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Monday, March 16, 2015 at 6:24 pm

Emily Helenbrook dreams big, works hard as she seeks career as opera singer

post by Howard B. Owens in arts, alexander, Emily Helenbrook, music

It's a long way from Alexander, New York, to the Metropolitan Opera House, much further than the 536 miles measured on a Google map, but it's the road Emily Helenbrook has traced in her dreams nearly all her life.

At age 20, Helenbrook is building the resume that just might carry her from small town to big city, including a sixth engagement March 27 and 28 with the Buffalo Philharmonic.

A student at Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester, Helenbrook's aqua eyes glimmer when she talks about what she loves. 

"I'm obsessed with classical music," Helenbrook said. "I can't get enough of it. Even at Eastman, where everybody loves music and that's what they want to do with their lives, I'm still the one who is constantly listening to more music and I love it. My grandpa was the same way. Music was his life and seeing him as I grew and grew into being a musician, I saw how much he was devoted and I wanted to be like that."

That love of classical music began at home. Arias and etudes weren't something she was introduced to. It was what she was born into.  

Her grandfather, Mathew Tworek was an original member of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra as a violinist, and master musician and a member for more than 60 years. Her aunt, Adrienne Gryta, was a vocalist and frequent performer with the BPO and Helenbrook's first vocal instructor.

Growing up, all three of the Helenbrook children were introduced to music. Older brother Jason, now a local auctioneer, played flute and twin brother Eric played piano.  

For Emily, music quickly surpassed the hobby stage, however, and became the driving passion of her life.

Passion is what carries her through the hard work of learning her craft and building a career.

People tend to think, Helenbrook acknowledges, that singers just get up and sing, but there's so much more that goes into it. Learning the intricacies of vocal technique is grueling and takes years to master. They also need to research repertoire, study languages and diction, and for performance they must learn more than their own parts, but know and understand other characters, the history of the period and the story.

And that's just the singing part of her life. There are the academics that go into earning her music degree as well as her second degree in political science.

None of that is daunting, though, Helenbrook said.

"For a break, it's my practice time," Helenbrook said. "I don't think of practice as a chore. It's still fun for me, even though it's hard work, it's still fun."

When she needs to get away, she comes home, where there's more space, more quiet and more green.

"I really do appreciate being home," Helenbrook said. "Being in the country is a good way to escape the humdrum of city life. I can't stand it after a while and coming back home to something more simple is really important with the sort of speed of classical music and trying to be a musician."

Success came early for Helenbrook. At 17 she won the Barry/Alexander International Voice Competition, which led to a performance at the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall and an afternoon-long voice lesson with her childhood idol, four-time Grammy winner Renee Fleming.

"She has the most beautiful voice and she's such a nice person," Helenbrook said. "She's a great role model for young singers. I always dreamed maybe some day I could sing for her and maybe she could teach me some things and that's exactly what happened and it was in her house in New York City. It was the craziest thing."

Performing at Carnegie was also a crazy thing, she said.

"That was an out-of-body experience that I don't remember as much as I would like," Helenbrook said. "It was kind of like a dream, in every respect."

It's hard to believe she won't make it back to that great venue. Talented, beautiful, hard working, passionate about her art and establishing the connections that build careers, Helenbrook is doing more than just dreaming.

She also understands, there are no guarantees, which explains the second degree in political science and her plans for law school after graduation. It's a long way from anywhere to the Met.

"Even really, really good singers don't make it," Helenbrook said. "I've seen people at the Met auditions and they're really good, but nothing happens because a lot of it is luck and being the right place at the right time. I know that and I'm trying to be realistic about it. I know what I want. I want to be a singer and I want to at least try to make a career of it, but it's also important to have a backup plan."

For more on Helenbrook's upcoming performance with the BPO and to purchase tickets, click here.

Sunday, March 15, 2015 at 8:56 am

Photos: All-County Music Festival showcase held in Attica

post by Howard B. Owens in arts, Attica, entertainment, music

Photos by Jim Burns.

The first of two All-County Music Festival concerts was held Saturday in Attica, with student musicians from throughout Genesee and Wyoming counties participating.

The concert is the culmination of a lot of hard work by students, including an audition process that also contributes to the grades of many students in music classes.

The next show is at 2 p.m., Saturday, at Batavia Middle School. Tickets are $4 at the door.

Saturday, March 14, 2015 at 2:35 pm

GO ART! presents annual grants for art projects

post by Howard B. Owens in arts, batavia, GO ART!

GO ART! hosted a presentation ceremony Friday evening at its home at Seymore Place in Batavia for it's annual Reach and Ripple grants.

There were a total of 28 grants awarded this year for more than $46,000.

