Queens Chronicle - Celebration of Queens June 2022

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Queens’ Largest Weekly Community Newspaper Group

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Jazz legends of our history. . . . . . . . . .4 Classical music groups. . . . . . . . . . . . .6 A network for emerging artists . . . . . . .8 From Queens to stardom . . . . . . . . . . 10 Queens Symphony Orchestra . . . . . . . 12 The college school of jazz. . . . . . . . . .16 Live at a lounge near you . . . . . . . . . .18 Ridgewood’s HQ for creatives. . . . . . .20 The making of a Steinway . . . . . . . . . . 24 A new rapper shines online. . . . . . . . .26


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Supplement editor: Peter C. Mastrosimone Editorial layout: Gregg Cohen Cover and section design by Jan Schulman

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Queens Jazz Trail: walk back in time From Armstrong to Williams, Queens really did have all that jazz by Michael Gannon Senior News Editor Ragtime composer Scott Joplin died penniless in 1917 and was buried in an unmarked grave at St. Michael’s Cemetery; it would not be until the movie “The Sting” came out in 1973 that he achieved acclaim. Contrast him with Jimmy Heath, the saxophonist and National Endowment of the Arts Jazz Master who played with all the greats from the 1940s until his death in 2020 — the city named a street corner in Corona in his honor back in May, continuing an unbroken connection between the borough and the first truly American music genre. For several years, Flushing Town Hall conducted guided tours of the historic neighborhoods, homes and concert venues, complete with a colorful map created in 1998. Clyde Bullard, a bass player who has performed in more than 50 countries and venues that include the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, and the Luciano Pavarotti concert in Central Park, led the tours. He also is producer in residence at Flushing Town Hall, and co-founded the Queens Jazz Orchestra, which Heath conducted, in 2008. Bullard said the century-old link was no accident, starting in 1920 with Clarence Williams, a pianist and producer who like many jazz artists, made his name in New Orleans. “I think Queens has always been a diverse borough,” Bullard said in an interview last week. “[Williams] is the one I would say is really credited with starting the exodus of musicians coming up here.” It all started, he said, with a section of The Big Easy once known as Storyville. “Storyville was a red-light district in New Orleans, a 16-, 17-square block area with a lot of brothels, and a lot of great jazz musicians played in Storyville. Storyville was closed in 1917. It was shut down. And so people who were conditioned to working all the time had to find work. Many of them went to Chicago. Some came to New York. And those brought the influx of musicians east where we are now. “That’s why we have the Louis Armstrongs. Many say Louis Armstrong came here because he had known Clarence Williams. Clarence Williams told him what a hip place it was. Also, it gave a musician a feeling of still being in a rural place, and in Addisleigh Park in St. Albans, it’s still kind of rural. And yet, being in Queens, you could still go across the Triborough Bridge and you could be in Manhattan where the jazz scene was burgeoning very quickly. And so the Borough of Queens is then the place that has more jazz icons living here than anyone else in the entire world.” A look at the map is impressive, with illustrations of the great musicians, singers, band leaders and other contributors; renderings of their homes, many looking the same today as they did then, are depicted with

Fans of jazz used to be able to spend an entire day if they wanted to visit the homes and hear FILE IMAGE the stories of the legends of jazz who once made Queens their home. their addresses. Bullard can run off the names with equal amounts of speed and reverence: Count Basie; Heath and his neighbor Clark Terry; Milt Hinton; Charlie Mingus; Fats Waller; Mercer Ellington; Lena Horne; Billie Holliday; brothers and neighbors Illinois and Russell Jacquet; John Coltrane; Percy Heath; Roy Eldrigde; James P. Johnson — “He created the Charleston,” Bullard said — Louis Armstrong; Dizzy Gillespie; Ben Webster, Jimmy Rushing. “Tony Bennett was born in Flushing,” Bullard said, in 1926. “Bix Beiderbecke died in Sunnyside.” Beiderbecke, a coronet player and pianist, died at age 28 in 1931. Alcoholism is the stated cause, but Bullard believes that may have come from underlying pressures that had their roots back in places like Storyville. “He was always frustrated because his parents, especially his father, wanted him to do something more respectable than being a jazz musician,” Bullard said. “Because of what happened in Storyville, for one reason.” Jazz had been associated with brothels, prostitution and drinking. “The so-called morally bad things,” he said. “That’s why a lot of jazz musicians, if you notice, when they performed they would wear suits and ties, jacket and tie. They wanted to bring respectability to the music.” A glance at the Flushing Town Hall map shows Waller in a coat, tie and bowler hat. Basie and Armstrong are depicted in tuxedos. Benny Goodman has removed the jacket from his three-piece suit. “There was a time in America when if you

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Jazz History

went to Juilliard or other colleges to study classical music and got caught practicing jazz in one of the practice rooms you would be reprimanded and told, ‘Listen, this is a legitimate school with legitimate music.’” Further offenses could get one expelled. “That was the way it was at one time,” he said. “And now look at how it has transmogrified. So many institutions across America now feature accredited jazz courses in things like composition and improvisation. It took people like Clark Terry, like Jimmy Heath, Barry Harris, Armstrong. These are the people who championed the music, who based their lives upon it. These are the people who eventually made the world see that jazz is legitimate music.” Then came the British invasion. “They made America know about its musical heritage that was being overlooked. One of the Beatles’ earliest hits, ‘Roll Over Beethoven’? A Chuck Berry tune. ‘Twist and Shout?’ The Isley Brothers. The Rolling Stones named their band after a Muddy Waters song. People asked them, ‘Where do you get this great music?’ ‘From your Negro musicians in the South.’” Bullard said House Resolution 57 in December 1987, introduced by the late U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich), acknowledged jazz as America’s indigenous music, and that it should be honored and preserved. Bullard pointed out that many lauded jazz artists are steeped in classical training. “Wynton Marsalis has Grammys on trumpet for classical music as well as jazz,” he said. Then there is Ron Carter, a bassist and cellist who started out 60 years ago pursuing a career with an orchestra. “But back then, with Jim Crow, they

weren’t hiring a lot of people of color,” Bullard said. “People told him, ‘While you wait, you’ve got a lot of chops. Why don’t you play jazz and make some money? If you get an offer, you can transition.’ Ron Carter is now one of the most recorded artists in history.” Bullard presided over The Queens Jazz Trail tour for about seven years until it ended more than a decade ago. “In that time, we were given Best Jazz Tour in New York City by the Village Voice,” he said. “We also won the Silver Otter, which came out of Europe.” For a while they had partnership with NYC & Co., which works in fields such as tourism, marketing and promotion. “People would be on vacation from London or Germany or Spain,” Bullard said. “They would be asked if they knew about the Queens Jazz Tour.” It was a combination of a bus ride and a walking tour. “They would drive by the home of Fats Waller — there’s a plaque in front showing it to be a landmark. In Addisleigh Park they’d drive past the homes of Mercer Ellington, Count Basie. The old home of Lena Horne.” A DVD accompanied the bus ride portion of the trip. Most of the homes were owned by others at that point, so there was no visiting. Except for one. “The one person who would let us in was [bassist] Milt Hinton. They called him ‘The Judge.’” Hinton and his wife, Mona, welcomed visitors with The Judge regaling audiences with his stories, and usually giving each visitor a pin or some other trinket that he had collected over decades in the business. While the tour ended about 13 years ago by Bullard’s estimate, Queens’ ties to jazz have not. On June 17, Flushing Town hall hosted a tribute to Phil Schaap, a Grammy-winning broadcaster, record producer and jazz historian from Hollis who hosted a longtime radio show dedicated to Charlie “Bird” Parker. “He had an encyclopedic knowledge of jazz,” Bullard said. And the ties to Joplin, Beiderbecke and Clarence Williams remain unbroken.

