Guitar aces bringing skills  to Scranton Cultural Center

Guitar aces bringing skills to Scranton Cultural Center

G.E. Smith’s storied career as a guitarist has earned him a number of accomplishments worth boasting about, from an Emmy award for his work as bandleader on “Saturday Night Live” to credits on studio albums by David Bowie and Mick Jagger to touring with Bob Dylan.
For the man born George Edward Haddad, it all started in Northeast Pennsylvania, where he was born in Scranton and raised in Stroudsburg.
On Friday, Sept. 21, Smith has a homecoming of sorts with a show at Scranton Cultural Center at The Masonic Temple, 420 N. Washington Ave. “Masters of the Telecaster” also features guitarists Jim Weider and Tom Prinicipato, who each will play a set and join Smith in homage to the iconic instrument starting at 8 p.m.
During a recent phone interview from Long Island, New York, Smith recounted how his life changed when his mother bought him his first Fender guitar as an 11th birthday gift.
“We went to a store with used guitars, and there was a $100 one and a $200 one, and we got the $100 one,” he recalled. “Lucky for me, it turned out to be an old Fender Telecaster. It kind of really shaped my life. If we got a different guitar, things might not have gone the same way.
“Little things happen in our lives and change our direction, and we might not know it until years later. I’ve always played a Fender Telecaster.” 
From that fateful moment, Smith devoted himself to learning the ins and outs of creating sounds with his guitar. He got his start playing bars in and around the Stroudsburg area and later at resorts such as the former Mount Airy Lodge. He played songs from numerous eras and learned showmanship from an uncle who led a band in Scranton.
Smith’s own big break came with a six-year gig backing Hall & Oates on guitar, then fronting the live band on “SNL” from 1985 to 1995. During his time with the show, he was a familiar face on-screen and even helped compose pieces such as the theme for “Wayne’s World.”
When it comes to talking about his experiences playing with big guns such as Bowie, Dylan and Jagger, Smith said it was a natural place for him to blend into once he earned the spot.
“For some reason, ever since I was a kid, what I really enjoyed the most was playing behind a good singer. I never really wanted to be the front guy,” he said. “I wanted to be a sideman, somebody who was known that you can hire me and trust me to respect the song.
“That’s what was always important to me. So playing with those people, if you learn their music, you try to analyze, of course, the notes — but then you always want to get the feeling of what does this mean to them, and how can I best support that?”
His fellow featured performer Jim Weider has shared stages with his own list of top acts. The Woodstock, New York, native has toured with Keith Richards, Dr. John, Paul Butterfield, Dylan and Hot Tuna and played with the Band.
Tom Principato, meanwhile, is a standout blues frontman in his own right who hails from Washington, D.C.
“Each one of us gets a spot and picks things we’re gonna play,” Smith explained of the Scranton concert plan. “It’s a guitar-rific show. We do bluesy, rock kind of music. Up, dancing, fun kind of music. American music. There’s a little country flavor in there.”
Drummer/vocalist Randy Ciarlante and bassist/vocalist Lincoln Schleifer will join the three guitarists, rounding out the sound and helping them in their collaborative jamming. 
“I always thought of a band like a good basketball team. They don’t even really look at each other, they just throw the ball and know the other player is there. They make a pass,” Smith said. “We all know the basic outline, the road map of a song, but there’s places in there we can play off each other. That’s the most exciting part of music to me.”
Smith hopes to see some familiar hometown and distant relations in the Scranton audience as he shares his love for the Telecaster, but he expects a nice variety of musical tastes and ages in the crowd regardless.
“It’s always been important to me to always entertain people,” he said. “I like to go out there and play stuff that people can tap their feet to, that makes them think and feel good.
“A lot of other musicians aren’t the most socially adept, but you give them their instrument and they’re OK. They can communicate with that. That’s what I love about it. A lot of times people ask me, ‘Aren’t you nervous being up there in front of thousands?’ But when I put that guitar on, I’m not nervous anymore.”

Up Close and Personal – Melanie DePietro

Up Close and Personal – Melanie DePietro

Scranton native Melanie DePietro is an art instructor at Eclectic City Studio in Scranton. Eclectic City Studio, owned by designer Jeff D’Angelo, features four artists, including DePietro, each of whom teach workshops in their niche. She found a home to display and teach art there after D’Angelo discovered her artwork online. DiPietro teaches glass painting and also is the designer, artist and founder of Painted Wine Glasses by Melanie. She lives in Scranton with her husband, Scott; children, Nicholas, 20; Colette, 16; Maximilian, 9; and Scotty, 7; and their dog, Jolie.

Meet Melanie DePietro…

Q: Tell me a little about yourself.
A: I am 43 years old. I’m a mom of four, sometimes six. My husband and I have six kids, two his, two mine and two ours. We have a big family. The youngest is 7, and the oldest is 20. I was born and raised in Scranton. I graduated from West Scranton High School. I went to the University of Scranton for a few years and eventually graduated from Wilkes University. My bachelor’s degree is in psychology; however, I have a minor and focus in studio art and art history.

Q: How did you end up doing art after studying psychology?
A: I’ve liked art my whole life. I’ve been painting and drawing since I was a little girl. I went into the psychology field because my oldest son was diagnosed with autism. I got interested in that field and started researching that. I was a stay-at-home mom for about seven years. I can’t just stay at home; I always have to do things. It was during that time that I went back to school and finished my degree at Wilkes. I just finished my degree in 2016. I started doing art and creating again. A good friend of mine, she and I wanted to do a fundaraiser. She said painting on glass was really big. I just got really into it and became obsessed. I posted a few pictures on my Facebook page, and it just took off from there. Jeff D’Angelo saw my page and said he needed some people to paint in his studio. He paints and stencils giant props. Working with him has enabled me to network a lot and meet a lot of new people. I’ve been able to get into the Eclectic City Studio and work with other great artists.

Q: What types of designs do you paint on glasses?
A: I do a range of things. Dog portraits, cat portraits. I’ve recently done a llama and a goat. Some people want something commemorative. I can do lettering by hand. Some people like glitter. Sometimes people will give me a picture and tell me what they want.

Q: What message do you hope to spread by doing art?
A: A lot of people will ask me to paint their dog that just passed away. Anybody can get a picture and have it printed on a glass. When you get an artist to paint your pet, it’s coming from them, it’s unique, and it’s their perspective of what the animal looks like. People really go for that.

Q: What types of art classes do you teach?
A: I’ve been teaching art workshops for about two years. We do paint and sip, usually BYOB or BYOW. Classes are anywhere between 10 to 60 people. A lot of the paint nights are fundraisers. It’s a nice, fun way to get people together and do creative things. A lot of times, people will get intimidated. I’ll show them the glass, and they say, “I can’t paint that.” I break it down step-by-step and show them how.

Q: What is your favorite part about teaching?

A: I feel like I am putting on a performance when I teach, but I’m sharing my talent and breaking it down. I love when people come in and feel challenged. They are intimidated about it at first. They walk out with a big smile and say, “Look what you helped me do.” Everyone’s piece will be similar but different in its own way, and you want it like that because it’s your own. Being able to create, share and teach something I love has made me feel like I’ve finally achieved my dream.

