Big Band-Aid Not Needed

My guest blogger this week is Alvin H. “Skip” Reiss, a long time friend and colleague, whose nationally recognized newsletter Arts Management celebrated its 50th anniversary this year.  Skip is the author of eight books on the arts and taught arts management for over 40 years.  The thing about Skip is that he is a Renaissance man, writes plays and songs, many of which are catchy advocacy tunes like “Up the Arts” and “Philanthropy.”  So, read on.

Westchester County is brimming with rich and varied free summertime entertainment. As a resident of Somers, I was delighted to learn that the Norm Hathaway Big Band was to perform in Bailey Park on July 8th. I had heard the 12-piece group appear in the same bucolic location several years ago, and I eagerly looked forward to a repeat performance. Many music lovers from my era share my view that the big band music of such icons as Glenn Miller, the Dorsey Brothers and Harry James, made, and still makes for, memorable listening and dancing experiences.

A number of my friends hadn’t read about the concert so I took it as my mission to spread the word. The night of the concert arrived and folding chairs and blankets were spread throughout the park well before the 6pm start in front of the gazebo where the band would be performing.  Although the temperature was quite high it was still comfortable.  Among the nearly 200 or so in the park, according to my rough estimate, a small child sitting with his parents on a nearby blanket, caught my eye. The boy, Aiden, was especially attentive when a young couple performed a number of songs with the band with charm and great phrasing, first by themselves and then in duet when they sang, “Sunny Side of the Street” and “Making Whoopee.”  No wonder. It was his parents, Josh Baty and Liza Moran.  The concert was great and the crowd buzzed with pleasure. Especially notable from my personal taste base were the band’s renditions of two classics, “Love For Sale” and “Tenderly.”

Bailey Park had been the setting for a youth band performance in June and for an upcoming Benson-Scott Big Band concert on July 22nd, and I only wish there were more free concerts there.  According to the county’s capable and resourceful cultural agency, ArtsWestchester, there are 264 free concerts this summer throughout the county and 12 communities – including Mamaroneck, Port Chester, Dobbs Ferry and Yorktown – offer them weekly.

Among the friends and acquaintances attending the Norm Hathaway concert was a woman with whom I had an interesting encounter several weeks earlier. My wife and I were at the Goldens Bridge train station preparing to take a Monday morning local  to New York City when this woman, a stranger to us then, approached us with a request familiar to anyone who has spent time in the Big Apple. “I left my purse at home,” she said, “and I don’t have my train ticket or any money. I’m also a Heritage Hills resident. Can you lend me some money? I promise to pay you back.”

It seemed to me that I had heard that song before but this was in Somers, my town, and surely this couldn’t be a scam. I acquiesced. I gave her some cash to park her car and buy a train ticket. When we returned to Heritage Hills we found an envelope at our door with a thank you note and three $5 bills. It was more than I had lent her. Several weeks later, when we met again at the Big Band concert, my wife and I greeted  our train acquaintance, Gloria Rosenzweig, as an old-time friend.

Perhaps Gloria and her husband will join my wife and I when we relive the Norm Hathaway Big Band experience in an August 10th performance at the Hammond Museum and Japanese Stroll Garden in nearby North Salem. Who knows? I might even lend her money to buy the tickets. At her rate of return it would be worth it.

Mr. Reiss is a resident of Heritage Hills in Somers. This is an excerpt from a new book he is writing, “In My Anecdotage,” that appeared in the Somers Record on July 19, 2012. His e-mail is

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