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Category: Entertainment

Kearny UEZ to hold tree lighting

 

Photos by Linda Kraus-D’Isa/ Scenes from last year’s event. Decorations in front of town hall (top). Carolers along with Santa and Kearny Mayor Al Santos

By Anthony J. Machcinski

With Thanksgiving officially crossed off the calendar, residents of the area can now
focus solely on the Christmas season. Whether it’s seeing the houses lit up around the area or going to a local Christmas tree lot to get the best pine, the Christmas season
just has a tradition that is unmatched by any other holiday. With that in mind,
the Kearny Urban Enterprise Zone (KUEZ) will be holding its annual tree-lighting ceremony.
The lighting will take place on December 1st, starting at 5:30 p.m. The event, sponsored by KUEZ with help from Midtown Pharmacy and River Terminal Development, has been a popular way for Kearny residents to kick off their Christmas
season.
“The event has been very successful,” said KUEZ coordinator John Peneda. “Some
estimates of the past few years have had crowds over a thousand people.”
To help ring in the holiday season, the KUEZ has gotten several groups to perform
at the event. These groups include the Washington School Dream Team, Franklin
School 5th and 6th grade chorus, excerpts from Mater Dei Academy Drama Club,
St. Stephen Children’s Choir, and performances from Teen Drama and Stonehenge.
Among other activities, children will have the opportunity to sit with Santa and take a picture, providing their parents have their cameras with them.
The KUEZ has hosted the event for the past couple of Years. They see it as a way to bring attention to the town’s business district. The organization is hopeful that
people will do their holiday shopping here.
“The whole idea is to get people to come to the center of town and do some shopping,
but also keeping the town united,” Peneda explained. “Our member stores
charge only 3.5 percent sales tax, as opposed to the 7 percent in normal stores so
customers will save money by shopping in town.”
For Peneda, the event isn’t just about bringing savings to the town’s residents, it’s
about bringing the holiday spirit. The town has done this by putting up Christmas
lights on the telephone poles.
“It’s the Christmas season and like everyone puts lights on their houses, we like to
dress up the town,” Peneda said.
One new way the KUEZ hopes to provide the holiday spirit is through “Frosty’s Dance Party,” an event for children that will feature several beloved characters including Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, the Gingerbread Man, and even the Grinch.
While there is fun for the children, the parents also get a gift from the KUEZ. From
December 9th through December 26, curbside parking on Kearny Ave. will be free
in order to promote shopping in the KUEZ zone.
Even Mayor Al Santos will be in attendance, as he will help Santa light the tree.
“This tree lighting festival has become a wonderful start to the season,” said Mayor
Santos. “I encourage all residents to come out and enjoy the holidays in Kearny.”
The tree lighting will be held on Thursday, December 1st from 5:30 to 9:00 p.m. outside of Kearny Town Hall.

North Jersey country to play Donegal Saloon

Photo courtesy of Mike Martello/ Members of Secret Country, from l., are: Joe Hart, Jason Monaco, Eric Mason, Tim Siegle, Yan Izquierdo, Matt Siegle

