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April 25, 2018 - 9:39am

A new literary group in Batavia, organized by Eric Zwieg, The Visual Truth Theater Ensemble, will present readings by writers Byron Hoot, Cole Rogers, Julian Tuast, and Zwieg on May 11 at Moonjava Cafe.

The title of the program is "Speak Again, Speak Like Rain."

Richard Beatty, of the Geezer Radio Show on WGCC on Thursday nights from 8 to 10 p.m., will host the reading.

The reading is free and open to the public.

Contact [email protected] for additional details. 

April 20, 2018 - 4:23pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in arts, entertainment, news, notify.

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Genesee County has a lot going for it, several positive check marks, in a new "community report card" from ACT Rochester but a big surprising negative: Arts, Culture, and Leisure.

The Rochester-based nonprofit agency scored Genesee County with a red mark and trending down in the report released today.

For anybody who participates in arts and culture in Genesee County, that might be a surprise.

Gregory Hallock, director of GO ART!, said he definitely disagrees with the assessment.

"There is a ton of stuff happening in Genesee County," Hallock said. "We have murals all over the county. You can walk an art trail downtown. We have the Genesee Symphony Orchestra, Batavia Players, the Wind Ensemble, the Concert Band. We have breweries. That is art and culture. It's everywhere. It's in architectural design. Our building (GO ART! in Seymour Place downtown) is not only historical, it's an architectural accomplishment. There is just art everywhere."

He then started listing off more arts and culture in Genesee County, such as Genesee Community College's art gallery and theater, and the museums, and the restaurants, and the art schools and dance studios.

"That's a lot," he said. "One of the biggest things is you don't realize it's here. It's everywhere. Art is all over the community."

Hallock moved to Batavia from Buffalo and he said he thinks there is a more active arts community in Batavia than there is in the bigger city.

None of those things, however, are measured by ACT Rochester.

Ann Johnson, the initiative's director, said the report card tries to work with objective, quantifiable data that is accessible through public records. It would be cost prohibitive to survey every county's arts group, even if every county has an art group, to get a complete picture.

What is measured in the report for arts and culture is tourism spending per resident ($1,576), recreation spending per resident ($205), and the number of art teachers in the county's school (with 77, higher than most other counties in the state).

Genesee County tends to beat out other counties in the region in all these counties but not the rest of Upstate.

Johnson acknowledged that the data doesn't capture everything about a community's art and culture activity and how a community might feel about it. The numbers measure, in reality, whether people are coming to a community for arts and culture and leisure. It doesn't measure what local residents are spending for local arts and cultural events.

"I don't think Genesee County should feel at all that all that the red is a negative indication," Johnson said. "It is actually what the data shows us when we add up the indicators in that category. It shows up as red."

Tom Turnbull, president of the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce said the report reminded him of the old aphorism, "there are lies, damn lies, and statistics."

There's more to tourism and culture in Genesee County then can be captured in numbers and there is no comparison for a rural community when measured against larger counties.

"Anybody trying to base what goes on in tourism based solely on statistics is not really getting the whole picture of what is going on," Turnbull said. "Just compiling stats and trying to make a point I think is really irrelevant. I think it is unfair to us."

Potentially, a person who might think of relocating to Genesee County, or worse, a site selector for a big company, might find this report online and get a negative impression of Genesee County as a place to come and enjoy arts and entertainment.

That is a concern, said Steve Hyde, CEO of Genesee County Economic Development Center.

"I'm all about trying to change the image and enhance the image of this community," Hyde said. "We're really focused on growth we've had that focus for years. We've made a lot of progress but it's a marathon, not a sprint. When reports like this come out, where they may not have all of the relevant facts in order to make a judgment, it is rather weak and distorts reality."

Coming out of the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Process, Hyde said he witnessed firsthand how the local arts community on growing and enhancing what they do, including GO ART!, Batavia Players, and Batavia Showtime.

