"A light went off
in my head and I immediately thought of Louis and Maria," Henderson
said in his bright, ever-enthusiastic manner. "We only had a
month to organize everything but we put on the concert and several
hundred people showed up, despite a massive downpour."
Todaro mentions how fortunate everyone was to have thought to rent
a tent for the occasion.
"One of the impetuses for this festival was our appreciation
of how much the community pitched in to make that event work,"
adds Otey. "Everyone grabbed a hammer... It wasn't like we were
"After that, people were asking when we would be doing this again,"
"We talked about it right away but then we were all traveling
for our work, with Kerry and Louis both in Germany, so we didn't get
back to serious talks about a Voicefest until December," added
Todaro. "We had our first formal meeting in January and then
things really got started up in March."
Todaro, a noted French mezzo-soprano, had started her own company
in Paris, as well as a voice festival, along with several choirs (including
her latest in Phoenicia). Henderson, a native New Zealander and noted
baritone, also had experience starting and running a festival... and
Otey, one of today's most critically-acclaimed baritones, with a growing
stable of roles at the Metropolitan and other top tier operas, had
deep connections with all the world's top singers.
A group of key players came forth to help get the party happening,
from former New School dean Linda Dunne coordinating fundraising to
Amy Wallace handling administration and Barbara Mellon Kolb doing
treasurer duties. Former Onteora school board president Maxanne Resnick,
Calandra Cruickshank, and Athena Baer took on marketing and promotions,
and Cindy Jewett harnessed local volunteer power. Musician Dennis
Yerry was put in charge of a world music element for the festival,
and pianist Justin Kolb assembled a festival Board of Advisors now
including Bard College President Leon Botstein, composers Robert Cucinotta,
Robert Manno and George Tsontakis, conductors Christopher Lyndon-Gee
and Alexander Platt (of the Maverick Festival, Woodstock Percussion's
Garry Kvistad, pianist/educator Idith Meshulam, and opera stars Frederica
von Stade and Deborah Voigt.
At first, plans were to hire the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, but costs
proved prohibitive and to their credit, the festival's key organizers
quickly realized that fluidity would be important to making sure a
festival, no matter how big, be established first... then go for the
"We felt we had to maintain our momentum from last summer's success,"
"We simply couldn't wait a year," added Henderson.
"We focused on the quality of the performers," chimed in
Otey. "We ended up getting opera stars who have sung all over
the world... and they've agreed to do it without an orchestra!"
The three speak note that what they're doing should be costing in
the $200,000 to $300,000 range, but is ending up in a budget range
a quarter that. Making the difference are artists performing at their
own cost, to see their friends' dream come to life, loads of volunteer
help, and the entire community coming together to make something new
For the 8:30 PM opening night concert on August 13 in the park featuring
Elizabeth Futral, the renowned soprano will be bringing along her
own pianist. For the full cast performance of Verdi's Falstaff on
Saturday night at 8:00 PM (also in the park), featuring Otey in one
of his most acclaimed roles, the baritone has brought in one of his
mentors, Roger Cantrell, to provide back up on a grand piano.
A stage has been built in the Parish Park, incorporating existing
trees... as well as the space's great views and surprising acoustics.
Filling out the festival's premier outing will be a wide panoply of
events taking place in venues throughout the hamlet, from an 11:00
AM Saturday morning gospel performance with Broadway star Rozz Morehead
at the Methodist Church back to a 1:00 PM concert featuring renowned
Native American flute player and singer Joseph Firecrow in the park
at 1:00 PM (bring your lunches and blankets!); a 2:30 PM STS premiere
of a new musical, Closer Than Ever, in the STS Playhouse and then
a 4:30 PM Uncle Rock concert at the Phoenicia Railway Museum, follow3ed
by locally-based composer Mitchell Bach's Sacred Music performance
in the Catholic Church at 6:30 PM.
On Sunday, things will return to the park with a 2:00 PM recital by
pianist Kolb, an always-delightful presence, followed by an everyone-sings
Choral Closing, with a number of local choirs in attendance (and copies
of "Amazing Grace" for all) at 3:30 PM.