If Louis Armstrong was Queens’ only legacy from jazz music, it would have been enough. But Satchmo was merely one of scores of artists who called the borough home. PHOTO BY JACK BRADLEY / FILE

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Their favorites go back centuries Classical music thrives among small, tightknit groups of performers by Mark Lord Chronicle Contributor “Con brio,” a term used frequently as a direction in music, means “with great liveliness or energy.” It’s also the name of a nonprofit chamber music organization based in Forest Hills, one of several groups in the borough that specialize in providing live classical music to all who will listen. The Con Brio Ensemble is aptly named. Its director, Diana MittlerBattipaglia, who founded the group in 1978 with her late husband, has spirit to spare, as evidenced when her fingers glide across the keys on her piano and even when she talks about the art to which she has devoted much of her life. Looking back, she recalled in a recent telephone interview, “We wanted to bring fine chamber music performances to the community. We knew professional musicians and we invited them to play.” The collaboration led to a series of performances in Queens and at Lincoln Center, she said. Mittler-Battipaglia, a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music who received a doctorate from the Eastman School of Music, began an association with Lehman College of the City University of New York in 1986. She is currently a professor of music as well as choral director at the college. She has also served as an education consultant for the New York City Department of Education. She comes by her mastery of music quite naturally. Her father was Franz Mittler, an Austro-American composer and musician. While classical music might not be com mercially promoted as much as some other genres, particularly toward younger people, Mittler-Battipaglia believes that there are “many people who value it,

who enjoy it. It transcends ethnic groups.” She lamented that “only one radio station in New York plays classical. The music business is not in a good state. It’s partly a cultural thing and partly a peer thing.” All the more reason, she said, to keep it alive. And bringing it to the people of Queens is of utmost importance to her. “Older people travel to Manhattan for a concert,” she said, adding, “It’s a burden for them. They deserve to hear it. They’re not dead yet.” She sees what she does as a “present for the community. The music we play is written by famous composers. They’re masterpieces.” A Con Brio concert typically features a variety of instrumental combinations and styles. The size of the ensemble varies, according to Mittler-Battipaglia, “depending on the repertoire.” After being forced to cancel multiple concert dates because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the group gave its first live performance in two years in May. “We had a large audience,” Mittler-Battipaglia said, indicating that the concert was dedicated to the people of the Ukraine, as well as to those who had passed away from Covid. Two concer ts are o n t h e g r o u p ’s upcoming agenda, on October 9 at 4:30 p.m. at the Church-in-theGardens in Forest Hills and in February of 2023. For f u r ther i nfor mation, visit conbrioensemble.org. Another popular local classical music organization is Musica Reginae Productions, which bills itself as “Your natural choice for fine music in Queens.”

Anton Miller, left, Hamilton Berry, Rita Porfiris and Diana Mittler-Battipaglia of the Con Brio Ensemble take a break PHOTO BY MARK LORD / FILE from rehearsing before a September 2019 concert. The group, founded in 2000, aims to provide “affordable, informative and family-friendly concerts featuring music that draws its inspiration from the classical, chamber, opera, jazz and world music literature.” According to Execut ive a nd A r t ist ic Director Barbara Podgurski, a lifelong resid e n t of M a s p e t h , where there is life there must be music. “When we listen to and engage in making music, we engage parts of our brain that would otherwise remain dormant,” she said. “It’s a universal language of sounds. We can enjoy it as a community even if we don’t speak the same language. The most important thing we’re doing is


At left, the Queens Consort players Aya Hamada, left, Margret Hjaltested, Claire Smith Bermingham, Anneke SchaulYoder and Dan McCarthy. At right, a November 2021 Musica Reginae performance featuring Elizabeth Pitcairn with her 1720 “Red Mendelssohn” Stradivarius, Barbara Podgurski on piano and Gjilberta Lucaj on cello. PHOTOS BY SHARON GUNDERSON / FILE, LEFT, AND COURTESY BARBARA PODGURSKI

community building.” Music, she said, is “soothing, especially in these times. Music speaks to us as individuals and as a group.” Musica Reginae provides a performance venue for both young and established artists. It is increasingly devoted to presenting new music by emerging composers. Among the company’s most popular events are its Community Concerts for Kids, kid-friendly versions of its late-afternoon and evening concert series. They include performances and workshops and run about an hour in length and take place on weekend afternoons. Best of all, they’re free! “The kids love it,” Podgurski said. When Covid hit, the group went virtual. “We didn’t skip a beat,” Podgurski said. “We stopped live streaming in May,” she said. “People wanted to come back in person.” Following a recent performance at Flushing Town Hall, the group will begin its fall season in September at the Church-in-the-Gardens in Forest Hills. Already on the schedule is a performance aimed at young people, “Cow Goes to the Opera,” on Oct. 2 at the church. Podgurski would appreciate hearing from anyone with suggestions on spaces for other future concerts, particularly in underserved areas of Queens. She may be reached at musicareginae@gmail.com. The Queens Consort is a profes-

sional early music ensemble playing on period instruments, its mission being “to bring engaging chamber music programs of the baroque period to Queens.” The group’s repertoire spans many countries and time periods, revealing a particular fondness for the music of the Venetian baroque. Co-founded by Margret Hjaltested and Claire Smith Bermingham in 2015, the group has presented a wide range of 17th- and 18th-centur y music programs, featuring diverse instrumentation, solo singers and choral accompaniment. Much like her counterparts in the other groups, Hjaltested said she and Smith Bermingham “wanted to do something in the community. We are so lucky because we have St. Mark’s Church in Jackson Heights,” their home base. “They’re extremely welcoming.” She agrees with Podgurski that music is more important now than ever. “It’s so beautiful,” she said. “If we ever needed something beautiful in our lives, we need it now.” Smith Bermingham pointed to the group’s mission: bringing this type of music to Queens. “Manhattan has a lot of wonderful opportunities for concerts. It shouldn’t be necessary for Queens residents to travel to Manhattan,” she said. “People are so thirsty for it,” Hjaltested said. The group played a concert on June 11, and will begin a new season in the fall. For further information, visit queensconsort.com.

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Astoria Music Collective sets the scene A gig culture and community provides support for up-and-coming artists by Deirdre Bardolf Associate Editor Miguel Hernandez is Astoria’s proud band dad. Since 2016, and unofficially even before then, he has been booking bands and songwriters around the neighborhood as part of the Astoria Music Collective, building up a portfolio of around nine residencies at local venues and about 200 artists. “When I started it, it was essentially a passion project for me, to put on shows with friends and musicians that I really admired and liked,” said Hernandez. “Then it ballooned into all the festivals and just growing in popularity and the amount of musicians that we work with now. I think we’re pretty representative of what the local music scene is.” He books rock, post-punk and hip-hop artists at places like Shillelagh Tavern, Mad Donkey Beer Bar & Grill, The Local and more. But it wasn’t always booking gigs, negotiating rates, planning charitable events and stopping by shows for him. Before all that, he was the property manager of a residential building in Manhattan, having risen in the ranks from an overnight custodian. “I hated that job so badly,” he laughed. Quickly, due to his warm and friendly nature, he became popular with the tenants and was eventually managing the property. He has a knack for solving problems and trouble-shooting issues, which certainly helps the precarious nature of pulling off shows in clubs and outdoor dining structures. All the while, Hernandez was managing a popular Astoria band and eventually took a leap of faith to try making a living doing the thing he loved. Now, he spends his days promoting events, figuring out artwork for fliers and communicating with musicians. By the weekend, he sometimes has up to three or four shows a night — and many times, he makes it to each one through the course of the evening. He has had some help like from local musician Karen Adelman before she started law school but AMC is currently a one-man show. “Once you do music in Astoria, you quickly will meet Miguel, because he’s basically at every bar at all times,” said Jacob Henry of

Astoria, who heads the group Talk Shivi. “I don’t know how he does that, but he’s always working and so he’s always putting on shows,” said Henry, who estimates that he has done at least 100 shows with Hernandez so far. And it is more than just booking a night of live music. AMC has built a community that was not previously there. “When I first moved to Astoria over 20 years ago, the neighborhood, musically, was kind of cliquey,” Hernandez said. “Certain bands played in certain places and bands didn’t play with other types of bands.” Billy Conahan was born and raised in Astoria and has been performing since he was 13 years old. He started as a solo singer and songwriter and recalled there not being many venues around doing live music. He met Hernandez at an open mic and his group quickly started playing local places. Now, Conahan said, a network of musicians, newcomers and old, as well as fans, has formed and grown, and his current group, Believe in Ghost!, is part of that. Hernandez said the open mics “birthed a bit of a culture,” in the neighborhood. “The network has opened up,” said Conahan, “and I think Miguel and Astoria Music Collective in general have really shown these bars and venues that there is an audience for live music and that people do really crave it and will show up for it.” He said the venues trust AMC will book good, professional bands that keep an audience throughout the night and that their night might even become the spot’s busiest. Conahan wishes other neighborhoods had a community and format like this to follow because that has been one of the most helpful parts of AMC for up-and-coming bands. “You don’t have to spend weeks promoting and selling tickets and doing all that kind of stuff,” said Conahan. “It’s a really nice change of pace, having trust with the venue and knowing that Miguel is there. He takes care of us ... he negotiates on behalf of the artists, which is great.” Before, a band or artist would have to sell a certain amount of tickets or potentially end up

paying to play. Henry recalled one of the first times he booked a show at a Manhattan venue. At the end of the night, the promoter referenced the fine print, he said, and told the band they would have to foot the bill for 10 unsold tickets. They had to sneak out the back — that is a story for another time, he said. “On the flip side of that is Miguel ... there is more care for the artist and he’s looking out for the artist,” Henry said. “He knows that there’s a lot that goes into bringing equipment, practice time, writing the songs, figuring out how to play them. And he does want to get artists paid.” Hernandez negotiates the band’s fee and also a promotional fee for himself. “One of the things that I really pride myself on is making deals for artists so if you’re playing a spot, you’re guaranteed to walk off with X amount of dollars in cash at the end of your performance,” he said. “And hopefully they work their tip jar and have a big night and walk away with a nice amount of money because, you know, we’re all starving artists.” Henry marveled at how Hernandez can even get a band paid for free shows. AMC often does concerts for a cause. “I love the toy drives, I love the food drives, clothing drives — like sign me up for all that stuff,” he said. AMC will ask for a financial guarantee and then donate it to a project and ask people to give money, food, clothes or toys. Currently in the works is a benefit planned in honor of Keith Malonis, a beloved social worker and local legend who played the drums in numerous projects and died tragically at a young age. In the past, the collective has done shows for AIDS Walk New York, Black Lives Matter, the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and more. “I would like to be able to do this for as long as I can,” said Miguel. He hopes to make AMC a limited liability company and eventually own a venue. “It would create a home base for the musicians so that they know that’s where their hang

Rockin’ Residencies

Astoria Music Collective is the brainchild of Miguel Hernandez, above. PHOTO BY DEIRDRE BARDOLF is going to be ... So that’s a dream of mine.” Some day, someone will take over the collective and do an even better job than he has, he said. For the band dad, it’s about the connections and setting the stage. The community was recently excited to see Queens native Julia Walsh, who started playing Drake covers on a ukelele at AMC open mics, go on to perform at the Governors Ball Music Festival. “It’s great to see your kids do really well, it’s like, ‘woah, so amazing,’” he said. At a recent show at Astoria Bier & Cheese, two kids wandered into the outdoor structure where Wild Magnolia strummed folk tunes. “My favorite kinds of fans,” Hernandez said. The warmest message he got recently was from a father who would go to Iconyc Brewing in Long Island City for AMC shows with his family. The brewery is now under construction and he reached out to tell Hernandez that they can’t wait to be back. “It was really touching to think that there are a couple of kids and families out there that really miss us being around,” Hernandez said. Follow Astoria Music Collective on FaceQ book for all the upcoming events.

Astoria Music Collective consists of several regular bands from the area who fill spaces at residencies at different bars. At Astoria Bier and Cheese are Believe in Ghost!, left, and Stephen Anthony PHOTOS BY ROBIN SCHAFER, LEFT, DEIRDRE BARDOLF AND JEN PERNEY Elkins’ Wild Magnolia, at center with Elkins at right; and at Shillelagh Tavern is Jacob Henry’s Talk Shivi.

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Music’s superstars hail from Queens From Tony Bennett to KISS to 50 Cent, the borough has an iconic history by Lloyd Carroll Chronicle Contributor Queens is k now n as “The World’s Borough” because of our diversity, and the same can be said about the notables of the music world who have called this place home. Ni net y-f ive -yea r- old Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco, but he was born in Long Island City and grew up in Astoria. He named a 1987 album in honor of that western Queens neighborhood which has now become one of New York City’s hippest. Bennett has recorded hits as “Who Can I Turn To?” “For Once in My Life,” “I Wanna Be Around” and “Rags to Riches.” What is remarkable about Bennett has been his willingness to work with younger talent, a s ev id e nc e d by h is friendship with Lady Gaga. He held a retirement concert in R ad io Cit y Mu sic H a l l l a s t Au g u s t . Tony’s voice was still quite strong despite having battled Alzheimer’s disease since 2016. Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel remain the most famous alumni of Forest Hills High School. Popular singles such as “Sounds of Silence,” “Homeward Bound,” “At the Zoo,” “Hazy Shade of Winter,” “Mrs. Robinson” (from the 1967 classic film “The Graduate” and the Grammy-winning “Bridge Over Troubled Water” made Simon & Garfunkel the

best-selling recording duo of all time until they were surpassed two decades later by Hall & Oates. After their breakup in 1970, both men went on to have successful solo careers, with Simon, the songwriter of the duo, not surprisingly having more success. When he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, I asked him at his press conference about the opening lyric of his 1973 hit single “Kodachrome,” in which he sang, “When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, it’s a wonder I can think at all.” I asked Simon if that was a general teenage angst line or if it was an actual reference to our alma mater. “That was about my experience at Forest Hills High School. A lot of my old teachers let me know they weren’t happy with me!” he replied. Forest Hills High School was also the alma mater for those pio n e e r s of p u n k rock, the Ramones. T hey k new how t o make the most of three chords in a song as evidenced by “Rock ’n’ Roll High School,” “Rockaway Beach” and “I Wanna Be Sedated.” Lead singer Jeffrey Hyman, better known as Joey Ramone, tragically succumbed to lymphoma at age 50 in 2001. A Ramones-themed Forest Hills High School T-shirt is one of the biggest sellers in the souvenir shop of the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, which

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The Biggest Names

Hip-hop pioneers Salt-N-Pepa, aka Sandi Denton, left, and Cheryl James, met at Queensborough Community College in 1985 and began to “Push It,” PHOTO VIA WIKIPEDIA / DAVID BURKE to immediate stardom.

Forest Hills’ the Ramones, the pioneers of punk who had a huge hit with “Rockaway Beach,” performing in Toronto PHOTO BY P.B. TOMAN / WIKIPEDIA in 1976. indicates how their popularity is multigenerational. The best guitarist to ever come out of Forest Hills High School was Leslie West, who was known as Leslie Weinstein when he was roaming the halls there. West is best known for being the lead guitarist and vocalist for Mountain, which had a giant smash in 1970 with “Mississippi Queen.” It was shocking to hear it on WABC back in the day because it had a far harder sound than what we were accustomed to from Top 40 radio at the time. Debonair Burt Bacharach, who just turned 94 last month, was born in Kansas City but his family relocated to Kew Gardens when he was young. He graduated from Forest Hills High School in 1946. The list of hit songs he has composed could fill a telephone directory. “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” “Alfie,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “That’s What Friends Are For” and “Promises, Promises” barely scratch the surface. Jazz legend Louis Armstrong is claimed by both his native New Orleans, where the city’s airport is named after him, and Corona, where he lived most of his adult years. Armstrong’s joyous take on the theme from the Broadway show “Hello, Dolly!” kept Beatles songs from the top slot on the Billboard charts for a good chunk of 1964. “What a Wonderful World,” which is Armstrong’s second best-

known song after “Hello, Dolly!” was not a big hit when it was initially released in 1968 but became popular when it was part of the soundtrack to the 1987 Robin Williams film, “Good Morning, Vietnam.” “What a Wonderful World” has a strong local connection as it was co-written by Forest Hills Gardens resident Bob Thiele. Joey Ramone recorded a cover of the song shortly before his untimely passing. With their memorable makeup, unpredictable on-stage antics, and solid musicianship, KISS became one of the most popular live bands in rock history. Co-founders Gene Simmons (real name: Chaim Witz) and Paul Stanley (real name: Stanley Eisen) grew up in Jackson Heights and Flushing, respectively. Among their best-known hits are “Rock & Roll All Night,” “Beth,” “Christine Sixteen,” “Detroit Rock City” and “I Was Made for Loving You.” C y n d i L a u p e r’s “ S h e S o Unusual” album released in 1983, featured such hit singles as “Girls Just Want To Have Fun,” “All Through the Night,” “Time After Time” and “She Bop.” It remains one of the biggest-selling debut albums by an artist. Lauper, who grew up on 104th Street in Ozone Park, would go on to have more hits with “True Colors,” “Drive All Night,” “Goonies R Good Enough” and “Money Changes Everything.” Walter Egan from Forest Hills Gardens and one-time Kew Gar-