"I look at those trends and they are very good trends for arts, culture, leisure and the local economy," Hyde said. "We are active and engaged and working to make things better. That's the point I would make to a site selector, that we are engaged more than (what) a couple statistics might show that comes out of a book."

To pick up on comments by Hallock, Genesee County has a lot to be proud of in this category:

  • Batavia is the only small city in America with both a professional baseball team and a symphony orchestra;
  • There is also a chorale, a wind ensemble, and a concert band;
  • There are numerous local performing musicians and music acts;
  • GO ART!;
  • There are several art studios/schools in Batavia and Le Roy;
  • There are also dance schools throughout the county;
  • Besides art classes, our high schools have thriving music and theater programs (Le Roy just won a national award).
  • Batavia High School has a rock band class;
  • We have Batavia Players/Theater 56;
  • We have Batavia Showtime;
  • There are a number of very good, locally owned restaurants in the county;
  • Museums include all the town museums along with HLOM, the Jell-O Museum and the County History Department;
  • There is live music at Darien Lake, Batavia Downs, the Ridge NY;
  • There are local bars/taverns throughout the county that are venues for local and regional acts;
  • We have two locally brewed beers;
  • We have parks, including Darien Lakes State Park, the County Park, and DeWitt Recreation Area;
  • Darien Lakes Theme Park and the water park at Quality Suites & Inn;
  • The Batavia Arts Society;
  • We have a writers' group and we have local poetry readings;
  • The Batavia Photography Club;
  • The Paolo Busti Cultural Foundation;
  • Polish Falcons Club, Nest 493, Batavia;
  • Gillam Grant Community Center in Bergen;
  • Richmond Memorial Library, plus libraries in Byron-Bergen, Pavilion, and Corfu;
  • The City Art Canvas, murals throughout the county;
  • Downtown has a popular and growing public market in the summers;
  • Community events all year long in every town and village;
  • Three bowling alleys, recreational sports leagues of all types, high school sports;
  • Gyms in Batavia and Le Roy;
  • Mixed Martial Arts events;
  • Batavia Downs Casino & Hotel -- with the oldest lighted harness racing track in America;
  • We have several active veterans' groups;
  • We have numerous rod and gun clubs throughout the county;
  • There are snowmobile trails;
  • There are several golf courses and a number of annual golf tournaments;
  • Concerts in Jackson Square and the Ramble;
  • An autumn wine walk downtown and Christmas in the City;
  • Nationally recognized artists such as Roy Mason, Noah North, and Nina Mason Booth came from Genesee County; 
  • Genesee Community College is a hub of arts and culture, with the Roz Steiner Art Gallery and the Stuart Steiner Theater, and it's a great source of multicultural events (the annual Fashion Show is a big draw);
  • The John Gardner Society, which honors the memory of Batavia's most famous novelist with an annual reading at the Pok-A-Dot;
  • The Tonawanda Indian Reservation holds cultural events;
  • Annual tourism draws like the worldwide Magicians Convention, regional Psychic Fair, Batavia Train Show, Foxprowl Com-Con, and the Batavia Antique Show and Sale;
  • There is agritourism that includes Maple Weekend, tours of alpaca farms, and farm-to-table events that showcase locally grown food;
  • Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardeners program, with training, workshops, demos, plant sales, and more;
  • Genesee County is one of the very few small markets in the county with three competitive news outlets (The Batavian, WBTA, the Batavia Daily News).

What did we forget?

Photos: File photos.

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April 20, 2018 - 1:47pm

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Batavia Middle School was rockin' this morning with a visit from the rock band class at Batavia High School to help kickoff STEAM Day at the school.

The band's visit was intended to also give middle school students of another idea for a class they might take when they get to high school.

The band played The Ramones, Tom Petty, The Kinks (twice depending on how you count "You Really Got Me" with the Van Halen intro of "Eruption"), and Cream, among others.

During a Bryan Adams song, the students broke out their mobile phone flashlights and waved them in the air just like any other rock concert.

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April 19, 2018 - 1:00pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in GCC, poetry, news, arts, entertainment.

