Category Archives: Arts + Culture

A Year in Poughkeepsie

By: Joe Walsh

The Location of Marist Colleges spring concert. From edgecastcdn.net.

The Location of Marist College's spring concert. From edgecastcdn.net.

It is 10 a.m. on April 26, 2009. The sun kissed 80 degree Sunday only hampered by the mild clouds of college hangovers. Andrew McMahon, lead singer and pianist of Jack’s Mannequin, moves gracefully along the Marist College riverfront where he is taking the stage in six hours. His easiness is a great contrast to the place he was in just over a year ago.

McMahon is not the type to come across as a nervous wreck, however. He embodies the laid-back Californian attitude that is always noted any profile done on a musician, actor, etc. That does not mean that he is immune to stress though.

The Glass Passenger, Jack’s Mannequin’s latest album, was released in September of 2008. On April 14, 2008, the band played for a sold out audience in Poughkeepsie at The Chance. At the time McMahon and his band were debuting potential songs for the new album.

“I’ve come to the point with this record where there’s a chance that I may sit back and be

Andrew McMahon: Singer and Pianist of Jacks Mannequin. From altpress.com.

Andrew McMahon: Singer and Pianist of Jack's Mannequin. From altpress.com.

like, ‘ok I love this record, but it’s not the perfect record in my mind,’” McMahon said. “I think that the only reason might be is that the period of time it represents is so vast…that I may never be able to totally pin this down.”

That insecurity was lost on the crowd at the Marist riverfront who had months to let the album grow on them since its release. Of course musicians don’t necessarily want to make albums that need to grow on people; McMahon included.

“I’m so addicted to immediacy.  Like when I play the record for people…I wanna see people lock with the song on the first go around. Even though I know rationally speaking, when I listen to a record a lot of times, a couple songs pop out on the first listen. Then next time a couple other songs pop up.  On this record…I think I put too much weight in the tracks having to hit immediately.”

His tour manager Sean Johnson, better known as Casper, knows how important crafting new songs are to McMahon. His demeanor is slightly more tense; having to make sure the show at The Chance goes as smoothly as possible. When he sits at the bar, it is like he really could use the rest from running around.

“Andrew loves talking to his fans,” Johnson said. “You see some guys just want to get on stage and get out. “He wants to let the people whose lives he affects with music, influence him as well.”

Someone like McMahon, who has the main creative control of Jack’s Mannequin, is the type to be hard on himself regardless. Even during his show at The Chance, months before The Glass Passenger’s release, the crowd was feeling the vibe of the new tracks. Fans who arrived early enough to hear him do sound check were even buzzing about “Cell Phone” through the muted walls.

“It’s kind of a different arrangement that I have with the band,” McMahon said. “I did Something Corporate and that was my ‘band.’ And I think I learned through that process that for me to get what I wanted out of Jack’s Mannequin was to have veto power.”

Veto power for McMahon seems to be working for everybody. Fans have reacted very well to the new album.

“I had it preordered for months,” Marist College junior Ryan Mital said. “Maybe I’m being corny but I just have a real connection to the stuff Andrew McMahon puts out.”

McMahon’s approach to music is what allows for that kind of connection.

Andrew McMahon on the Water. From photobucket.com.

Andrew McMahon on the Water. From photobucket.com.

“With a record I could be singing about a completely different subject matter and really cutting into my own core, and the listener can be taking it in a completely different context that applies to their own lives. In that sense it becomes so deeply personal because it not only becomes personal for you, but for everybody else. That’s always my goal: people can take my experiences from what I’m writing down and apply it to their experiences and live that song through in their own life.”

That perfectionist drive he puts forth to make his music so relatable goes beyond making something just for people to listen to.

In the fall of 2008, mtvU recognized McMahon, but not for music. His charity, the Dear Jack Foundation, received the “Good Woodie” for social impact at the Woodie Awards. The main beneficiaries of his charity are research centers for pediatric cancer and leukemia.

McMahon himself is a leukemia survivor. He never tries to call attention to it during interviews. He doesn’t want anyone’s pity; he’s just happy to be helping. To date roughly half a million dollars have been raised. “For me as a human being, that is something to be hugely proud of.”