dens resident Henry Gross were both known for having one gigantic ’70s hit each. Egan’s “Magnet and Steel,” which was co-produced by Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, was one of the catchiest tunes from the summer of 1978, which was a terrific time for Top 40 radio. Although that was his only hit as a recording artist, he had success as a composer. His “Hot Summer Nights” made it into the Top 40 by a band called Night, while the legendary G r a m Pa r s on s r e c ord e d h is “Hearts on Fire.” G ross’ moment in the su n occurred during the summer of 1976 when “Shannon,” a song he wrote about the passing of an Irish setter owned by Beach Boys guitarist Carl Wilson, hit No. 5 on the Billboard singles char ts. Gross was also a founding member of the popular 1950s and early ’60s tribute band Sha Na Na, along with longtime friend and Mar tin Van Buren alum, Jon “Bowzer” Bauman. Sha Na Na was the most out-of-place act at the most famous rock festival of all time, 1969’s Woodstock held in Bethel, NY. With his multi-octave voice and matinee idol looks, Woodhaven’s Brian Hyland was a frequent guest on “American Bandstand” when it taped in Philadelphia duri ng t he J FK ad m i n ist rat ion. Hyland first achieved prominence in the summer of 1960 with the continued on next page

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Rap legend LL Cool J flashing his priceless smile in Hollis in 2013. PHOTO BY RIYAD HASAN / FILE

Three Queens classics: Prolific songwriter Burt Bacharach, 94, (“I Say a Little Prayer,” “That’s What Friends Are For”) grew up in Kew Gardens and went to Forest Hills High School years before the duo to his right; Art Garfunkel, left, and Paul Simon became the all-time best-selling duo with late sixties’ hits such as “Mrs. Robinson” and “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)”; Long Island City native Tony Bennett, born Anthony Benedetto, went from “Rags to Riches” in the early 1950s and has been belting out standards with his beautiful baritone voice until retiring from performing earlier this year at age 95, after a recent successful run with contemporary artist COURTESY PHOTOS / FILE Lady Gaga. current boyfriend not to make any longrange plans. That was cynical coming from someone who was still in high school when she recorded it. Heavy metal bands such as Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest all hail from England. Queens has a well-known entrant in this category thanks to Anthrax founder, lead guitarist and vocalist Scott Ian, who grew up in Bayside. Ian got unexpected and unwanted publicity when letters containing anthrax were mailed to various individuals by an assailant shortly after 9/11. Ian fumed to the media that this sick individual was making life a lot harder for his band as promoters thought twice about booking them. Queens may be best known for its contributions to the hip-hop world. Any discussion of the genre must begin with the pride of Hollis, RUN-DMC. Joseph “Run” Simmons, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels and Jason “Jam Master J” Mizell formed the group in the early 1980s. They came to national prominence in 1986 by collaborating with Aerosmith on a cover of “Walk This Way.” The guys quickly become fashion icons because of their love of Kangol hats, basketball warmup jackets and pants, and their favorite sneaker brand, which they celebrated in their hit “My Adidas.” Sadly, Mizell was killed in Queens in October 2002. Two suspects were apprehended in August 2020. RUN-DMC was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. LL Cool J has been a television star for

so long that it is easy to forget he is a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame because of his stellar and lengthy recording career. The “NCIS: Los Angeles” costar, born James Todd Smith, grew up in St Albans. He is one of the few recording artists who has had hits both singing (“All I Have,” “Doin’ It” and “Hey Lover”) and rapping (“Mama Said Knock You Out,” “Going Back to Cali” and “I’m Bad”). He still has plenty of friends and family members living in St. Albans and engages in numerous nonprofits whose mission is to help young people. Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson grew up in South Jamaica. He had a hardscrabble life, and he certainly experienced the lyrics he recorded. He dealt drugs, was arrested numerous times and was shot. His 2003 debut album, “Get Rich or Die Tryin’” quickly went platinum thanks to the hit single “In Da Club.” Jackson has done acting and been involved in boxing promotion in the ensuing years. Cheryl James and Sandra Denton met as Queensborough Community College nursing students in 1985 and were coworkers at Sears in Jamaica. A colleague was studying record production and was able to get the duo into a studio. It wasn’t long until big hits, many of whom were nominated for Grammy Awards, started coming for Salt-N-Pepa. The best-known are “Push It,” “Whatta Man” and “Let’s Talk About Sex.” Last year cable network Lifetime televised a dramatized biography of their lives. On a Zoom press conference to pro-

mote the film, I asked Denton if she had any plans to return to Queensborough Community College to complete her nursing degree. “That’s a hard no! ” she replied with a smile. Before there was Cardi B, there was Nicki Minaj. She was born in Trinidad but moved to South Ozone Park at the age of 5. Like Cardi B, Minaj has had hit recordings, but is really known for being an entertainer who mixes comedy and choreography both on stage and in videos. They are both gossip column staples. Minaj’s breakthrough hit was 2011’s “Super Bass,” which remains her signature record.

Ozone Park’s Cyndi Lauper was a mid-eighties sensation with “True Colors” and her infecCOURTESY PHOTO / FILE tious personailty.

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continued from previous page novelty hit “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.” It told the harrowing tale of a young lady who suddenly became quite timid when she wore a certain skimpy bathing suit for the first time. The tune hit the top spot on the Billboard singles chart. His next big hit was 1962’s “Sealed with a Kiss,” a puppy love tune that would later be a hit for both Gary Lewis & the Playboys and Bobby Vinton. Hyland’s best recording was his 1970 hit version of Curtis Mayf ield’s “Gypsy Woman.” The Shangri-Las were a quartet from Cambria Heights who attended Andrew Jackson High School in 1963. They hit it big the following year with “Leader of the Pack,” a tale of forbidden and ill-fated love between a “nice girl” and the head of a biker gang. Their follow-up hit was the poignant “Remember Walking in the Sand,” a song about summer love that wasn’t meant to last. Three more hits followed: the upbeat “Give Him a Great Big Kiss,” “Long Live Our Love,” and the moody “I Can Never Go Home Again.” The group broke up in 1968, but lead singer Mary Weiss, who is the only surviving member of the group, still occasionally performs. The Toys were a trio formed in Jamaica and whose lead singer was Barbara Harris. They are best remembered for their 1965 smash “A Lover’s Concerto,” which was based on an 18th century classical piece, “Minuet in G major,” written by Christian Petzhold. The song was featured in the 1994 Richard Dreyfuss film “Mr. Holland’s Opus” and 2020’s “Palm Springs,” which starred Andy Samberg. The Toys’ other chart record was the lively “Attack!” which made it to No. 18 on the Billboard singles chart in 1966. Linda Scott (real name: Lisa Sampson) was born in Flushing in 1945, although her family moved across the Hudson to Teaneck, NJ, when she was 11 years old. She had a pair of big hits in 1961 with “I’ve Told Every Little Star” and “Don’t Bet Money, Honey.” The latter was a catchy tune in which she is warning her

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From Queens to stardom - the biggest names in music

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The Queens Symphony Orchestra A staple in the borough, the institution has spread music since 1953 by Sophie Krichevsky Associate Editor