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Press release:

"Time" magazine recently quoted Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith as she talked about the value of poetry in our world today.

She said, "Poetry requires us to be humble and beholden to something other than our own opinion. That's important. There's too much in our 21st century lives that is telling us we're the most important thing, that our initial gut reaction is incredibly valuable and not vulnerable, and that our opinions as consumers are more important than just about anything else about us.

"A poem says 'No, no. You have feelings. You have fears. You have questions. Let's get back to the voice and the vocabulary of being human.' "

The annual student poetry contest at Genesee Community College is designed to do just that -- to encourage and reward students for their abilities to express their feelings, fears, questions and voices through poetry.

For the 17th year, the poetry contest illuminated the unique and impressive talents of GCC's students. On Tuesday, April 17, the six winning students were honored at an awards and recognition ceremony in the Alfred C. O'Connell Library where they each received a certificate, gift card, and a journal to encourage them to continue their writing.

The 2018 Student Poetry Contest winners, awarded by a panel of six judges, included:

Body of Work: Committee's Choice -- Catherine McCabe-Strong, of Rochester

McCabe-Strong is in her final year of Paralegal Studies at GCC. She is a repeat winner of the Student Poetry Contest.

Body of Work: Director's Choice -- Cameron Kowalczewski, of East Aurora

Kowalczewski began at GCC in 2016 as an Accelerated College Enrollment (ACE) student and has since graduated high school and is now pursuing an associate degree in the Social Sciences with a concentration in English at GCC.

1st Place -- Nicole Favata, of Dunkirk

Favata is a Fashion Design student at GCC. Favata submitted a poem in spoken word format and the transcript is available on the Poetry Contest Web page.

2nd Place -- Raxel Piper, of Oakfield

Her second-place winning poem is entitled "The Perfect Woman."

3rd Place -- Mackayla Poorman, of Farmersville Station

Poorman is pursuing an Associate Degree in Liberal Arts at GCC's Arcade Campus Center and plans to transfer to a four-year college for writing and to minor in Theater. Her creative poem format was inspired by several of her favorite authors; Maggie Stiefvater, Jennifer Niven and Jonathan Safran Foer.

Honorable Mention honors -- Gabrielle Rozanski, of Avon, for her piece, "Tomorrow."

The entire works of these students can be found onGCC's Alfred C. O'Connell Library Poetry Contest Web page.

"Our students have many responsibilities between their studies, clubs, sports, jobs and families that demand their time and attention," Assistant Professor and Reference Services Librarian Cynthia Hagelberger said.

"We are thrilled to see so many of them putting in the extra effort it takes to enter the poetry contest each year. The library is proud and honored to offer a program that provides students with a public forum to celebrate their writing skills and creativity."

April 19, 2018 - 12:19pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in music, arts, entertainment, news, schools, education, Le Roy.

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Press release:

The NAMM Foundation has designated Le Roy Central School District as one of the 2018 Best Communities for Music Education in the country.

This national designation is awarded to districts that demonstrate outstanding achievement in efforts to provide music access and education to all students. Le Roy is one of 538 districts across the nation receiving the prestigious award in 2018.

Congratulations to the Le Roy music teachers, administrators, students, parents and community leaders on this distinguished designation!

Le Roy has received this designation 12 out of the last 13 years and continues to thrive in providing music education through many opportunities throughout the district. The program supports more than 300 students in chorus and more than 200 students in band throughout our district offering performance ensembles in both vocal and instrumental for students in grades 4-12 as well as a competitive marching band. Annually, the program produces a sixth-grade musical and a Jr.-Sr. High musical. In the classroom general music and a variety of Sr. High electives are also offered each year.

Merritt Holly -- Le Roy superintendent: "Our entire Le Roy Central School District is proud to be recognized again as a 2018 Best Communities for Music Education.  This prestigious honor signifies the continued dedication and passion our teachers and students have to excel in music education. Congratulations to our administrators, teachers, students, parents, and community for supporting each other in achieving this wonderful accomplishment!"

