Deja Vu all over again: Yogi Berra’s granddaugther, an MLB National Correspondent at Great Conversations

Lindsay Berra

Lindsay Berra

Lindsay Berra. National Correspondent
Lindsay Berra joined as a national correspondent in January 2013 and appears frequently on MLB Network. From 1999 through 2012, she was a senior writer for ESPN Magazine and, covering primarily ice hockey, tennis, baseball and the Olympics, but often branched out into other sports like boxing, golf and roller derby. Lindsay’s work has also appeared on and, in New Jersey Monthly, The Box and Self Magazines and in The Boston Globe. Lindsay received her undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she played varsity softball and men’s club ice hockey. She is the oldest grandchild of Yogi and Carmen Berra and is a board member at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center in Little Falls, NJ. In 2015, Lindsay spearheaded a successful campaign to get her grandfather the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which he received posthumously from President Barack Obama on November 25th, 2015. In her free time, Lindsay is an avid CrossFitter, cyclist, hiker and yogi, and has traveled all over the world to bike and hike. In 2007, she reached a life-long goal by summiting Tanzania’s 19,340-foot Mt. Kilimanjaro.


Thursday, April 27, 2017  from 6pm to 9:30pm
The Madison Hotel, Morristown, NJ (directions)
Seats are $250 each

Buy your tickets now!

Great Conversations hits the High Notes at NJPAC , The Metropolitan Opera and the Cabaret

John Schreiber

John Schreiber

John Schreiber. New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), President & CEO
Since 2011, John has been the President and CEO of NJPAC which, in 2017, presented more than 400 events, serving over 425,000 patrons. Its acclaimed arts learning programs will reach 80,000 children and families. Termed “a visionary producer” and America’s “impresario of brand names” by The NY Times,  John’s career has encompassed award-winning theater, television, concerts, festivals, documentary film, branded entertainment, and a host of other cultural and cause-related events. Among his vast creator/producer credits are jazz festivals (KOOL, JVC), a weekly TV concert series (Hard Rock Live), blues festivals (Benson & Hedges), the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor (PBS), the New Yorker Literary and Arts Festival, and a music education program with renowned trumpeter/composer Wynton Marsalis.  He received Emmy® and Tony® Awards as producer of the Broadway and HBO hit Elaine Stritch At Liberty. Prior to joining NJPAC, he served as EVP at Participant Media, the global entertainment company specializing in socially relevant documentary and feature films, television, publishing and digital media, where John managed the creation, development and execution of unique social action and advocacy campaigns for the company’s movies. Participant’s award-winning films include An Inconvenient Truth, Good Night and Good Luck, The Help, Waiting for Superman, Food Inc., Lincoln, The Kite Runner, and Syriana.  A board member of First Book, the Newark Trust for Education, and the Newark Alliance, John serves on the Advisory Board for Rutgers-Newark, and was Programs Chair for the year-long 350th celebration of Newark’s founding. A resident of Montclair since 2001, he is the father of three teenage boys.


Jennifer Check

Jennifer Check

Jennifer Check. Highly acclaimed Metropolitan Opera Soprano
Celebrated by The NY Times for her “rare talent that can send chills down a listener’s spine even in familiar music,” Jennifer is a frequent presence at the Metropolitan Opera, singing the parts of Liu in Turandot in the Met’s famed Parks performances, High Priestess in Aida, Voce dal Ciel in Don Carlo, Nella in Gianni Schicchi, Falke in Die Fraue ohne Schatten, Marianna in Der Rosenkavalier, Dorotea in Stiffelio, Lisa in Cyrano de Bergerac, as well as in productions of The Nose, Falstaff,  Don Giovanni, Lucia di Lammermoor, and on tour at the Salzburg Festival as the Flower Maiden in Parsifal.  She made her Met debut as Clotilde in Norma and has sung under the batons of Lorin Maazel, Sejii Ozawa, James Levine, and performed at Covent Garden, Caramoor, Tanglewood, and Spoleto, among other top venues. On the concert stage, she has performed Verdi, Strauss, Beethoven, and Mahler with the symphony orchestras of Shanghai, Milwaukee, New Jersey, Boston, Verbier Festival, Spoleto Festival U.S.A., Charlotte, Utah, Memphis, among others. She debuted at Carnegie Hall, Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall and at The Kennedy Center in solo recitals on the Young Concert Artists series.