Q: What artists are you inspired by?
A: I am inspired by the classics. I don’t know if it inspires my style of the way I paint, but I have a deep respect for Monet, Michelangelo, da Vinci. I just love the classic style.

Q: Can you describe your lifestyle outside of art?
A: My kids are in soccer. My one son plays guitar. There is always someone playing music in the house. My daughter plays basketball. It is crazy and chaotic. Sometimes it’s difficult to fit my part-time art in there, but I prioritize it and make time for it. Doing art is my time, and I love to do it.

Q: What other hobbies and interests do you have?
A: We have a boat at the lake, so we like to do boating. I love the beach; we try to go every year. We try to do family things.

Q: What is something that most people don’t know about you?
A: I have a lucky apron that I wear to teach my art classes. I found it at a yard sale. It has a picture of Michelangelo’s “David” on it. I kind of use it as an ice breaker at the beginning of classes. I censored it with a little leaf. Another thing is that one of my weird talents is I can look at colors and I know right off the bat what to mix to recreate the color with paint. I absolutely love the artist Prince. I’ve loved him since the fourth grade. I was about 9 years old when my Prince obsession started. I often listen to his music while I paint.

Q: Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape you into who you are today?
A: When I was a single mom for a while, it was very difficult. It was challenging. I always wanted to do something that was for me to try and (get) a little extra spending money. I was proud to be able to develop something that came from me. It didn’t come from anybody else. I was able to show my children that if there is something that you like to do, just do it.

Photos by Emma Black

Micah Nelson tours with dad Willie as Particle Kid

Micah Nelson tours with dad Willie as Particle Kid

The experience of joining Outlaw Music Festival is comparatively much different for another act on the bill. Micah Nelson, who calls tourmates Willie Nelson dad and Lukas Nelson brother, performs under the moniker Particle Kid, and his own music waxes and wains between Americana, trippy folk-soul and lambastic anthems. During a recent call from the road as he traveled out of Santa Fe, New Mexico, through “scattered storm squalls,” he shared his point of view.

Q: Tell me about being on the road with your dad and brother.
A: It’s great; we rarely get to hang out other than on the road. Otherwise it’s pretty scattered. We’re all touring all the time in various places throughout the world, so it’s nice to be on the same lineup. Its our family ritual.

Q: Your music is sort of genre-defying, so describe how it fits in with the rest of the acts on Outlaw.
A: To be honest, I often feel like a fish out of water. I think it’s a festival of artists (who) all have great songs. There are memorable songs that tie it all together. I have (songs) that fit into folky, Americana genre if I arrange them that way. … Lately I’m really into lyrics and melodies and songs that anyone can play. And songs that are relatable, which I think ties this festival together. It’s called the Outlaw Fest, which, to me, sort of represents anything that’s in defiance of convention, whether it’s in the country genre or rock genre or a non-genre, an indefinable act. Artists that are kind of going against the grain somehow. In that way, I guess I fit in. It’s weird, I feel like I can kind of fit in with any type of scene musically. It’s a really fun rush to bring whatever your vibe is into that setting. I try not to treat an arena show any different than a house show. It’s just louder and there are more people there. At the end of the day, it shouldn’t matter too much as long as the music is good.

Q: Why is activism and honesty in music so important in the world today?
A: Music is a part of every culture ever, and it informs culture on a mass scale and has the power to do that. So naturally, having a message wielded through music, it can reach that many more people and have that much more impact. I think our culture is so suicidal and demented and egomaniacal and materialistic (that) unless we start ingesting some honesty and messages of truth into the music and substance gets out there and people hear it and influence culture, we’re just going to annihilate ourselves. So I think it’s really important to talk about things that matter, things that make people think. … Music is one of the most potent vehicles for that, as time has proven again and again and again.

Easygoing ‘Outlaws’ Willie Nelson’s festival rolls into Pavilion at Montage Mountain

Easygoing ‘Outlaws’ Willie Nelson’s festival rolls into Pavilion at Montage Mountain

Harmonica player Mickey Raphael has stood by Willie Nelson’s side for 45 years. But no matter how much time passes, the view of the legend never gets old.
“From my vantage point, which is about six feet away, I’m a fan. At 85 (years old), Willie is still one of the most energetic guitar players there is,” Raphael said during a recent phone interview from Nashville, where he lives.
The longtime friends and collaborators come to town for the Outlaw Music Festival on Friday, Sept. 14. The concert, which also includes appearances by Van Morrison, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Lukas Nelson + Promise of the Real and Particle Kid, begins at 3 p.m. at the Pavilion at Montage Mountain, Scranton.
Watching the magic of Willie Nelson perform also keeps Raphael on his toes as a member of the band, thanks to the spontaneous nature of the classic country crooner’s style of playing.
“We don’t ever practice. It’s all improv. There’s no set list,” Raphael said. “The set follows a certain pattern, but we just follow Willie. He starts every song and then we come in, but he can change.
“He changes arrangements nightly, depending how he feels and how he reads the crowd. It’s a living, breathing thing.”
The fans in attendance hold sway over how the music progresses, too, Raphael noted. When the energy is high, the performers feed off their enthusiasm, and it affects the sets.
“When you have a crowd that’s present and involved, it pushes you to express yourself in different ways,” Raphael said. “You can look out there and see young people and older people — it crosses all generational lines — you can see that they’re getting into the music. There’s nobody sleepwalking through this thing.”
The easygoing vibe carries throughout Outlaw Music Festival, which originated in Scranton in 2016. This year’s collection of talent on stage, including much-celebrated Van Morrison, makes for a good time not just for the audience, but also for the artists, Raphael said.
“This tour is going to be great,” he said. “All the acts, they’re so much fun to watch that all the musicians are out there watching each other play. They’re not hanging out on tour buses.
“I start out just watching everyone else. Where can you see Van and Willie play? I grew up listening to Van Morrison. I’m such a fan. This is a whole day of music. Any one of these artists could play by themselves, but to have them all together in one venue on one day is a treat for everybody — not just the fans, but the musicians themselves.”
But as much as Raphael enjoys his point of view, he promised that nothing compares to being in the crowd before Willie Nelson when he’s in the moment.
“Willie is the kind of guy that when he’s singing, you feel like he’s singing right to you, and he is,” Raphael said. “He makes contact with the audience.”

Soul-searching leads therapist, songwriter to original music

Soul-searching leads therapist, songwriter to original music

Jessup native Jamie Lupini, aka Jamison Alley, released her first CD, “On the Inside,” in 2000, but her live performances in years since focused more on cover songs.
A recent period of “personal soul-searching” plus her work with adults in the mental health field moved the singer/songwriter to get back to her roots with original music. By sharing her own songs in therapeutic settings, Lupini’s confidence returned, and she re-established herself as Jamison Alley with the release of a music video for her song “Still Kickin’” this year.
The Charleston, South Carolina, resident recently went On the Record to talk about her origins in Northeast Pennsylvania and where her music has taken her now.