Jack’s Mannequin takes the stage at Marist College just after 4 p.m., the sun unrelenting. The singer that walks on stage is one who is at an accomplished point in his life. A successful album that laid to rest any insecurity he had, and a foundation that is making use of his celebrity status for good. Always the optimist, he put it best back in that darkly lit bar on that cold April day a year before, without knowing the continued success he would experience:

“I’ve been blessed to have a lot of those kinds of moments that have been milestones that have helped me to punctuate my life musically and artistically.”

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Annual Music Department Spring Concert

By: Jessica Turgeon

The Marist College Music Department hosted its annual spring concert at the Bardavon Opera House in a two day concert series this past weekend.

Bardavon Opera House sign, Spring concert 2008. Courtesy of Facebook.com

Bardavon Opera House sign, Spring concert 2008. Courtesy of Facebook.com

Saturday’s concert included performances from small group ensembles including Chamber Choir, Orchestra, Women’s Select Choir, Jazz Band, Gospel Choir, and Wind Symphony. Sunday’s selections were performed by the larger groups, including Freshman Women’s Choir, Marist Singers, the Marist College Band, and the Hand Bells.

As a result of the concert time being extended to two days, “a requirement of more literature had to be put on these groups,” said Sarah Williams, director of choral affairs in the music department. Normally, each performing group would only sing two songs, but this year the number of pieces was increased to fill the time allotted.

Also, due to the additional concert time, groups were able to perform that would not normally perform at the Bardavon event, such as the Gospel Choir. “It gives a lot more of our groups opportunities to perform,” said Williams.

Not only did the second performance day benefit the performing groups, but it helped the audience as well. Those wanting to see large groups such as Singers and Band could attend the Sunday concert, while those wanting to see a “lighter fare of music” could go on Saturday, according to Williams.

Freshman Women's Choir at Winter Festival Concert, 2007. Courtesy of Facebook.com

Freshman Women's Choir at Winter Festival Concert, 2007. Courtesy of Facebook.com

There was a scheduling conflict through the school, however, which caused a bit of conflict with the students. Student activities scheduled their spring concert of Jacks’ Mannequin and Matt Nathanson to perform the day of the Sunday Bardavon performance, so music department students were unable to attend. “We had ours on the calendar first,” said Williams. For the price that the music department paid to hold the concert at the Bardavon Opera House, they were “not going back. ”

The difficulty of having two days for the concert made it harder for students to commit their whole weekend to rehearsals and performances, according to Kelly Hall, a member of the Marist College Singers, and also for parents to attend both concerts.

What would draw the audience to this particular performance the most, however, would be the musical selections. All of the music being performed had a theme of culture and diversity, most of the selections being in a variety of different languages.

Williams admitted that she was not well-versed in international music, but while picking the musical selections for the Parents’ Weekend concert in September, she found it to be a genre she really enjoys. “Once I got into that pool, I couldn’t get out,” Williams said. “It’s so cool that 170 students and change can sing in Mongolian, French, Spanish; it’s amazing.”

Opening saxophone quartet for Winter Festival Concert, 2007. Courtesy of Facebook.com

Opening saxophone quartet for Winter Festival Concert, 2007. Courtesy of Facebook.com

“I think it’s really important that you broaden your scope of world music because it’s not all about us.” The singers performed selections in multiple languages including Mongolian, Taiwanese, French, Spanish, Egyptian, Lebanese, Latin, and Swahili.

“It was very challenging music, so the students enjoyed it,” said Kelly Hall, a member of the Marist College Singers, “but it might have been more enjoyable for the audience if more songs were in English.”

Despite the hectic schedule of a full weekend of performances, the music department worked together to make it all happen and put on a great show.

“The students’ hard work and extra time and effort really showed on the stage,” said Hall.

The Student Guide to Eating in Po-Town

By: Jessica Turgeon

Hard working college students work up quite an appetite, and for some the Marist College dining hall does not always suffice. Fortunately, there are many great restaurants in the Poughkeepsie area to satisfy those hunger needs. Route 9 offers a variety of restaurant styles: diners, sit-down restaurants, or fast food.