Carolyn Montgomery-Forant

Carolyn Montgomery-Forant

Carolyn Montgomery-Forant. Award-winning vocalist, recording artist, songwriter and cabaret singer
A singer/ songwriter and recording artist living in Manhattan with her son and two terriers, Carolyn is Director of Education and Outreach for the Cabaret Scenes, Ltd, a nonprofit arts education organization dedicated to promoting interest in and preservation of The Great American Songbook (and The New American Songbook) legacy through live performances in NYC public schools and a monthly magazine. As a performer, Carolyn is a multiple MAC, Backstage Bistro and Nightlife Award winner in the categories of Outstanding Female Vocalist and Songwriter of the Year. In 2015-2016, she performed at NYC’s Town Hall, Lincoln Center, Feinstein’s 54 Below, and Carnegie Hall. After an 8 year hiatus to raise her son and run her own restaurant, Café Forant, she performed her comeback show, Visible Phoenix, throughout the US and London, garnering 23 rave reviews (including The NY Times), two MAC nominations and winning “Best Recordings of 2015 (Broadway World) and “Top Ten recording of 2015” (Cabaret Hotline Online) for its recording. Set to launch April 2017, her blog, Visible Phoenix, encourages women over 45 to pursue their life and career goals. Currently, Carolyn is on The Rise Tour, performing her anti-bullying choral piece, “Rise,” (based on the Maya Angelou poem “Still I Rise”), to raise money for The Matthew Shepard Foundation.




Thursday, April 27, 2017  from 6pm to 9:30pm
The Madison Hotel, Morristown, NJ (directions)
Seats are $250 each

Buy your tickets now!

“Can We Talk?” – Joan Rivers’ biographer,former NY Times journalist at Great Conversations

Leslie Bennets

Leslie Bennets

Leslie Bennetts. Vanity Fair journalist & former NY Times reporter; Author of Last Girl Before Freeway: The Life, Loves, Losses and Liberation of Joan Rivers and The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much?
Leslie Bennetts is a veteran journalist and author of Last Girl Before Freeway: The Life, Loves, Losses and Liberation of Joan Rivers, published in November 2016 by Little, Brown. Leslie spent 24 years as a writer at Vanity Fair magazine, where she wrote many of the magazine’s best-known movie star cover stories as well as investigative articles on subjects ranging from priest pedophilia to the nation’s war against drugs. She was previously a reporter at The NY Times, where she covered national politics, metropolitan news, City Hall, style and cultural news. Leslie is also the author of The Feminine Mistake, a groundbreaking best-seller on the cost of economic dependency and the benefits of work for women who quit the labor force to become stay-at-home mothers. 



Thursday, April 27, 2017  from 6pm to 9:30pm
The Madison Hotel, Morristown, NJ (directions)
Seats are $250 each

Buy your tickets now!

We’re raising the Glass Ceiling at Great Conversations 2017

Shelley Wright Brindle

Shelley Wright Brindle

Shelley Wright Brindle. HBO – former EVP and C-Suite Executive; Founder, Brindle & Associates media consulting firm
The founder of Brindle & Associates, a media and leadership consulting firm which assists organizations with digital and cultural transformations, Shelley draws upon her 25 years at HBO where she recently was Executive Vice President, Domestic Network Distribution and Marketing, responsible for the revenue, marketing, and distribution strategy of HBO’s $4.4B domestic subscription business, including the launch of HBO’s digital streaming services. She left HBO in 2016 to use her experience as the first woman in HBO’s C-suite to mentor emerging female leaders and entrepreneurs. A frequent public speaker on creating growth and innovation cultures, Shelley serves on various tech start-up/non-profit boards and women’s leadership organizations, serves as a Global Ambassador for Vital Voices, is a founding member of Plum Alley Investments, and a regular participant at Fortune’s annual “Most Powerful Women Summit.” Shelley believes that having fun is a core business value which instills trust and joy in organizations and promotes creativity and innovation. Working in a creative industry and in an organization which cherished creative expression strengthened her own interest in the arts. She holds a BA from the University of Virginia and lives in Westfield with her husband Kip, their three children and any number of foster dogs waiting for a good home.