Colorful banners, created by a group of Onteora high school students
under the auspices of Pine Hill-based painter Brenda Goodman, have
been hung throughout the hamlet, lending the place a festive air.
Andrea Cabane Gallery, down Main Street, is hosting a Saturday evening
opening reception for an innovate Music/Sound/Art exhibition featuring
a number of key regional artists curated by Kate Menconeri and Cabane
herself, as well as a number of other receptions. Barneche Designs,
in Chichester, has arranged a special sale of jewelry items by Serena
Van Renssalaer, for the diva in all of us. Mystery Spot is holding
its regular Music For Porches concert at 1:00 PM Sunday afternoon...
Combined with the usual flow of Upstate hipsters, tubers, and sophisticated
locals, it should all add up to one major aria of a party, especially
if - as Todaro, Otey and Henderson all enthusiastically suggested
- festival attendees dress to the nines... but bring picnic gear and
stay prepared for rural fun. Talk about a new aesthetic fitting a
new Phoenicia, more true to its name now than ever.
"The more, the better," Todaro says in her inimitably infectious
way. "Culturally, you can never have too much. We seek to be
complementary and not competitive."
"We saw a very big niche in the market," said Henderson,
"and we chased it."
All started talking together about the new rise of vocal music in
pop culture, as well as the acknowledged healing attributes of singing...
especially when done in masse.
Then, needing to get back to preparations, all spoke to how they're
planning to get organized on next year's Voicefest immediately after
this one finishes Sunday night. They mention Spoleto, in Italy and
Charleston, and how the arts can bring money to a community.
The night before, Todaro mentions, the three organizers sang an operatic
version of "America The Beautiful" at the opening of the
Ulster County Fair.
"Everyone knew what was happening," said Henderson.
"We have quite some buzz, I guess," added Todaro.
All agreed that more plans are coming, but will be discussed after
this first festival finishes.
For further information on The First Annual Phoenicia Festival of
the Voice, please call 888-214-3063 or visit www.phoeniciavoicefest.com
who I first learned about through some of our best contemporary abstract
painters in and out of the area, takes on inner hurts and fears and
renders them into a terrible beauty, as the poet William Butler Yeats
would have put it, in ways reminiscent of the similarly daunting artist,
"Through the process of painting myself, my intent is to extend
the parameters of my specific personal issues to reveal and comment
on basic universal emotions and conditions," she says of what she
does. "I want to remove the veils between myself and the viewer,
and communicate the palpability of needs met, of needs unmet, of needs
never met, of rage, of fear, of vulnerability, of aging, and finally
of mortality. My work is about reality, not irony."
Goodman, who originally hails from Detroit, has been the recipient of
major solo shows in New York and elsewhere, including Boston's influential
Nielsen and the City's Littlejohn Contemporary, Pam Adler, Kouros and
Robert Steele galleries. She has long been known for the seriousness
of her self-portraiture, but also the adeptness of her actual paint-to-canvas
She says that her latest works - completed since settling full time
into her Birch Creek home last year - deal with two tragedies... the
death of her partner's son, from illness, as well as the passing of
a beloved cat she'd had for years. The mourning process led to a decision
NOT to return to New York, for once, and a winterizing of Goodman's
Upstate studio, where she started wrestling her latest paintings to
life last November.
"I started taking voice lessons with Maria Todaro and joined the
choir," the artist says of her life up here. "But the basic
aloneness of the studio was familiar. It's just what you do. The difference
was that instead of looking out my window at crappy Bowery views, I
was now looking out at trees and snow."
There had long been an element of silent voices, of herself trying to
sing, in Goodman's work. But somehow, this seems to have taken new voice
in her latest works. There's more space, and yet more blockage being
worked against, and through.
She paints self portraits that are stark, literally naked, expiating
inner worlds, yet in a meticulously detailed method that accommodates
a massive amount of art history. Monolithic shapes play against teensy
figures. Washes of color, or stacked paintings, loom over rooms, or
at times even faces. Entire worlds of thought come into play.
