


Harris Home Improvement — 860-817-7191 — Granby

HealthMarkets Insurance — 860-307-1128 — Torrington — Mel Brickman


Hulme & Sweeney Pianos — 860-408-4895 — Simsbury — 860-379-4340 — Barkhamsted


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Leslee Hill for State Representative

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Liza Sivek Marketing — 203-278-5492

Maglieri Construction — 860-242-0298 — Bloomfeld

Magna Physical Therapy — 860-679-0430 — Avon

Maher’s Paint & Wallpaper — 860-678-1200 — Avon + Simsbury


– TODAY Magazine

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Mandel Vilar Press — 806-790-4731 — Simsbury

Massage Envy — 860-693-8000 — Canton > Locations


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Red Bison General Contractor — 860-810-8581 — Hartford

Richman Business Brokerage — 860-408-9177 — Simsbury — formerly The Deal Team

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