The Genesee Children's Chorus, directed by Heather Loveless, performed three opening numbers.

For a list of recipients, click here.

Bob Knipe, president of the board of directors, with opening remarks.

Josh Pacino, with Legislator Gregg Torrey and Interim Director Heather Grant, accepted awards on behalf of the Batavia Concert Band and Genesee Symphony Orchestra.

Shelley Falitico, from Genesee ARC, accepted the grant for the Sprout Film Festival.

Thursday, March 5, 2015 at 6:59 pm

Darien Lake once again planning full concert season

The summer line-up for the Darien Lake Performing Arts Center is starting to take shape, with Kelly Clarkson the latest star announced by Live Nation for a show at the amphitheater next to Darien Lake Theme Park.

The Clarkson show is at 7:30 p.m., July 21. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m., March 14. Also on the bill, Pentatonix and Eric Hutchinson.

Also on the schedule so far are some Darien Lake regulars, such as Brad Paisley, Kid Rock, Def Leppard, Zac Brown and Nickelback.

The Van's Warp tour is also returning.

Those shows are listed on the Live Nation Web site.

Darien Lake's site also lists Toby Keith, Tim McGraw, Jason Aldean and Rascal Flatts.

The first upcoming show is Debby Ryan and the Neverending at 6 p.m., May 23.

Other acts scheduled are Shawn Mendes, Fallout Boy, Train, Slipknot, Florida Georgia Line, and Darius Rucker.

For dates and times, check the links above.

If you've downloaded the Reacht App for your smart phone, at some point within the next day, we'll ask you this poll question: Do you plan to attend any concerts this season at Darien Lake? To download the app, click here.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015 at 11:48 am

Darien Lake announces in-park concert series

post by Howard B. Owens in arts, Darien, darien lake, entertainment, music

Press release:

This summer Darien Lake will host three special in-park concerts presented by TOPS Markets that are free with a Season Pass, a hotel or camping package or daily admission. The free concerts will take place in the Ride of Steel Plaza and include performances by –  Disney Channel’s Debby Ryan & The Never Ending; the social media hip-hop star Jake Miller; and Canadian singer-songwriter, Shawn Mendes.

“With roots in the Disney Channel, Kissmass Bash and beyond, these stars resonate with many families across Western New York,” said Chris Thorpe, Darien Lake General Manager. “Along with two new rides, these concerts are part of our plan to provide extraordinary value to our season pass holders and accommodations guests while enriching the entire Darien Lake experience.”

With park admission or a season pass, guests receive access to all in-park entertainment/concerts, Dive-In Movies, special events, shows, and now more than 50 rides. A 2015 season pass has even greater value than ever before, paying for itself in less than two visits. Season Pass holders will have the opportunity to be first to ride the all-new Rolling Thunder thrill ride, and will receive free parking, three free tickets for friends on select days and a free 32-oz. souvenir mug good for $.99 soda refills all season long when purchasing and visiting prior to Memorial Day.

In-Park Concert Dates and Times:

Debby Ryan & The Never Ending: May 23, 6 p.m.
As one of the most watched young stars in the business today, Debby Ryan is known for her unmatched comedic timing, flexibility to give powerful dramatic performances, and the ability to illuminate television and film screens. She starred on the Disney Channel series “The Suite Life on Deck,” as Bailey Pickett from 2008-2011 as well as the smash hit Disney Channel Original Series “Jessie” since 2011.

In addition to incredible acting chops, Debby broke onto the music scene in 2013 with her band, The Never Ending. The band consists of singer and songwriter Debby Ryan, drummer Johnny Franco and guitarist Kyle Moore. They released their 5-track EP “One” on June 24, 2014.

Jake Miller: June 13, 6 p.m.
Ever since Jake Miller began posting his original songs on YouTube a few years ago, the 21-year-old Miami-born pop artist has been building a virtual army of fans. His 1.3 million social media community followers call themselves "The Millertary" and come to his concerts wearing camouflage and greasepaint under their eyes. They are devoted to Miller’s irresistible musical blend of pop and hip-hop, combined with the positive messages in his songs.

Miller has independently released three EP’s: 2012’s "Spotlight" and 2013’s "The Road Less Traveled," which debuted at No. 1 on the iTunes Hip-Hop chart and 2014’s "Lion Heart," which sold 8,000 in the first week and 14,000 to date. His full-length album, 2013’s "Us Against Them," sold over 33,000 copies and peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Rap chart.