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

While Donegal Saloon in Kearny has featured several bands with musical influences tied to southern rock and country, not many of these country bands have hailed from North Jersey. On Nov. 23, Secret Country, featuring several Kearny residents, will play Donegal Saloon and bring a country twang from north of the Mason-Dixon line.
Started by vocalist/guitarists Eric Mason and Jay Monaco, Secret Country originally formed after Mason and Monaco’s reggae band had broken up.
“We would just have our acoustic guitars, showing how simple and catchy country songs could be,” said Mason. “We just started playing and it was a natural progression.”
As random as the band’s roots and transition may have been, their success surely hasn’t been as random. With two CD’s since their inception in 2008, as well as several successful shows, the band has started to gain popularity.
“Very favorably,” answered Mason after he was asked how the band has been received. “It’s something new for people around here. A North Jersey country band isn’t something that you see. We have a very entertaining live show and it gets a little rowdy.”
The rowdiness of the shows has been a constant since the band played its first gig at Donegal Saloon a few years ago.
“Our first show we had was at Donegal and it was about two weeks after the band was formed,” Monaco remembered. “We just all could remember everything. We were flying by the seat of our pants. People started dancing right away and we had that great response.”
While initial response to the band has been favorable, the members realize that attracting future fans might not always be as easy.
“At first, people are hesitant to be there listening to a country band but when they listen to it they love it,” explained Monaco. “We just got to think to ourselves that we have to be ourselves.”
If this band follows Monaco’s dictum and maintains their integrity, they can be a largely successful country band.
The band has an undeniable chemistry that shines through in their music. Country music is a simple yet complex art form. If even one member of the band is off slightly, the music will sound like a train wreck.
Secret Country is able to use their unique chemistry to perfect the timing it takes to be successful. This timing is exceedingly evident in the songs, “Temptations” and “Women and Whiskey and Nightlife.” These two songs, both with vastly different tempos, still sound great, despite all the synchronization needed to give their songs the proper melody.
Another song where the band shows off their talent is on their version of the Charlie Daniels’ song, “Devil Went Down to Georgia.” As in the original version, the mandolin is still the featured instrument. Staying in line with the original version, Secret Country mandolin player Yan Izquierdo never overshadows the band’s performance with his solos.
While it takes many years for most bands to find this rhythm and chemistry, Secret Country has done this in only two, which can be attributed to the bands varying musical interests and appreciations.
“We were all in different bands (before Secret Country),” explained Monaco, who pointed out that these included musical forms like reggae, punk, and progressive-rock. “Little by little we all just started bringing our influences into the band,” Monaco added.
With the show at Donegal just around the corner, Secret Country grows more and more excited at the prospect of playing in front of their hometown crowd.
“It’s great to be there for when people come home and to see the same people all the time who notice our progression,” explained Mason.
“This is like home base,” Monaco said. “We’re playing the show next week. We always have a great reception and everyone is home for the holidays. It’s great to play a show in Kearny!”

Time to Meet the Muppets

 

By Louis Sullivan

‘It’s time to play the music, it’s time to light the lights. It’s time to meet the Muppets…” So begins the theme song of the classic 1970’s-era “Muppet Show” and so too begins the real action of 2011’s “The Muppets.” A staple of 70’s and 80’s entertainment, Jim Henson’s Muppets have been absent from the silver screen for more than ten years, since Muppets from Space was released in 1999. Older fans, raised on their madcap antics, have sorely missed them, while a younger crowd, to whom the film is equally directed, may be less familiar with Kermit the Frog and his zany cohorts.
“The Muppets,” under the masterful guidance of devoted Muppet fan Jason Segel, caters to both audiences perfectly. For the old-school folks, there are countless allusions to The Muppet Show, ample nods to the fame that the Muppets once enjoyed (and hopefully will again), and revisited musical favorites like “Mahna Mahna,” the aforementioned “Muppet Show Theme,” and “Rainbow Connection,” the tune that started it all in The Muppet Movie of 1979.
For those to whom the Muppet culture is fresh, there are several celebrity cameos in “The Muppets”. These include turns from “The Office’s” Rashida Jones and John Krasinski, and “The Hangover’s” Ken Jeong and Zach Galifianakis.  Toe-tapping musical numbers like the opening duet, “Life’s A Happy Song” and the moving “Pictures in My Head,” add to the lures. And finally, there’s Walter.
Walter is a brand new Muppet who was introduced for this movie. More than any other character in “The Muppets” he seems to represent exactly what this film stands for. Somehow, he manages to bridge the gap between old and new Muppet fans by providing a fresh face for newcomers to familiarize themselves with, while establishing, within the first five minutes of the film, that he is indeed a Muppet fan himself – a sentiment that is certain to delight old time Muppet fans.
The Muppets follows Walter in his quest to get the Muppets back together after they’ve gone their separate ways. He tries to reunite the old gang for one last show, so they can raise $10 million to buy back Muppet Studios from greedy tycoon Tex Richman (played by Chris Cooper) who wants to destroy the property for oil. However, Walter’s twin goals— inspiring the Muppets to regroup, and actually raising the money— prove quite difficult, and Walter, his brother Gary (Jason Segel), Gary’s girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams), and of course, Kermit the Frog, all end up on a madcap journey of uplifting self-discovery.
“The Muppets,” with its touching emotion, laugh-out-loud comedy, and show-stopping musical numbers, greatly exceeded my expectations. It not only blends perfectly with the fantastic Muppet canon already in existence, but also serves as an excellent introduction to Jim Henson’s hilarious and heartwarming characters. Whether it’s your first time meeting the Muppets, or a long-overdue revisit, “The Muppets” is definitely worth seeing!
“The Muppets” opens nationwide on November 23.

