Batavia resident Lisa Barrett is hoping a lot of people will get online and vote for her song, "When You Look at Me," which has made it into round three of the international "Best Original Song" contest.
If she wins, she'll get her own Web page, and her song will be sent to dozens of recording companies, music labels (large and small), producers and agents.
Barrett's song was one of 100 from around the world chosen for the contest. Of those, 48 made it to round two and, you guessed it, "When You Look at Me" was one of them.
Now it's one of 24 that have made it to the third round. If Barrett makes it through this round, she'll be halfway to her goal of winning the competition.
Voting began this week and extends through Monday. In order to vote, go to www.bestoriginalsong.com and set up an account -- it's free and only takes a minute.
Barrett wrote and performed "When You Look at Me" in memory of her nephew, Austin, who lost a brave battle with cancer in February of 2000, just shy of his 2nd birthday.
"My goal is to touch people's lives with the music in Austin's memory," Barrett said. "I feel I'm doing this not only for Austin, but for all children who have lost their battles, or are still struggling with life-threatening illnesses."
She came up with the idea for the song about a year after Austin died.
"I walked by his picture, and this particular time I stopped (to look at it). My eyes met his, and I said out loud: 'I can almost feel your touch when you look at me.'"
According to Barrett, "something happened" in this instant that changed her life.
"It was like a switch went on. I heard a melody in my head, with the lyrics coming at the same time. I felt compelled to grab a pen and start writing."
It took her a few weeks, but when she finally finished the song it became, in her words, "a wonderful grieving outlet."
"After that," Barrett said, "the switch kept going on for other songs. Whenever something hit me hard emotionally -- whether it made me feel sad, happy, angry or it was funny -- I would write a song about it."
Her songs are not just about things that affect her directly. As she got further along in this new chapter of her life, she became inspired by other people's experiences as well.
In recent years, she wrote a musical called "Can't Bully Me Now," which deals with the experiences of children who are bullied in school. This song has been performed multiple times by students at St. Joseph School in Batavia, and educators from other districts have expressed interest in it as well.
The amazing thing is that prior to the composition of "When You Look at Me," Barrett had never been a songwriter.
"I didn't plan this. It's a path that has been laid before me, and I follow it, not always knowing where I'm going next."
Along the way, she has learned that "even after so much pain, the sun can shine again."
Originally recorded at Affinity Music in Nashville, Tennessee in 2005, "When You Look at Me" is part of an album with the same title. Barrett wrote and performed 10 other songs for this album, one of which -- "Share Your Light" -- was the theme song selection for Western New York's National Night Out in August 2010.
In an ironic turn of events, Barrett decided that the time had come to turn "When You Look at Me" into a music video around the same time that officials from Best Original Song contacted her. They had found her music online and were interested in having her as a contestant.
Barrett said she submitted her entire album. They chose "When You Look at Me."
"It was like everything was coming full circle. It brought back to me the reason I had done everything in the first place."
She and her husband, Kyle, filmed the music video this past winter at Genesee County Park. They were there one day, and found that the atmosphere was ideal.
"The snow was falling perfectly," Barrett recalls. "And I just said to my husband, 'We've got to do it now.'"
Shooting at the park in the winter was not easy. Barrett said her "toes were frozen" as she made this video.
But she kept going, and it was worth it in the end.
Have a look:
Once you've created an account and are logged in, click on either of the two bars on the home page that read "Live Show! Click Here to Listen," then click on "Third Stage Show #1." From there, you'll know what to do.
Remember, you only have from now through Monday to vote!
Final Note: Barrett's CD can be purchased through her Web site, www.lisabarrettcd.com. Portions of the proceeds benefit Essential Care, a pediatric home care program of Hospice Buffalo for children with life-threatening illnesses.
Top photo -- of Barrett at Affinity Music -- taken from www.lisabarrettcd.com, second photo submitted by Lisa Barrett.
The big honkin', humongous SUPER MAMMOTH Indoor Garage Sale at St. Joe's School is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Saturday. It's located at 2 Summit St. in Batavia.
While planning it hasn't put Chairwoman Kathy Stefani in seventh heaven, she knows the proceeds are heaven sent, so to speak, and will be used to buy state-of-the-art instructional technology for the school.