"Goodman's paintings are testament to the fact that all space,
time, and events in paintings are virtual, that they exist in the mind
and in imagination," reads a current review of her new show in
ArtCritical.com. "Goodman's work is a strong and individual member
of a long line of paintings and sculptures that include anthropomorphized
abstract shapes. Artists that Goodman has a kinship with include Arshile
Gorky, Adolf Gottlieb, and Henry Moore."
"My work is about life: the really good times, the really bad times,"
she says of her powerful oeuvre. "I paint a lot about loss because
painting it is the only way I know to move through it. I paint a lot
about the feelings of not belonging. I paint about what makes me sad,
glad, angry, peaceful, hopeful or defeated. I paint about life as it
ebbs and flows: openly, honestly and from my heart."
She's also, now, teaching classes in her local community center's Kids
in the Kaatskills program. And starting to ready herself for re-entering
"What will I do next? Does any artist really know," she repeats
the question, noting what a boost this past show, and its dozen plus
sales, has been for her. "I'm not in the same place I was. There'll
definitely be a shift. I'm as curious as others who have asked me this."
How nice to think Brenda Goodman will be making her changes here, now.
For more on this artist, and her current exhibition open at John Davis
Gallery in Hudson through Sunday, August 15, visit www.brendagoodman.com.
With A Contract
As previously reported,
The New York City Department of Environmental Protection has informed
the Hamlet of Phoenicia that enough is enough after taking 13 years
and $1.6 million to consider whether or not to build a municipal wastewater
Now that the department, which has been holding $17.2 million to fund
the voluntary project and already paid out that $1.6 million, says
make a decision or lose the opportunity.
No later than October 12, 2010 the town must execute an exclusive
contract with Catskill Watershed Corporation to advise the town and
manage the project consistent with the agreement approved by the CWC
Board of Directors last month.
At the August meeting, Supervisor Robert Stanley said that town attorney
Paul Keller has reviewed the contract submitted by the Watershed Corporation
but has problems with some of its language, even though tweaking of
the document may be cumbersome.
Stanley went well out of his way to point out that Keller was the
attorney involved following friction that resulted from Olive-based
attorney Jack Darwak's being earlier involved in an unofficial capacity,
having been brought into the matter by opponents of the wastewater
The supervisor made it clear that Keller is looking for something
that opponents have been demanding.
"We want to make sure that the Town of Shandaken maintains its
home rule authority," Stanley said.
Stanley expects the issues to be ironed out soon and the contract,
said to be posted soon on the town's website for public review, will
be considered at the September town board meeting.
Meanwhile, a higher authority is lowering the boom in the hamlet on
one eatery where septic problems have popped up. But when it comes
to issues like this, there is no home rule. One of Phoenicia's signature
Main Street businesses has been cited by state department of environmental
conservation officials for operating without a required septic discharge
In an August 2nd letter to Sweet Sue's Restaurant owner Suzanne Taylor,
widely copied to regional regulators, DEC Region 3 Engineer Thomas
Rudolph says the business has neither applied for nor received a required
SPDES permit for its wastewater since a recent renovation.
"In addition to not obtaining a SPDES permit" said Rudolph,
"DEC is aware that in late 2007 Sweet Sue's expanded operations
that would further constitute a potential violation of the law as
well as possible violations of other State, NY City, and town laws...
The addition enabled the restaurant to serve more customers and generate
additional sewage, thereby increasing sewage flows to the system and
threatening a failure of that system which could pollute the Esopus
According to the letter, "DEC looks forward to working with (Ms.
Taylor) to address these violations and bring your facility into compliance
with the Environmental Conservation Law."
This week Taylor acknowledged the dilemma.
"We'll do anything we need to, to comply with all applicable
regulations," she said.
The other matter looming ominously on the horizon is next year's town
budget. Departments are now beginning to work up their wish lists,
but Stanley notes that the economy still calls for belt tightening.
Pointing to a $58,000 drop in anticipated revenues to date this year,
the Supervisor said there will be policy discussions soon to nail
down what salary increase level would be appropriate for elected officials.
Look for 2011 budget preparation to begin in earnest next month.