Shawn Mendes: June 27, 6 p.m.
Hailed by Billboard as “Music’s First Vine Star” and TIME Magazine as one of the "Most Influential Teens of 2014," singer-songwriter Shawn Mendes has emerged from teen viral sensation to major best-selling status almost overnight. Soon after artist manager Andrew Gertler discovered and introduced Mendes to now-label Island Records in early 2014, Shawn’s debut single "Life of the Party" broke records, topping the iTunes Charts and selling over 150,000 copies in its first week due to his legions of fans.

The success of the song made Shawn the youngest ever artist to break into the Billboard Hot 100's Top 25 with a debut single. Then, just a month later, Mendes released his self-titled debut EP, which also hit the No. 1 spot on iTunes once again, and entered at No. 5 on the Billboard album charts, showing the staying power of the young artist. Now fresh off of his sold out first headline tour dates, and soon to be embarking on Taylor Swift’s 1989 World Tour as well as releasing his debut album in 2015, Shawn has quickly become one of music's most promising young stars.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015 at 11:43 am

Photos: Batavia HS students ready for three performances of 'Annie' this weekend

post by Howard B. Owens in arts, batavia, Batavia HS, entertainment

The Batavia High School Production Club will present the musical "Annie" this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday, 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the door for adults and $8 for students and seniors. Presale, available at the school, are $8 and $7.

  • Annie ….…………...……..…..Lauren Dunn
  • Oliver Warbucks……………...Jesse Conklin (community member)
  • Miss Hannigan ……………..…Chelsea Jensen
  • Grace Farrell ……………….…Andrea Gilbarto
  • Rooster ………………………... Ross Chua
  • Lilly …………………………….. Cara Ranalli
  • Roosevelt ……………………….Alex Mott
  • Drake…………………………... Evan Bellavia
  • Mrs. Pugh ……………………...Grace Judge
  • Bert Healy……………………... Nick Piedmont
  • Ronnie Boylan ………………...Marissa Carbonell
  • Bonnie Boylan ………………...Celia Flynn
  • Connie Boylan ………………...Madison Hoerbelt
  • Star-to-Be ……………………….Madison Hoerbelt
  • Howe……………………………..Alan Johannes
  • Judge Brandeis………………..Pat Burk (Board of Education)

Orphans

  • Hannah Bluhm
  • McKenna Dziemian
  • Eryn Dunn
  • Elise Hoerbelt
  • Karissa Kesler
  • Brigid McCormack
  • Tori Nigro
  • Sarah Wetzel
  • Kathryn Fitzpatrick

Ensemble

  • Kaitlin Ange
  • Shannon Cervone
  • Rachel Flint
  • Abby Franks   
  • Taler Fonda
  • AnnMarie Georgia     
  • Kesa Janes
  • Alan Johannes
  • Olivia Judge
  • Taylor McKenzie
  • Lea Morgan
  • McKayla Stappenbeck
  • Kim Truesdell               
  • Ryan Weaver

Cabinet Members

  • Nick Bestine (BMS faculty)
  • Sean Krause (BHS faculty)
  • Andy Kiebala (BMS faculty)

Photos from Monday's rehearsal.

Friday, February 27, 2015 at 12:56 pm

Le Roy students set to perform Shrek: The Musical

post by Howard B. Owens in arts, entertainment, Le Roy, theater

"Shrek: The Musical," based on the Dreamworks animated motion picture, is coming to Le Roy. Performances are at 7 p.m. March 5 and 6 and 4 p.m. March 7 at the Le Roy Junior Senior High School Auditorium. Tickets are $8 presale and $10 at the door.

The show is directed by Jacqueline McLean.

Photos from Thursday's rehearsal.

Saturday, February 21, 2015 at 3:39 pm

GCC hosts several events to celebrate the arts

post by Billie Owens in arts, GCC

Press release:

Anyone needing to take the edge off this long winter should head to Genesee Community College for unique opportunities that celebrate the performing arts and visual arts!

SHOWCASE 2015 offers a medley of performances designed to illustrate the diverse and dynamic talent of GCC's students including singing, music, dance and choreography, theatrics and original drama.

Two complete shows are scheduled, Saturday, Feb. 28 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, March 1 at 2 p.m. all at the Stuart Steiner Theatre at GCC's Batavia Campus.

Tickets for SHOWCASE are $8 for general admission, $5 for seniors (55+) or students (16+), and all GCC alumni with ID receive $2 off the general admission price. To reserve a seat, call the Box Office, (585) 345-6814 or boxoffice@genesee.edu.

In addition, GCC's Fine Arts Committee and Art Club are delighted to present the Third Annual Fine Arts Festival on Thursday, March 5 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. in the Forum of the Batavia Campus. Art enthusiasts, artists of all ages and persuasions and anyone who wants to have fun exploring the visual arts are invited to share this creative opportunity. Experience art by participating in your choice of numerous workshops demonstrating creative endeavors such as drawing, painting, photography, origami, printmaking and much more!