Q: Tell me about when you first discovered a love for music and your talent for singing.
A: I would have to say I never really initially discovered music, it just always seemed to “be” a part of my life. However, I formally started piano at age 7 and vocal lessons during high school.

Q: Who are some of your greatest influences as a performer?
A: Carole King, Barbra Streisand, Sugarland (and) Melissa Etheridge, and my overall vote for stage presence would be Pink.

Q: Describe the genre of music you perform.
A: I had a bit of a dilemma pinpointing a specific genre, so I created the term “therafusion” as my genre. “Fusion” comes from the mixture of styles of music including pop, rock, country, ballads and other categories in my lineup. By day I am an occupational and music therapist, so I integrate empowering lyrics to help others through difficult times, to remind them about positive circumstances or communicate valuable lessons.

Q: Describe a Jamison Alley show.
A: The first half of the set will start out with the full band playing a driving rock tune followed by a passively powerful pop/Latin song, then a sexy contemporary piece; an intense, heartbreaking ballad; and ending with an innately energizing beach tune. Next, I will perform two songs by myself on acoustic guitar before moving into two piano tunes, which include a vocally driven, thought-provoking ballad and pounding, controversial popular tune for those struggling with their identity. This leads us into the country realm with my song “Still Kickin’,” followed by a catchy rock tune which talks about me finally being able to share my original music (live) with everyone.

Q: What do you love about performing before audiences?
A: I love the connection, looking out and seeing the audience moving to the beat and watching them sing along to my songs.

Q: What has been the highlight of your journey as Jamison Alley?
A: The highlight is the making of the music video. Having my family and friends be a part of this endeavor was very important to me. During the video shoot, they effortlessly justified what the song was all about, and they made it easy to capture and transmit the song concepts.

Fab 5 – September 13, 2018

Fab 5 – September 13, 2018

1. ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’
Head over to Providence Playhouse, 1256 Providence Road, Scranton,r to watch a live rendition of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” presented by Actors Circle.
The play was written by Christopher Sergel and is an adaptation of Harper Lee’s classic novel. The show will run Friday, Sept. 13, through Saturday, Sept. 15, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 16, at 2 p.m.; Thursday, Sept. 20, through Saturday, Sept. 22, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Sept. 23, at 2 p.m.
Tickets for the preview performance of the show on Sept. 13 will cost $8 for general admission and seniors and $6 for students. For all other performances, tickets will cost $12 for general admission, $10 for seniors and $8 for students.
For more information, call 570-342-9707, visit actorscircle.com or email tickets@actorscircle.com.

This image released by A24 shows Elsie Fisher in a scene from “Eighth Grade.”

2. Fall Film Festival
Celebrate the kickoff of the Fall Film Festival at the Dietrich Theater, 60 E. Tioga St., Tunkhannock, with an Oktoberfest opening night gala on Friday, Sept. 14.
The night will feature screenings of the films “Puzzle” and “Boundaries” plus food, beer, wine and desserts. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Tickets cost $40, and reservations are required and can be made by calling 570-996-1500.
The film festival will run through Thursday, Oct. 4. Other films the theater will show include “Always at the Carlyle,” “American Animals,” “British Museum: Hokusai,” “The Cakemaker,” “The Catcher Was a Spy,” “Dark Money,” “Decanted,” “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot,” “Eating Animals,” “Eighth Grade,” “Foxtrot,” “Generation Wealth,” “Hearts Beat Loud,” “A Kid Like Jake,” “The King,” “Leave No Trace,” “Love, Cecil,” “Three Identical Strangers,” “Whitney” and “Won’t You Be My Neighbor.”
Visit dietrichtheater.com or call 570-996-1500 for more information.

3. ‘Baseball Dreams: They Played the Game’
If you’re interested in learning more about baseball history, you might want to check out a new exhibit in Waverly Twp.
“Baseball Dreams: They Played the Game,” an exhibit by artist William Chickillo, will be on display in the Waverly Small Works Gallery beginning Friday, Sept. 14, at Waverly Community House, 1115 North Abington Road. The exhibit pays homage to integral baseball players, such as Factoryville native Christy Mathewson.
The free opening reception will take place that night from 5 to 7 and include light refreshments.
The exhibit will remain on display through the World Series. For more information, call 570-586-8191.

4. Welcoming Scranton 
Spend the afternoon getting to know others in the Scranton community with an event hosted by United Neighborhood Centers of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s community education and revitalization department.
The second Welcoming Scranton event will take place at Connors Park, 515 Orchard St., Scranton on Saturday, Sept. 15, from 3 to 6 p.m. This event aims to promote cultural exchange by welcoming both people who have lived in the area for some time as well as newer residents.
A light lunch will be served. Other free activities will include games, art, yoga, dancing and a story time for children.
For more information, call 570-346-6203 or visit the event’s Facebook page.

5. ‘An Evening with Pete Rose Live’
Join baseball legend Pete Rose at F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, Wilkes-Barre, for a night that aims to transport audience members back to a revered era in the sport’s history.
Rose will share stories about baseball’s past in this multimedia, Broadway-style event Saturday, Sept. 15, at 7:30 p.m. Doors will open at 6.
Tickets cost $28, $33 and $53 for general admission and $103 for VIP meet-and-greet, plus fees.
To purchase tickets, call 570-826-1100. For more information, visit kirbycenter.org.

Setting the stage – Fall under the spell of the Theater at North this season

Setting the stage – Fall under the spell of the Theater at North this season

From the glamour of old Hollywood to the charms of pop favorites on piano, the fall season of performances at the Theater at North will rock you.
The Scranton venue begins its slate of concerts, plays and more with its own trio of shows supplemented by an array of outside productions that make for a diverse season.
“We really tried to target a different and wider age range,” said Laurie Houser, director of theater operations since February.
First up is “New York, NY Dueling Pianos,” featuring professional musicians in a face-off of grand proportions, set for Saturday, Sept. 8 at 7:30 p.m.
“It’s part-comedy, part-music, but really interactive. It’s more of a fun experience,” Houser said. “The audience gets to request songs of the performers, and they literally duel back and forth. It doesn’t appeal just to musicians; it’s for anyone.”
With hundreds of songs in the pianists’ repertoires, they can meet almost any request, covering a range of genres and artists, Houser added, from Billy Joel to Madonna to Maroon 5. 
“This is something a little different than a traditional tribute or play for our audience in Scranton,” she said.
On Saturday, Oct. 20, at 7:30 p.m., the Theater at North presents “Almost Queen: A Tribute to the Band Queen,” featuring four-part harmonies, intricate costumes and musicality that recreates the legendary rock group’s live shows.
“Queen is loved by everyone of all ages. I know people in their teens, 20s, 30s and even their 70s who love them,” Houser said. “It appeals to a large genre of people, and it seems like it’s never going out of style. It’s great timing for the movie (“Bohemian Rhapsody”) coming out (Nov. 2).”
For those who love the stylings of the Golden Age of Hollywood and Broadway, reminiscent of greats Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, “Two on Tap: A Tribute to Song and Dance” comes to town on Sunday, Nov. 11, at 2 p.m.
“They’re a New York professional duo of actors and dancers who make their way through the classics, hitting on our theme of a little something for everyone,” Houser said of the show.
But guests will see some familiar faces on stage, too.
“We’re excited for that show that they’ve extended the offer to local dancers to participate in the second act in ‘Tea for Two,’” House said. “They’ll be sending out the choreography in the fall, and students from (Scranton) Civic (Ballet Company) and Ballet Theatre (of Scranton) get on stage and perform right alongside them.”
The rest of the season at the theater is rounded out by a trio of plays presented by Clocktower Theater Company, a big band tribute to Sinatra and several Christmas productions, among others. No matter the type of performance, Houser said audiences can expect quality entertainment.
“We’re bringing high-calibre talent to Scranton,” she said.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