Now in its seventh year, this thing has grown quite a bit since its inception.
Stefani, a St. Joseph's parent, began chairing the sale as a fundraiser for St. Anthony's School in Batavia, where her children attended until the school closed several years ago. She's the one who gave it the name MAMMOTH, because "even (during the first year) it got real big."
"It's gotten to the point where it's not just a sale," Stefani said. "It's really an event."
It will fill all the main areas of the school -- both upstairs and downstairs -- as well as the green space outside, which will feature a 20-by-40 foot tent in which lawnmowers and outdoor furniture will be sold.
Volunteers have been collecting donations all year, and have spent the last two weeks setting up. The latter process has included the tasks of washing and pricing the items.
Speaking of prices -- bibliophiles will definitely want to get to showroom #2 (a.k.a. the gym), where a large variety of books for all ages will be sold for only 25 cents each.
And for $20, you can own a 49-star American flag.
Shoppers will have a total of 19 cashiers, two of whom will be "express cashiers," to assist them.
In addition to antiques, furniture, books, needful things and other goodies to which customers have come to look forward to, there are some exciting new features this time around.
Clor's Chicken BBQ will be sold outside, with picnic tables and benches available for sit-down meals.
A bake sale, featuring all homemade items, including cakes and fresh-brewed coffee.
Because there is so much merchandise this year -- "tens of thousands of items," according to the ad flier -- Stefani and other volunteers will be restocking tables at 12:30 p.m. on the day of the sale. So, if you are not a morning person, you will still have plenty of choices if you come in the afternoon!
A special attraction will be an Artisan Doll Shoppe, staffed by an expert in vintage and collectible dolls who will be able to answer questions and offer free appraisals.
Jenna Raphael, of Batavia, spent a lot of time with the quaint little structure she affectionately calls "her house" during baseball season last summer. She had hoped that it would inspire people to take pride in their community.
Unfortunately, somebody came to give the opposite message...
The little red house, which is at Dwyer Stadium and manned during Muckdogs games as an information area for the public, was vandalized some time during the last few months.
Muckdogs General Manager Travis Sick discovered the damage after the winter snow melted. He said there's no way to be sure when the incident actually took place.
Furthermore, since no one is at the stadium at night, there is no way to determine who the vandals are. Sick suspects it may have been a group of kids in the area.
Fortunately, the damage was not extensive. The door was kicked in and the lock severed (above photo); parts of the door were broken off, so it will need to be fixed. There was also some debris on the floor inside that was not there before.
Nevertheless, Sick and Raphael both see this as a "disappointing and almost ironic" incident (Sick's words).
"The sign says 'take pride in your community,' and someone decided not to do that," he said.
"It's hard for me to understand what motivates kids and adolescents to do this," Raphael said. "I don't think there is enough to occupy youth in this community, therefore they turn to these types of mischievous behaviors."
Locted near the stadium's Kid's Zone and, Sick says "off the beaten path," this house was given to Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism & Substance Abuse (GCASA) last year. GCASA staff repainted it and made the above sign.
Raphael used it as a station from which to share information with Muckdogs spectators about Genesee County Drug Free Communities Coalition's (a GCASA program) efforts to address and improve environmental conditions that can lead to problem behaviors -- drugs, alcohol use, crime, fighting, etc. -- among our youth. For information on the coalition and, by extension, how this fits in with their overall mission, click on the following link: http://thebatavian.com/blogs/billie-owens/gc-drug-free-communities-top-10-finalist-international-honor/22803).
"Vandalizing a house (with a sign) that says 'take pride in your community' shows a lot of disrespect," Raphael said, adding that it "sends a distasteful message to those who continually work to make Genesee County a healthier and safer place to live."
She hopes to use the house again during the Muckdogs' upcoming season, in spite of what happened.
Because there is really no way to find out who the culprits are, no charges are being pressed. But Sick is encouraging any community members who are in a position to do so, to keep an eye out for suspicious activity at the stadium at night.
"If you see anyone walking around that shouldn't be there, call the police."
Daisy Girl Scouts Alyssa Ognibene, Lidia Pehrson, Brooklynn Pariso, Arianna Armstrong and Kelsey Verton (front, left to right) were on Thomas Avenue in the city today along with troupe co-leader Tara Pariso (back).
