Art & Music

By Jon Szerlag

MUSIC, ESPECIALLY ON A WELL-CRAFTED INSTRUMENT, IS ONE OF THE FEW THINGS THAT INFLICTS EACH OF THE SENSES. It can stir emotions at a single strum of a guitar or stanza of lyrics. There are songs of romance and heart-ache; persecution and redemption; empowerment and admitting weakness. The thud of a beat you feel in your chest can make you want to move, and a three-chord song can stop you in your tracks.

Music is powerful, and the owners of a newly opened music store in Ferndale, Andrew Pursell and Joel VanderLinde, want musical instruments to be within reach for anyone, no matter their economic status or talent yet to be discovered.

Bayberry Music, located at 23420 Woodward Ave., primarily only stocks acoustic stringed instruments – from guitars to ukuleles, banjos to violins – but also carry accessories for acoustic and electric. The location also performs repairs on stringed instruments.

THE OWNERS DON’T NECESSARILY COME from a musical background, but life took them down a path where music became an integral part of their existence, including making and repairing stringed instruments from their basement before opening their store.

Pursell, who grew up and lived in Illinois before moving to Michigan, obtained a degree in engineering. He moved to Michigan with the thought of working for the Big Three in the early 2000s, but work in the auto industry was not easy to get into during that time. So, his brother, who was working at a violin store, offered him a job.

“[My brother] said, ‘You like woodworking, come work for us,’” said Pursell. “I happened into it, which led to here – I found a passion for it and I never looked back. I started making instruments out of my house 11 years ago, while I was working there.”

Pursell was talking with his friend VanderLinde about making ukuleles, and VanderLinde took an interest. From there, an online music store came to be with both working out of their basements.

VanderLinde, who has a degree in computer science, fell in love with music, and his sales and business expertise made it a perfect fit for the two to go into the stringed instrument business.

“I love playing guitar, and I built my first ukulele with Andy,” said VanderLinde. “After that I was hooked. [Before Bayberry Music] I had some office jobs and it didn’t feel right. With Bayberry Music, everything fell into place. I get to build a little and sell a little, and still do some computer science.

AFTER HAVING AN E-COMMERCE STORE for roughly five years, the demand they saw for instruments, repairs and accessories was growing. Moving to a brick-and-mortar location was natural. And Ferndale was a perfect for them.

“Ferndale is fantastic, and we love it here and we love the community,” said VanderLinde. “It is a big change from working in the basement by our-selves all day. We love seeing new faces walk through the door every day.”

With their mindset of music being powerful and important for everyone, they not only offer stringed instruments at different price points, but they also are giving back to the community by helping organizations, like Detroit Youth Volume, by performing repairs on their instruments.

“We love music. It bridges the gap of classes and culture and it is a peaceful thing that everyone can get behind,” said VanderLinde.

“Our sole mission is that music should be easily accessible to all people,” said Pursell. “People should be able to get a good, quality instrument for themselves, or for a child to learn to play on.”

To contact Bayberry Music, you can visit their location, call 248-439-0700 or visit their online store at www.bayberrymusic.com.

SENDS MUSICAL MESSAGES OF HOPE & CATHARSIS

Story by Jeff Milo
Interview with singer/songwriter Maggie Cocco

SINGER/SONGWRITER MAGGIE COCCO RECORDS AND PERFORMS UNDER THE MONIKER “SCIENCE FOR SOCIOPATHS,” and she realizes that hearing that phrase “…might scare some people.” But it’s an integral part of her story and she wants anyone out there listening who has a similar story to not feel alone.

“I used to be afraid to tell this story,” Cocco said. “It’s not that I’m saying: ‘Hey, pay attention to me.’ It’s that it’s so powerful to meet somebody else who’s been through something traumatic. That’s how my producer (Benjamin Warsaw) and I first connected, because he had a similar story and said that he just wanted to be a part in creating music that speaks to this experience.”