If you are in the mood for some Japanese or Thai cuisine, check out Osho: Japanese Steak House. Choose from Thai specialty meals, Japanese sushi, or a variety of Hibachi meals. No matter what you choose, you will never leave hungry.

A more traditional trip might be to the Palace Diner, located right across the street from the Marist campus. With cheap but tasty food and patient and nice workers, Palace is another good choice.

Other restaurant favorites for Marist Students include Applebee’s, Olive Garden, and Red Robin. Most of the time, students would prefer to go off campus to eat somewhere rather than eat in the dining hall.

“I’d rather go out to eat,” said Ana Cabrera, a student at Marist. “It’s more money but the food and atmosphere is better. There are no flies, more food selections and it’s definitely more aesthetically pleasing.” redrobin

According to Jaclyn Fitzgerald, also a sophomore at Marist, the perfect dining out experience includes a friendly environment, a variety of food, a fun atmosphere and reasonable prices.

Her favorite restaurants in the Poughkeepsie area include Red Robin, Applebee’s, Cosimos and Olive Garden. As a student living in Midrise who eats in the dining hall on a regular basis, Fitzgerald would rather eat out “because it is nice to get off campus sometimes.”

To junior Amanda Weinhold, a perfect dinner out is a bit more extensive. “I would go with something ethnic with a few close friends,” Weinhold said. “Something that is beautifully decorated like an Indian restaurant with full saris on the wall and gold accents.”

Many students who don’t have cars find it difficult to get off campus often to eat, so they just eat in the dining hall. According to Weinhold, “it’s decent.” Though she lives across campus and does not eat in the dining hall as much anymore, she said “it’s definitely not as bad as people presume. And it’s convenient and they give plenty of choices.”

Megan Frey, a senior here at Marist, misses the cafeteria, but also enjoys going out to eat with her friends. It is always nice to enjoy the beautiful weather, she says, and spend time with friends. “Having a car and going out is a nice getaway from school. My friends and I really enjoy going out to eat once or twice a week.”

Folk-Rock Parody Groups Gain More Laughs as Popularity Grows

By Jacel Egan

Radio City Music Hall is packed with antsy fans, waiting for the show to begin. The room is dark and filled with chatter, excitement in the voice of each attendant. Suddenly, blue lights illuminate the stage, and a techno beat starts to vibrate the walls.

“Too many dicks, too many dicks, not enough chicks on the dance floor…” sing Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords as they emerge on stage in their homemade robot costumes. In between rocking out on their synthesizers, the duo attempts to do the robot dance.

Promotional picture of the Flight of the Conchords going grocery shopping in suits of armor. From instantriverside.com

Promotional picture of the Flight of the Conchords going grocery shopping in suits of armor. From instantriverside.com.

Their first act is cut short, however, when Bret accidentally knocks his toy piano over, sending it crashing to the floor with keys flying in all directions.

The crowd looks around with faces expressing their confusion and wondering if this was part of the act. Jemaine laughs and takes off his costume, grabbing his guitar and saying, “Well then, I guess I’ll just have to wait for Bret,” in his New Zealand accent. Audience members erupt in laughter.

The Flight of the Conchords has dubbed themselves as “formerly New Zealand’s fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo accapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo,” and uses a combination of witty banter and singing to tell the story behind their observations. This genre of new entertainment called folk-rock parody, which combines the best of standup comedy and music, is growing vastly in popularity over the last few years.

Flight of the Conchords performing at the Orpheum Theatre in CA during their summer tour in 2008. From latimes.com.

Flight of the Conchords performing at the Orpheum Theatre in CA during their summer tour in 2008. From latimes.com.

“Music and comedy are obviously two mainstream forms of entertainment,” sophomore Brittany Gallagher, a concert attendee, said. “Performers who are able to use both open themselves up to a wider audience. This new genre, I think, gives comedy a fresh perspective. It’s a different way to make us laugh. The songs get stuck in my head – I know I’m more likely to remember a musical comedy standup act than a regular comedy set.”