If you go

“New York, NY
Dueling Pianos”
When: Saturday, Sept. 8, 7:30 p.m.; doors open at 7
Tickets: $25 to $35

“Almost Queen: A Tribute
to the Band Queen”
When: Saturday, Oct. 20, 7:30 p.m.; doors open at 7
Tickets: $35 to $45

“Two on Tap: A Tribute
to Song and Dance”
When: Sunday, Nov. 11, 2 p.m.; doors open at 1:30
Tickets: $20 to $25

Additional fall shows
Saturday, Sept. 22: “Rose’s Dilemma,” presented by Clocktower Theater Company

Saturday, Nov. 3: “Lucky Stiff,” presented by Clocktower Theater Company

Thursday, Nov. 8:
“The God Box,” starring
Mary Lou Quinlan

Saturday, Nov. 24: Twelve Twenty-Four: The Holiday Rock Orchestra

Sunday, Dec. 2: Andy Cooney’s Irish Christmas Show

Friday, Dec. 7: “Sinatra’s Birthday Bash,” featuring Tony Sands and His Big Band

Sunday, Dec. 9: “Holiday Dance Showcase,” presented by 5 Star Dance Academy

Tuesday, Dec. 18, and Wednesday,
Dec. 19:
“A Christmas Carol,” presented by Clocktower Theater Company

All shows held at the Theater at North, 1539 N. Main Ave., Scranton. Visit TheTheaterAtNorth.com for more information. Tickets available by calling 877-987-6487 or by visiting ticketfly.com or the box office, open Mondays, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Thursdays, 3 to 6 p.m.; and Fridays, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Up Close & Personal – Jesse Mower

Up Close & Personal – Jesse Mower

Jesse Mower is a Carbondale native and lead vocalist and guitar player for band Static in the Attic. He graduated from Luzerne County Community College with a degree in music technology. He is employed by Gentex Corp., a helmet manufacturer, in Carbondale.

Meet Jesse Mower…

What is your musical background?
In high school, I was in the marching band. I had the cape and all of that. I started on the drums, which I think helped me a lot with rhythm. When I finally started learning guitar, it was easier to get rhythm down. I was 13 when I got my first guitar. I got it from a buddy, and I just kind of sat on it for a long time.

How did you become the vocalist for Static in the Attic?
It was so bad at first. We were trying to get a singer when we were younger. We were around 16 when we started the band. We realized we all suck at singing, but someone had to do it. I just tried to do it. I never really had lessons, but I should have, I think.

How did Static in the Attic form?
We were all in high school together. Our drummer, Jules Borosky, and I would stay after school with the band director. We asked if we could stay after and jam. It was really weird (and) bad at first because it was just guitar and drums, and we didn’t know what we were doing. Eventually we got more buddies to join. We got Tom Murray, who now plays bass. We didn’t get any gigs for a long time because we were little. We played in some bars when we were younger, which was good because we learned how we had to handle ourselves as we got older. Now we are a three-piece (group). We do the power trio thing. We are trying to play more and record stuff.

Have you also performed as a solo artist?
It was all band at first. I never really did any solo stuff, but now I am trying to get into it. I’m very bad at it, too. It’s much easier to sit in front of two people, and I don’t have to do it all. There’s a lot that goes into getting a set list and picking good songs and getting the full-time musician thing going. I think I like the band more. It’s easier to rely on them. I am starting out doing solo gigs.

What is something you’ve learned in your recent time as a solo performer that is different than being in the band?
You can’t guitar solo as much. That was the most depressing part. But the voice is a lot more important too. Instead of doing a guitar solo for a part, I’ll try to sing it. It’s a lot more work on the voice. You have to take a different approach. It’s cool to figure out songs that don’t work acoustic and figure out a way to do it. It doesn’t always work, but it’s fun to try.

Who are your musical inspirations?
I gotta say Jimi Hendricks, just like every guitar player. I was big into Paul Gilbert, who is a shred metal kind of guy. The technical ability always got me. I love those kind of guys. Guthri Govn is another one. Buddy Guy is also my guy.

Can you describe your style as a musician?
It’s deep-rooted, but I like going fast. It’s a bit of a mix. With the band, we aren’t really a blues band. It’s more funk, rock, blues. I played with the Soul Shakers for a while. They were really a blues bands. They did some funk and stuff too. It was cool to be able to play traditional blues. I love the blues rock kind of thing and guitar solos. I love the jam band kind thing too.

What is the band’s style?
The power trio is awesome. Tom will be driving the bus. We do a lot of improvs, which is the best part. It’s cool because him and Jules drive it and I just bounce off them. We always look at each other and dance at each other. The blues part comes from me I think. They were never really into the blues much until we started playing together. Jules is like a rock punk drummer. She does it all. Tom is the oldest; he’s 24, and Jules and I are 22.

Being so young, what part of being a musician do you feel you display extra maturity in?
Jules’ parents are in a band, so we would always practice in her basement. That was cool because we got to learn what to do and what not to do. That was helpful and a big part. It was really great to have someone to help us learn how to act. We do blues jams. The first time I was invited, I took my guitar. People see a kid come on stage and think this kid doesn’t know how to play the blues. It’s cool to get through tests like that and prove yourself. The best thing about being so young is we have so much time to grow.

How did you first get interested in music?
My folks were really big into music. They love concerts. I remember playing “Guitar Hero.” I was really into it. My sister had a little, cheap guitar with missing strings. I wanted to try it. I also watched old rock videos on YouTube. It’s weird being able to have YouTube; it’s like cheating because I don’t have to buy records.

Talent aside, what would you be doing if you weren’t playing music?
I’d probably try to get a studio or work in a studio where I could bring artists in, record bands and make albums for them. I’d also mix their tracks and put them together. I’d like to get into that or maybe cooking.

What other hobbies or interests do you have?
Cooking, but I’m probably not very good at it. I love video games.

If you could perform alongside any musician living or dead, who would it be and why?
I’d say Jimi Hendricks so I could steal his mojo. It’s cool to be around other players who you can sponge up what they’re doing and add it to your repertoire.

