Art & Music

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 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


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:

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.


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 To contact Sara for a speaking engagement, you can reach her directly at You can also contact Gia Cilento at


By: Ingrid Sjostrand

WE’RE JUST HUGE FANS OF MUSIC, ART AND DETROIT, and we’re trying to capture and document an exciting time in our local culture scene,” says Kristi Billings, videographer and editor, describing The Milo Show – a collaborative project between her, host Jeff Milo and sound engineer Chad Stocker.

The Milo Show is a monthly talk show exploring Metro-Detroit’s music scene through interviews and performances by local artists at changing venues. Milo is no stranger to the music industry; he has over 13 years of experience as a freelance music reporter, working for the Metro Times, the Detroit Free Press and, of course, Ferndale Friends. So, when friend, and lead singer of rock quintet The High Strung, Josh Malerman suggested Milo star in his own TV show, it seemed right.

“The concept was initially: Let’s have Jeff just do what he’s always been doing – documenting local culture and conducting dialogues with local artists –only now, on camera,” Milo explains. “But it became an opportunity to provide a panoramic view of Detroit’s arts community…”
Malerman originally planned to produce the project, having just completed his own feature film, but was called to a book tour for his debut novel Bird Box. This is when Billings stepped in, despite having little experience with video editing.

“I purchased some editing software, received some helpful tips from friends, and managed to put together a not-too-shabby first episode,” she says. “Everyone was so pleased with the result it was de-cided I would take over the filming/editing reigns full time.”

The first episode, released in September 2015, was filmed at Berkley Music and featured Kriss Gaynes, Junglefowl, Robert St. Mary and Eleanora as guests. By episode four, Stocker joined as their sound engineer and, as of May 2017, they have produced 18 episodes.

Episodes are approximately 30 minutes and re-leased on the first of the month. The trio has mastered filming the whole show in one day, followed by two weeks for Stocker to mix audio and the rest of the month for Billings to create the final product.

“The tapings are relatively quick considering, for example, Episode 17 had two interviews in two lo-cations, and 3 musical performances each on the stage at Ant Hall. We completed all the staging, tap-ing, and tear down, in about six hours,” Stocker says.

One challenging aspect of filming can be the unique locations and trying to highlight so much of the city.
“One time we filmed in a space that was almost the size of a bedroom – and we still fit six or seven people in there, plus a drum kit!” Milo exclaims. “The bigger goal is to start emphasizing that this is a pop-up talk show, that is traveling around the city each month, collaborating with different venues, so by watching a season of episodes – you still get to see a lot of the city.”

When it comes to choosing artists and guests, Milo says there are no limits. They have had artists from every genre except country, which he says will likely be featured in the next few months.
“Just seeking out people I know will provide an enticing and thought-provoking conversation, as well as call out bands that I see have new albums or singles being released in the near future,” he says. “I’ve also spoken with bloggers, archivists, fashion designers.

Plans for the show are endless, says Milo, maybe even crowd-funding campaigns or increasing the number of episodes per month.

“We want to venture into bolder, stranger, more elegant, more unconventional venues. We want Jack White to come on our show for a chat!” he says.

“We want to do experimental things, like interview in moving cars. We want to try anything, really.”
This is with the caveat that all three agree on the direction of the show. As a resounding theme among the trio, they truly enjoyed working together and creating the Milo Show.

“I get to collaborate with two optimistic, intelligent, and creative people in Kristi and Jeff,” Stocker raves.
“Honestly – I love that I get to work with my friends. I love that we interview interesting people doing interesting things to make this city shine,” Billings relishes.

“My favorite things are the magic that Kristi conjures with her editing, Chad’s exceptional mixing, coupled with his piquant humor and dry wit quipped be-tween takes,” Milo closes. “I hate to say something cheesy like: We’d still be making this even if no one was watching. But it’s true…. That said, we hope more people start watching!”