Councilman Jack Jordan delivered some bad news about the state of
cell phone service in town, stating that Verizon now says it is "just
not cost effective" to set up service on the long vacant town
tower at Glenbrook Park in Shandaken. The tower was built two years
ago on town property in hopes of enticing carriers like Verizon to
Jordan said the next step is to talk to Mariner Tower Inc., the company
that partnered with Shandaken on the project, to see if they can lower
the rent to a level more to Verizon's liking.
In other communications talk, Jordan said that Time Warner Cable has
told him that residents on Rose Mountain Road in Pine Hill, a road
that has never had cable, could now get the service if every possible
user on the road coughed up $800 for an installation fee. Previously,
Jordan said, Time Warner wanted several thousand from each customer
for the hook up.
Lastly, the town board will hold a special meeting on Tuesday, August
17th at 10AM to open bids on some streambank work in Woodland Valley.
And that Beaver brouhaha? Ric Ricciardella complained that the killing
of the beavers that attacked people in the Espous last month was out
of line.He said he wanted to know who okayed the killing, claiming
that the beavers were harassed in advance of the incident and were
therefore not really at fault for their actions.
"What clown authorized the destruction of the beaver dam?"
Stanley said the beavers have always resided across Route 28 in a
small pond that had dried up during this year's rain-free summer,
forcing them to relocate to a makeshift den on the banks of the Esopus.
That was what was removed, he said, not a dam.
Not satisfied with the answer, Ricciardella said he believed the beavers
were killed simply because they annoyed tubers.
Daido died on October 9,
2009 and was honored in a tribute in December at Ulster Performing
Arts Center in Kingston, where upwards of 800 people from around the
world gathered to mourn the dynamic teacher, writer, and photographer.
Ryushin was installed at midnight on New Year's, following an intensive
"Daido trained both Shugen and myself really well," says
Ryushin, referring to the abbot of the monastery's Brooklyn branch.
"I'm doing what I've always been doing, but the safety net has
shifted a few hundred million miles away. Of course, the sense of
community and support are still here. And in the sense of the integrity
of the teachings, there hasn't been much change. We're still offering
the same spirit of Buddhist teachings. Students are coming, and we're
growing since last year."
Recent years have seen a rise in income for the monastery, which is
funded largely by the retreats it holds year-round for the public,
blending training in Zen meditation with activities that range from
archery to pottery to animal tracking.
"That's our livelihood," explains Ryushin. "We charge
$250 for two nights' lodging, food, teachings, and training. The people
who live here offer their labor for free-that's the only way we can
pull it off."
With more money in the coffers, the monastery has embarked on two
building projects, one to provide solar energy to several structures
on the property, and the construction of a 9000-square-foot retreat
center, to begin in the fall. Two long ranks of solar panels already
stand in the field across from the main building, which now draws
40 percent of its electricity from the sun. The 24-kilowatt (kW) system
was built by Solar Generation of Woodstock, which donated the labor
for the installation.
Another 5 kW will soon be mounted at the end of the row of panels
to power a nearby cottage, and a third array, also of 5 kW, will be
completed in September for a cluster of cabins on the hill.
Ryushin declined to take credit for the solar installations, saying
it has evolved as a manifestation of "a group of people with
the collective consciousness to be aware of environmental issues that
need to be addressed. In 1989, Daido started the Born as the Earth
Program, to get people into the wilderness. It was our first attempt
to do something environmental, to get people to notice the loving
relationship they might have with nature. We were, in a sense, too
poor to do environmental things. Around 1990 things changed. Slowly
we would insulate buildings, look at buying better economy cars. We
bought a hybrid. There was a natural progression, looking at how we
recycle, what kinds of light bulbs we're using, not using paper and
plastic bags to shop at Sunflower. The idea about going alternative
with solar and wind power started appearing on the radar screen in
2006, 2007. We were able to think this project through last fall,
we filed applications, and over the winter we made enough money."
The retreat center is a more ambitious project that will also be solar-powered.
"Although we offer retreats every weekend, we don't have enough
space" says Ryushin. Often two retreats are operating at the
same time, and the dining hall has to be converted back and forth
to a classroom at every lunchtime.
In the new building, he says, "There will be three different-sized
spaces that can also be used for events and performances open to public.