They were collecting cans to raise money for Brooklyn Sputore, a baby girl who suffers from a life-threatening condition called Vein of Galen Brain Malformation. Click on the following link for previous coverage: www.thebatavian.com/tags/brooklyn-sputore
Tara attends Northgate Free Methodist Church along with the Sputore family. She wanted to do something to help Brooklyn while at the same time giving the Daisies a community service project.
As of noon today, the girls had been to 25 houses in Batavia and collected more than 2,000 cans and bottles. They will present their proceeds to the family tomorrow at a fundraiser for Brooklyn, which will take place at St. Joseph's School, 2 Summit St. in Batavia and include a spaghetti dinner, Chinese auction and other raffles.
Pre-sale tickets to tomorrow's fundraiser can be purchased from Paul Sputore, 781-8138, or at the door. Cost is $8 for adults and $4 for children 12 and younger. But you might want to hurry, because there are less than 50 tickets left.
Students at Le Roy's Wolcott St. School spent the last two weeks raising money for those less fortunate. They did this as part of the Pennies for Peace campaign, a program of the Central Asia Institute.
It is designed to raise funds for community-based education and literacy programs -- esepcially for girls -- in remote, Central Asian mountain communities.
The grand total raised by Wolcott St. School -- calculated with the help of the Bank of Castile -- was $1,600. Here is a grade-by-grade count:
Kids collected and brought in pennies over a two-week period. Pictured above are the graphed results as of Friday morning (each jar represents $10 in pennies).
What is particularly impressive about this is that the students were not rewarded for the number of pennies they brought in. From the very beginning, there was an understanding that the class that collected the most pennies would not get a pizza party or anything like that.
"What we're looking to do is help the students become intrinsically motivated," said Principal Casey Kosiorek.
He said the overall goal as it pertained to the kids was to help them grow into good citizens who will want to do the right thing without being rewarded.
"I never expected it to have such an impact," said Carol Messura, assistant principal and chair of the project. She said that the students were "extremely enthusiastic" about the whole deal.
"If you were here earlier this morning, you could hear little hoots and hollers with the sound of change being poured into the buckets (pictured at the top)."
Kosiorek said that the money will go toward supplies, teachers' salaries and the building of schools in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Lights were dimming for the beginning of dress rehearsal when I took this picture -- it's of the poster for Le Roy Jr./Sr. High School's 2011 musical production, "Little Shop of Horrors."
Based on the Broadway rock musical by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, "Little Shop" is the story of a shy, nervous store clerk who dreams of finding a way out of the lousy job and circumstances he's stuck in, a young girl with low self-worth and an abusive boyfriend, and a plant that talks, sings and eats people.
This is the latest performance in a district known for its high standards for school musicals. Le Roy has been selected as one of the top 100 communities for music education in the country on multiple occasions, according to Bradley Meholick, director of music for the district.
He attributes this honor to the high level of dedication on the part of students, staff, administrators and parents, all working together in support of music in the schools.
Holy Family School of Le Roy celebrated Catholic Schools Week with a trip to Mancuso Bowling Center this week, following a Mass at Notre Dame High School.
Here is some footage of the students getting their games on -- and thank you to Lorie Longhany, who teaches art at the school, for indirectly providing the title of part four:
Catholic Schools Week -- which has been observed annually for many years (at least since 1889 at Holy Family) -- was actually last week, but the bowling outing and the Mass at Notre Dame were rescheduled due to bad weather. Pictures of the Holy Family crew at Mancuso's will be posted soon, along with photos of St. Joe's kids celebrating at the YMCA.
The purpose of Catholic Schools Week, according to Holy Family Principal Kevin Robertson (affectionately known as "Mr. Rob" to the students), is to give kids and staff the chance to celebrate their Catholic identity "in a way they don't get to the rest of the school year."
Kids, teachers and parents in Catholic education celebrate this annual, weeklong tradition with fun events at the schools and out in the community.
"A lot of these activities are geared toward teamwork," Robertson said. "It gives the kids a chance to work together and just have fun."
This is the third year in a row Mancuso's has welcomed Holy Family students in for Catholic Schools Week, according to physical education teacher Amy Drakes.
