SageArts and the Rondout Valley Growers Association received the Pride of Ulster County Award from the Ulster County Legislature for their work in organizing and staging the Unsung Heroes concert, celebrating the lives of elder farms, held last April in Accord.
Rosendale, NY—On Sunday, July 17, 2016, more than 180 people joined over 25 musicians and volunteers to fill the Woodstock Music Lab for a highly spirited concert celebrating in song the lives of Woodstock Elders. SageArts, an intergenerational arts project that encourages social inclusion and dignity for elders in the Hudson Valley, hosted the concert. The mission of SageArts is to honor our elders by bringing together songwriters and elders to collaboratively write an original song about the elder’s life and to bring the whole community together to celebrate their contributions.
Songwriters/Performers Elizabeth Clark, Sarah Kramer-Harrison, Kelleigh McKenzie, Bonnie Meadow, Sarah Perrotta, Jude Roberts and Robert Burke Warren performed original songs about the lives of Woodstock Elders Jerome Taub, Pete Denehey, Virginia Snyder, Nita Chandler, Lois Linet, Jocelyn Sarto Annie Tucker and Stewart Maurer. Julie Last was the Concert Director. The songwriters were accompanied by musicians Guy “Fooch” Fischetti on peddle steel guitar and fiddle, Lou Pappas on bass, Rusty Boris, Annie Roland & Henry Lowengard of Mamalama, Christina Gardner, Soloist, James Fitzwilliam, Pianist, and a chorale group assembled by Bonnie Meadow which included members of Ars Choralis.
Will Nixon, Woodstock resident and author who attended the concert, said, “You’ve really done something special here! It was clear that the musicians and the elders had developed real friendships.” The author Beverly Donofrio added, “I couldn’t imagine a more moving and inspiring experience. I loved every minute of it.” Lois Linet, an elder in the project who is planning to join the SageArts board, said “I’m looking forward to future magical performances and life affirming projects.”
According to Colette Ruoff, founder of SageArts, the concert ‘was a triumph of the human spirit and a true celebration of life itself. The songs were beautiful, the performance was professional and the whole experience was very moving for everyone present.’ We are grateful to the Music Lab for making their space available to host our concert.
The Concert was sponsored by Markertec, and local businesses Nekos-Dedricks Pharmacy, Woodstock Chimes, Mother Earth, and Catskill Art Supply. In addition, many local retail shops in Woodstock contributed raffle items to the event. For information about future SageArts events, go to www.sagearts.org.
Unsung Heroes: A Musical Celebration of Elder Farmers
On Sunday, April 24, 2016, 325 people joined 40 more musicians, choir members and volunteers to fill the Rondout Valley HS Auditorium for a concert celebrating in song the lives of elder farmers, our unsung heroes. SageArts and the Rondout Valley Growers Association (RVGA) hosted the concert. The RVGA is a grassroots organization of farmers and neighbors working together to keep local farming strong.
Songwriters/Performers included Heather Masse, Mark Brown, Kelleigh McKenzie, Vickie Russell and Tom Holland who originated songs about the lives of elder farmers: Jackie Brooks, Frank Coddington, Wayne Kelder, Rima Nickell, Jack Schoomaker, Abe Waruch, Bill Wilklow and Eddie Cantine. The concert included special guest musicians Jay Ungar, Molly Mason, Ralph Legnini, Eric Parker and Happy Traum, plus the Rondout Valley HS Choir.
Rosario Agostaro, Superintentent of the Rondout Valley Schools, who attended the concert, said, “The Unsung Heroes event was truly inspirational to my wife and I. Words cannot do it justice.” The Executive Director of the RVGA, Deborah Dewan, commented, “What an amazing and moving program! Like so many of the people who attended, I cried, I laughed, I just felt so blessed by the meaning of it all.” Becky Collins, the daughter-in-law of one of the elders, added, “The quality of the performances and the overall energy of the concert were unforgettable, and the day will be one I will talk about for a long time.”
According to Colette Ruoff, founder of SageArts, “This project really opened the eyes of our community to the lives of farmers who toil behind the scenes to bring us fresh local foods. The farmers shared their love for the earth, their sacrifices and losses, the big changes in farming over their lifetimes and the satisfaction of seeing things grow.”
The Concert was sponsored by Arts MidHudson, Ulster County Tourism, I love NY, and Ulster Savings Bank.
When multimodal healing professional Colette Ruoff of Rosendale founded SageArts, it was with the vision of bringing the wisdom of community elders into the limelight. That wisdom, turned into song by master musicians, is coming to the Rondout Valley High School stage later this month in the group’s second major event.
Ulster Magazine November / December 2015
SageArts continues to grow and develop in exciting ways since our last newsletter in July.
We have initiated an ongoing exploratory project with the residents of the Governor Clinton Apartments, a HUD/Section 8 senior housing complex in Kingston. We are working with a group of elders in a Story and Songwriting circle that encourages a deeper dialogue among residents about their lives, and the opportunity to write a song together to share with the whole community. In the fall of 2015, five residents performed a collaborative song at the December Holiday Party. The group is facilitated by songwriter Elly Wininger.
We intend to build on this project to include RUPCO senior housing centers in Kingston and other subsidized senior housing developments. We are currently fundraising to work with a mix of diverse individuals and groups in these centers, and to produce a concert to share these songs with the entire Kingston community.
“I was deeply touched by the SageArts event on Sunday. Too often, elders are relegated to the background in today’s fast-paced world. We have so much to learn from their vast experience and stories. The confluence of music and elders’ stories is a perfect fit.”
– Brinton Baker
“We all need meaning and purpose, and at the end of life, we need to feel like our life meant something, that it was worthwhile. If you can tell your story in a way that other people enjoy and will listen to, it’s an amazing boost for your sense of worth.” Geriatric physician Lewis Mehl-Madrona was describing the philosophy behind SageArts, which brings together musicians and elders to collaborate on songwriting that expresses the essence of each elder’s life experience.
Rosendale, NY—On May 31, 2015, the Marbletown Community Center in Stone Ridge was filled to capacity for a concert celebrating the lives and wisdom of local Hudson Valley elders in song.
Songwriters/performers Elizabeth Clark-Jerez, Elly Wininger, Dave Kearney, Bonnie Meadow, and Jim Metzner performed songs written in collaboration with elders Janet Fulmer, Rosalind Stark, Pauline Delson, Carlo Travaglia, and Richard Geldard. The concert included local youth who participated in song and dance, many of whom are members of the Vanaver Youth Dance Company. In addition, guest artists include Peter Wetzler, Stephen Johnson, Eleni Reyes, Karen Levine, and Elena Erber of Caprice Rouge. The band Mamalama accompanied.
Songwriters/performers Sarah Perrotta, Heather Masse, and Sarah Kramer-Harrison shared songs they had written in honor of elders in their lives.
Susan Rosen, who attended the concert, said, “Last night was truly amazing for many reasons. This was the community getting together to honor our elders in a very public way. They stepped into the middle of our circle to share their lives, loves, and thoughts, and we were blessed by their presence.” Another attendee, Rosie McLaughlin, commented, “I found Songs for our Elders incredibly moving. Each song was deeply meaningful, full of pathos, and very real! I feel inspired by the elders who were represented by the songs.”