What is your favorite part about being a performer?
I geek out about all of it. When you have a good crowd and they’re in it, the connection. There’s nothing like looking out and seeing someone who’s so into it. It makes it seem like everyone together is making it happen. If you have a less-enthusiastic crowd, the show is going to be less enthusiastic. Luckily we don’t have too many of those.

What is something that most people don’t know about you?
I bet a lot of people don’t know I have really long hair, because I wear a hat all the time. My hair would stick to my face and I wouldn’t be able to perform.

Have you have a defining moment or time in your life?
One of the big things that helped me as a musician when I was younger is that so much stuff was gifted to me by friends and family. The amp that I play through was given to me. I am way lucky. I don’t know if I deserved it, but that helped so much. I am just grateful for the music and the stuff and to be able to do it. I can’t wait to be able to give a guitar to someone and help out.

Do you have anything you’d like to add?
We are coming out with a live album soon. It will probably be an EP with five to eight songs. We did a show at Mountain Sky, and it was recorded. We are happy to have some newer stuff, since we’ve grown as a group. It will be our first album as the current three-piece. It will have a lot of new flavors. It’s energetic blues rock. It’s pretty upbeat; there’s a lot of improvisation. That’s why we wanted to do the live thing. Even in the studio, we want to do it live because that’s our mojo. It’s hard to do it piece by piece, and we have so much fun being together. It will hopefully be out by the end of the year.

Photos by Emma Black

Up in arms Kali Ma and the Garland of Arms pushes ahead after dropping album

Up in arms Kali Ma and the Garland of Arms pushes ahead after dropping album

Kali Ma and the Garland of Arms began as a solo project for Jami Kali.
In 2014, the Wilkes-Barre musician released her first album, “Holy Drone,” but hoped to expand her project into a full band.
“Ray Novitiski and I found one another,” the vocalist explained. “He brings artistry into his guitar playing by adding color and texture to sounds. He’s also one of my favorite songwriters. In 2017, Shiny Montini and Matt Chesney joined the crew and completed us. A solid rhythm section is essential for our musical vision.”
In July, the quartet released its debut, self-titled album, and the indie group recently went On the Record to discuss the creation of the album and what’s in store for the future.

Q: How did you choose your name, Kali Ma and the Garland of Arms?
Kali: At birth, my parents named me Kali, after the Hindu goddess of the same name. Almost two decades later, I dressed as the goddess herself for Halloween. Loaded with symbolism that I’ll leave for the reader to Google, heads are strung around Kali’s neck and, in a similar fashion, arms suspended around her waist. I decapitated and de-limbed some unfortunate Barbies and Kens, hung them on string, and my outfit was complete. At the Halloween dance party I attended, things got wild, and my garland of arms went missing. “Has anyone seen my garland of arms?” No one had. Years later, it was exposed that the garland was hanging on an acquaintance’s apartment wall in Philadelphia.

Q: What do you hope for your audiences to experience while seeing you perform?
Kali: When I sing to the audience, there is a sensation inside of me similar to the feelings that would accompany the pouring of one’s soul out into open ears, the type of ears that are willing to hear, not just listen. I hope this type of hearing accompanies feelings of satisfaction, bliss and oneness.
Novitski: We have a lot of alternating dynamics. You can expect it to be laid back in places and high energy in others. We put a lot of thought into each set list. The key and the mood of one song will dictate what we choose for the next song to create a flow. We want the crowd to feel as though they experienced something more than just a band playing a bunch of songs. When we aren’t up on the stage, we also just like to hang with everyone and have some drinks and laughs.

Q: You just released your self-titled debut. Can you talk about its creation and your process in writing and recording?
Kali: All four of us are songwriters, and the eclectic ideas we bring to the jam room really shape the songs we create. I’m so thankful to have crossed paths and begun collaborating with humans as talented and inspired as these three.
Novitski: Everything happened so fast. I can’t believe how easy it was. I can only assume having four song-smiths in one band was the factor. We record every new song in its infancy, listen to it later, critique ourselves, make improvements where needed, then build off of the foundations. We have a lot of fun while writing and recording. We get along very well, laughing and joking as much as we play our instruments. As for our debut album’s recording process, I recorded everything in a tiny room in our old apartment. I’m blown away by the high-quality sound we achieved in that little room. Making music with this band is like a holiday every week. I love these cool cats.

Q: Do you have any future goals for the band?
Kali: We shall continue to evolve together and offer to the world whatever magic we may possess. We wish to express ourselves, inspire others and to connect with the world we live in.

Eat your  heart out – La Festa Italiana full of treats and entertainment

Eat your heart out – La Festa Italiana full of treats and entertainment

During Labor Day weekend in Scranton, everyone can be Italian.
La Festa Italiana kicks off its 43rd year Friday, Aug. 31, from 4 to 10 p.m. with additional hours Saturday, Sept. 1, and Sunday, Sept. 2, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Monday, Sept. 3, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Lackawanna County Courthouse Square, Scranton. The free, family-friendly event is a tradition in Northeast Pennsylvania, with lots of people behind the scenes working toward a weekend of food and fun, said La Festa president Chris DiMattio.
“People come for the food, the entertainment, to meet (up) with friends and meet new ones,” he said. “It’s a great event for everyone to get together with friends and family downtown.”
Weekend Times put together a handy guide to the tastes, sights and sounds of La Festa Italiana. Mangia!
Food  
Come hungry. More than 80 vendors will offer a variety of dishes and desserts from Italy and beyond, ranging from pasta, pizza and cannoli to Polish sausage and Greek delicacies.
La Festa favorites such as UNICO National’s porketta sandwiches and Diana’s Pizza, which has catered to crowds since the festival’s first year, will be back along with local staples.
“Nearly all the vendors are family businesses, and just like in each region of Italy, everyone prides themselves on their own recipes. That’s the way it is at La Festa as well,” DiMattio said. “Everyone’s pizza is different, everyone’s cannoli is different, the sauces are different and unique. There’s really something for everyone.”
Farmer’s market
Fresh fruits and vegetables will be available from John’s Corn. Grown on a farm in Ransom Twp., peaches, tomatoes, Italian beans, prunes and other crops will be ripe for picking up.
Music
Music fans can catch performances from bands, dance groups and more across three stages around the square.
The year’s entertainment includes the return of festival favorite the Cameos. The eight-piece oldies/vocal harmony group will perform its renditions of hits from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. Audiences also have the chance to see performances by Gene Dempsey Orchestra, Black Tie Stereo, Old Friends, Flaxy Morgan, Popstar Drive and more. Jim Cullen, Jim Waltich and Jack Bordo also will perform while strolling around the square.
Other entertainment
Aside from music, the Jersey Pizza Boys will display their skills spinning and tossing pizza dough. Brothers Michael and Nicholas Testa’s talents garnered them more than a combined 100 million views on YouTube and appearances on “Today,” “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “Little Big Shots.”
“They’re quite the sensation on YouTube,” DiMattio said. “I haven’t seen them yet (live), but one of our volunteers saw them and said it was an incredible show.”
There also will be a cannoli-eating contest Monday at 3 p.m., and guests can play bocce with Danny Lovaglio. On Sunday night, a fireworks display will light up the sky at approximately 10 p.m.
For the family
La Festa, which does not allow alcohol, offers lots of family-friendly activities, too.
Kids can check out the bounce house and performances. Damien the Magician will perform Sunday and Monday at the Wayne Bank Stage on Adams Avenue at Spruce Street. Juggler Robert Smith will entertain on the square Saturday at the Fidelity Bank Stage and the picnic area on Linden Street, and Presto Pete and Incredulous Chris will perform kid-friendly magic on Linden Street on Saturday and Sunday.
Minicozzi Memorial 5K Run/
1-Mile Walk
On Saturday at 10 a.m., the annual James R. Minicozzi Memorial 5K Run/1-Mile Walk steps off. Registration starts at 8:30 a.m. at North Washington Avenue and Linden Street. Proceeds benefit the Boys and Girls Club of NEPA’s Christmas party and college scholarships. For more information or to sign up, visit lafestaitaliana.org or runsignup.com.
Mass
Continuing a tradition, Mass will be celebrated in Italian on Sunday, Sept. 2, at 10 a.m. It will take place at the Diocesan Pastoral Center, 330 Wyoming Ave., since St. Peter’s Cathedral is undergoing construction.
More activities
Steamtown National Historic Site will hold its annual Railfest on Saturday and Sunday. Free trolley bus shuttles will run to Steamtown and from Wyoming Avenue and Linden Street during the park’s operating hours.
Street closures and parking
Five parking garages close to the festival will have a special weekend parking rate of $5 per day for La Festa patrons.
The festival will affect traffic surrounding Courthouse Square on Friday, Sunday and Monday. Staring Friday at 4 p.m., North Washington Avenue will close from Mulberry to Spruce streets, Spruce Street will close from Jefferson to North Washington avenues, and the 500 block of Linden Street will close. The 400 block of Linden Street will be open to allow people access to the parking garage and also be available as a space where people with disabilities can be dropped off. One lane of Adams Avenue will remain open to traffic.