Cocco is already a professional, even at 27. She’s been playing music from a very young age, and has been a lifelong writer (first poetry, then songs). She was raised in Sterling Heights, listening to classic rock, Motown and some of the heavier alternative groups of the ‘90s. She played the viola between sharpening her lyrical sensibilities with poems, but went to study classical music at Oakland University. She started making an impression around the local music scene by the age of 22, but says she really came in to her own only recently, and blossomed, with Science for Sociopaths.

Cocco said her father, also a musician, exhibited ostensible sociopathic behavior as her manager when he instituted a ‘pop-star-or-bust’ level of expected perfection. Circumstances were exacerbated enough to where Cocco struck out on her own, three years ago, and has since developed her own solo career—writing a blend of blues, Americana-rock and jazzy folk ballads that are radiant but raw, presenting beautifully melodic odes of unvarnished truths that tap into experiences that could be specific to her yet nevertheless create an empathic and relatable response from a listener.

“I’m not over-assessing my writing, like before, wondering whether it’s commercial enough or not,” said Cocco. “I used to feel really isolated, like no one has gone through this particular life experience. All the stuff I’ve gone through might not be universally relatable, but it is to some people on a deeply personal level. It’s not going to be fun-time dance music, but it’s relatable and I see a lot of value in that. That’s the music I’m drawn to, anyway.”

Cocco is newly inspired. She’s constantly working on material; she released two EPs earlier this summer and already has a full set of songs for another album after that. What’s changed, said Cocco, is that she’s receiving positive encouragement. The musicians she’s working with now, along with Warsaw, “respect me as a songwriter and I’m feeling very encouraged. After my Dad, there was a period where I didn’t trust anybody… But I’ve realized there’s a ton of really great people out there who are just passionate (about this music) and offer to help, and that just makes me want to try my best, because I want to be worth it.”

The intention, above all, is catharsis. Writing and performing her music and sending these lyrical messages is one unique way in which Cocco can make a difference. She’s been able to impact the lives of others through other outlets,like teaching and volunteer work, but she can’t ignore the potential that her music has to reach people; people who might be in dire need of receiving a message of hope.

And even though the name of the project might put some on edge, Cocco knows that it will nevertheless draw an audience. She said she was done trying to be a pop star and appeal to everyone. Now, she’s writing down, recording and releasing whatever comes to her and putting it out there so that it can be found, so that it can speak to someone, rather than fixating on reaching everyone.

Cocco set up a Patreon to create an online community for fans of Science for Sociopaths, including exclusive access to her new releases. Her output continues to accelerate—she’s been delivering a new song each week to Patreon supporters online (which could be a new single, a new cover, responding to a special request, or just jamming with other artists).

Science for Sociopaths performs August 17 at PJs Lager House. After, she’ll be leaving for a patron-sponsored week-long tour in Ireland (Sept 3-10).

By David Ryals

SANDA COOK’S PAINTING IS INFLUENCED BY THE BEAUTIFUL LANDSCAPES AND ARCHITECTURE OF HER NATIVE ROMANIA. She studied art at the Brasor School of Arts, and her travels throughout Europe, Japan, and the U. S. have given her work a unique perspective and style. Cook has shown her work extensively in Metro Detroit, including exhibits at the Scarab Club, River’s Edge Gallery, Downriver Council of the Arts, Carr Center for the Arts, Detroit Artist Market, Grosse Point Art Center, Ariana Gallery, 4731 Studio, and the Padzieski Art Gallery. Here in Ferndale, she’s recently had showings at Level 1, the Conserva, and M Contemporary.

In an exclusive interview with Ferndale Friends she said, “Art for me is a way of being alive, of connecting myself to the mysteries of the universe, nature, and the magnificent human soul.”

Though she has lived and studied abroad, she has settled into Detroit and considers it her permanent home. The city has adopted her and vice versa.