Drakes was in charge of coordinating this event, which she sees as a valuable opportunity to mix the different grade levels so that they can work together. She feels it's a great way to showcase the tight-knit bond between students for the community.
"The great thing about our school is that everyone knows each other," Drakes said. "Having all the (elementary and middle school) grades together is nice, too. You see a different side of the seventh- and eighth-graders when they're working with the little kids."
"There's a great sense of family and community (in the Catholic school setting)," Robertson said. "The kids get a strong foundation for morals and values, and they're conscious of the need to treat others with respect, and to be fair and productive."
Though most Holy Family students are Catholic, the school welcomes and includes students who are not Catholic as well.
"We have non-Catholic students, and we include them in everything we do," Robertson said, "but we also respect their beliefs. They can participate in the activities we have outside of school if they choose to do so -- but if they choose not to, that's understandable."
Education at Holy Family, as at other Catholic schools, goes beyond the classroom. Recently, the kids worked on fundraising efforts for Catholic Appeal's Week (see Feb. 7 announcement). Robertson said they will continue to have many activities through Catholic Appeal's Week, which is April 10 through 17.
The following is a press release from Chantal Zambito, a resident of Elba and co-coach of Elba's FIRST Lego League (see Aug. 5 article):
Calling all NXT/RCX Robotic Clubs, Groups, Teams, and Enthusiasts!
If you are between the ages of 9 and 14, you are invited to come to Genesee Community College in Batavia to participate in a friendly maze race. Whether you are a novice or an experienced user of the NXT/RCX Robotic software, this is for you.
The event will take place on Thursday, March 17, 2011 in conjunction with Tech Wars. Registration will begin at 8:45 a.m. with the events from 9:30 – 12:30.
You may decide which level you would like to compete at, novice or advanced. The three teams with the fastest times making it in and out of a maze will receive a ribbon and certificate. The best time will be taken from the group’s three trips through the maze.
Novice groups will know the route of the maze prior to the competition. The advanced teams will navigate a route chosen at random. All routes will be on an 8’ X 4’ table.
A free style, noncompetitive exhibition will also be available for teams who would like to show off a creative robot.
Information on how to get a Robotics Club started at your school or in your community will be available at the event as well. Come and look at the 2010 FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Challenge Missions, projects and presentations from local teams.
It was the end of a very hectic day at St. Joseph School in Batavia. The building was nearly empty, and teachers John and Margaret Volpe were finally on their way home when Principal Karen Green approached them and said: "Oh by the way, you know that award (NBC newsman) Tim Russert started that they give out every year? You two won it this year."
Who and what
Russert, who died in 2008, was a former Catholic school student. He created the Making a Difference Award for the purpose of honoring former teachers who had an impact on his life. It is given annually to a Catholic school teacher in the diocese of Buffalo.
"We had no idea we were even being considred," John said.
Green's announcement that they had won this award was a surprise for another reason as well: It's only supposed to go to one person each year.
This is the first time two teachers are receiving the award together. Green nominated both John and Margaret, who teach sixth- through eighth-graders at the Summit Street school, after finding herself unable to choose between them.
"After working with John and Margaret as a teacher and then observing them as a principal," she said, "I can say that when it comes to making a difference in students' lives, that's exactly what they do. It's a daily occurrence, and you can see it in how the kids relate to them."
Seating/Capacity: The new theater seats between 100-140 people.
Ticket prices: These will vary depending on the show. The first play to be performed in the Harvester location will be an Honesty Theatre performance (click here for more information on this group) on Jan. 22; admission will be $10 per adult, $8 for children and seniors.
Theater hours: At this time, according to Batavia Players' Board President Patrick Burk, the space is only open for rehearsals and performances. Burk hopes, eventually, to have people working there "around the clock" on various projects.
(Please note additional information added on Jan. 10 below the story and pictures.)
Ever since he was a 10-year-old boy putting on plays with his friends in the basement of a church -- with no audience but themselves -- Patrick Burk dreamed of having his own theater.
"I asked my grandpa for $500 to set up a theater in Mumford," Burk said. "Because for some reason I thought that was how much it would cost."
Grandpa said no, so he had to wait 44 years.