watch your father conduct a 100piece orchestra,” she recalled. “He made sure that I not only went to For nearly two years now, busi- the concerts, but that I understood nesses, schools, offices and cul- them, that I understood the music tural institutions have had their and what he was doing.” From time to time, Katz has sights set on one thing: returning to normalcy. And as Covid-19 even sung with the orchestra numbers have continued to rise herself. But above all, Katz said, her and fall over time, that has been father — as well as her mother, quite the challenge. But for some Queens institu- who was a professional singer — tions, like the Queens Symphony instilled in her from an early age Orchestra, normality has been the the value of a cultural and artistic education. And spreading that goal for much longer: to kids throughout the “Post-9 /11, a lot of borough, she said, was groups struggled with her father’s primary funding, because goal when he started there wasn’t so much the orchestra in the discretionary monies basement of Jamaica a v a i l a b l e ,” s a i d High School, where Kenichi Wilson, preshe t aug ht, back i n ident of the orchestra’s 1953. board of directors. “It’s “His real child and his taken — believe it or not real love was the young people’s — up until now to somewhat concerts,” Katz said of her father. rebuild [funding].” In turn, the orchestra is begin- “He would have the schools come ning to return to what it has not in from throughout the borough, been able to do for years: Hold a and he would give them all — it was funny — he would give all the concert every month. This summer, Queens residents kids stirrers, like you get in a bar. will have the chance to see some And he would teach them how to of those performances, which will conduct with the stirrers. He just include music from a variety of loved every minute of it.” Incidentally, genres, includA my C a mu s , ing show tunes, who has played jazz and cello in the classical. orchestra since One such prebefore it went sentation is the p r o i n 19 73, QSO’s June 26 said that even show at t he after the elder Seuffer t Band K a t z ’s t i m e , Shell at Forest conducting was Park. From 5:15 a tool used to to 6 :30 p.m., engage the members of the community in public will have concerts. the opportunity “Very often to hear the t hey w i l l le t group play other people Dvorak’s ninth conduct , li ke sy mphony, politicians, and “Duke Ellington then sometimes Fa nt a s y ” a nd little kids,” she George Gershrecalled. “The w i n ’s “ G i r l AMY CAMUS, lit tle k ids do C r a z y ORCHESTRA MEMBER, better than the Overture.” ON THE QSO’S LONGEVITY adults — they The summer h ave a much concer ts have been a staple for the QSO for some stronger sense of rhythm.” Still, she joked, that did not time. Queens District Attorney and former Borough President mean any of the “guest conducMelinda Katz, whose father, tors” were par ticularly good. David Katz, founded the orches- “They are not really conducttra, remembers those of her child- i n g , t h e y’r e fol low i n g u s ,” Camus said. “We play without hood well. “It is a very odd feeling to looking at them.”

The Symphony

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It’s quite amazing that it’s lasted as long as it has, because there’s so many others that have gone down the tubes.

Over its nearly 70 years of existence, the Queens Symphony Orchestra has performed all throughout the borough for numerous occasions, often in public parks, like Astoria Bridge Park, top. Above left, longtime orchestra members Marsha Heller and Matthew Sullivan play as founder David Katz, right, conducts. To their right, the group’s current conductor, Martin Majkut, takes in the applause. PHOTOS COURTESY KENICHI WILSON / QUEENS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA; COURTESY AMY CAMUS, LOWER LEFT

Camus joined the orchestra as a high school student in the late 1950s. In fact, she said that in those days, Katz himself used to drive her to rehearsals in Flushing. She is one of many members of the g roup who has st uck around over the years. According to Wilson, most of the musicians have been on the roster for 20 to 30 years, and few if any — save for those with injuries or who choose to retire — have left. In that sense, the members have gotten to know each other over the years, both on and off stage.

“It’s wonderful because you have friends,” Camus said of having the opportunity to play with the same musicians time after time. “The orchestra gels better if you don’t have a whole bunch of new players.” Yet, the group still manages to keep things interesting. Wilson credited much of that to the current music director and conductor, Martin Majkut, who plays a large role in picking the orchestra’s repertoire. Camus spoke very highly of Majkut, calling him a “fabulous”

conductor. Of course, as a professional orchestra, most of the musicians have other gigs, Wilson said, be it as members of Broadway orchestras or, like the elder Katz, as teachers. “It’s impossible to live off of working with one group,” Wilson explained. “Because if one group does even two concerts a month ... you’re only working six days out of 30.” But it’s clear that the musicians truly enjoy the performances, even the outdoor, free concerts. continued on page 27

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Old-school jazz on the cutting edge Queens College program reflects the boro’s music history and today’s world by Michael Shain Chronicle Contributor The great saxophonist Jimmy Owens recalls a time when his school — the High School of Music & Art in Manhattan — considered jazz a serious offense. “If I was caught playing jazz in any of the practice rooms, I was sent to the dean’s office,” he said. “If you were at Music & Art, you weren’t there to learn about jazz. You were there to learn European classical music. Period.” That was in the late 1950s. Within a decade, jazz had gone off happily to college. All legit. Today, 120 colleges in the U.S. offer jazz studies programs, according to jazzinamerica. org. Jazz became a traditional academic subject — with a structured curriculum, advanced degrees and a rhythm section of professors — in the late 1980s at Queens College. Remarkably, the prestigious Aaron Copland School of Music reached outside the academic world for the jazz school’s first director, Jimmy Heath. Heath, a diminutive saxophone player with an enviable network of friends and fellow players built over 40 years, had graduated from a segregated high school that stopped at 11th grade. An arranger and composer as well as the leader of his own band with more than a dozen albums — including one nominated for a Grammy for best big-band record of the year — Heath lived in the Dorie Miller Housing Co-ops in Corona, a few miles from campus. Then in his 60s, he was also a born teacher. Heath ended up running the jazz program at Queens College for 20 years. By the time he left in 1997, jazz had long taken its place in music classrooms next to Bach and Bernstein. Still, Heath — who’d learned to play from older musicians in nightclubs and living room jam sessions — was the last to hold the job without a fancy degree.

Jimmy Heath, first director of the jazz program at Queens College’s Aaron Copland School of Music, conducts the Queens Jazz Orchestra. Below, Antonio Hart, the program’s newest director, PHOTOS BY MICHAEL SHAIN solos as Heath conducts. Queens has been a hotbed of jazz musicians since at least the 1930s, when performers like Ella Fitzgerald, John Coltrane and Duke Ellington moved into houses in Southeast — neighborhoods where they could live comfortably, commute easily to Manhattan and avoid being accused of busting the city’s segregated housing protocol. Queens was the place where jazz slept. Modern-day jazz resources in Queens are few and far between now. An active, grantsupported concert series at Flushing Town Hall, some scattered brunch places and a handful of summer concerts in the parks are about it. The Queens College jazz masters-degree program has gone a long way to revitalizing the music here. The program is not for the elite and was never designed to be. The best and brightest can attend schools like the Juilliard, the New England Conservatory of Music or the Manhattan School of Music. Others choose Queens College — a part of the heavily subsidized City University of New York — because it may offer the least expensive music masters in the country. Tuition for a graduate degree at Juilliard costs about $50,000. At Queens College, it is $7,500 — $15,000 for out-of-state and international students. The program was designed from the start to serve professional musicians who did not have the time to go to school full-time and New York City schools music teachers in need of a master’s degree to keep their jobs. “Some of our students are farther back on the learning curve; some of them are Grammy nominees,” said Michael Mossman, who followed Heath as director, doubling the number

of students in the program before stepping down in 2007 to become a professor again. “We have a huge range of ages, ethnicities, musical skills. It’s so Queens — and we love it.” Antonio Hart — one of those Grammynominee students — is now the program’s third director. Hart was recruited for the trumpet legend Roy Hargrove’s band right out of college and. like many other jazz program students, he worked and toured all during the time he studied for his master’s degree under Heath. In one sense, if the new generation of jazz musicians now learn their craft in college practice rooms instead of on smokey bandstands, it is still the same exercise. Senior members of the jazz fraternity are still showing the pledges how to do it. “I’m a coach,” as Hart put it. “I don’t believe I’m a teacher.” He is frank about what he sees as the shortcomings of college-educated jazz. “Student musicians are more technically advanced” than he and his contemporaries were at this stage in their careers. But students are always playing with other inexperienced students. “They play with the same level players all the time,” he said. “They don’t have Frank Wess who would tell me me I played too long tonight or too short,” Hart said of one of his veteran bandmates during the years he came up. “Those are the things you don’t learn in school. They don’t have bands where they can learn.’’ Fully one-third of the credits required for a

degree are spent in personal, one-on-one lessons with working professionals. It is the heart of the program, said Hart. The rest of the time is spent in classrooms learning theory, history and, singularly, the business of jazz. “A lot of them don’t understand the business they are in,” said Mossman. “That’s why teach business classes about all the possibilities that are open to them — film scoring, technical production, jazz composing and arrangement,” he said. “Being an excellent player is big piece of the puzzle, but the world is filled with great players. We want to give them a broader view of the industry.” While Hart and Mussman are trying to teach students the business side of making a living as a jazz musician, they have been forced by recent events to become students of the business side of education. Since Covid, enrollment has plummeted from 80 or so students to just 35 this year, said Hart. He is still unsure how many students who auditioned — some via Zoom — this spring will decide to come next fall. Like Queens itself, the QC jazz program has relied heavily on its international connections — aspiring players from jazz-crazed countries like Japan, China, Singapore, the Netherlands and Israel. When the government stopped issuing student visas, “we got hit really hard,” said Hart. Programs like this have been a source of adjunct professorships for established professionals and senior figures who no longer can or want to travel. The shrunken student rolls have meant there is harding any work for them, said Hart. “I had the job of getting the program from from 20 students to 80,” said Mossman, “But it’s not anything like what Antonio had to deal with since Covid.” Unlike, say, a history department where administrators admit the top 50 applicants and call it a day, jazz is a team sport. “The biggest challenge is making sure we have all the basic instruments to run ensembles,” said Mossman. “Do we have the right number of piano players or drummers? We basically have to rebuild every two years.” To even things out in years when it has too many bass players and not enough horns, the school offers financial aid as a recruitment tool. In early May, the school announced the establishment of a scholarship fund in memory of Heath, who died in January 2020 at age 93. To raise money, Heath’s friends and students staged a benefit — the first jazz concert at Queens College since the pandemic made gatherings like that impossible. “We had a robust community attendance before all this,” said Mossman. “Once we get back to normal — whatever normal is — we can get it back.”

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Live acts will rock your night out Dinner, drinks and bands of all kinds playing small settings across Queens

• 2022

by Mark Lord Chronicle Contributor Long gone are the days when residents of Queens had to travel to “the city” to find venues offering both fine dining and live entertainment. Restaurants and bars abound right here in the borough, offering opportunities for locals to enjoy a complete evening (or afternoon) out in their own backyard, with many providing showcases for veteran entertainers as well as up-and-coming musical talent. And the performers are as varied as the population of the most diverse place on Earth. Take, for instance, Dylan’s Forest Hills, a bar and music venue specializing in Southern infused comfort foods. “We’re all about music and art,” said owner Brian Urbina, a professional musician and motion picture production designer and art director for whom owning a music venue was a lifelong dream. His love of music is evident everywhere, even in the restaurant’s name: It honors his 5-year-old son, Dylan, who was, in turn, named after legendary musician Bob Dylan. And the décor reflects Urbina’s knack for decoration. “This was my baby to design,” he said. “It’s a beautiful, personal space. The bar top is all record albums. Our logo is a guitar neck.” The venue’s website indicates that “we want to put Forest Hills on the map as a destination spot for food, music and entertainment.” Urbina is mindful of the neighborhood’s rich musical heritage. “Forest Hills has a musical background,” he said, pointing to such artists as Simon and Garfunkel and The Ramones. “There has always been a big musical community here.” With that in mind, Urbina pres-

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Danny Leonard performs at LIC Bar; homegrown country-pop artists the Garden Girls play Dylan’s; and Michael Schmitt playing with his band, Wine With PHOTOS COURTESY DANNY LEONARD, LEFT, BRIAN URBINA AND SEAN TUBRIDY Sue, at Bungalow Bar & Restaurant in Rockaway Beach.

The house band plays on open-mic nights at Dylan’s in Forest Hills. ents what he describes as an eclectic variety of performances. Music is on the menu most nights. Fridays and Saturdays are generally devoted to bands playing jazz, rock and other genres. An open mic, featuring Dylan’s All-Star Band, takes over on Thursdays. Singer/songwriters perform on Wednesdays, often alternating with comedy acts and other diversions. “Every week we have something different,” Urbina said. The one consistency, he added, is the quality of the performers. “With my contacts, I can get acts that wouldn’t normally come to Queens,” he said. “It’s a real-deal place.” Dylan’s is located at 103-19 Metropolitan Ave., (718) 880-2872; dylansforesthills.com.


Family-owned and operated since 1977, Bungalow Bar & Restaurant in Rockaway Beach offers seafood and American cuisine, with the menu changing seasonally, along with panoramic views and a wide variety of musical attractions. Accord i ng to one partner, Sean Tubridy, the neighborhood, devastated by Hurricane Sandy, is experiencing a renaissance. “The town exploded in popularity as a destination for good times. We get everybody — young and old, families,” he said. The venue, which is open yearround and provides a casual dining experience with both indoor and outdoor seating, offers Trivia Night on Mondays, with tables competing for

prizes, and DJs every weekend. The entertainment factor really picks up with the arrival of warm weather. A variety of acoustic performers ply their craft on Fridays beginning at 5 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 1 p.m. Different one-man b a n d s p e r fo r m o n Thursdays on the outdoor deck, with talent being drawn from a group of regulars at the venue. And big-name concert acts turn up on occasion, including, most recently, one-time Arista recording artists The Bogmen, an indie rock band from Long Island, which made a return visit earlier this month. Bungalow is located at 377 Beach

The Bar Scene

92 St. in Rockaway Beach, (718) 945-2100; bungalowbarny.com. In the mood for chowing down on some traditional Mediterranean dishes while engulfed in the sounds of a bouzouki being plucked nearby? Then Dionysos Taverna in Astoria might be just the place you’re looking for. Owner Paraskevi Roussopoulos suggested that finding a Greek restaurant with live music is all but impossible these days, even in Manhattan. That is why she is proud that her establishment, named for the Greek god of wine, can provide exactly that. “Americans want to try Greek food,” she said. “And there are many Greek people in Queens.” While the venue recently took a break from live entertainment, Roussopoulos indicated that it will start up again at the end of the month. One of the more popular attractions has been a trio of singers who generally perform on Friday and Saturday nights starting around 9 p.m. Their repertoire of Greek music has been a big draw among the Greek locals. The nights they’re on the place is filled almost entirely with fellow Greeks, Roussopoulos said. Dionysos is located at 23-15 31 St. in Astoria, (718) 932-3231; dionysostavernanyc.com. Not too far away you can experience a touch of Brazil courtesy of Antonio’s, which opened in Astoria in October, offering a dash of bossa continued on page 27

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Ridgewood is a haven for all artists Outpost Artists Resources offers creatives the most valuable thing: space by Deirdre Bardolf Associate Editor

her art studio. “Ruth Kahn is a long time champion of exper iTucked away in an unassuming mental music and building in Ridgewood, the foundanew ba nd s a nd tion of which was built in the late young musical tal1800s and once served as a dance ents,” said hall and later a sweatshop where Weinstein. sweaters were sewn together, is a Chen rememhaven for artists of all kinds that bers the d ays has operated for over a decade. when Kahn would Outpost Artists Resources, origcook meals for the inally founded in 1991 in Manhatar tists before tan, supports creatives through ress h ow s b e c a u s e idencies and events and provides there was not technical assistance with video, much to eat in the audio and physical computingarea. She would based art projects, including editwhip up vegetariing technology, sound engineering an meals and pots and custom programming. of soup for the artThe nonprofit hosts gallery exhiists to bond over bitions, artist talks, screenings and before the show. events that pair visual art, video, O u t p o s t h a s Outpost Artists Resources, based out of Ridgewood, is located in a space that was formerly a experimental music and been a “feeding dance hall, making it the perfect place to hold concerts. PHOTOS COURTESY OUTPOST ARTISTS RESOURCES performances. ground” for upOn Thursdays, concer ts are and-coming groups, Weinstein said, the art community, either. “change in the gravitational pull of recorded in the space, which proincluding the Beastie Boys and “Ridgewood has become one of the audience to the arts” and made vides desirable acoustics due to the Sonic Youth from its early Manhat- the neighborhoods where a lot of Queens a center for new activity. 20-foot ceilings that were installed tan days. Kahn has always understood the musicians, younger musicians, are before apartments were built on top “It’s a place for people to try living now,” he said. “Parts of need that artists have for studio in the 20th century. experimenting with not so much Queens and the outer boroughs are space, which has only gotten to be The concert series, Fire Over pressure and for enough money to becom i ng more populated by more expensive in the city. Heaven, produces nine monthly make it worth their cab fare,” he younger musicians and creative Outpost previously offered artist shows a year and features said. residencies but it has given that and people.” performers from experiOutpost came to Ridgewood in Weinstein says the availability of the gallery up and is just focusing ment al, ava nt-ga rde 2009 and the music scene seemed space has made it a thriving cre- on the concerts, radio show and jazz, classical, rock, to follow suit. occasional video screening. ative community. performance art, folk “I bought the place because it Kahn, 71, is in the process of “Years ago, nobody was interestand world music comwas half a block from the L train ed in anything creative that hap- retiring and handing the 501(c)(3) munities. It is curated and I could afford it,” said Kahn. pened outside of Manhattan,” he off to another arts group. by Queens-based musi“I didn’t really think about the said. “Now, the generations that fol“If I were going to do it all over cian Che Chen, who is neighborhood ... it had this good lowed me, these people will go any- again, I would look for a building also part of the musical space because it had been a sweat- where to see a cool show. I mean, that had studios,” she said. duo 75 Dollar Bill, the second shop. There was a giant room with they’ll take the train to the Rocka“There’s much more of a need for half of which is Rick Brown. a 20-foot ceiling and plugs on the ways. They’ll go to Jersey City, work studios. There’s a lot of places “I try to program bills that are floor and tons of sewing machines they’ll go to Flushing Town Hall to for musicians to play, and there are eclectic and bring in people that are when I bought it.” see someth i ng ... that means tons of galleries. So the real need, working at the fringes of all these Those plugs were soon given a Queens isn’t so marginalized any- in my opinion, is studio space — different scenes,” Chen said. new purpose and put to good use. more. It’s not like a weird, scary cheap studio space, which because “I try to make it a space where Che says the perks of the neigh- place that people don’t understand.” of my age, luckily, I managed to the outliers from all those scenes borhood were not lost on others in He said that has caused a have t h roug hout most of my — folk, rock, classical, jazz — can career.” Over the years, grant money has dwindled, such as that from the Queens Council on the Arts, which has made it more difficult to carry out operations. “I’ve been doing this for 30 years,” she said. “It’s a pretty long life for a small nonprofit in New York City.” “It was just another weird miracle every year,” she continued. “You could never predict where the money would come from ... the grants are maybe one-fifth of what they were 25 years ago. They just Over the years, Outpost Artists Resources has hosted gallery exhibitions, artist talks, screenings and events that pair visual art, video, experimental music got smaller and smaller and smaller over time.” and performances. Due to a lack of funding, however, it has downsized. Screenings and concerts will continue in the space. be in one place and maybe there can be some cross-pollination. And I’ve also tried to get people from the Queens music community that aren’t maybe so tied into this world.” For example, he said, the Hindustani classical singer Dada Tapan Kanti Badya. “It’s a very artist-run and artistsupporting project,” said Chen. Outpost staff produces highquality recordings of the concerts, made available for free to the artists and broadcast on WFMU’s Ridgewood Radio stream, which airs on Wednesdays. Concerts are on hiatus for the summer but are expected to pick back up in September. Previous ones are available online. There is a sliding-scale admission for attendees so that artists can be paid. The radio show also offers restored archival tapes from private and institutional collections captured at venues large and small across the five boroughs and produced by David Weinstein in the basement of the building. Especially during the pandemic when live shows could not be recorded, he would gather material and do specials on different international music like Ukrainian avant-garde and music from the Arabian peninsula, he said. T h e y wo u l d a l s o gather recordings from places like the Knockdown Center, Flushing Town Hall and the former Queenslab as well as venues like Trans-Pecos and H0LO. Outpost founder and painter Ruth Kahn’s artwork hangs on the walls in the home base room because when concerts are not being recorded there, she uses it as

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Flushing Hospital Medical Center is proud to be the recipient of many nationally recognized Healthgrades awards

These awards were given to Flushing Hospital in recognition of the high-quality, person-centered care we deliver to our community. Providing superior service to our patients and our community in a caring environment

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The music and magic of a Steinway Virtual tour shows how the best pianos in the world are crafted in Astoria by Michael Gannon Senior News Editor Since Covid stopped all visitors to Steinway & Sons, the company has been forced to postpone tours of the historic factory in Astoria. But if you still want a bit of an inside look at the magic that crafts some of the world’s finest pianos, a 42-minute virtual tour on the company’s website lets you see the process virtually from start to finish without the bustle of the factory floor or the smell of fresh sawdust, lacquer and wood finishes — if, of course, you consider missing those to be good things. Just go to the company’s website at steinway.com/misc/virtual-factory-tour and prepare to be amazed. “There are more than 12,000 parts in a Steinway grand piano,” says Michael Cabe, director of customer experience at Steinway, who guides viewers through the processes from selecting just the right pieces of wood to packaging and protecting the pianos to head out the back door of the factory. The tour starts in a massive room where the inner and outer rims are glued together from a total of 17 layers of wood — ebony for the outside and hard rock maple for the inner rim. Then both are glued together using a machine and a process patented by Steinway in 1878. Now it is time to take the inner-outer rim, well over 10 feet long, and bend it in one piece to create the distinct shape of a Steinway grand piano.

In a factory that has embraced innovation and technology as readily as anyone, the most important tools in many parts of the process are the hands, eyes and unerring judgment of expert craftsmen. Rim-bending is one of those procedures. The wood is placed around a form of the desired shape and secured in place with a series of hand-operated clamps and pulleys. Some pneumatic tools are used so that a certain and specific pressure is applied in specific places. Finishing touches are applied not by machine but by craftsmen using hammers and awls. “I think this is the foundation of what makes a Steinway piano a Steinway piano,” Cabe tells viewers. “This is where it t a kes it s shape, where you see the beautiful wood come together and we see that elegant grand piano come to life.” The first Steinway to build a piano was Heinrich Steinweg, born in Germany in 1797. He went into business in 1829, but in 1850 lived his dream of coming to America for all it offered. He and his sons worked for other manufacturers for three years before striking out on their own in Manhattan under the more Anglicized name of Steinway. They expanded to Astoria in 1871 and built a factory on the present site in 1873. The Steinway section of Astoria was practically a company town with housing, stores and schools for the workers and their families.

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Piano Makers

The Steinway & Sons Factory in Astoria already was 54 years old when this QUEENS PUBLIC LIBRARY PHOTO / FILE photo was taken in 1927.

While Steinway & Sons has robots and computers doing fine-touch work at its Astoria factory, hammers and chisels — and the hands, eyes and judgment of gifted craftsmen — still remain as essential to creating a Steinway grand LGCC WAGNER ARCHIVES PHOTO / FILE piano as they were in this photo from 1908. The rim sits in the press for 24 hours until the wood has taken the sem i-horseshoe shape and is brought to the veneer and finishing room. Here, sheets of wood veneer sit on racks all along the walls, enabling workers to search for perfect matches of shade and grain for a perfect appearance. It will be brought to the climatecontrolled conditioning room to fix, among other things, the moisture that the wood had picked up in the veneer process. It will be dated and numbered in chalk, and could sit for two months or more. Before it moves on to the casemaking department the wood is sanded to exact tolerances by computerized machine tools operating side-by-side with a woodworker making other adjustments employing the milenia-old technology of a mallet and chisel. “This is where it starts to feel like a piano,” Cabe observes. “Traditional, woodworking furnituretype craftsmanship. It’s hard to find anywhere in the world this skill level.” The only metals involved are the hand-adjusted clamps used to hold the pieces of wood together until they are joined as one. “No screws, no steel fasteners,” Cabe says. “It’s all wood with wooden dowels so there are no issues with squeaks in the joints.” The next par t added is the soundboard, which will sit inside

on the inner rim, with the metal plate and cords sitting above it. Sitka spruce has the flexibility and durability to reflect the sound as desired. Slats of the wood are laminated into one sheet that will be cut to fit. “No knots, no imperfections,” Cabe says examining a slat of wood from a large cart. “There’s a little bend in the grains of this piece. This is not good enough to go into the soundboard of a Steinway piano, so it ends up here — the scrap bin.” The slat is dropped back in the cart. Sitting just over the soundboard will be a metal plate that will support the strings made of steel wrapped with copper wire. The metal when necessary is ground to within a fraction of a fraction of an inch with hand power tools. Strings are hand-strung through small metal pins hammered with precision to the proper place and depth into the wood. The actions and hammers are the intricate, elaborate assemblage of moving parts that cause the felttipped hammer to strike the string when a key is played. A clip near the end of the video shows a technician placing small metal weights on a key to make sure it requires just the right amount of pressure from a player’s or performer’s fingertip to strike the note, no more and no less. An outer coating, “Satin matte and new gloss finish,” is applied by

experts wearing hazmat suits. And again precision is vital. “You have a large surface area,” Cabe explains. “You’ll see any imperfection.” Next a robot named Polly for a member of the Steinway family takes care of — you guessed it — polishing the nearly f inished product. With construction coming to an end, there is still the sound and tone to take care of. Each instrument, according to the video, will be tuned at least five times between receiving its strings and heading out to the back door loading dock. In days of old, the hammers were checked by a technician who knew by ear if the note was somewhat off, and who stuck the felt enclosing the hammer with a small needle until it was just right. In Astoria, they still are checked by hand and ear. Every key. Every piano. “That piano has now found its voice,” Cabe says. In preparation for shipping, pieces of cloth are placed between wood surfaces that come into contact with each other to avoid damage. The pianos can even be packed in large, sealed plastic wrapping to avoid problems that could come with sending a piano from Astoria in winter to a tropical location. All the work, Cabe says, is done with one goal in mind. “Make sure today’s Steinway is the best Steinway ever made.”