Carol Messura -- Wolcott Street School principal: "On behalf of Wolcott Street School, we CONGRATULATE all the students, staff members, and parents for being named a Best Community for Music Education once again! This recognition is well deserved and demonstrates the unwavering commitment to excellence that the music department continues to uphold. From kindergarten through 12th grade, the seeds of collaboration and perseverance grow in our students which allow them to flourish into the future. The sky's the limit!"

Tim McArdle -- Jr.-Sr. High School principal: "We are so proud of all of our music students and staff who year in and year out produce high-level performances on our stages, in the pit, in competition, and on the field across many places throughout the region. The relentless efforts of our music boosters, families and supporters help create a synergy that propels our program to new heights each year. The music program is one of the many aspects of our district that makes being an Oatkan Knight so special!"

Matt Nordhausen -- Le Roy Music Department chair: "We are humbled to once again receive this wonderful distinction, which casts a national spotlight on what all of us in this Le Roy community already knew; that the parents, teachers, school administration, board of education and members of this community work together tirelessly to provide a multitude of first-rate musical outlets and educational opportunities for the growth and benefit of our children."

April 14, 2018 - 7:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in GSO, Genesee Symphony Orchestra, music, arts, entertainment, batavia, news.

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GSO Conductor S. Shade Zajac led a group of young musicians today in a string workshop at the First Presbyterian Church of Batavia.

The students will perform May 6 with the Genesee Symphony Orchestra at Elba Central School on Sibelus, "Andante Festivo." 

The program that day includes featured soloist Mimi Hwang on cello joining the orchestra for Elgar's "Concerto for Cello & Orchestra in E-minor."

The orchestra will also perform Wagner's "Siegfried's Death & Funeral March," Howard Hanson's "Symphony No. 2 'Romantic," and Holst's "St. Paul's Suite for String Orchestra."

The concert, "Romantic Masterpieces," begins at 4 p.m.

Tickets are available through geneseesymphony.com or GO Art!, Roxy's Music Store, YNGodess, and Smokin' Eagle BBQ  & Brew in Le Roy.

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April 14, 2018 - 7:33pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, arts, NY-27, news, notify, batavia.

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Students from more than a dozen high schools in the NY-27 Congressional District entered the annual Congressional Art Show and when the top four winners were announced at GCC this morning, all four students came from Batavia High School.

Kiara Cherry won top honors and her work, "Out from Underneath," will be displayed in the Capitol Building for 12 months and she will travel to Washington, D.C., for the show's opening.

Rep. Chris Collins was on hand for the awards presentations after visiting with the students in the Roz Steiner Gallery and viewing their work.

Runner-up was Tara Clattenburg and honorable mentions went to Stephanie Hoy and Sophia Dinehart.

The art show judges see only the pictures. They don't know the artists' names or what schools they go to.

Kiara said her work is meant to reveal how people are different and everyone has a story.

The work didn't come together easily. First, she spent nearly three months working on it and as she neared completion she spilled "a ton" of India ink on it. Rather than give up on the project, she reimagined it, using pages from an old dictionary to help frame the painting of the two girls in the picture.

"I had completely different plans," Kiara said. "It was just unbelievable how everything changed, and so quickly, but it actually ended up better than my original conception."

Ask what lesson she learned from that process, she said, "Not to be cheesy or anything, but it’s like the Bob Ross quote, 'we don’t make mistakes, just happy accidents.' That was a happy accident because it paid off in the end."

Kiara wasn't surprised BHS swept the awards.

"At Batavia, everyone there is so amazing and they work so hard for what they do," she said. "We all encourage each other and Mrs. A (Mandi Antonucci) is an amazing art teacher."

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Sophia Dinehart tells Collins about her painting, which is a portrait with bees and a honeycomb. She is showing, she said, how we all have ideas and thoughts always buzzing around in our heads.

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Stephanie Hoy

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Eva Jensen, Perry High School, with a painting of a national park in Utah, where she once lived.

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Tara Clattenburg

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April 6, 2018 - 10:24pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in GO ART!, batavia, news, arts, entertainment.