“I’ve loved teach painting classes at my studio in Hamtramck over the last few years, and a couple of my students are selling art and showing in galleries after just a little over a year of taking my monthly classes. I am so proud of them, and I am happy to inspire others. I also do individual art classes. I love to give back and help with my art donations. This year will be my third year of supporting the Matrix Foundation, and I have painted two Little Free Libraries in the last two years. One is in front of Belle Isle Conservatory, and the other will be in Berkley in front of the beautiful art store, Vitrine Gallery & Gifts.”

Her travels have inspired her art in lots of different ways. “I love to travel and explore the cultures and people of different countries. I am a U.S. citizen, and very thankful to live in a country with such great opportunities. Romania is my birth country, and growing up I enjoyed the outdoors and nature after school with my watercolor supplies. I started to paint at ten. Both places, Romania and Michigan, have their unique beauty. I love to capture in my watercolors or canvasses the beauty of places and people. Each country has its particular energy, traditions, and beauty and I love to immortalize. I take my sketchbook and water-colors everywhere to make sure I don’t miss any opportunities.”

ALONG WITH PAINTING, Sanda is a tarot card and palm reader. “When I was 27, I too a class reading palms and tarot. I worked from 2004-2009 for Cosmic Eyes in Wyandotte and from 2012-2017 at the wonderful Boston Tea Room in Ferndale.

The subjects of her work are bent towards nature and the cosmos. She explained what draws her to these subjects: “Nature is pure beauty. Mother Earth is so loving and generous with humans. I love the art of Vincent Van Gogh, Georgia O’ Keefe, Frida Kahlo, and Jackson Pollock. When I walk into the forest, I feel home. It is pure, it is peace, it is magical. I feel the same swimming or being next to the water.”

IF YOU’VE EVER CONSIDERED GOING TO MOVEMENT DETROIT MUSIC FESTIVAL, this may be the best year to attend. Why? You won’t want to miss the history making 30th anniversary performance of Inner City – the Billboard chart-topping group essential to techno in Detroit and around the world.

Started by Kevin Saunderson in 1988, the band experienced phenomenal success with hit songs like “Big Fun” and “Good Life” while their debut album Paradise reached Platinum status in the UK. Saunderson is renowned in the music world in his own right; known as one of the Belleville Three, along with Derrick May and Juan Atkins, who started as high school friends and are credited with creating Detroit Techno.

Inner City spent much of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s touring the world. The band was comprised of Saunderson as DJ, singer Paris Grey, and Ferndale personality Tommy Onyx as music director and keyboardist. Onyx describes some of their experience over the last 30 years.

“It was an interesting kind of group to start in 1988, and to see the way technology has changed since that time. For us, every tour we did was drastically different in terms of production because of new gear and advances,” he says. “The first tour we did was 100 per cent live. At the time we started there wasn’t a new paradigm yet. We were going out with live instruments, and it just evolved as tours went on.”

And he sometimes can’t believe the memories they created through those touring years. “A lot of life experience boxes got checked on those tours,” he says. “You don’t realize how privileged or awesome things are when you’re in the middle of it, but we got to perform at the Apollo theater for Showtime at the Apollo. Looking back it’s crazy to think I got to experience that.”

INNER CITY TOOK A HIATUS IN THE MID-2000s, and has evolved in more ways than one since. And he members of the band have all created individual legacies since their time touring together. Saunderson still tours independently as a world-renowned DJ and runs his record label KMS, while Onyx started a successful web development and design firm now based in Ferndale.

“This is the third time Inner City has performed the Movement festival proper. The first time was when it was still called DEMF. We performed again in 2010, and this will be the third,” Onyx says. “We also performed the after-party at St. Andrews in 2012 but weren’t a part of the actual festival.”

As they reconvene for their 30th anniversary at Movement Detroit, the band has grown to include some changing and new members. One of Saunderson’s three sons, Dantiez Saunderson, has joined the band to DJ and mix alongside his father.