Compound interest Trains and local history of coal unite for this year’s railfest theme

Compound interest Trains and local history of coal unite for this year’s railfest theme

A celebration of the region’s coal heritage and its connection to railroading plus more exhibits, music and activities make for a busy weekend at Steamtown National Historic Site.
The annual Railfest returns to the venue at Lackawanna Avenue and Cliff Street in downtown Scranton on Saturday, Sept. 1, and Sunday, Sept. 2, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. This year focuses on the 250th anniversary of anthracite coal’s importance to Northeast Pennsylvania with the theme “Railroading and Coal: A Labor of Love.”
“Obviously the early steam trains ran with anthracite coal, and coal was such a great part of it,” said Debbie Conway, Steamtown’s superintendent. “The two … are really closely connected.”
While visitors normally enter Steamtown for free, the site will charge what Conway called a “cost recovery fee” to offset the event’s price tag. One-day passes cost $10 for ages 16 and older and $7 for children 6 to 15, and two-day passes cost $15 for adults and $10 for children. Ages 5 and younger enter for free.
Railfest officially runs Saturday and Sunday, but the venue will host a special event to kick things off Friday, Aug. 31, when David Stone: The Johnny Cash Experience performs at 7:30 p.m. in Steamtown’s theater.
Throughout the weekend, visitors can enjoy activities such as speeder car, handcar, caboose and Scranton Limited train rides; tours of Mattes Street Tower; photo opportunities; locomotive shop demonstrations; magicians; and more live music. They also can check out model trains, visiting railroad equipment and exhibits such as “The Call of Trains” by railroad photographer Jim Shaughnessy and coal-related photographs by Scott Herring.
Guests can take pictures of their own during a special Sunday morning photo shoot. Reservations are required for the event that Conway said will offer “really unique photo opportunities.”
“Rail fans love taking pictures of trains, so we’re going to try to set up a couple special shots,” she said.
Part of Steamtown’s goal for Railfest is to bring in visiting equipment from other railroads, Conway said, but that has grown more difficult in recent years as rail lines serving the area started to charge fees. Steamtown looked for other options and came up with the idea of a joint trip — dubbed the Northeast PA Railfest Flyer — with the Honesdale-based Stourbridge line, which routinely makes sightseeing excursions to Lackawaxen.
The Flyer will run Saturday, departing Steamtown for Moscow at noon. After lunch, a bus will take passengers to Lackawaxen, where will they will board the Stourbridge line for Honesdale. Another bus then will bring them back to Steamtown, arriving at approximately 5:45 p.m.
“It’s going to be a nice little partnership,” Conway said. 
She recommends that people buy their tickets in advance so they have an accurate number for bus seating. Tickets cost $80 for ages 13 and older and $60 for children 3 to 12; children 2 and younger ride for free on a lap. The tickets include two-day admission for Railfest and lunch.
Steamtown also will offer diesel train-pulled excursions to Moscow both days. Tickets cost $24 for ages 16 to 61, $22 for ages 62 and older and $17 for ages 6 to 15. Children ages 5 and younger ride for free but require a ticket.
Visitors also can take advantage of Railfest’s proximity to La Festa Italiana on Lackawanna County Courthouse Square by riding a free County of Lackawanna Transit System shuttle between the events during Steamtown’s operating hours on Saturday and Sunday. The neighboring Electric City Trolley Museum also plans to expand its schedule of trolley rides during Railfest.
The weekend offers “a lot of really fun things that are fun for the whole family,” Conway said.
“We’re really trying to mix it up and bring in different acts and kind of different draws,” she said.

 

Up Close & Personal – Mark Lucchi

Up Close & Personal – Mark Lucchi

Mark Lucchi owns and operates Lucchi Family Wine Cellars in Scranton, but he considers his business to be more of a means to form and maintain friendships and enjoy camaraderie than a money maker. While he credits his loyal customers for helping allow him to do what he loves, he likes to think of them more as family. He also works for the City of Scranton Department of Public Works. He is a 1988 graduate of Scranton Technical High School and studied radiology at Johnson College. He lives in Scranton.

Meet Mark Lucchi…

What is your role at the Department of Public Works?
I do whatever they need me to do. It can be anything from patching potholes to driving a garbage truck, plowing roads, cleaning storm drains — basically we do it all. My official title is pack master operator.

How long have you been making wine?
I’m a third-generation wine maker. As a hobby, I started making my own wine with my dad. I’ve been making wine about 20 years, but my dad is 80 and he’s been making wine with his father since he was about 4 or 5 years old. My dad made wine his whole life, and I always helped him pick grapes. At Christmas dinner, we’d toast, and I said, “Pop, this wine is pretty good.” And he said that was the stuff from the yard.

How did your hobby become a business?
It’s labor-intensive and costly to make wine. We were making wine and giving it away. It began to get very expensive, and we couldn’t just keep giving it away. People liked our product, and we started making wine for other people. In 2013, I licensed my wines through the state Liquor Control Board and federal government. We became a licensed winery. It went from a hobby to a business and, knock on wood, I am blessed.