Other parodists that have included tunes to their comedy are Stephen Lynch, Weird Al Yankovic, Tim Minchin, Lewis Black, George Carlin, and Tenacious D, who are the inspiration to Marist’s own musical parodist Vinnie Pagano.

“The combination of comedy and music just makes sense,” Pagano, a junior, said. “Who do you know that doesn’t like comedy and/or music? Comedy music in general I feel catches people more off-guard because when you hear a sweet melody accompanied with filth, or vice a versa, the element of surprise along with the lyrics usually gets quite a few laughs. Another way to look at it is: if you don’t think the lyrics are particularly funny, but you like the melody or singing, you still get your entertainment. Kind of.”

Vinnie Pagano performing at the Joker's Wild Comedy Club. From facebook.com.

Vinnie Pagano performing at the Joker's Wild Comedy Club. From facebook.com.

Pagano originally became interested in musical comedy to do parodies, but realized that monetary restrictions hindered him from buying the rights for the songs he made parodies for. He still writes and performs, but CD recordings and selling them for profit is against the law since he doesn’t own copyrights of the music. Still, he has somewhat of a cult following at Marist, having almost 400 followers on his Facebook fan page.

“It [not owning music copyrights] is also better in some ways because it challenges you to create your own music,” Pagano said. “But regardless, there are many ways to parody a song. You can take a popular hit and just make it about something political or random, in which case the original song’s lyrics have no relation. Weird Al tends to take the similar idea or even title of a song and twist it around to mean something else. There are just so many ways a person can do it!”

Vinnie Pagano during a photoshoot, singing to a cat named Austin. From facebook.com.

Vinnie Pagano during a photoshoot, singing to a cat named Austin. From facebook.com.

Pagano feels that parody has always been popular, especially with the boom of the Internet with Myspace, Facebook and Youtube.

“It’s become incredibly easy to find out the top ten most popular songs almost instantaneously with having to listen to the countdown on the radio,” Pagano said. “The whole key to parodying is doing it to songs that have wide recognition. With Youtube, anybody is capable of recording themselves either playing or just singing along to a popular tuen with their own new lyrics. Weird Al Yankovic, who received recognition in the mid-late 70s, has really made an impact and is still going. He has his original songs, but his parodies are what make him the current king of this genre.”

Life of an Actor, Not as Easy as it Looks

By: Jessica Turgeon

As the cast took their final bow and the curtain closed for the final time, 28 year old actor Brad Simanski realized that it was back to square one for his career. His past two years were spent in the Broadway in Chicago production of Wicked. Now that the show is closed, Brad must return to the audition process.

Brad Simanski began his acting career in the eighth grade when he joined the drama club at school. “That sort of spiked my interest for it,” Simanski said. Soon after, he auditioned and was accepted into the Greater Hartford Academy of the Performing Arts, where he studied from his sophomore to senior year. After high school, Simanski moved on to study at the Boston Conservatory, where he graduated with a BA in Fine Arts.

While some people don’t make it in the world of professional theatre, Simanski names getting a national tour of Singin’ in the Rain right out of college as one of his greatest achievements. Another one of Simanski’s most significant achievements is getting a role in Broadway in Chicago’s production of Wicked. In addition to his role in the ensemble, he played the understudy of Boq, and performed the role on many occasions.

Brad Simanski and the cast of Wicked. Courtesy of Facebook.com

Brad Simanski and the cast of Wicked. Courtesy of Facebook.com

Being involved with Wicked was one of the “coolest experiences of my life”, said Simanski. As with any other production, he had his up days and down days, as well as all of the fun times.

He met people who had respect for the show, and “those who didn’t bring the respect that should be there.” Working with an amazing crew of producers and creative staff, Simanski said, “I never met any bad eggs the entire time that I was there.”

A friend of Simanski’s and also the first assistant stage manager for Wicked, Matthew Leiner, described Simanski as “just kind of a goofy guy in general.” In addition to a “gorgeous voice”, Leiner said “personality goes a long way, and he’s definitely got it.” Leiner has known Simanski for about two and a half years, since they began working on Wicked together.

“As an actor, doing the same show every day and understudying a principal role,” said Leiner, “doing it for two years was absolutely brilliant.”