Visions of progressive rock

Photo by Chris Onjian

 

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

In the middle of what was the pop revolution of the late 1990s, Russell Murray created a band that went against that trend. While no bands at the time were playing progressive rock, Murray had his vision of one that would be able to cover progressive rock groups such as Rush. It was then that Visions was born.
“We’ve stayed true to it,” said Murray, who plays drums for Visions.
Since the band’s formation in 1999, Visions has played all across the area, making stops at B.B. King’s in New York, Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, and Hartley’s in North Arlington. At all these venues, the band’s message has remained the same.
“I know I’m not going to get rich off of it,” explained Murray. “But I do it for the love of it.”
The band, which  also includes lead singer John Pine, guitarist Bruce Sokolovick, bass player Chris Onjian and keyboard player Damon Fibraio, has crowd satisfaction, not making money, as its main goal.
“Most people don’t believe bands when they say this, but it’s true, you do feed off the vibe and energy of the crowd,” Murray said. “It’s so true. You make them happy and they give it back to you and it gives you shivers right up your spine.”
One of the obvious differences between a normal band and a cover band is the use of original material. This difference is one that Murray knows all too well, as he is in both the cover band Visions as well as an original band called Lipstick Magazine.
“It’s impossible to take your original stuff to a place like Hartley’s because they don’t know your material,” Murray explained, when asked about the difference in performing with the two bands.
To Murray, it’s not a matter of which band he’s playing with as much as the playing in general that counts.
“When you play your own material, it’s music from the heart,” Murray said. “Playing live and covering bands and being able to copy those gives a great bit of satisfaction. People realize how difficult the material is. Both have their own ways of satisfaction. I don’t know if I could decide between either.”
This idea carries into the other members of Visions, who also play for other bands.
“Decent musicians are in demand and it’s hard to find good ones who are in only one band,” Murray explained. “This band has had multiple lineup changes between moving and being involved in too many projects. Damon and I are the only original members left, and even he left at a point.”
When talking about the challenges these turnovers pose, Murray acknowledges how much that the band has had to overcome.
“It’s hard to keep your continuity going,” Murray said. “There’s been lapses of time when we haven’t played a show so new members could learn the material.”
Coming back to Hartley’s on Oct. 29 was a homecoming for Murray, who works for the Kearny Water Department and lives in the area.
“All the people that I know in the area, most can walk (to Hartley’s) and we always draw well there,” Murray explained. “When I play Hartley’s, I know 90% of the people in the audience. The intimacy level is much better at places like that.”
Next, Visions will play Crossroads in Garwood and The Rock Bar in Clifton. The band will return to Hartley’s on New Year’s Eve.

Grown-ups, treat yourself to a fun Halloween

 