Fans can also expect the return of Dennis White, who hasn’t performed with the band in 25 years. White and Onyx were in the band Charm Farm together in the late ‘80s, and most recently White won a 2018 Grammy for Best Remixed Recording of the Depeche Mode song “You Move.” White will be on keyboards alongside Onyx and Nico Marks at Movement.

The most noticeable difference will be the transition of lead vocals from Paris Grey to Steffanie Christi’an. A Detroit native, Christi’an has per-formed with such artists as Erykah Badu, Talib Kweli and Big Proof. She is also active in the Black Women Rock collaborative.

“She’s from Detroit, is a phenomenal singer and is from the scene – super excited to have her in the mix ” Onyx says. “We’ve been having her redo backing tracks because we weren’t looking to replicate Paris and wanted Steffanie to create her own part in Inner City.”

Movement Detroit takes place Memorial Day weekend, May 26th through May 28th and Inner City will perform Monday May 28th ahead of Wu Tang Clan, where they are planning to release two new singles.

“Everyone is at a stage right now – Kevin is considered a legend at this point, Dennis just won a Grammy, I have a web development business – this stuff is exciting but we could all easily go our separate ways,” Onyx says. “But we are all kinda’ excited to see if we could get another charting record again, one more box to check would be to do another tour with charting records.”

Story by Sara E. Teller

Ferndale Public Schools is made up of portions of four communities – Ferndale, Oak Park, Pleasant Ridge, and Royal Oak Township,” explains Bill Good, Director of Communications and Pupil Services. “For many Oak Park residents, Ferndale Schools is actually their home district – many Oak Park residents don’t realize this.” As a ‘Schools of Choice’ district, Ferndale also welcomes students from Oak Park who are not assigned but wish to attend.

Ferndale Schools offers an intimate, interconnected environment for its educators, students, and families. “Ferndale offers a hometown, small school atmosphere that gives parents, students, and teachers, and community an opportunity to really get to know one another,” Good said. “The district is large enough to provide a wide range of curricular and extra-curricular offerings, but small enough to maximize student participation and maintain a community feel.”

Ferndale Schools has created a curriculum and school culture centered around each child’s age, developmental milestones, and specific needs. “It is a focused approach on the whole child that facilitates growth academically, emotionally, socially, and physically,” Good explains, adding, “Collaboration between children, teachers, parents, and community members creates a community of learners and a purposeful learning environment.”

The District uses social and emotional learning (SEL), the process through which both children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions; set and achieve positive goals; feel and show empathy for others; establish and maintain positive relationships; and make responsible decisions. This concept that is rooted in the schools’ ‘whole-child’ philosophy has been recognized at both the state and national levels, and has been adapted by other districts.

Good poses the question, “What do we mean when we say educating the whole child? We recognize that learning is about more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. We are dedicated to educating and nurturing the entire child, so each student grows into a purposeful, lifelong learner. Our talented educators have developed a guiding framework that is integrated into the classroom every day which teaches social and emotional development skills and the benefits are clear – academic achievement increases, students feel more confident, and teachers have more time to teach.”

FERNDALE IS ALSO KNOWN FOR ITS HIGH SCHOOL IMPI ROBOTICS TEAM, which has qualified for the national championships the past two years. The Impi Warriors recently took it upon themselves to help spread STEM education across the globe, fundraising for the development of a new robotics team in Ghana. The FHS Football Team also made the playoffs for the second straight year in a row.

High school senior Jacob Keener recently received notoriety as one of just a handful of students nationwide who achieved a perfect score on both the ACT and SAT test, and senior Matt Ballard and Junior Donovan Pitts-Reed qualified for the state championship wrestling meet. Student athletes Jacob Keener and John Stellard were selected from a pool of more than 4,200 nominees to be among 16 finalists awarded the Michigan High School Athletic Association Scholar Athlete (MHSAA) award. Students continue to excel at sports, academics, and extra-curriculars each school year.