The theatre business is not for the weak, however. The experiences that Brad has had, auditioning both successfully and unsuccessfully for shows have been difficult. “It makes you incredibly tough-skinned,” says Simanski. “You just mature, and are able to deal with the ups and downs of life easier because you are constantly going through them.”

Simanski did not land his role in Wicked until after a long process of auditions. There were tons of audition calls for different roles and he had to fly all over the United States, many times.

Also, Broadway gigs don’t last forever. Now that Wicked closed, Simanski is back to traveling the country auditioning for shows all around the United States. Just recently, he auditioned for Million Dollar Quartet, a new show now playing at the Apollo Theatre in Chicago.

Until he gets cast in a show, however, Simanski is taking this free time to take it easy after the strict schedule of being in a show. In whatever free time he can find Simanski plays in a band in Chicago.

Brad Simanski. Courtesy of Facebook.com

Brad Simanski. Courtesy of Facebook.com

“Getting a band formed was tremendous,” Simanski said. “I am able to branch out and do my own stuff.” He writes a lot of his own music, ranging in style anywhere between acoustic rock and Maroon 5.

Simanski’s success has been inspired the most by his parents, who have always been there for him throughout this whole process, despite the difficulty of this profession. They gave him a solid foundation, and are always there to listen to him, no matter if he has good news or bad news. They are also always there to support him when he has his many embarrassing moments on the stage.

The exquisite and elaborate costumes for Wicked are beautiful and only add to the atmosphere and experience of the show. However, the cast has a lot to worry about with the extensive amount of costume pieces they are responsible for. “Most recently, I had to do the March of the Witch Hunters in my bedroom slippers because I forgot to change into my mob boots after a tin-man fitting in the middle of the show,” said Simanski.

These experiences have helped to make Brad a stronger person and learn a lot about the world of theatre. Especially working with an equity versus a non-equity show, the level of professionalism changes dramatically. It was just a great opportunity, and according to Simanski, “no matter how big the show is, a show is a show.”

School’s Out, Skating’s in for Local Teacher

by Robin Miniter

polly3

Alter Ego: Carmel teacher Nicki Stabell trades in her school gear for skates as a member of the Hudson Valley Horror roller derby team (picture courtesy of: http://www.horrorsrollerderby.com)

Knotted up in a pre-practice stretch on the polished wooden floor of Hyde Park’s Roller Magic, Nicki Stabell of Pleasant Valley is every ounce of fierce. Of course, as a member of the fledging Hudson Valley Horrors roller derby team, it comes with the territory: from the spunky hair-do to the scuffed quad skates, her short-sleeve shirt reveals colorfully inked biceps. No full sleeve tattoos allowed though, she laments – after all, she is a 7th grade teacher. “I always have to be professional and on my game when I’m at school,” she says.

A math teacher in Carmel and Marist College Greystone graduate student by day and derby dame be nightfall, Stabell, 24 – known as “Polly Gon Crazy” in the derby world – shares a similar story with the thousands of other women converging on the track for the full-throttle roller derby revival that’s sweeping the nation. To put it simply, Stabell, like many of her teammates, defies the concept of your average career woman.

“Being able to have a derby persona is probably one of the things that helps keep me sane, despite how crazy it is having a second personality,” says Stabell, “It’s fun getting to put my life on hold and go be Polly for a few hours each week.”

A 2006 SUNY New Paltz graduate, Stabell will be receiving her Masters in Education Psychology from Marist in the spring of 2010. For now, she juggles a healthy balance of work and play: tackling tests in the classroom and tackling opponents on the track.

“I find that derby actually gives me more patience with my students since I have another outlet,” she says, “and teaching really comes in handy at derby, especially since I’m so used to explaining things, it really comes naturally.”

She notes that while she doesn’t often bring derby up in the classroom, her students are aware that she partakes in, “some sort of sport on roller skates and that there is no ball.” Her colleagues on the other hand have a clearer grasp of the idea.

“When I was picking my name, I actually brought in a list of different names and had them vote on which one they liked the best. They all know that I’m a big nerd, so Polly Gon Crazy was the winner, hands down.”