Fast forward to the present day: Burk is board president for the Batavia Players, which are 95 percent finished establishing their new theater in the historic Batavia Industrial Center on Harvester Avenue (see last year's story for background information).
An opening gala was held at the new theater last night. Attendees got to tour the grounds, listen to some music, and enjoy some refreshments.
Burk is pictured above, addressing those in attendance from the stage of the three-quarter round theater. He said that while there is still work to be done, "we did pass inspection (which is a big deal in Batavia)."
This met with laughter and applause.
The following are pictures of the new theater space, including the black-box stage, the costume storage room, meeting room (where actors can gather to rehearse) and refreshment room.
Representatives of Arcadia Publishing have been traveling to communities across the country for at least 10 years for their "Images of America" series, and last winter they approached Larry D. Barnes, Batavia's resident historian.
According to Barnes, the South Carolina-based publishing company, which published another book on Batavia -- simply titled "Batavia" -- about 10 years ago, wanted to "take another look" at the city and its history.
Barnes' book, "Batavia Revisited," will explore different topics and feature different photos -- of which there are about 220 in all -- from the first book. It covers many of the major events that reshaped the city's appearance, including:
The relocation of the railroad tracks to the outskirts of town;
The construction of the Oak Street Bridge; and
The Urban Renewal of the 1960s and early 1970s
As a book that relies heavily on the use of photographs, "Batavia Revisited" is mainly focused on the period from 1860 onward. However, Barnes includes an introduction dealing with Batavia's earlier history, which goes back to the early 1800s.
"I also try to straighten out some misinformation over the years (about Batavia's history)," Barnes said. "For example, I've found over and over again in my research, that the person most people think built the Old City Hall had been dead for two years (before it was built). It was his son who built it."
Barnes is a retired Genesee Community College professor and a volunteer with the Genesee County History Department. He taught psychology, but describes history as a "second career."
"It's a personal interest of mine," he said. "I do a lot of (historical) writing and research."
The book will be on sale starting Jan. 17, and will be available for purchase at Present Tense books on Wasington Avenue (and probably at the Holland Land Office Museum as well).
The third and final "Christmas in the Schools" video features students from Holy Family School (Le Roy), Batavia Middle School and St. Joseph School (I was going to go to Oakfield Elementary, but the weather prevented me -- St. Joe's was having the official holiday concert at the same time that evening, so I figured this would give me the chance to film those St. Joe's students who weren't caroling at the City Centre).
I have to warn you, the video quality is not quite as good as the other two installments. I was having some unexpected camera troubles -- some of this was my fault, some of it the fault of circumstances. But I hope that the quality of the students' performances will make up for this.
Finally, I just need to correct a quick error in the first video: "Santa's Playlist" was written by John Jacobson and Roger (not Robert) Emerson; you will notice that these two wrote one of the songs appearing in this video.
Thank you to all of the schools for allowing me to see and showcase the students' hard work and talent, and congratulations to the kids on a job well done.
My second Christmas video features the talented students of John Kennedy, Robert Morris, Alexander elementary and Pembroke Intermediate schools.
Some quick background on Pembroke Intermediate: For several years, chorus teacher Andy Clark has made a yearly tradition of reserving a spot in Pembroke Choralier Christmas concerts for "Christmas Sing-alongs," during which former choraliers are invited to come up and sing with the group. You will be able to see them up on the stage, behind all of the current choraliers, during the sing-along segments.
Genesee County United Way is more than halfway to its goal of $392,000 for the 2011 campaign. According to Regional Director Jamie Beedham-Rada, they are currently at 58 percent and "need your help to reach 100 percent."
Beedham-Rada says that United Way's mission is "to give back to our community, advocate for those in need, and receive funding to support local non-profit agencies."
Their five chief service categories are early childhood, school-age children, elderly, crisis and disability services.
"I believe by giving to United Way we are 'paying it forward,'" Beedham-Rada said, "because most of us have probably utilized services from one of the many agencies United Way supports at some point in our lives.
"Whether you had a child in Boy Scouts, an aging parent in need of assistance, no food for your family, or you just needed someone to talk to, one of the many amazing agencies in our county was there to assist you."
She also stressed that all money donated to United Way "stays right in our community to help the people we care about most."
For more information, contact Beedham-Rada at 343-8141. To donate, make checks payable to: