Archive for September, 2010

Musical memories at NHS

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010
Brian Golden

My musical experiences as a youth at Norwich High School began rather dubiously, to say the least. I was all of 14 years old my freshman year and I’d picked up the guitar with serious intentions to master the instrument just a few months prior to the start of school in the fall of 1991. And since my homeroom just happened to be NHS music teacher Miss Mayo’s classroom, I immediately found myself acquainted with the adjacent music wing.

Needless to say, it wasn’t long until I convinced Miss Mayo that I had some aptitude on the guitar and, following my offer to re-string the four or five new acoustic instruments the school had acquired, I was given permission to grab one whenever I liked. And so it began.

From that time forth I could usually be found, at any given time of day, occupying the music wing hallway, strumming away and struggling to force the sounds tumbling about in my head through my fingertips and onto the fretboard. I was somewhat musically possessed (and by somewhat I mean completely) by that time and typically practiced at least four to five hours per day, if not more. I was convinced I could replicate the music of Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan, among others, if I simply paid my dues and practiced my tail off.

My sophomore year found me in the same spot, practicing the same techniques and with a much better grasp of the instrument. And then something happened which, in all likelihood, changed my life forever.

At that time, in 1992, Don Burke was the band director at NHS and in all honesty I’d always been a little terrified of the man. I was well aware that there were no guitars in the symphonic, concert or marching bands, therefore I reasoned that Mr. Burke probably had very little use for me or my constant practicing right outside his doorway. I couldn’t have been more mistaken as I was blissfully unaware of the existence of the Jazz Band and jazz music in general. So when Mr. Burke stuck his head out of his office one day and asked me to come inside I was fairly certain I was about to receive a tongue-lashing and subsequent order to ply my musical trade elsewhere. I was wrong.

Instead, Mr. Burke sat me down and asked if I’d ever heard of Pat Metheny, jazz guitarist extraordinaire, following which he played me a recording of Methany’s “Third Wind.” The music itself was unlike anything I’d ever heard and I’ll admit I was interested in where exactly this little visit was leading. In the end – it landed me smack dab in the middle of the Norwich Purple Tornado Marching Band Pit Orchestra. Burke and his fellow directors had decided upon a Metheny-themed program that year and I guess he figured, “Hey, I’ve got this annoying but somewhat talented guitarist sitting outside my door every day, I might as well make use of him.”

Thank goodness for that.

Due to Mr. Burke’s interest I ended up following a much different path than I’d ever imagined. Marching Band immediately led to my joining Jazz Band, which led to spots in the Symphonic and Concert Bands, Choir and the Madrigal singers. Even more surprising – all of this eventually led me to a short but informative gig at Ithaca College, studying Jazz Improvisation of all things.

When informed I would be covering the local Marching Band earlier this week, I’ll admit I got a little excited. A chance to revisit NHS and the band’s practice field was a wonderful experience which brought back numerous memories – old friends, mentors and relationships which I had not thought of in over a decade. My best wishes go out to the Purple Tornado Marching Band as they kick-off the 2010 season and I hope the students involved in the ensemble come out of it with the same respect and fond memories that I did back in the day. The band may be a bit smaller now, and while most things are never quite the same after 15 years, it’s nice to know that some things never change.

Editor’s Notebook: 9/21/10

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010
Jeff Genung

Here we go on my second day of my “Editor’s Notebook” entries … Here’s what’s been on my mind in The Evening Sun newsroom today:

• Any day I get to put Lady Gaga on the front page is gonna be a good one.

• “I’m not going to give you an exact number on that because you’ll quote me on it.” That’s an unused quote from a source who didn’t really say anything worth quoting in the first place, apparently.

• Every time I put in a picture of Kim Jong Il, like on today’s World page, I can’t help thinking of the lewd puppetry of “Team America: World Police,” the brilliant and underappreciated 2004 masterpiece of Trey Parker and Matt Stone. “I’m so ronery, so ronery and sadry arone …”

• We’re at that precarious point in the year at our Lackwanna Avenue digs where it’s like Sophie’s Choice between the air conditioner and the furnace.

• Had our first (and only) official meeting of the Christmas Parade Committee today at Denny’s. Linda Green’s got that thing running like a well-oiled machine after 16 years – she barely needs our help. Circle your calendars for Nov. 27 (that’s the Saturday after Thanksgiving). It’s bound to be another “Christmas to Remember,” even if the Dairy Princess float doesn’t burst into flames again this year.

• Special thanks to Pegi LoPresti and Pam Jones of the aforementioned committee for ordering the healthiest thing on the menu at Denny’s (not an easy find) and making me look like a fat ass for selecting “The Grand Slamwich.”

The Last Word

Monday, September 20th, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

I’ve taken to carrying a tiny little hard-covered journal with me wherever I go. When I reach into my bag, I see its shiny, pale gold cover winking at me. As yet, its lined pages are blank, but I have no doubt that before long, they will play host to numerous entries.

I’m not sure where, or even when, I acquired this particular notebook. I’m assuming it was a gift, since it’s not what I’d call my taste necessarily. It’s a little too “gold lame” for me. But in this case, it’s not about aesthetics. It’s for emergencies, after all.

You see, this is not to replace the reporter’s notebook which is my constant companion. Nor the larger, un-lined journal I keep near my bedside to record my thoughts and musings when the mood strikes.

No, this is the Last Word.

You see, I have this compulsion. Well, actually it’s more of a pathological need, to have the Last Word. It’s without a doubt one of my worst character flaws. No matter how small the argument, or discussion, I have to have the final say in the matter. Regardless of how destructive that may turn out to be.

I try to keep my mouth shut, I really do. But it just festers in my brain until the words seem to swell up out of nowhere and spring from my lips despite any intention to the contrary.

I’m not sure if this is something hard-wired within me, or if it is a learned behavior. But I can tell you without a doubt that it runs in my family. In my house, having the last word is victory. He (or she) who argues the loudest and the longest is right. Regardless of whether they actually ARE right, I might add.

So, yes, I have this tendency. It’s something I’ve struggled with my entire life. To my detriment, I’m afraid.

Regrettably there is no Twelve Step program for this compulsion. But that’s okay, because I think I’ve finally arrived at a workable solution.

I mean, of course, my little gold book.

Within in its pages, I plan to have my say. I will record my insightful conclusions to any given argument, decisive closing statements to every heated discussion and even blistering parting shots – all in clear, concise script. Completely regret and repercussion free.

Oh yes, from now on I will always have the Last Word.

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.

Editor’s Notebook: 9/20/10

Monday, September 20th, 2010
Jeff Genung

A friend of mine pointed out a while back that I hadn’t blogged since, well pretty much since blogs were invented. And he was right. Seems I’ve fallen into the trap of saving “the good stuff” for my columns in the print edition on Fridays, leaving little else to talk about in this forum.

But the “little else,” I’ve come to realize, can be interesting tidbits of information that give readers a little more insight into the behind the scenes workings of Chenango County’s Hometown Daily. That’s why, starting today, I’ll be blogging daily about the “little things” that cross my desk (hopefully with a pithy observation or two).

• While I resisted the temptation to call these entries “Dear Diary” – that’s far too Bella Swan for my tastes – I think I’ll go with “Editor’s Notebook,” followed by the date. Let’s see how long I can keep it up!

• Today’s top story previewed the United Way’s campaign kick off with the Day of Caring. While we didn’t field a team this year, my Evening Sun brethren and I have participated in years past, and it’s a great event. Far more meaningful and productive than the traditional (and often lame) kickoff “party,” the Day of Caring immediately puts what United Way is all about – helping others – in the forefront of people’s minds. It’s ingenious marketing synergy, in my opinion, and a boon to the community, to boot.

• Kudos to Frank Speziale for that photo of the YMCA Scholarship ride taking off on Sunday. I don’t know what he was standing on to get that shot of the cyclists revving up … come to think of it, I’m probably better off not knowing.

• Started work today on a special supplement to The Evening Sun coming out this Thursday – “The Time of Your Life.” It’ll be a 12-page special section packed with features, information and advertising geared toward the senior crowd. Gray hair aside, I’ll state here for the record that I do not have an AARP card. Yet.

• Melissa Stagnaro’s off to an Oxford school board meeting tonight. Between there and Norwich, I’m pretty sure I should be offering her hazard pay. Or at least Witness Protection. Should be interesting.

• Puzzlement of the Day: A new business that didn’t want a reporter to interview them for a story because they wanted to keep things “low key.” There’s a brilliant strategy: Don’t let people know you’re in business! “For Rent” sign going up in six months.

• This one’s for you, Brian Burton. See you guys tomorrow.