Though her multiple passions are pulling from all different directions – mentally and physically – she is able to keep in check.

“It’s really difficult sometimes to balance everything, but I have to prioritize and I seem to be doing it pretty successfully. If I have to miss practice to finish a paper, or put off grading tests until Sunday to go to a game, I will.”

Stabell joined the team in July 2009 after seeing her friend’s band play at a derby half-time show in 2007. She was instantly hooked.

“I was completely intimidated…but it looked like so much fun to go out and kick ass!”

Five women compete from each side at during the bout – the three blockers and one pivot (the last line of defense try to defend their place in the pack while their one jammer tried to lap the their competition and rack up as many points as possible.

“Knowing that I can do it still amazes and excites me, I’m always stoked when I get to put my skates on!,” she beams, “Now I think to myself, ‘I can roller skate. What else is there I can’t do?'”

Marist Greeks are ‘Here, There, and Everywhere’ During Greek Week

By Jacel Egan

A mass of running bodies in black and gray T-shirts this year might be off-putting to some, but for Marist Greeks, it only means one thing: Greek Week. After weeks of preparation and practice, all of the sororities and fraternities come together over the course of several days to compete for the top place.

“The theme this year is ‘Greekstock,’ like Woodstock,” said junior Melissa Hlapatsos, a member of Greek Council and Alpha Sigma Tau. “I’m part of the Greek Week committee that plans most of the nitty gritty stuff, and Trish Kennedy from Sigma came up with the theme. She got it off of the Greek101 website, and we all just played it up with different ideas.”

Fraternities competing in the tug-of-war contest on the Campus Green during Greek Week 2009. Photo Courtesy of Marisa Rummo.

Fraternities competing in the tug-of-war contest on the Campus Green during Greek Week 2009. Photo Courtesy of Marisa Rummo.

Every spring, Greek life collaborates with one another to put on this exciting occasion, composed of various competitions. Events include: volleyball, cherry pie and Jell-O eating contests, a photo foxhunt, belly flop, swim relay, talent show, Greek Week boards, pop tab collection, tug of war, three-legged race, egg toss, dress up relay, and dizzy bat.

This interesting conglomeration of competitions happens all over campus, and will take place the week of April 13th. The talent show is this Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. in the Nelly Golletti Theater, field events take place on the Campus Green on Saturday morning, and the photo foxhunt takes place at Relay for Life.

Various Greek members compete during the egg toss. Photo courtesy of Marisa Rummo.

Various Greek members compete during the egg toss. Photo courtesy of Marisa Rummo.

Behind all of the fun and competition lies a greater purpose for this special week.

“The purpose of Greek Week is to promote Greek unity, but still get competitive,” said Hlapatsos. “It’s the absolute best week of the year for Greeks! It’s a way for us to compete in some fun ways, like belly flop, and some creative ones, like the talent show and Greek Week board. At the end of the week, there are two winners, but it’s nice because we end the week with Relay for Life, an event we coordinate together.”

After months of planning, booking fields and rooms, and having different members sign up for the events, all of the hard work put forth by all members of Greek Council is finally seen. Many members of Greek life express their anticipation.

Alpha Sigma Tau performing during the talent show during last year's Greek Week. Photo courtesy of Marisa Rummo.

Alpha Sigma Tau performing during the talent show during last year's Greek Week. Photo courtesy of Marisa Rummo.

“The talent show is the best event of the whole week,” sophomore Jen Plaveck of Sigma Sigma Sigma, said. “I love seeing what every organization comes up with.”

“I’m most excited for the day of events,” junior Michael Hall of Theta Delta Chi, said. “It’s right at the end of Greek Week, so it’s intense for the organizations who are neck and neck going for first place. Plus it’s a lot of fun and everyone is outside.”

Not only is competition fueled by the variety of events, but funny stories and memories are born as well.

“AST won last year, and I’m obviously rooting for us to dominate again this year!” Hlapatsos said. “Usually we have funny stories from every year. My favorite was when last year, Kayla and I got really intense and decided to practice our belly flops before the competition. After a few runs, though, the lifeguard on duty asked us to leave. I think he thought we were crazy!”