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GO ART! hosted a grand opening party for members tonight of the wine and beer bar now open in Seymore Place, which is the former location of the old Batavia Club.

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April 6, 2018 - 10:12am
posted by Howard B. Owens in poetry, Richmond Memorial Library, news, batavia, arts, entertainment.

Press release:

A group of local residents who read and write poetry has come together to host a poetry reading featuring JoNelle Toriseva as well local poets who attend the reading. It will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 18, in the Reading Room at the Richmond Memorial Library.

The organizers are interested in meeting with other people in the community who enjoy poetry and might be interested in coming together more frequently for readings and workshops.

“We suspect there are several people locally who write poetry but don’t have an outlet to meet with other poets and that there are a number of people who simply enjoy poetry and would attend readings,” said one of the organizers, Howard Owens. “We hope this initial event will attract those people and show there is enough interest for regular gatherings.”

Toriseva will be the featured reader, but there will also be time for an open reading with each person invited to read one short poem of their own or of another author.

Other organizers include Eric Zwieg, Bill Kauffman, Bob Conrad, JoNelle Toriseva, and Lucine Kauffman.

About JoNelle Toriseva

JoNelle has won the Patricia Goedicke Prize in Poetry from Cutbank. Her work has appeared in, "The North American Review," "Salt Hill," "The Literary Review," "The Saranac Review," "The Cincinnati Review," "Descant," and "JACKET," among others, and included in Days I Moved Through Ordinary Sound from City Lights, and Best Canadian Poetry in English.

She is the director of English, Communications and Media Arts, and an Assistant Professor of English at SUNY-GCC, Toriseva has also taught for Mills College, California Poets in the Schools, San Francisco WritersCorps, and Literary Arts of Portland, Ore.

March 19, 2018 - 4:01pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, ILGR, arts, disabilities, Announcements, batavia.

Press release:

Independent Living of the Genesee Region (ILGR) is seeking public-spirited citizens to spend a couple hours assembling bundles of materials that can be used to create artworks, to go to artists with disabilities.

The “Second Annual ARTcovz® Packaging Party” will take place from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, March 31, at the ILGR office, 113 Main St. (near Center Street), Suite 5, in Batavia.

The Agency offers participants a light breakfast and the opportunity to make new friends, as they assemble: clay art packages; card boards, colored pencils and paint for drawing and painting; folding paper for origami projects; glue and binding materials for creating books, etc.

This is made possible thanks to the generosity of the North-Buffalo-based University Heights Arts Association (UHAA), a group of artists that serve as a driving creative force and educational resource to make a positive difference in people’s lives through the arts.

UHAA has stocked an ARTcovz® self-serve kiosk of art supplies in the ILGR lobby since March 2016, which has included: colored pencils, watercolor pencils, drawing (graphite) pencils, watercolor/ drawing paper, craft paper, origami paper, polymer clay, and art-oriented audio books on CD.

Having placed many ARTcovz® booths in public areas around Western New York, UHAA has partnered with ILGR to expand their outreach to people with disabilities.

While not mandatory to participate, those who plan to attend are encouraged to preregister, so there will be enough food on hand. For questions, or to RSVP, please call Bridget Mosman at (585) 815-8501, ext. 400.  

Independent Living of the Genesee Region (ILGR) is a member of the Western New York Independent Living Inc. family of agencies that offers an expanding array of services to aid individuals with disabilities to take control of their own lives.

March 12, 2018 - 10:12am

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Batavia High School's sixth annual Mr. Batavia contest is Friday, March 23rd, at 7 p.m. in the school auditorium. Contestants have been in rehearsals for weeks for the annual event.