The District also has some innovative plans in the making to promote educational growth. “With the explosive growth in technology the days of the traditional ‘library’ or ‘media center’ are past,” Good explains. “Last year, Ferndale Schools began our transition away from the old model and transformed half of the FHS Media Center into ‘The Nest’.” The Nest is a flexible learning space that teachers can reserve for small group projects and instruction. The tables and chairs in The Nest are all on wheels and can be moved and reconfigured to fit the needs of the teacher or groups of students. The Nest is also home to a mobile smart board which allows students or teachers to plug in their devices and share their display. The project was funded by a generous donation of ‘The Profit’ Marcus Lemonis and NBC/Universal who visited Ferndale Schools last year.

For an illustration of school assignments by area, please visit FerndaleSchools.org and click on the district map. Residents interested in joining Ferndale Schools through the Schools of Choice program can apply from March 13 to August 3 by calling 248-586-8686.

By Rose Carver

CHRISTINA DOUGLAS DOESN’T REMEMBER WHAT LIFE WAS LIKE BEFORE SHE GOT SICK. A MICHIGAN-BASED ARTIST WITH THE GOAL OF SIMPLY BRINGING BEAUTY INTO THE WORLD, A CONDITION CALLED ENDOMETRIOSIS HAS KNOCKED HER DOWN AND ABSORBED MOST OF HER CREATIVE ENERGY.

ENDOMETRIOSIS IS A PAINFUL DISORDER in which the tissue that normally lines in the inside of a woman’s uterus – the endometrium –grows on the outside. It affects your ovaries, fallopian tubes, tissue lining,and other organs throughout your body.

“Honestly, I don’t remember what my life felt like before endometriosis ruined it. I started having severe symptoms in 2006 when I was 25. I am now 36.”

Throughout her long battle with the illness, Douglas delved deeply into the study of her illness, traveling to specialists in Atlanta, and has debunked a few medical misconceptions concerning the treatment of endometriosis.

“Young women are still being told a hysterectomy can cure endometriosis when this is completely untrue,” Douglas said. “I would love to save women from the awful experience of having the wrong surgery.”

The right surgery, according to Douglas, is something called “robotic excision surgery.” The difference is basically cutting the endometrium off of the surface of the organs (excision) versus burning it off of the surface of the organs, which is a procedure called “ablation.” Douglas received the ablation surgery in the past at Beaumont hospital, and while the relief came it was temporary.

“There is such an extreme difference in the long-term success of excision surgery that I cannot understand why the outdated ablation is still being performed.”

Unfortunately, her decision to move forward with this excision surgery comes with a price tag, and she has plunged herself into debt.

“The bills keep coming, and since I was ‘self-pay’ I had no way of knowing exactly how much the surgeries would cost,” Douglas said. “It’s over $30,000, not including travel costs. It’s all more than I expected, and I’m glad I didn’t know because it may have deterred me from seeking care.”

Douglas has been collecting donations from friends and strangers to aid in her financial recovery.

“To receive money from strangers is surreal,” Douglas said. “At first, I thought I didn’t deserve it. But that was depression talking; everyone deserves a pain-free shot at living.”

The best thing about her life after surgery is, of course, the reduction in pain. Douglas says that the most exciting thing about her life post-surgery is that she can lay down on her back, on a bed, without pain. Before she would have to sleep sitting up in a lazy boy or else the pain would be excruciating.

“I look forward to finding out what a body that doesn’t hurt so much feels like,” Douglas said. “Endometriosis does not get the attention or compassion that it deserves. It is a serious issue when someone has to travel over 700 miles in order to stay alive.”

The recovery is long, but Douglas is optimistic. She plans to start creating art full-time once she can endure it, and bring more beauty into the world.

You can donate to help cut down Douglas’ debt by going to the web site:
youcaring.com/christinaevedouglas-948684.

By: Jon Szerlag

INSPIRATION TO CREATE A PIECE OF ART sometimes hits you without warning, and what you do with that is up to you. For Ferndale filmmaker Phil Elam, he took his idea to win numerous awards for his short film, “Swing Low.”