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

As the leaves change colors and the warm summer becomes the crisp cool of fall, millions of men, women and children get ready to celebrate Halloween.
As a child, I did what children all across America do: get dressed up and go door-to-door, saying, “trickor- treat” and hoping for candy in return. While I’m sure the sugar rush was wonderful, the better part was trying to figure out each year what I would be going out as. I was able to be an astronaut, a baseball player and even a Power Ranger.
Now that I’m older, I’ll admit that the Halloween has kind of lost its luster. Dressing
up has gotten old and watching the same half-dozen horror films on TV every year
just flat out gets boring and laughable.
Lets face it, when you’re over the age of 18 and do not have a child, Halloween just seems like another holiday made to generate revenue before the big rush to Thanksgiving and Christmas. However, there are plenty of reasons why Halloween is still fun.
Being able to go to Halloween parties, creating jack-olanterns, and haunted houses
still remain essential parts of any Halloween experience.
In that spirit, here are some tips to make Halloween more fun without much effort.
1) Costume: If you plan to go out to a costume party, or even one of the many sponsored events at bars, put some effort into your costume.
While it may be easy to put on an Eli Manning jersey and say you’re a football player, the lack of effort shows. Some eye-black, a bit of padding underneath the shoulders, and even team colored shorts can make your costume stand out.
2) Home decoration: Just because the economy has been rough on everyone doesn’t mean you can’t get your home or apartment ready for the holiday. It can be something as simple as a few “tombstones” in your front yard. These tombstones are easy to make, using some plywood, a saw, and some gray spray paint.
3) More people = more fun: While getting dressed up and decorating your house are fun activities, anything is more fun if you do it with others. While dressing up as a cowboy, it’s always nice to have a partner to duel against. Doing things in groups inspires the meaning behind the holiday, to have fun doing something you can’t
do on a daily basis.
4) Safety: No point can be reiterated more than safety. If you go out as Wolverine, using steak knives for claws isn’t going to enhance your experience. Have a plan. If you’re going to walk around the town with friends, go to areas that you know.
Most of all, have fun. Halloween is not just some government-produced holiday
in order to boost the economy. Bring back memories of when you went out as Mickey
Mouse, and create new memories.

‘Fallen Blue Heroes’: Portraits in courage

Photos courtesy of Donna Roman Hernandez/ Donna Roman Hernandez displays prizes awarded her most recent film.

 

Photos couresty of Donna Roman Hernandez/ Donna Roman Hernandez during her service as a police officer.

 

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

It’s no secret that violence in America has risen in the past few years, and because of it, police officers across the nation have been thrown into the line of fire. One woman is determined to give a true look into the tragedy behind the deaths of the men and women who serve on the front lines at home.
“Fallen Blue Heroes,” produced by Donna Roman Hernandez of Belleville, honors and remembers police officers who have given their lives in the line of duty.
“The pivotal point I can say with candor is a female police officer friend of mine, Mary Ann Collora, was gunned down in the line of duty,” explains Hernandez, a retired police captain who served with the Essex County and Caldwell police forces. “When I went to her funeral, it was different than the other funerals I had attended and I saw the distress on the faces of everybody that was there because I knew, like me, they wouldn’t have anyone to really talk to about it.”
Hernandez, who had been involved in law enforcement for 27 years, transitioned into film as a rebirthing after her retirement.
“I like to say that film discovered me,”  she explained. “I went to a meeting of the New York Cinema Women and after that meeting, I was filled with something; there was a calling for me, like I knew I should have been a police officer all those years.”
Her new calling has come with great success, winning a total of 25 independent film awards in the last four years.
“When I was working (as an officer), I started my first film and I wanted to make sure that I was good at what I was doing before I retired,” Hernandez said.
On Saturday, Hernandez premiered “Fallen Blue Heroes” at the Downbeach Film Festival/Atlantic City Cinefest, held at  Resorts Casino/Hotel. The film won two awards: for Best Short Documentary and Best of Fest Documentary.
Hernandez chose Atlantic City because of her desire to show the film in her home state.
“I decided I was going to wait for a large venue, someplace like Atlantic City to enter ‘Fallen Blue Heroes’ into a New Jersey film festival because I wanted my colleagues and fellow officers to see it in the home state where I lived,” Hernandez explained.
While Hernandez appreciates the awards she has won, that is not her ultimate goal for the film. Her overall intent is to educate others.
“ For police officers, it’s a reminder to them that our lives are on the line in the moment we’re on the job,” Hernandez said. “For civilians, non-police, or non-first responders, it’s a reminder that police work is a very dangerous profession. We are the ones in the forefront right on the battlefield . . . Whenever I’m called to serve, I show my films to groups hoping to bring better information to the dangerousness of law enforcement.”
As for her future goals, Hernandez is in the process of continuing another passion, writing. Currently, she is writing a book to accompany her award-wining film “Ultimate Betrayal,” which is about domestic violence.
“It’s the version of how I survived all those years of violence in my own family and why I hid the secret,” Hernandez said. “It’s important for the public to know that what’s portrayed on TV isn’t necessarily true. I’m going to debunk a lot of myths referring to my own story and hopefully to empower other women that there is life after victimization.”