"This year's Fine Arts Festival promises to be the most vibrant and exciting opportunity to explore the visual arts," Maureen (Moi) Dugan, associate professor of Fine Arts and Ceramics, said. "We hope the wider community will join us!" The Fine Arts Festival is free and open to the public.

Another exciting opportunity for local music lovers is the just-announced performance of The Rochester Gay Men's Chorus on Friday, March 20 at 7:30 p.m. in the Stuart Steiner Theatre. Since 1982, members of the RGMC have pursued the dream of using music and "harmony of voice to create a harmony of the spirit." Today, more than voices share their talent and proudly unite in seeking a better world through the universal language of music. For further information go to: http://www.thergmc.org/

Finally, the Roz Steiner Art Gallery will have Fine Arts Student Exhibit on exhibit from Tuesday, Feb. 24, through April 9. Two artist receptions will be held on Thursday, Feb. 26 at 12:30-2 p.m., and again from 5 - 6:30 p.m.

Among the musical selections of SHOWCASE are:

•    "Till There Was You" from "The Music Man," performed by Samantha Bell (North Tonawanda)

•    "I Dreamed a Dream" from "Les Miserables," performed by Maria Albanese (Kendall)

•    "This is the Moment" from "Jekyll and Hyde," performed by David Wysocki (Hamburg)

•    "O Del Milo Dolce Ardor" performed by Samantha Marchisin (Alexander)

•    "Air Romantique" performed by Maryssa Peirick (Batavia)

•    "Where I Want to Be" performed by David Wysocki (Hamburg)

•    "I Carry Your Heart" performed by Maryssa Peirick (Batavia)

SHOWCASE dance numbers were choreographed by Tara Pocock and Amy Taravella and will be performed by: Kayli Wilson (Canastota), Blake Carter (Batavia), Shelby Waterman (Byron-Bergen), Katerina Lynch, Christian Hoffman (Hilton), Michael Stewart (New York City) and David Wysocki (Hamburg).

SHOWCASE dramatic performances, directed by Maryanne Arena, GCC's director of Fine and Performing Arts, include:

•    "Lives of Great Waitresses," by Nina Shengold, performed by Maria Albanese (Kendall), Alexis Wilson (Rochester), Amiyah Johnson (Kenosha, Wisc.), Shelby Waterman (Byron-Bergen) and Blake Carter (Batavia)

•    "Death Knocks" by Woody Allen, performed by David Wysocki (Hamburg) and Bill Rupp (Batavia

•    "Love in Chains," an original dramatic work written and performed by Jerry Jordan (Bronx) with Kayli Wilson (Batavia)

At the Fine Arts Festival, among the artists and their media who will be participating:

•    Melita Gill – Weaving

•    Lance and Amanda Taylor – OATKA School of Glass

•    Sue DiMartino – Watercolor Painting

•    Shawna Hawkins – Henna Tattoos

•    Nate Hodge – Painting, Mixed Media Demonstrations

•    Debbie King-Frisby – Kirlian (energy field) Photography

•    The Pratts – Chainsaw Carving Demonstration

•    Joyce Chizick – Felting

•    Diana Martin – Caricature Drawings

•    Art Club – Hands-on Art Projects

Friday, February 20, 2015 at 12:08 pm

Photos: ECS Drama Club performs CATS

post by Howard B. Owens in arts, elba, elba central schools, theater

The Elba Central School's Drama Club held a dress rehearsal Thrusday night for their performance of the hit Broadway musical "CATS."

A performance originally scheduled for tonight has been moved to 2 p.m. tomorrow. The cast will perform a second show at 7 p.m., tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015 at 10:57 am

Genesee Chorale rehearses for 'American Bandstand' show Feb. 20

post by Howard B. Owens in arts, batavia, entertainment, Genesee Chorale, music

The Genesee Chorale will perform a show at 7 p.m., Feb. 20, at Northgate Free Methodist Church, south campus, built around the theme of American Bandstand.

A stage set is being built to replicate Dick Clark's old set, Pat McHanon will perform as Dick Clark, and between songs, old clips of Dick Clark interviewing some of the great artists who appeared on American Bandstand will be featured.

The musical selection will include hits by Sam Cooke, Etta James, the Everly Brothers, Dusty Springfield, Bobby Darin, Leslie Gore, the 5th Dimension, the Mamas and the Papas, Peter, Paul and Mary, Otis Redding, among others.

The Chorale is conducted by Ric Jones.

Photos are from last night's rehearsal at St. James.

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