“Swing Low,” a horror/period piece which takes place days before the start of the American Civil War, is Elam’s first screenplay. It is about a slave and two slave owners, one “good” and the other “bad.”

“It’s a period piece…because it is easier for people to digest in today’s times, as we are dealing with social upheaval,” said Elam. “People can look at these social attitudes and consequences that are represented in the short film and say, ‘That is back then, that is not me.’ But you do think that way, and there are consequences. It’s one of those situations where people are forced to look at themselves.”
The idea came to him while he was riding his bike with a friend in Pleasant Ridge, and a single sentence came to him which he blurted out, shocking his friend.

“The line just came to me, it just hit me,” said Elam. “I was overcome with this vision, all these visions, these lines.” Elam and his friend wrote down characters, lines and events as they came to him. He sat down on a Friday to start putting his story together, and by Sunday morning the first draft was finished. “The characters just came right through me,” said Elam. I was hearing their voices when I was writing it.”

And what Elam wrote took him, and film director Marvin Towns Jr., to win awards at the I See You Awards in Detroit, the Crimson Film Festival, the Los Angeles International Independent Film Festival, the Blam Film Festival and most recently the 12th Annual Buffalo Niagara International Film Festival. The awards included Best Film Director, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Song, Best Short Film and Best Actor.

“I think we all have to be honest to ourselves and open to the universe,” said Elam. “We can if we want it. Information is given to us if we open up to receive it. If you do receive it, I think it is your responsibility to tell and to share it. Tell it the best way, tell it often and tell it as loud as you can.
“Swing Low” is an example of that.”

A trailer for “Swing Low” was shown before the movie “IT,” at Emagine Theaters, and Elam is hoping to get funding to make his short film into a feature-length movie.

Elam said that he is humbled for not only the response his film has gained, but also for the people who stepped up and believed in it to make it a reality when others said they wouldn’t do it.

“It makes me realize there is more to the universe than just me. I know it is not just me. And Marvin, he pulled everyone together,” said Elam. “He pulled the best people in the city, and we shot it and it shows. They are great people.”

For Elam, he has seen the shady side of the entertainment industry, but this also showed him that there are good people in it as well.

“Wherever this takes me, I am blessed and happy and I am looking forward to what is to come,” said Elam. “The most important thing is to be true to yourself, and don’t let anyone define you as a person. Don’t let success or failure define you. Be honest with yourself.”

Story by Sara E. Teller

ROBERTA LUCAS, an expert in expressive arts therapy and dance,has been a resident of Ferndale since 2000. “I live in one of those tiny 1923 cottages you see in Ferndale – some have been added on to but you recognize them when you see them,” she says fondly.

“I like being close to the Woodward Corridor. It’s been amazing to see the down-town area grow and thrive while the neighborhoods continue to support people and families at a range of income levels.”

She owns Environmental Expressions, which “is my business and ‘umbrella’ for the work I do in arts education, arts integration and expressive arts therapy.” Of the name, Roberta explains, “The environment can refer to any place within or outside of us.”

The dance instructor reflects on how she first developed a passion for integrating the arts with psychology. “As I continued my work as a dance and drama teaching artist I would often hear from teachers: ‘Your work is so therapeutic, are you a movement therapist?’ As I continued to dance and perform and teach, I found I was incorporating what I was learning from life/art workshops into classrooms and performances. There is an artful lens to view any and every situation, whether it’s in education, social action, or personal development. When we engage our creativity hand in hand with body expression – there is an opportunity to shift and move in new ways physically and metaphorically.”

Roberta has been a special instructor at Oakland University since 2000. “I teach a class for elementary education majors, integrating dance and drama with core curriculum,” she says. “I also teach a creative dance for children class to dance majors.” She is also an O.U. alum. “I studied communications, theater, and received a B.A. and a minor in dance.”