Williams deserved a better fate

Friday, September 17th, 2010
Patrick Newell

Here’s a small piece of Patrick Newell trivia: The absolute first game I ever attended as the sports editor of The Evening Sun was a late-August soccer game in 1995 at Bainbridge-Guilford. One of my high school friends, Kevin Perez, was head coach of the Norwich girls, and being an eager rookie reporter, I trekked over the back road to Guilford and on to Bainbridge to catch the game.
I witnessed a couple of impressive athletes that day, and my first flip throw-in. One of the girls on the B-G team seemed incredibly quick and a step or two faster than everyone else on the field. I found out later her name was Danielle Baldwin. I would come to know Baldwin a lot better throughout the school year as she was one of the preeminent athletes in Section IV, and a couple of years ago, was inducted into the Section IV Athletic Hall of Fame.
I sidled up near the Norwich bench, and extended an in-game nod toward Perez, who gave me a big smile and a hello before resuming his coaching duties. After the game – and I believe it was a one-goal win for B-G – I made my way over to the Bobcats’ bench to introduce myself to their head coach, George Williams.
Williams was welcoming and seemed genuinely pleased to have me attend the game. I think he was more surprised than anything else. It wasn’t too often an Evening Sun sports reporter – or any other local news reporter – was over in Bainbridge covering an early-season soccer game.
It was at that point I established my longtime working relationship with Williams, who was nothing short of professional, well prepared, and above all humble. For 15 seasons we worked together, and after last season, he was the only girls’ soccer coach from my first year who was still coaching.
I called George’s house about four weeks ago to inquire about his team. He wasn’t available, so like I do with everyone else I miss by phone, I left a message for him to call me back. I had no reason to think he wasn’t coaching, and he gave no indication last year that he was planning to give up the job. George returned my call, and unfortunately I was not available. His message said that he was no longer coaching, and it wasn’t his choice to leave. He asked me to call him back when I had time so that he could fill me in on the details of his departure.
I will spare readers all of the intimate details, but to summarize, the school district reposted the varsity girls’ soccer coach position as it always does, and instead of rubber-stamping the incumbent coach – who had 21 years on the job – it went through an interview process. Williams applied for the job as did at least one other person, and the interview committee decided to “go in a new direction.”
Williams was extremely disappointed by the committee’s decision, and admitted that several weeks and months after he learned his fate, he was still hurting. For me, I’ve lost a true professional who loved what he did, and his passion for soccer made my job a lot easier. I’ll get to speak to George in the spring when he coaches the boys’ tennis team, a squad he has led 35 years. George Williams is and remains a class act, and as the person who started the girls’ soccer program at B-G, deserved a better fate.

Faith in mankind

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

The capacity of human beings to inflict pain and harm on one another is virtually endless. The history books are filled with examples of the atrocities of war, from the Holocaust and the Japanese in Nanking to the present day strife in West Africa. Rape, torture, murder – you name it, and somewhere on this planet there is no doubt someone out there committing it as we speak. Every day in our own communities there is domestic violence and child abuse to an extent most of us can’t begin to comprehend.

It’s easy, in the face of all this horror, to lose faith in mankind. And there are dark days when I read the news where I just want to cry.

But then, there will be that one story that gives you hope. All it takes is one glimpse of care and concern on the part of a stranger for someone else’s plight to touch your heart, to restore your faith.
I was having one of those dark days today, when I happened to stumble across a story on cnn.com, about a man named Brandon Fisher. Fisher, a drilling expert from Berlin, Pennsylvania, is currently in Chile. He and his team are part of the effort to rescue the 33 miners who have been trapped 2,300 feet underground since the San Jose Mine collapsed on August 5.

I will admit that I haven’t followed this story closely. Not because I am not concerned about these miners and their families. On the contrary, they have been often in my thoughts. It’s just that, frankly, I’m a bit claustrophobic.  The idea of anyone being trapped underground for that length of time scares the wits out of me. I move close to panic attack mode every time I even think about it.

Which is why my first response to reading the article about Fisher and his crew was intense relief. I know, that sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. If I were trapped even for a minute, I’d want to know men like him were on the job.

Men who would be willing to travel thousands of miles and work tirelessly around the clock, undeterred by any obstacle or set back for months, to free people they don’t even know.

Reading about Fisher and his colleagues truly touched my heart. They are true heroes in my eyes. And I firmly believe that as long as there are people like them on this planet, there is hope for mankind.

To Brandon Fisher and his crew: Know that there are those back home who appreciate your efforts. May your drills and expertise help you accomplish the task at hand swiftly and safely, so those 33 miners may return home to their families and loved ones.

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.