Here are this year's contestants and their charities of choice: 

  • Nicholas Neid – Salvation Army
  • Chase Monachino – Catholic Charities
  • Brandon Buck – Batavia VA
  • Valentino Zinni – Volunteers for Animals
  • Jon Liciaga – Anna’s Wish
  • Cameron Hardy – Genesee Cancer Assistance
  • Nate Loria – Habitat for Humanity
  • John Kindig – Alzheimer’s Association of WNY
  • Julio Vazquez – Michael Napoleon Foundation
  • Joe Marchese – Crossroads House
  • Evan Bellavia – Lifetime Care, Home Healthcare and Hospice
  • Anand Patel -- Golisano's Children's Hospital 

Previous winners are: Jon Currier (2017), Ross Chua (2016), Jordan Fluker (2015), Spencer Hubbard (2014), Lee Johnson (2013).

A total of $4,646 was raised last year and split among the top three winners.
 
"Every year we have raised more and we hope to surpass this amount again," said advisor Lisa Robinson.
 
Categories are group dance, talent, swim walk, lip sync, tux walk and question to answer and local Batavia members from the community will be judges.
 
Sponsors: Charles Men Shop, Reed Eye; shirts in the picture from Extreme Streetwear. Hosts: Paige Wasilewski, Lauren Leone and Michal (Mikey) Lullo.
 
Tickets are available starting next Monday, March 19th: $7 for adults and $5 for students at Batavia High School; also available during school lunches and at the door the day of the event. Get your tickets early as they sold out last year.

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March 9, 2018 - 12:57pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in byron-bergen, schools, education, news, arts.

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Press release:

Renowned ballerina Aesha Ash encourages Byron-Bergen students to dream bigger.

Ballet star Aesha Ash told the hundreds of students at Byron-Bergen Elementary School that when she was growing up in Rochester, “there were no princesses or fairies that looked like me. There were no magical creatures, unicorns or swans that looked like me.”

When she dreamed of being a ballerina, she was told that there were no black ballerinas and that she would never succeed. She dreamed anyway, and she did succeed. She was accepted to the legendary School of American Ballet where she was chosen to join the New York City Ballet when she was 18 — one of the first black dancers in the corps.

How did this world-famous dancer and winner of the National Women’s History Museum's 2016 Women Making History Award, come to be in Byron-Bergen? Fourth-grade teacher Alyson Tardy heard about Ash’s Swan Dreams Project, which was founded in 2011. This project uses powerful imagery to counter negative stereotypes of race and socio-economic background and inspire children to dream bigger.

Tardy thought that Ash’s message would be a great tie-in to the school’s character education program. She invited Ash and coordinated the special visit. Students surprised their visitor with a hallway lined with artwork featuring swans of many shapes and colors.

“The art is so beautiful,” Ash said. “I’m honored that the kids welcomed me this way.”

At the crowded assembly, Ash shared her story with attentive students, beginning with her passion for dance and her determination to become a ballerina.

She explained how she was part of Rochester’s Urban Suburban program, and constantly faced questions and misunderstanding from peers about her background and city neighborhood. Her family was not rich; she told the story of borrowing toe shoes for her first tryout. Even when Ash became a professional ballet dancer, she felt a sense of not belonging, of being different.

“All my life, I’ve fought to change perceptions and dispel myths — for myself, my family and my Rochester community,” she said. “The more that people told me that I couldn’t do something, the more I wanted to do it.”

Ash’s professional dance career lasted 13 years. It included eight years with the NYC Ballet along with performing in the Bejart Ballet in Switzerland and Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet, and with many other companies as a freelance artist.

She and her family currently live in California where she is working to make the Swan Dreams Project an afterschool program. She hopes to open a studio where she can teach ballet to children who are not able to afford lessons.

The Swan Dreams Project video she shared with Byron-Bergen students can be found here.

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March 8, 2018 - 10:42am
posted by Howard B. Owens in le roy hs, Le Roy, news, arts, entertainment.

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Le Roy High School presents three performances of "The Little Mermaid" starting tonight.

The current goes up at 6 o'clock and tickets are $10 at the door or available online (click here).

There are also performances at 6 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday.

Yesterday, the cast and crew of 115 students performed twice for students in grades 7 through 12, and grades 1 through 6.