Hey Bulldog brings sounds of Beatles to Kearny

Photo by Anthony J. Machcinski/ Hey Bulldog during its performance of the Beatles hit, “Day Tripper.”

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

Kevin Wallace, owner of Donegal Saloon, expressed it best when he said, “The music of the Beatles just spans generations.”
This was no more evident when Beatles cover band Hey Bulldog played the Donegal on Friday night.
Hey Bulldog first came together on Oct. 9, 2004, John Lennon’s birthday, when the owner of Clydz in New Brunswick asked a couple of local musicians to put on a show to celebrate the occasion.
“The night was supposed to end, but everybody just kept jamming,” said bass player Gerry Rosenthal. “The audience would call out a song, and we would try to play it. It was such a success that the owner asked us to do it on Sundays.”
It wasn’t until December of 2007 that Hey Bulldog decided to take their talents on the road, playing shows all over the area, including Old Bay in New Brunswick, Dockside in Sea Bright, Harrigan’s Pub in Sea Girt, and the Donegal in Kearny.
“You put 100% into it,” Rosenthal explained. “It’s tougher to get a crowd into an original gig. Everybody loves the Beatles, no matter what we do to the song, everybody digs it.”
While no one can replace the Beatles and their influence on music, Rosenthal and the rest of Hey Bulldog have taken their creative freedom and made the music into their own style.
A great example of this change is in the classic “A Day in the Life.” While the original song is very smooth and mellow, Hey Bulldog made a grittier version, similar to the sound of the Beatles when the band was playing in Liverpool.
The grittiness does not affect the meaning or the feeling of the song. It simply reflects an idea the Beatles would have supported: freedom of expression.
This interpretation of the songs helps the band separate itself from other Beatles cover bands.
“They’re covering songs like the record, and we rock it out,” Rosenthal explained. “We model ourselves after the kind of band the Beatles would have been in the ’60s in Liverpool. We take guitar solos, we jam, and the people respond to that. They’ve been hearing the songs the same way for 45 years, and it’s fresh to hear it done differently.”
Added to the setting of the show was a video display, featuring old concert clips, cartoons, and other stock footage of the Beatles. This visual dynamic created an environment that the audience got into. Members of the audience, both old and young, were up in front of the band dancing and moving to the music, despite some of the audience not being old enough to have heard it when it first came out.
While Hey Bulldog is a band in its own right, each member has his own separate band. Rosenthal, who is a bass player in Hey Bulldog, also plays guitar for Big Wake, a rock and jam band.
Hey Bulldog’s local success is all the band has been trying for.
“We’re not trying to record anything,” said Rosenthal. “Any place or crowd that loves the Beatles, where the staff management and clients love the Beatles, we’re perfect for.”
Hey Bulldog will play The Dockside in Sea Bright on Oct. 14, followed by Old Bay Restaurant in New Brunswick on Oct. 29.

Madison 22 provides breath of fresh air

Photo by Anthony J. Machcinski/ Anderson (left with hat on) Sroczynski (behind drums) and Miller (right).

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

While many musicians today have chased the money by creating music under the rap and pop genres, it’s always refreshing when a young band goes against the trend.
Taking the history of rock into account, Madison 22 is a fresh new sound that has taken the local scene by storm.
“We all love totally different music, so it’s just really odd,” explains bass player Luke Miller.
When asked how they could be classified in a music genre, the group had one answer.
“We have no idea,” they said in sync.
“Rock is a very broad term,” said guitarist and lead singer Tyler Anderson. “If you listen to our music, one song will be in one direction, and the next song you won’t even think is from the same band.”
Before even listening to Madison 22, a simple read of their favorite groups will show how they have accepted everything that has come before them.
“The Libertines, Nirvana, and Wu Tang Clan,” listed Miller.
“Metallica and Dave Matthews Band,” said Anderson.
“Manchester Orchestra and M.G.M.T., “ explained the band’s third member, Aislinn Sroczynski.
Madison 22 started when Anderson and Miller were 8th graders at Lincoln School in Kearny. The band performed under a different name and with a different drummer. After the drummer lost interest, the two picked up Sroczynski.
While she is two years younger than the other two members and is almost hidden behind her drum set, Sroczynski’s play cannot be overshadowed, as she makes the audience feel her presence.
She does not overshadow the other members, however.  The band showed its confidence at Kearny Irish as it performed spectacular renditions of Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” and Cream’s “White Room.” Not only were these renditions true to the original, the band was able to put its own touch on them.
Madison 22 capped the show by playing several original songs. One song that blew the crowd away was “Brother,” a heavy but bluesy number that had members of the crowd dancing to the beat.
While the group has not had a problem entertaining their audiences, they have had one issue that has held them back: getting to the gigs.
“We’re very local,” explained Anderson. “We just got our (driver’s) licenses so we’re able to expand now because we can get to all of these places.”
This inability to travel has not discouraged them, however. They embrace it.
“We want people in our own town to know us first, then expand,” said Anderson.
While they understand how hard it is to make it in the business, they realize the example set before them by other bands from the area.
“I think it’s kind of cool thinking about bands nearby like My Chemical Romance,” explained Anderson. “There were kids that sat in our classrooms who now play for millions of people, and it feels really good.”
“It’s cool to represent our town and to show off that we are good,” said Sroczynski.
Madison 22 has made up for a lack of experience in the business with the help of Sroczynski’s father, Steve, who is the lead singer of the band Ripped.
“It’s pretty cool,” Aislinn said when asked about performing with her father. “He always helps me out and he does a lot for us.”
The band is in the process of creating songs and will produce an album once they feel they have 10-13 songs they consider “awesome.”

Ripped provides blast from the past

Photo courtesy of Ripped/ Band members, from l., are Steven Keller, Brian McGee, Jack France, Steve Stroczynski and Jeff Kelly.

 

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

Heavy guitar riffs and smooth solos normally relate to the style of rock bands from the 1970s such as AC/DC, Black Sabbath and The Doors; however, New Jersey rock band Ripped hopes to bring that style back to the modern era.
Created nearly 25 years ago by guitarist Steve Keller, Ripped has gone through many challenges over time and two years ago, resurrected with a new group, keeping in mind the heavy music that inspired the band in the first place.
“I guess we’re pretty much in the style of classic rock,” said vocalist Steve Sroczynski, who joined the band two years ago after Keller needed a vocalist on a few tracks.
When Sroczynski joined the band, he knew that it just had a good chemistry and could be successful.
“When we’re in studio and you’re making new music and it’s all fresh and it sounds great and everything’s coming together, you think to yourself, ‘This could really work,’” Sroczynski explained. “If you get the right promotion and the right record company, things can go in a positive direction.”
With many years of experience, Sroczynski and the rest of the band show an appreciation for everyone involved in the business.
“You have to respect people,” Sroczyinski said. “It’s tough to really get something going. There’s not too many original bands out there. Guys are doing it because they like to play, but they want to make money. We appreciate and look up to all the guys we play with.”
It is this love for the music that bursts through their entire album. From the moment the first song, “My Friend Alice,” off of their self-titled first album, comes through the speakers, the skillful guitar playing takes control and forces you even further into the music.
The love for the music also shows in the band’s performances. In January, Ripped played the Gin Mill in Kearny to a crowd of 140 people. That night is one that has lasted in the mind of Sroczynski.
“That was the first show I did with the band in this area and we had a great turnout,” Sroczynski remembered. “It’s not the biggest venue in the world but it was definitely one of the best.”
It is the feeling from the crowd that the band thrives off of. While some bands want to play Madison Square Garden or large festivals across the country, Sroczynski says it’s not the size of the venue that attracts him.
“We love to play everywhere,” Sroczynski said. “Everybody aspires to be a great musician and play huge stages. There’s really not one particular place you want to play; you just want to play them all. It’s not about the venue, it’s about the show.”
Despite all the success Sroczynski and Ripped have had in their short return, one of the prouder moments for Sroczynski will occur Oct. 1 at The Irish in Kearny, where Ripped will perform with Madison 22, a group of Kearny High School students including his 16-year-old daughter on drums.
“I’m really excited to see what happens,” Sroczynski said. “I’m really excited for her to be a part of this thing. It should be fun. Besides me being so proud of her, I’m just hoping she has a fun experience.”
Ripped also will be accompanied by Black Sabbath cover band Sabbra Cadabra at the Kearny Irish.
For more information on the band, check out their Facebook page. Their new album, titled “Ripped,” is available on www.cdbaby.com as well as on iTunes.

North Arlington resident fights bullying with song

Photo courtesy of karleeroberts.com

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

Ever since the events of Columbine High School 12 years ago, the efforts against bullying have been continually increased. These efforts have mostly been led by parents, concerned about their children in school. However, one young North Arlington resident is looking to change that.
Karlee Roberts, a 12-year-old performer, has taken it upon herself to promote anti-bullying in schools.
“In 6th grade, I had to do a ‘no name-calling’ contest and I had to write a poem about no name-calling,” explained Karlee about the evolution of her song “Call Me Whatever.” “From there, I decided to juice it up a bit and turn it into a song because I had experiences with bullying and saw people who got bullied, so I thought that we should do something about it.”
In the song, Karlee goes through a series of wardrobe changes based on the stereotypes children  see in school, including cheerleader, glamour queen, geek, jock and goth.
The lyrics in particular send a message that many children today do not follow.
“Call me whatever you want, I don’t care. I’ll show you what I got. This is the way I’ve always been. Can’t you see, we’re all the same within?” Karlee sings to a melody evocative of her favorite singer, Lady Gaga.
“Call Me Whatever” is not the first successful music Karlee has produced. With the help of her older sister, Marlee, Karlee recorded a holiday album. All profits from the album raise money for the charity Comfort Zone Camp, a non-profit organization for grieving children.
While Karlee has had success as a singer, her main success has been in theater. Roberts has performed in several shows – some on Broadway, some off Broadway, and some touring – including, “Once Upon a Time”, “High School Musical 2”, “Rugrats-Live”, “The Sound of Music” and “The Wiz.”
Karlee has also made her presence known on television, where she made several appearances on “Jack’s Big Music Show,” on the television channel Noggin.
“I love TV and I love singing,” Karlee said. “I love everything equally.”
In her young career, Karlee has been able to showcase her love for everything by doing just about everything a child can do at a young age. As mentioned before, Karlee has been able to get plenty of opportunities in both theater and on television, but Karlee’s career began working in photography.
Within all of her success, Karlee has remained true to herself. Using her success, she has helped work with Pop Beats Bullying.
Pop Beats Bullying is a charity that “uses the Power of Music to combat bullying.”
One big goal of Pop Beats Bullying is trying to create a Bullying Awareness Year in 2012. The Bullying Awareness Year aims to help those affected by school-bullying by providing them with opportunities to share experiences and come up with solutions and ideas to combat bullying.
Karlee has teamed up with Pop Beats Bullying and is working on what she called “a surprise” that should debut in October or November.
Karlee is also working on a second original song, which will debut in February and a third original song that will debut sometime in spring 2012.
Even with all this on her plate, Karlee still does many things normal 12-year-olds do, such as figure skate, play soccer and cheerlead. All that and she is fluent in Portuguese and is in the process of learning American Sign Language.
Keep tabs on this 12-year-old. You might soon find her on your local radio station.