For more information or past episodes, visit their web site,


Story by Sara E Teller
Photos by Bernie LaFramboise

THE RICHARD GAGE DESIGN STUDIO WAS ESTABLISHED TO OFFER a wide variety of art services to the City of Hazel Park and the community at large, including to “fabricate difficult or unique decorative architectural elements and sculpture with hand-craftsmanship using contemporary and historic techniques,” according to owner Richard Gage. “We work with architects, municipalities, developers, planners, designers and homeowners.”

Gage lives in Royal Oak, and has been local to the area for more than 50 years. The Richard Gage Design Studio has been in business since the late ‘90s. “I came to Hazel Park in 2000 because the City was eager to embrace new business and was interested in working with creative small business addressing their needs, wants, and desires,” Richard explained. He felt this was the perfect opportunity to show the City what he was made of. “Although involved in the creative process all my life, it wasn’t until the early ‘90s that I went full-time into the decorative arts.”

“Over the years, I have helped other artists and builders by offering access to my larger equipment, space and expertise,” Richard said, citing several artists who have taken advantage of what the Design Studio has to offer, including Mark Belchenco Studio, Lamia Metal and Alex Drew. Richard also mentioned that the Henry Ford Estate in Dearborn sought out his artistry for historical repair and replacement of the copper roof on their Rose Garden Tea House as well as iron work in the main house.

Gage, who was a technical consultant for Kresge’s community artist program, believes his architectural work has been significantly influenced by “historic standards, classic proportions and timeless craftsmanship…I admire the clean lines of George Nelson as well as the organic simplicity of George Nakashima,” he explained, adding, “My sculpture is heavily influenced by the smallest parts of nature and typically executed on a grand scale, such as Petal Parts in John R’s Art Park and Winter Wheat in David’s Gold Medal Sports.”

The Design Studio is well-versed in creating a wide range of artwork, featuring varying techniques and for all different purposes. Even when presented with a concept that includes more a “loose or random” appearance – basically some-thing not necessarily well-defined – Gage and his team can produce it. “I’ve produced gates and railings in modern Frank Lloyd Wright style as well as in the decorative Victorian Era,” he said. “I’ve recently been exploring homages to experimental art such as The Ant Farm by Paul Clark, and works produced by Piero Manzoni and Andy Warhol.”

Because of their “wide variety of skills, (the team does) simple functional things mostly for homeowners but builders, too,” said Richard. Some examples of more ‘everyday’ tasks his team has taken on include bending a piece of aluminum trim that is no longer available, repairing vintage brass toilet levers, restoring a stainless pot for canning and fixing some garden tools. “We (fixed the tools) for an elderly local, and got flowers for the rest of the summer!”

The design team keeps very busy throughout the year and Richard takes pride in the ability to be presented with new challenges every day. “Every day I have some new challenge to resolve. Today I am working on how to best wire a sign for a Detroit business. Yesterday, it was how to make a jig to accurately cut ceramic tile for a miter corner.”

Gage established The Hazel Park Arts Council along with a few other locals, including Jan Parisi, Ed Klobucher, and Jeff Shelly, and became the Council’s Treasurer. The Arts Council, according to its site, “is committed to furthering artistic and cultural initiatives…through a number of avenues, including advo-cating local artistic initiatives…collaborating with the Hazel Park Arts Fair.” He also worked on The Art Park on John R as well as the first art fair and the Phoenix Mural. “Working on the Arts Council is great because of the people –smart people offer smart discussions. Amy Aubry and Allissa Sullivan, and all our members are invested in Hazel Park’s future and that shows during our meetings,” Gage said.

The Design Studio’s growth has been made possible over the years by its reputation within the community. “My business growth is solely attributed to word of mouth and some public sculptures, such as Pollen Release in Royal Oak and Bent Brush in Ferndale,” Gage explained. “I also have signs with my contact information.”

He hopes community patrons will appreciate all art that is displayed in and around town and always appreciates feedback related to his team’s work. “Add comments through Facebook about our efforts,” he mentions as way to express appreciation. “Stop by the Farmers’ Market for our kids’ booth and buy a t-shirt, donate money there or at the City.” The studio is private, but anyone is welcome to stop by and take a look around or inquire about a project. Gage can be contacted at 248.541.7730.