"We hope you will join us in celebrating our amazing hometown talent and enjoy a night of great laughs and fun," said Le Roy Principal Tim McArdle. "This show is going to be so spectacular and, as always, the Pat Patton backdrops take this show to the next level."

Photos by Don Dessert, except bottom photo, by Tim McArdle.

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March 6, 2018 - 8:45am
posted by Howard B. Owens in GSO, Genesee Symphony Orchestra, music, arts, entertainment, news.

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The Genesee Symphony Orchestra rehearsed Monday night at Batavia High School for its concert this Sunday featuring the music of Tchaikovsky and a solo performance by David Kim, concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

The program includes Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D, David Kim solo violin, Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, and The Sleeping Beauty: Polonaise.

The concert is at 4 p.m. in the auditorium at Elba Central School.

Tickets are $15 for adults, $7 for students, $10 for seniors, and $35 for families.

Photos by Chris Choate.

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March 3, 2018 - 9:36am

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Interview with BHS Drama Director Caryn Wood.

"Into the Woods" is a musical comedy written by Stephen Sondheim, (from Wikipedia). This show takes many well-known Grimm Brothers fairy tales and combines them in an interwoven masterpiece.

The blissful serenity quickly unravels however, as the result of a giant run amok in the kingdom. Sondheim is known for his difficult yet emotionally charged music and lyrics; the cast has worked tremendously hard to bring this challenging story to life.

There are 50+ students in the cast, crew, and orchestra combined with 30+ adult directors and staff and volunteers.

Auditions were held back in November. Casting is always a difficult process because we want to make sure you have considered all of the options. People think you can just choose the person who sings the best, but in reality, you have to take many things into consideration when casting a high school production.

You not only have to consider how well a certain individual will handle the difficult music, but also what their characterization abilities are, and how will that person plays off another person. Casting a show is like writing a composition, it's a process that Musical Director Dan Grillo and I take very seriously.

One of the best things about "Into the Woods" and also a big reason why we chose this show has to do with it being an ensemble cast. There aren’t one or two specific leads, but rather a group of people whom the audience follows as the story unfolds.

These characters include The Baker and his wife, played by senior Evan Bellavia and junior Eryn Dunn; you see their relationship on display and their need to undo a curse put on them by a witch -- a key role played by senior Madison Hoerbelt. Others include Cinderella, played by senior Madeline Keenan; Jack, played by junior Sam Rigerman; Jack's Mothe,r played by senior Parise Ricks; and Little Red Riding Hood, played by freshman Kathryn Fitzpatrick.

There are many other recognizable characters as well including Rapunzel, the Wicked Stepmother and Cinderella's stepsisters. We've also added Grimm fairytale characters like the Three Little Pigs, Rumpelstiltskin, the Princess and the Frog, Hansel and Gretel.

Overall, the cast really embraced this show and dug right in working on the difficult music when we started rehearsals back in December. There are great themes woven throughout the show also; sometimes what you wish for the most, doesn't turn out as planned; the love of family and despite their faults, and many others.

One of my favorite moments is when the Baker's Wife realizes that her humble marriage to the Baker is more important than all her fantasies during the song "Moments in the Woods."

With all of the characters there is more to them than meets the eye. A line from the show about this says, "witches can be right, giants can be good."

Watching all of the characters evolve through the plot turns and twists may not be portend the traditional "storybook" happily-ever-after ending you might expect. Yet, in the end everything is tidied up.

Two shows remain this weekend: tonight at 7:30 p.m. and tomorrow at 2 p.m.  Tickets can be purchased at the door or Roxy’s Music Store in Batavia.

To view or purchase photos click here.

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March 1, 2018 - 5:10pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in arts, entertainment, GCC, news.

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The GCC Fine Arts Students annual exhibit, this year titled "Master Peace," opened today in the Roz Steiner Art Gallery.

The exhibit runs through April 6.

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February 16, 2018 - 1:16pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in GO ART!, arts, entertainment, news, batavia.

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Two art shows opened at GO ART! on Thursday night -- "Where Do I Go From Here?" a ceramics exhibit by Shirley Nigro, and "The Kite Boy,"  an acrylic exhibit by Alex Segovia.