C M CEL page 25 Y K



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Deezy ready to take hip-hop by storm Rising Rosedale rapper thanks his mom and dad for support by Naeisha Rose Chronicle Contributor The Queens hip-hop music scene is extensive. Hollis has brought us artists from Run-DMC and Jam Master Jay (Joseph Simmons, Darryl McDaniels and Jazon Mizell) to Ja Rule (Jeffrey Bruce Atkins) to LL Cool J (James Todd Smith). Nicki Minaj (Onika Tanya Minaj-Petty) and 50 Cent (Curtis James Jackson III) hail from Southside Jamaica. Roxa n ne Sha nté ( Lat asha Shante) and Nas (Nasir Jones) came out of Queensbridge. The St. Albans rap group A Tribe Called Quest (Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Jarobi White and the l a t e P h i f e D a w g) might have not made the cut for this year’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but are still pioneers in hip-hop. Among those emerging today is up-and-coming Rosedale singer and rapper Wendell “Deezy” O’Brien, who recently performed his songs “Anniversary” and “Smooth Talker” at the Memorial Day parade in his neighborhood on May 30. He also surprised his mother, Marcia O’Brien, with a performance of the unreleased track “Superman” in honor of his father and h e r l a t e hu sb a n d , We n d el l O’Brien Sr. “I was 13 when he passed,” said O’Brien, 26. “He was my best friend, my role model and my superhero. That is why the song is called ‘Superman.’”

O’Brien’s father, who passed away at 42 from a heart attack, was a well-respected EMT in the FDNY. “The chief of the FDNY gave me his letterman jacket,” said O’Brien. “He told me that I was the man of the house now. That moment was surreal for me. I had to grow up immediately ... I just thank God I have an amazing mom. My younger sister is incredible as well. All the stuff he instilled lives on in all of us.” While O’Brien’s father has always inspired his motivation to work hard, it was football where the rapper initially pushed himself to excel. “He would never see me have a touchdown,” said O’Brien, who would go on to star t playing fo o t b a l l w it h t h e youth development organization Rosedale Jets and for the Commodores at Bayside High School after his father passed away. “I ended up with the Rams, but I got hurt.” O’Brien was in the 2018 draft class for the Rams as a wide receiver, but pulled a hamstring during a workout session. The Cowboys and the Falcons would later express interest in him at other workout sessions, but the coronavirus pandemic reared its ugly head, according to the Rosedale native. Before the pandem ic shut dow n the cou nt r y, a deejay friend from Los Angeles pushed the hip-hop artist to pursue his hidden passion for singing and rapping on the social media app TikTok. “I was always playing music, actually. I played the lead trump e t i n fou r t h g r a d e,” s a id O’Brien. “It was always a dream of mine to go into singing and rapping, but I never told anybody that I sang ... I was always known just for the football.” At Bayside High School he also was a member of the school and jazz bands and played the trumpet, guitar and piano. The pandemic may have led to O’Brien’s football career taking a backseat, but he started to realize the rap videos he made on TikTok were blowing up. “I started with 60 followers with a few views, more viewers started watching and now I have 10 million views with people

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Wendell “Deezy” O’Brien, right, and his mother, Marcia O’Brien. COURTESY PHOTOS

Hip-hop artist Wendell “Deezy” O’Brien performed the unreleased track “Superman” at the Rosedale Memorial Day PHOTO BY NAEISHA ROSE Parade to his mother Marcia O’Brien. from all over the world following me,” said O’Brien. “I would have friends tell me that their brother was following me and I had people from Spain and Turkey listening to my music.” O’Brien, who has had acting roles in short films and has more upcoming projects that have been pitched to Hulu and Netflix, says he also admires the rapper-turned-mogul and television producer 50 Cent. “Seeing him come f rom Queens and make it on a big platform, not only in music but in business and television, that’s amazing,” said O’Brien. “For him to come from Jamaica to being in board rooms, of course that is an inspiration.” A nother favor ite ar tist outside the World’s Borough is Puff Daddy, founder of Bad Boy Records. “I also love Sam Cooke,” said O’Br ien. “He always expressed what he was going through in his music.” T he p er son always i n O’Br ie n’s c or ne r is h is mother. “Until this day, he has tried so hard to walk in his father’s shoes,” said Marcia, about her son promising to t a ke ca re of her a nd h is younger sister after the FDNY chief’s words about being the man of the house. “I felt so super proud to hear him sing such a beautiful song to me ... It proves that our work as parents was not in vain and even though

he lost his dad at a young age, cer t ai n th i ngs were al ready instilled in him.” Ever y Christmas, O’Brien and his sist e r , Amanda, help w it h a Santa T o y Giveaway in

Rosedale, which the family started in honor of O’Brien Sr., said Marcia. The charity event now has the support of local block and civic associations. “They understand how to give back to the community and help make a difference in the life of others,” added Marcia. O’Brien’s mother has supported both of his careers. “She was always like, shoot for the stars and sky’s the limit,” said O’Brien.

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The Queens Symphony Orchestra performs at the Forest Park Band Shell. PHOTO COURTESY KENICHI WILSON / QUEENS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

continued from page 12 “When these musicians do outdoor concerts free, or any sort of free concerts, there’s actually a scale — a free outdoor scale — that these musicians are willing to take a lower pay, because it’s a free outdoor concert,” Wilson explained. “In that way, seeing the attendance and seeing the original members means that they really want to do this. They want to do this for the

orchestra, they want to do this, for their audience, for the following.” That very following has been key to the orchestra’s survival over the years, even as many others have not made it. “I think it’s quite amazing that it’s lasted as long as it has, because there’s so many others that have gone down the tubes,” Camus said. For information on upcoming conQ certs, visit queenssymphony.org.

Music with your food and drink continued from page 18 nova and samba along with an array of typical dishes. Owner Antonio Franca, who came to America 22 years ago, lives in Astoria, where, he said, “We have to integrate. We are more diverse than Manhattan. We are a community from all countries. This is my neighborhood, this is my people, this is the place I love.” The diversity is evident among his customers. “Everybody comes here,” he said. “T hey come here and they feel comfortable.” Besides offering meals that recall his South American homeland, Franca said, “My goal is to entertain people.” With that in mind, he presents an array of entertainers. “I’m open to Latin jazz, American jazz. Last Saturday a duo from Japan performed,” he said. “My idea is to integrate everybody through music and food,” he added. The venue has a stage, which, Franca said, “Changed everything. It’s comfortable to perform.” And, he added, “My bar is gorgeous.” Antonio’s is located at 3301 36 Ave. in Astoria, (917) 526-0978; antoniosastoria on Facebook. One local performer who has created a following for himself along the restaurant/ bar music circuit is Barry Feterman, a Middle Village resident who has been plying his

craft as a singing impressionist for 45 years, bringing to life everyone from Michael Jackson to Sonny and Cher. He sees his performances as “an addition to a dining experience. Not many people do what I do in restaurants.” His act has been seen all around the borough and beyond, from Alba’s Pizzeria & Restaurant, 137-65 Queens Blvd., in Briarwood, (718) 291-1620, which continues to present live entertainment every Friday night (reservations required), to Di Vino Pizzeria Restaurant, 164-02 Crossbay Blvd. in Howard Beach, (718) 738-2005, which, at least temporarily, still has live performances suspended because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Another familiar face on the local music scene is singer/songwriter/guitarist Danny Leonard, a regular at LIC Bar, located at 45-58 Vernon Blvd. in Long Island City, (718) 786-5400. “I’m there quite often,” he said. “I’m very comfortable performing there.” He likes the vibe of the place. “It’s dimly lit, very intimate. I get to connect with the audience, and I have the freedom to perform whatever I want.” Leonard blends blues, folk and pop on the acoustic guitar, along with self-written lyrics “that are very poetic.” He generally performs all original material. “People don’t realize that some of the best artists are making their mark right here in Queens,” he said.

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