Photo and story by Kevin Alan Lamb

NO MATTER YOUR TRADE OR PASSION, all roads leading in the direction towards progress are paved with fear, frustration, and doubt. The secret you see – finding something inside of you that no one can take away – something that is yours, God-given, but man-made, and hold onto it. Be driven by faith in your abilities and efforts, and find a way to remind yourself of the vision no matter the breakdowns and pit stops along the way.

Creative careers will never stop testing you; that is why they are the most beautiful and satisfying. The life of an actor isn’t an easy one, but it sure is remarkable for those who navigate the journey. Folks like Bello Pizzimenti.

Pizzimenti was born in Ferndale, and attended the Detroit Waldorf School where he performed his first plays. He later attended Cranbrook upper school, where he lived in residence throughout his high school years. While performing in the annual winter musical, he was discovered by a Canadian director who invited him to join an international production of Les Miserables in Windsor, Ontario. This proved to be the launching pad for his life and long road towards assuming the role of other identities on stage. After attending Western Michigan University, where he received his BFA in musical theatre, Pizzimenti chased his dreams to live in Harlem and pursue a career in the biggest city in the world.

Q: What are some of the more significant memories you hold on to from your time with “Les Mis,” in Windsor?
A: I remember the moment my high school choir teacher told me right after a performance that a director from Canada had been at our show, and that he was specifically interested in me for his production. That was very exciting. I remember the day of my audition for the show, which if I remember correctly was also my first day of rehearsal. We were essentially inside a storage space in a warehouse in Windsor. I thought I was just singing for the music director and the director, because they were the only ones in the room with me. What I didn’t know was that the two young men playing Enjolras and Javert were in the next room listening to me as well. I finished singing, and they came out with huge grins on their faces to greet me and welcome me to the cast. Shortly afterward the rest of the cast arrived, and we started rehearsing.

Most importantly, I remember the friendships. Some of the best times of my life were had that Summer, and in the following years during my regular trips to Windsor. I had a sense of belonging and a sense of self-confidence that I had not had before. It was the summer that made me feel that a professional life in theatre was for me.

Q: What was one of the best and worst moments from your time in Harlem pursuing acting after undergrad?
A: Some of the best: Being cast in a workshop performance of Tectonic Theater Project’s adaptation of Carmen. I got to work with Moises Kaufman and the rest of the team, as well as a powerhouse cast of performers. We presented at the Guggunheim, and when one of the other performers had to go to the hospital the day of the performance, I stepped in on short notice to cover his solos. Moises was impressed by me and I was subsequently called back several times for a full production of the show, though I was ultimately not cast.

And, performing in my only NYC-based full-length professional play, BACK by Mickey Bolmer. As a cast we were encouraged to explore and to have fun, and I found myself feeling very free, loving, and open as a result. It was a professional experience in which I could truly say that I enjoyed the process.

Some of the worst: Botching several of my opportunities with Tectonic, and subsequently being called in for them less and less often. Feeling that I did not live up to the potential that Moses saw in me. Accidentally not learning the entire musical cut required for an audition, leading to a very embarrassing situation for everyone in the room. Dealing with contracts and/or offers that conflict with each other. I’ve probably gotten stomach ulcers panicking about these situations over the years.

Q: What drives your passion for acting?
A: These days, I don’t know. I used to be in it for fun. Then I was in it for success, recognition and money. Now I’m in it because it’s the only skill I have that people are nice enough to pay me for.

Q: Tell us about Chasing the Star…
A: It’s an independent film by Collective Development Inc., a Michigan-based film company I first worked for during my senior year in undergrad. We shot it in the desert of Yuma, AZ, which was awesome because it was my first time getting to go to a very specific environment for a shoot. It made it feel much more authentic for me as an actor, and I think it makes the film much more authentic feeling as well. Plotwise, it’s the story of the Three Magi essentially. There isn’t a ton of source material on their backstory (to my knowledge), so a lot of the circumstances come from the imagination of the writer, which is all to the good as it makes the three men much more human. They are all flawed, and have to reconcile their past over the course of the story. I play the youngest Magi of the three, Gasper.