Nigro is the owner of Fire Up Ceramics on Ellicott Street in Batavia. 

Her ceramic work is nothing like most people might associate with the word -- figurines and knickknacks to scatter around the home. Her work is complex and imaginative but still leaning heavily on realism.

The exhibit is a good demonstration of how ceramics can be used to create art.

Segovia is originally from El Salvador and now resides in Avon. He started painting three years ago after watching a documentary about Vincent Van Gogh. His work reflects that post-impressionistic style, though he says he's moving more toward abstract expressionism. The bright colors recall Henri Matisse or fauvism.

Both shows run through April 7. 

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February 15, 2018 - 1:55pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, music, arts, entertainment, news, notify.

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Last summer's concert series is one of many reasons Batavia Downs has been able to grow revenue and remain competitive in a saturated gaming market, said Henry Wojtaszek, president of Western OTB, and Mike Nolan, CEO, today at a press conference announcing an eight-show lineup for this season.

"We offer a lot of different things," Nolan said. "We have our own little niche here."

Wojtaszek said the key is offering options for customers and when you get them in the door, treating them right.

"That includes entertainment, it includes better food, it includes a cigar lounge, and frankly, just provide the best customer service," Wojtaszek said. "We like to think that’s why we’re growing. That’s what we like to concentrate on. Our focus is on providing excellent customer service."

The eight shows announced for this summer:

  • Eddie Money, June 22
  • Grand Funk Railroad, June 29
  • Blue Oyster Cult, July 6
  • Rik Emmett of the Band Triumph along with Carl Dixon of Coney Hatch, July 13
  • Rumours, a Fleetwood Mac Tribute, July 20th
  • Puddle of Mudd, July 27
  • Three Dog Night, Aug. 3
  • Lee Ann Womack, Aug. 10.

Wojtaszek said the concert series went so well last year that Batavia Downs would like to add more shows, but one step at a time.

He also said Batavia Downs will be working with the City and the Town to accommodate larger crowds. Last year, attendance was about 4,000 and this year the casino would like to attract 5,000 to 6,000 fans to the shows.

The concentration on classic rock and country is a conscious effort to bring in shows more appealing to older music fans, Wojtaszek said.

"They are the patrons coming into Batavia Downs and we wanted to provide them with the entertainment they’re looking for at a reasonable cost," Wojtaszek said.

Tickets for the shows will be $10 each.

Batavia Downs is hosting several other events this year sure to bring people from throughout the region to Genesee County.

There will be professional wrestling Feb. 24, a Whiskyfest in June, a Mixed Martial Arts event during the summer, plus Batavia Downs is in the midst of a $4 million capital improvement project that includes opening a cigar lounge, expanding 34 Rush sports bar, Fortune's Restaurant, and the conference center.

"There’s a lot of demand to have things here and it’s amazing to see the response we get to the events we do have," Wojtaszek said. "It’s a perfect location, right between Buffalo and Rochester and we're even getting people here from as far as Syracuse."

February 14, 2018 - 11:36am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Elba Central School, elba, schools, arts, entertaiment, news.

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The Elba Central School Drama Club presents "The Wizard of Oz" this weekend.

Shows are at 7 p.m., Friday, and 2 and 7 p.m., Saturday.

Tickets are available at the ECS district office and Roxy's Music store in Batavia. Advance tickets are $6 for students and seniors, $8 for adults. They are $10 at the door.

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February 8, 2018 - 3:15pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in byron-bergen, byron, bergen, schools, education, arts, news.

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Students from Byron-Bergen Jr./Sr. High School who are participating in Sandy Auer's pottery classes traveled to Rochester today for the class's annual visit to the Flower City Arts Center, where they could experience throwing pottery for a first time on a pottery wheel. The students then work with Mrs. Auer one-on-one in class throwing their own pottery pieces. 

"It's a great experience for the students," Mrs. Auer said.

Photos and info provided by Byron-Bergen High School.

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