Can you describe the labor-intensive wine-making process?
Back in the day, with my dad, we hand-picked the grapes then washed them, de-stemmed them, ran them through the grinder — everything was manual. Now we have machinery doing it. Technology has advanced so much that we’re able to eliminate the grinding and pressing of the past. We can get juice shipped in. Our Pennsylvania products we still grind and press. We get five or six people together and go out there, and it’s all about the camaraderie. We’ll go out and just work eight hours.

What does it mean to do the wine-making around your friends and family?
I am blessed. My parents are 80 years old and relatively still healthy. My dad instilled a very good work ethic in me. It’s a laughing and joking atmosphere. Even though it’s a lot of labor, when our friends come over and enjoy a glass of wine, that pays for itself right there. We get buddies who come over and help us out, and I have employees who give us a hand. We are really family-oriented. Unfortunately I never got to meet my grandfather Mario. You can find my dad, Robert and my mom, Mary, they come with me to events (to vend). My mom will be out, and someone will say “Hey, Mrs. Lucchi, how are you doing?” She doesn’t know them, but they say, “We’ve seen you at the farmer’s market or festival, and we bought wine from you.” Sometimes people we don’t know will come in and have a glass of wine or two, and by the time they leave, they feel like family. My greatest reward is when people send us a nice review or positive feedback. We strive to treat everybody with respect.

You mentioned there is a great camaraderie among not only you and your family and employees but also among other local wine makers?
We buy local as much as we can and we support each other, even the wineries here. Sal Maiolatessi is one of my dear friends. We just all sat down in February and formed Lackawanna Wine Trail with the local wineries. When I was going through the licensing process, Sal was helping me constantly because he already did it. Now, a buddy of mine is opening a winery in Taylor, and I’m helping him. We all work together. Everybody thinks it’s a competition, but we all have our own niche. We’re constantly on the phone with each other. If there’s an event or someone is organizing a bus trip, we help each other out. I don’t know how the other small businesses are, but this is very unique, and that’s what I love about it. We all go to these festivals and work together. If somebody hears of something going on that could benefit all of us, we reach out to each other. Nobody wants to see anybody hurt.

Some of your wines have creative names. Where do the names come from?
We’ll be down in the wine cellar like mad scientists blending wines together. We come up with different names. Sweet Mary Rose is a Concord Catawba. I named that after my mom. Her name is Mary Rose, and it’s a sweet wine, so we call it Sweet Mary Rose. We have a lot of fun with these wines. A lot of people get a kick out of our names, like the Sexy Sisters wine, (which) is a Niagara Cayuga that blends two sister grapes. Another is Sweet Trouble. It’s sweet, and if you drink enough, it’s going to get you in trouble. People love that, and we interact with them and joke with them at the festivals. They laugh at all the names, and we love to have fun with them.

What is your favorite wine either to make or drink, and why?
It’s funny, I still drink beer. I never really drank wine until 20 years ago. I guess my palette has changed. Seventy-five percent of the wines we sell are sweet; now I enjoy drier wines. I like a nice pinot noir. That’s one of my favorites.

Outside of the business, what are your hobbies or interests?
I enjoy hunting and anything involving nature. Whether it’s walking by Nay Aug gorge and sitting by the falls, I just love the tranquility and peacefulness, or boating at Lake Wallenpaupack. I don’t have the time like I used to. Right now, hunting season is starting, but it’s also harvest season. I work full-time, and this is easily a full-time job too. I love anything by the water or outdoors. I ice fish a bit during the winter. The winter months are a little slower in the wine industry, so I get out with my guys and go ice fishing. One thing with the wine, it dictates to you when it’s ready. You can’t say, “Oh, I’ll get it next week.”

What is something most people don’t know about you?
I’m petrified of heights. On ladders and roofs, I get crazy. As big as I am, I’m a little baby when it comes to heights.

Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape you into who you are today?
I lost a dear friend. We all think we’re going to live forever, but life can change in the drop of a dime. I get up every day and thank God that I’m able to get out of bed. That opened my eyes. I try to do something good every day for somebody else, whether it’s buying somebody a coffee at the drive-through or telling someone they look nice today. I always say if we all took our own problems and threw them in a pile and saw everybody else’s, we’d want our own back.

Photos by Emma Black

Tom Flannery gives insight into latest album

Tom Flannery gives insight into latest album

Local musician and self-described broke, gleeful outsider Tom Flannery doesn’t sound like anyone else.
Flannery has made music since he was a teenager, when he wanted nothing more than to sound like the rockstars he looked up to. But the only person he has ever been able to sound like was Tom Flannery. It was upon this realization that he decided to write his own songs.
More than 10 albums later, Flannery continues to create his own unique music that strives to imitate no one. The Archbald resident recently went On the Record to discuss his recently released CD, which he created with fellow local musican, Bret Alexander.

Q: Did you always know you wanted to work in the music industry?
A: I always knew I wanted to write and record and perform my own songs. Making money at it is, thankfully, secondary.

Q: How has living in this area affected your music?
A: The ground you walk on becomes the building blocks for what you write. Woody Guthrie once said, “All you can write is what you see.” So it’s impossible for your own roots to not drive your own music.

Q: How would you describe your new CD?
A: “Tales from PA 6” is a series of vignettes, really. Little four-minute movies acted out with guitars and mandolins … with legal pads and pens. We plotted out a course from A to B, but that didn’t mean it had to be a straight line. There were loads of back roads, but we eventually got where we wanted to go. It was a true collaboration.

Q: Is this CD a divergence from your usual sound?
A: I think my sound has been pretty consistent over 10-plus records. Driven by acoustic instruments mainly. Mostly quiet noises but the occasional boom.

Q: What was it like working with Bret Alexander?
A: His talent is intimidating, but he isn’t. We’ve become friends and share much in common: The same world view, the same thoughts on work and family, the same thoughts on what constitutes good and what constitutes evil. We don’t disagree on much.

Q: Was it your first time working with him?
A: It’s our second release together. We recorded “Dupont Back Porches” in 2016. The response was very positive, and we thought, “Maybe it’s worth trying this again…”

Q: What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as an artist?
A: The good and the bad nuzzle up against each other nowadays. Technology is such that just about anybody with rudimentary technical skills can make a great-sounding record. It used to be it cost thousands upon thousands of dollars. Now you can make a record in your bedroom on your laptop for the cost of software and a good microphone. As a result, there’s TONS of music out there, and it’s all fighting against each other to be heard. So sometimes making new music is like climbing a mountain to punch an echo. But for me, and for Bret too, it’s not just what we do, it’s who we are. I couldn’t stop writing songs any more than I could stop blinking my eyes.

Q: Who are your biggest musical influences?
A: Pete Townshend and Woody Guthrie.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish in the next year?
A: To remain vertical, employable and word-hungry.