Q: What’s next for you?
A: Who knows? Best-case scenario is I stay honest with myself and listen to my gut, intuition, whatever you want to call it. Maybe I’ll end up in a rock quarry. Maybe I’ll just read books and hide from the world. Maybe I’ll keep acting. Maybe I’ll find something else. Hopefully, I’ll be there when and if people need me.

Story By Sarah E. Teller

THE PURPOSE OF THE ONE NATION FESTIVAL IS TO SHOWCASE a variety of cultures and genres of music, and to celebrate the diversity in music,”according to Steve Gamburd, of The Phoenix in Hazel Park and the Hazel Park Arts Council, who curates the show along with Been Frank. “In a nutshell, One Nation Festival represents the open-door aspect of The Phoenix. The five-night concert represents diversity by including a number of music genres from local, regional and touring bands.”

Steve and Been have an ear for quality, and they’ve been looking for quality of music throughout the years. “We weren’t the School of Rock, but we understood which bands had both the talent and the drive and have included many of these youth bands in our festival line-ups over the years.” When they like what they hear, “we provide them with the show date of their choice as well as the option to network and reach out to local bands to be added. When mixed genre and multi-cultured bands that are not punk, metal, rock or hip hop contact us about whether or not their music fits here, we fit them here with an idea of how to curate the bill accordingly.”

Many of the bands this year have performed in years past. “We have seen them a number of times and believe in them,” Steve says. “We will keep providing these opportunities for those that love being part of our events. Exposure is the key in the music industry.”

The One Nation Pre-Party will be held on Thursday, August 31, 8:00 P.M. at New Way Bar, 23130 Woodward, Ave., Ferndale, and is set to feature funk rock, hard rock, and reggae bands Off The Ledge (Lansing), Static Factory (Flint), and Speakeasy (Detroit).

The concert will be held at The Phoenix September 1st through 4th, and will include the Phoenix Gallery stage and the outside Garden Stage. The event breakdown is as follows:

Friday, Sept. 1 features classical and folk acoustic, Latin, Afro-Cuban, acoustic singer songwriter, acoustic folk rock, and indie rock.

Saturday, Sept. 2 features acoustic emo, folk and soul rock, pop punk, art pop, Bangladesh psychedelic, Industrial grunge, thrash punk and metal.
Sunday, Sept. 3 features acoustic pop, folk rock, hard rock, emo-core, theatrical punk, and alternative punk.

Monday, Sept. 4 features a mix of groove, soul, DJ, hip hop, poetry, funk rock, blues rock, experimental dance and singer songwriter pop.

“Inside and outside, we will also include a variety of art vendors, live painting, and variety acts,” Steve says. “There will be a BBQ of hot dogs and hamburgers as well as complimentary side dishes – a potluck.”

“The first year of One Nation was quite ambitious, and we ran it for nine days straight,” Steve explains, adding, “It was a fantastic opportunity for youth bands to have their first venue concert and bring their family and friends. The second year, Dally In The Alley kept them from doing a Saturday show, but, “That was all fine and dandy since we support The Dally every year and remain closed.”

By year four, Steve and Been began to push the diversity of music genre. “We began to gain interest from a number of bands and performers that wanted a new outlet,” he says. One Nation represents a diversity in ages of performers as well.

This year, there will be two stages, so the festival will be larger than in years past.  There will also be an art show to view inside the gallery The Female of The Species – The Art of Steve Czapiewski. “We are very eager to get more people involved to be part of our art and music endeavors,” Steve says. “It is a shared experience that all interested parties should benefit from. Please come and support the bands, but especially the bands on tour!  They need an audience and to feel welcomed in a Detroit-area festival.”