A room with a stage will have seating for 125 to 150 people. We'll
have offices and an art studio. The main building will become the
residential and religious training building."
Outside the dining hall, architectural drawings and computer-generated
pictures depict the forthcoming structure, with airy, sunlit rooms.
It will be located adjacent to the main building, set back from the
Ryushin was born in Poland and immigrated to New Jersey with his family
in 1967, at the age of 13, later moving to Massachusetts. He studied
anthropology at Yale University and then trained as a pediatrician.
He served in the military as a doctor and was stationed in Guantanamo
Bay in 1983-1984. Later retraining in psychiatry, he ran a mobile
crisis team in Albany, doing psychiatry on the street and at homeless
"We were working with a population that could not enter the system
because they were too resistant or disorganized. It was cowboy psychiatry,"
Ryushin recalls. "At that time, I came into contact with the
monastery and began practicing here in 1987."
By 1991 he had moved into the monastery. "It became clear that
this is where I needed to be," he says.
And how does he find his new role as abbot? He smiles. "There
are moments of calm and moments of attempting calmness in the face
of the challenges."
For more information about Zen Mountain Monastery and its retreat
programs and meditations, see www.mro.org or call 845-688-2228.
voiced concerns during public commentary, primarily over Phoenicia's
class having an unusually high number of special education and non-English
"I understand there was a budget passed that accommodated for two
kindergarten classrooms and whether or not that is ideal or not, the
resources are there for students who have special needs," said
parent Brett Barry. "For the students who don't have special needs
- I hope they don't get lost in the shuffle."
Interim Superintendent Charlotte Gregory said there are two special
education students and four in the English as second language program
at Phoenicia. The classroom will have a full time teaching assistant
along with an offering of other services such as speech and consultant
teacher services. At Bennett Elementary there is one special education
student in the classroom and a part time teaching assistant. Administrators
warn that if the classrooms are split in two, special services might
get split since a specialist would be addressing two separate groups
instead of one, thus cutting their time in half.
Gregory said, "Just to address some comments by the parents (such
as) what happens to a class if it grows, well we grow with it and if
it becomes necessary the next year for two classrooms, then we grow
The Onteora population is shrinking partly because of what appears to
be a choice for alternatives to public education. A recently submitted
Freedom of Information request (FOIL) revealed that the 2009-2010 Home
School/Private School population in the Onteora district was at 222
students. That is an increase of 17 students compared to the previous
spring of 2009.
Trustee Dan Spencer asked for an exploration as to why so many are seeking
Gregory noted an overall drop in Population State wide.
"I hate to be the bearer of bad news but New York, I think because
of its high taxation and financial situation, is losing people to the
south and I spent time tracking where people are going... The last time
I looked we were over a million people down,""
She listed states such as North and South Carolina and Georgia as new
Trustees said a decision on this topic would not be made until the next
meeting on August 24.
In other business, a policy banning the use of electronic devices by
students in school will finally include cell phones and MP3 players.
However, students can use electronic devices on the bus or after school.
The first offence will result in confiscation of the device, which the
student would pick up at the end of the day. The second offence would
result in confiscating the device and contacting a parent, who would
be required to retrieve it for the student at the end of the day.
High School principal Lance Edelman said cell phones have been a major
problem, "since that cell tower went up last year." He also
said between classes and during lunch students have been recording other
students then placing it on YouTube or Facebook, which is a violation
Allegedly, another violation of privacy action occurred when letters
were mailed to parents within the district during the teacher contract
negotiations of October, 2009. The letter stated that teachers might
not be coming to work on a particular day, because of a possible strike.
School Board President Laurie Osmond said. "It was obvious that
student records have been accessed and used to compile a mailing list
and this is a breech of confidentiality." At first she said the
board and administration were told the information came from the phone
book and former Superintendent Leslie Ford investigated but was unable
to find the person who accessed the records.
Trustee Tom Hickey said, "Moving forward, this will not be tolerated;
it's a serious breech of the law and this needs to be spoken in the
Gregory said what occurred is a violation of the Family Educational
Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), a Federal law that protects student's
records. She suggested they seek legal council and issue a statement
to the union.