Take five – A cappella group Pentatonix headed to Pavilion

Take five – A cappella group Pentatonix headed to Pavilion

Through sheer force of vocal prowess, Pentatonix creates a full symphony of driving percussion, lush harmonies and musicality that recreates — and remixes — pop, hip-hop and R&B’s most recognizable hits.
The globally popular a capella group, which boasts more than 15 million YouTube subscribers and a trio of Grammy awards to its name, makes its way to the Pavilion at Montage Mountain on Saturday, Aug. 25, at 8 p.m.
Mitch Grassi, one of the lead vocalists and the youngest member of Penatonix, recently spoke with The Times-Tribune via email while he was on vocal rest about how the group keeps audiences entertained and what they can expect at the Scranton show.

Q: From the stage show to the songs you’ve mastered for your repertoire, what will we see and hear during your upcoming concert?
A: This is the biggest stage production Pentatonix has ever put together! You can expect brilliant light shows, visuals and lots of never-before-heard ear candy. We’re performing a lot of our new material, as well as some fan favorites!

Q: When playing a large-scale venue like the Pavilion, how do you make sure the show feels big and bombastic, even for the people on lawn seats in the way back?
A: Our crew for this particular show has been amazing and so creative. They’ve really brought it to life in a whole new way. Plus, we’re giving 100 percent energy the entire time.

Q: Describe what a perfect night on stage feels like for you as the performer, and what you look for in the crowd to know they’re having a good time, too.
A: To me, a successful performance is one that I enjoy thoroughly. I have to make sure I feel good, and my voice feels good. If I feel like I’m not doing my best, I start getting really in my head. I love looking out at the crowd and seeing lots of dancing and singing along! That lets me know that the audience is enjoying themselves, which is very important. I think as long as we bring joy and light to the audience members’ nights, we’ve done our job. I love to make people happy with music.

Q: Why do you think presenting live music for audiences of all ages is important these days?
A: We’re very lucky to have a fan base that spans a wide range of ages (and other really amazing factors)! It’s actually so incredible to be able to bring the unlikeliest of people together, especially because they’re all there to watch us perform. Our audiences are just as diverse as our band members.

Up Close & Personal – Diksha Dosaya

Up Close & Personal – Diksha Dosaya

Diksha Dosaya, a henna tattoo artist who owns Heena Tattoo in Dunmore, brings aspects of her native Indian culture to Scranton. She and her sisters have practiced the art of henna together for as long as she can remember. She earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in business administration from University of Rajasthan in India. Dosaya moved to the United States from India 10 years ago when her husband, Dr. Rajiv Bansal, started his residency following medical school. They have a 3-year-old son, Vihaan, and live in Dunmore.

Meet Diksha Dosaya…

Can you talk about the traditional aspect of henna?
It’s very auspicious. If there is a wedding or festival, we have to put it on. It’s very lucky. Before marriage, you have to put on henna tattoos. They say that if the color of henna gets dark, your husband loves you; that’s just a saying. We grew up doing henna tattoos at home in India. It’s natural and comes from henna plant. We bring the leaves, dry them and make a light green powder. We put water, lemon and a little sugar in the paste to make the color a little darker, then you have to let it sit 12 to 24 hours. We make cones and put the henna paste in it, then seal it. Then you can make your own designs.

How have you expanded your henna art?
I was on an H4 visa, so I could not work. I was practicing because this is my hobby, and I love to do this. I enjoy putting henna on my hands and feet, especially when I get bored. In 2014, I got my visa so I could work. Some of my friends have a yoga studio (and) asked me to come do henna for their clients. I also take appointments to do henna.

What made you want to grow Indian culture in Scranton?
I like it here. I like the people. They are so nice and know so many things about India. They know about henna tattoos. When people see me, some say my henna is very nice and ask how I got it. One of my friends arranged to find some clients for me. I went to do the henna, and they were so happy. I love to do the henna, and I want people to know more about it.

What else do you want people to know about henna?
Different types of tattoos are well-known, so why not henna? It is temporary. There is no chemical in it. It comes from natural plants, and if you don’t like the design, it will go away in 15 days. If you want a certain design, then 15 to 20 days later you want a different design, you can change it. I want to show people we can do this type of body art. There are no needles, and it’s pure organic. Henna can also have a cooling and calming effect. In India, (it) can be 110 to 115 degrees, so sometimes people will henna on their feet, hands or head to keep them cool. It’s cheap, and it’s colorful. It smells good, and you can put essential oil in it as you put it on so it will give more of a relaxation effect. When you do live art in front of other people, they will feel more relaxed.

What makes you so passionate about doing henna?
I like to do different designs for different people. There are so many various designs with different variations, such as a sun or star. I like to do whatever people like. I love when I am able to do the design they want. That is what gives me a reason to do it. When people come back for a second time, after liking it the first time, that feels good, too.

Is henna art meditative for you to do?
Yes. I feel so peaceful and calm when I’m doing this. I am in my own world. It feels like I’m back in my home country. Sometimes you miss your family, friends or things, so when I’m doing this I feel like I’m back there.

Do you do any other types of art?
Sometimes I’ll practice mandala art, but I’m not that good. It is similar to henna. We do those at festivals. We have a festival called Diwali Festival. I do mandala art in my home on the floor.

Your 3-year-old son has taken an interest in doing henna as well. What is it like blending Indian and American cultures in his upbringing?
He is starting to do henna. Sometimes he grabs the cone and does henna with me. He is bilingual. He knows Hindi and English. We teach him our native language. Outside here, he speaks English. We’re trying to teach him all the traditions. I’m teaching him as much as I can, because when he goes back to India, he will need to know the traditions.

What else in addition to a design on their skin can people take away from getting henna done? Is there a spiritual meaning?
Applying henna can be a deeply moving and communicative experience for both the receiver and the artist. It opens a spiritual connection where a gifted blessing can be received. I want to give them the message that this is an art. It’s also auspicious and will bring you good luck, and good things will come their way. Any time anything good happens in India, they put henna on.

You are working with a start-up business called Om Indian Handy Crafts. What is that?
There are a few women who make bags and do embroidery and decorate the bags to make them look good. I sell them at some yoga studios to help them. In India, not many women are working, so I can help. I started this small business in 2014. I got the stuff from there, I sell it here. I go to fairs and hope to show people how pretty they are. Both that and the henna are connected to India. I like that I can bring a little bit of India here.

What other hobbies and interests do you have?
I love to spend time with my husband and my son. We travel a lot. We traveled before him as well. My son likes to travel. We went to Disney World last year. I also like gardening. I have a little vegetable garden at home. Those are my two main hobbies.

Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape you into who you are today?
I came here in 2008, and I got sick in 2009. I was very sick for two years. My parents didn’t have visas, so they could not visit me, and my husband was so busy doing his residency. I was alone at home in a different country. That time made me so strong that now I feel like I can overcome anything. Health is wealth, and if health is down, you feel so down. That was my turning point, and mentally I am much stronger now.

Is there anything you’d like to add?
I would like to thank my husband and my mom and my sisters back in India. They have always been great support in my life. One of my sisters came last year to visit me. Even though they are in India, my mom and sisters and I talk every day. I miss them a lot. I do like it here, because now I have a family and the community is great. I also get to do my hobby as well.

 

To see more of Dosaya’s designs and art or schedule an appointment visit her Facebook Page Heena Tattoo

 

Photos by Emma Black