Roberta says that even in her student days, she had quite a bit of exposure to the performing arts. “Even when I was an undergrad I had many opportunities to per-form and work with professionals in the arts. At O.U. I was a member of the dance musical-theatre ensemble Other Things and Company directed by Carol Halsted. We toured elementary schools presenting original productions written, composed and created by O.U. Students.”

She completed residencies at Hutzel Recovery for Women and Affirmations. “My intern work at Hutzel involved working with women in recovery,” she explains. “I ended up at Affirmations and going through their facilitator training in the ‘90s. I was preparing for my graduate program. My family had been affected by
HIV/AIDS, like others. At that time, there was so much that was unknown and misunderstood.”

She is still very involved with The Wolf Trap Institute for early learning through the arts. The Institute “first hired me as a Michigan artist, and then I joined the National Teaching Artist Roster in 1994,” she explains, adding that she “was teaching residencies across the country with opportunities to teach in England and Greece. They hire professional performing artists to carry the work into the class-room. It’s a great collective of fellow teaching artists, and now we have that in Detroit as well.”

Detroit Wolf Trap is available at Living Arts, a non-profit organization that engages Detroit youth and teaches transformative experiences in the performing, visual, literary and media arts. “I was hired as a teaching artist by Living Arts in 2008. I am the founding affiliate director of Detroit Wolf Trap at Living Arts. This was an exciting opportunity to bring Wolf Trap back to Michigan. I provide professional development for educators, and coaching for teaching artists.”

Photo and story by Kevin Alan Lamb

MATTHEW BALL IS ON THE BALLOT FOR CLAWSON CITY COUNCIL this November, helps run a toddler play-center in downtown Ferndale called Nature’s Playhouse with his wife, and averages 35,000 views per month on YouTube since breaking out as the “Boogie Woogie Kid.”

With over 3.7 million views on YouTube, Ball is the attorney-turned-pianist-and-singer who tours nationally playing favorites from the Swing era and more. Here’s my conversation with the man who has been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered and Morning Edition as well as Michigan Public Radio’s Ann Delisi’s and Rob Reinhart’s Essential Music Programs.

Walk us through your performance at the Arches Stage in Cincinnati that helped launch your career…
The Arches Piano Stage is part of the larger three-stage Cincy Blues Festival. It is special because it is the only major festival that hosts an all-day stage dedicated to boogie-woogie piano-driven music, and welcomes boogie-woogie performers from around the world. It was my first major festival appearance before a large audience. Significant to me, I headlined alongside some the same names and personalities that had first inspired me to play boogie-woogie and blues piano back when I was just a fan and onlooker in the audience.

Who first coined the nickname, “Boogie Woogie Kid?”
The “Boogie Woogie Kid” I derived from a viral comic Youtube video about the high price of Starbuck’s coffee that was around at the time in which I was deciding upon an online avatar. The video was from an old guy who goes by “The Kid From Brooklyn” online.

Can you describe the work you do with children and its significance to you?
The work with children grew out of my becoming a father six years ago really, and my wife buying into a toddler play-center in downtown Ferndale called Nature’s Playhouse. There, we developed a boogie-woogie nursery rhyme program for tots that we performed every Tuesday, and that I’ve even performed for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra organization since departing from Nature’s Playhouse.

What was your first YouTube hit to break out?
I get on average about 1100-1200 views a day, or approximately 35,000 view per month steadily. I think the most-viewed video is an older one, wherein I play a piece I actually don’t even perform anymore called ‘Hot Boogie-Woogie.’

Who had the greatest influence on your development as a musician?
My musical development was most influenced by the wonderful pianist teachers I’ve had as a young man. First, Flavio Varani, with whom I trained while at Oakland University and who himself graduated from the Paris Conservatory and the Manhattan School of Music.