Finally, recent events that have spawned the possibility of a curfew
in the town of Woodstock have raised people's concerns on abuse of drugs
and alcohol during school hours. Several board members said parents
have approached them asking about district policies and procedures.
Trustee Tony Fletcher wondered if drug and alcohol abuse is getting
"What we are hearing from the town of Woodstock is that it is cyclical,
we are going through a really bad patch right now, and maybe some of
those anecdotes are coming back to us as a school board," Fletcher
said. "I think that we're better off saying 'we have a problem
and we need to hear about it.'"
"I would like to direct the Superintendent to report back to the
board exactly what the situation is among substance abuse in our buildings,
buses, on school property, what has been happening in the past year,
what the enforcement is, what is being done and what will be done,"
Based on a 2008 County wide student survey on high risk behavior presented
to the school board in December 2009, Onteora and Saugerties school
districts grades seven-through-twelve rank highest in the county on
drug, alcohol abuse and high risk behavior. Alcohol abuse was highest
with marijuana use coming in second.
Osmond said anyone interested in joining the Onteora school board could
apply by calling the Secretary to the Superintendent at 657-6383, extension
264. There will soon be a posting with instructions on the district's
website at Onteora.k12.ny.us. The board will appoint a person to take
the place of Donna Flayhan at the September 14 board meeting at Woodstock
Elementary. Flayhan, who resigned because her family will soon be moving
outside of the district, has one year left on her term. Candidates are
expected to attend the September meeting and will be asked a few questions.
of the Super 8 Motel in Kingston was arrested Thursday night by SPCA
investigators, Shandaken police and the Ulster County Sheriff's Office,
and charged with one count of failure to provide proper sustenance to
According to Brian Shapiro, the SPCA's executive director, 39 additional
counts are pending. He said the arrest followed a year-long investigation.
Shapiro said the dogs were discovered in the empty storefront of the
former Phoenicia Feed Store at 1026 Old Route 28 in Phoenicia and were
in varying states of poor medical condition. He said they had no food
or water and were covered in their own wastes.
He called it a classic case of animal hoarding and said the animals
had "no quality of life whatsoever."
According to information provided by the SPCA, it is not clearly understood
why people become animal hoarders. Early research pointed toward a variant
of obsessive-compulsive disorders, but new studies and theories are
leading toward attachment disorders in conjunction with personality
disorders, paranoia, delusional thinking, depression and other mental
illnesses. Some animal hoarders began collecting after a traumatic event
or loss, while others see themselves as "rescuers" who save
animals from a life on the street.
"Historically, collecting animals was viewed as an animal lover
who gets in over his or her head, but the truth is that people who hoard
are at a total loss of insight," says Dr. Randall Lockwood, ASPCA
Senior Vice President for Anti-Cruelty Initiatives and Legislative Services.
"They have no real perception of the harm they're doing to the
In the majority of cases, animal hoarders often appear intelligent and
clearly believe they are helping their animals. They often claim that
any home is better than letting that animal die. In addition, many hoarders
possess the ability to garner sympathy and often deceive others into
thinking their situation is under control. They are blind to the fact
that they are not caring for the animals or of the extreme suffering
they are inflicting.
According to Dr. Lockwood, "Being kept by a hoarder is a slow kind
of death for the animal. Actually, it's a fate worse than death."
The SPCA seized all of the dogs, some of which are now receiving emergency
medical care at the shelter in Kingston. Others are tenants at the town
of Shandaken Animal Shelter.
Shapiro said the investigation is continuing. After her arrest, a man
that knew Castaldo came forward and surrendered another dog along with
nine pups, saying that Castaldo had been keeping them in another location.
Police are also looking into allegations that Castaldo sold dogs from
her "collection" in the parking lot of a local supermarket.
Castaldo was arraigned and sent to Ulster County Jail in lieu of $10,000
So severe is the case, one local restaurant is working with the SPCA
to host a fundraiser to pay for the care of the animals.
To send a donation go to the UCSPCA web site at www.ucspca.org or to
the local town shelter which is S.A.V.E (Shandaken animal volunteer
effort), call 845-688-7165 for more information.