The other influence was Bob Seeley, who was an internationally known boogie-woogie, stride, and traditional jazz pianist. He was also a personal friend of one of boogie-woogie’s celebrity stars, Meade Lux Lewis, one of the pianists who launched boogie-woogie into a popular 1940s craze.

https://www.boogiewoogiekid.com/

 

Story by Jill Lorie Hurst
Photos by Bernie LaFramboise

AUTHOR SARA TELLER GENEROUSLY AGREED TO ANSWER SOME QUESTIONS AS SHE PREPARES TO RELEASE HER FOURTH BOOK, tentatively titled “Narcissistic Personality Disorder: No Band-Aid for the Wounded Soul,” it is her first self-help book, and it will be published by the Ferndale-based Mad Hatter Publishing Inc. (MHPI) owned by Gia Cilento. Sara found MHPI while reading Ferndale Friends! She researched the company, thought they’d be a good fit and “the rest is history.”

Sara’s life history began in Armada, Michigan. She graduated from Armada High School, then majored in General Management, graduating from Michigan State University’s Honor College. In college she had three publishing internships and a part-time writing position at The Romeo Observer. She got an MBA from Wayne State in 2012, concentrating in marketing, and is currently pursuing a Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, concentrating in substance abuse and addictions. She plans to finish in 2020-21. Along the way she has also become certified in HTML coding, children’s book writing and social media marketing. She is busy marketing the new book right now and has made herself available for speaking engagements as well. I take a moment to catch my breath as I try to imagine actually completing all of these things!

And then we move on to Sara Teller’s top priority: her two children, Emma, seven and Carson, four. “They are wonderful, my whole life”.  Teller, 33, has lived in Berkley since 2016. She loves Berkley, but also spends time in Ferndale. “I love the restaurant scene.”

JLH: Mom, writer, student, speaker. Is there also a “day job?”
ST: For now, yes. I have a family so maintaining stability is crucial while I build my speaking and writing career. I’m the supervisor of a casting department at an entertainment company. We help models and actors get their start in the business. I have acted a bit! And I enjoy hearing from excited talent who’ve been booked, and knowing we’re helping our clients produce awesome projects. I definitely keep busy. I am doing things I love, so that keeps me motivated…I am very connected spiritually and carve out as much time as possible for prayer and meditation. I also make sure to find quality time for those I love…and I try to give back to the community whenever I can. I just try to stay proactive and organized.

JLH: How do you find time to write?
ST: I just write whenever possible, really. I make time in my schedule, because I find it to be almost therapeutic, a welcome release from the day to day.  It’s a passion of mine, so it’s easy for me to pick up a pen or my laptop and start a story whenever I’m inspired.

Sara credits her parents with setting a good example, when I comment on her ability to complete what she sets out to do. “I’ve had to do a lot of self-reflection lately, writing on this topic for my degree. We all have aspirations and things in our life we’d like to see changed. Having a plan is a great first step, but seeing it through is another story. As the saying goes, ‘you have to make a choice to take a chance’ or your life will never change, right? You only live once, might as well live life to the fullest.”

JLH: What’s next? Is there another book?
ST: Short answer, yes. I’m an advocate for creating awareness of the impact behavioral disorders can have on families and relationships in general. I foresee there being follow up and ancillary titles in the near future, although I am focused on the original right now. I would like to cover other mental health topics as well: substance abuse and addictions, post-traumatic stress and other behavioral disorders.

JLH: What do you read when you have time?
ST: I LOVE Virginia Woolf! I took an honors course at Michigan State and fell n love with her work. And the COO of the company I work for wrote a self help title “Divine Worth.” I found this to be a very inspiring read.

JLH: Do you think you’ll write fiction again?
ST: “Yes, I do. I have a myriad of interests and enjoy all types of writing.

Right now, I am focused mainly on mental health and legal topics. I also write poetry. I was published three times in poetry collections between 2015 and 2016. I fantasize about retiring in a small cottage in the country, writing fiction novels. But, life may have another plan! Only time will tell.”

For more about Sara Teller’s new book, check out her website sarateller.com. To contact Sara for a speaking engagement, you can reach her directly at sara@sarateller.com. You can also contact Gia Cilento at MadHatterPublishingInc.com.