Irene Chang Britt

Irene Chang Britt

Irene Chang Britt. Independent Board Director & Strategic Advisor; 30 years in Consumer Packaged Goods including President and C-Suite Executive at Pepperidge Farm
Irene Chang Britt is a former Fortune 500 C-Suite executive, with 30 years of experience in the Consumer Packaged Goods industry. She has a distinguished track record at companies such as Campbell Soup, Kraft Foods, Nabisco and Kimberly-Clark, leading many businesses to transformational success. She retired as President of Pepperidge Farm in 2015 and currently serves as an Independent Director on three public company boards: Dunkin’ Brands Group, Inc. (Chair N&CG Committee), Tailored Brands Inc. and TerraVia Inc. Irene’s not-for-profit service includes the NACD New York Board of Directors, the Catalyst Board of Advisors and Women in America.  Her many honors and awards for business and community accomplishments include  Directors & Boards Magazine’s “2016 Directors to Watch,” Top Women in Grocery and the NJ Business Hall of Fame. She remains extensively involved in mentoring women and people of color in business. Irene earned her B.A. from the University of Toronto and her M.B.A., with honors, from the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario.


Athene van Mazijk

Athene van Mazijk

Athene van Mazijk. Mondelēz International, VP Human Resources, North America
An experienced Human Resources leader with a 30-year career spanning multiple countries and Industries, Athene, a native of South Africa, joined the Cadbury organization in 2008. She was involved in the Cadbury integration into the Kraft Foods business in CEEMA in 2010 and, in 2012, led HR for the De Beers Group in London.  In mid-2013, she returned to Mondelēz International as VP Human Resources for EEMEA. She has also held positions with Cadbury’s (or Kraft) in the Middle East, Africa and Vienna and her varied career included HR work in banking, leisure, government as well as insurance. Most recently, Athene has been part of the Cadbury global HR leadership, based in Deerfield, IL, where she was responsible for driving the Global Talent & Organization Effectiveness agenda and the HR team supporting the Chief Growth Officer organization. In her current role as VP, Human Resources, North America, Athene is based at the North American headquarters in East Hanover, NJ. Born and educated in South Africa, she completed her HR qualification, and holds an MBA from University of Southern Queensland. Married, with two adult children based in South Africa, she enjoys motorcycling (Harley Davidson of course!), horse riding, reading and theatre. 




Thursday, April 27, 2017  from 6pm to 9:30pm
The Madison Hotel, Morristown, NJ (directions)
Seats are $250 each

Buy your tickets now!

Score a “hole in one” at Great Conversations – Dine with a PGA President

With the golf season almost in full “swing”, you’re going to want to sit with Derek Sprague, former and now Honorary PGA of America President – who’s way above “par” (it’s a good thing)! Under Derek’s leadership he has grown the game through player development and youth. Currently, he’s Managing Director at the Liberty National Golf Club.


Derek Sprague

Derek Sprague

Derek Sprague. PGA of America – Honorary President; Liberty National Golf Club – Managing Director
Under Derek’s leadership as former and now Honorary President (and his co-chairing of the Ryder Cup Task Force), the PGA of America has grown the game through player development and youth.  In addition to his prior PGA leadership roles (VP and Secretary), Derek spent 27 years as the General Manager and Director of Golf at Malone (N.Y.) Golf Club, his hometown course, where he was involved with all aspects of the facility’s operations. In 2016, he was named Managing Director of Liberty National and is now a member of the NJ PGA Section. Since 1998, Derek has held leadership roles at both the national and section levels. After turning professional in 1989, Derek was elected to PGA membership in 1993 and has won numerous awards, including the 2005 and 2008 Northeastern NY PGA Golf Professional of the Year and Section President’s Plaque award, among others. He served on his hometown’s Board of Education and competed on the golf team while earning his Bachelor’s at James Madison University where he was inducted into the university’s Hall of Fame for the School of Hospitality, Sport and Recreation Management. He and his wife, Jennifer, have two college age children.

Thursday, April 27, 2017  from 6pm to 9:30pm
The Madison Hotel, Morristown, NJ (directions)
Seats are $250 each

Buy your tickets now!

The Cole Porter-Morris Arts Connection

A Cole Porter Companion coverA little known fact: our own Dr. Lynn L. Siebert is a scholar of Cole Porter’s music who pioneered the first musicological examination of Porter’s music and wrote the analytical chapter on Porter’s 1948 masterpiece, Kiss Me, Kate,  for the recently published A Cole Porter Companion (Univ. of Illinois Press, 2016).

On March 15, 2017, Dr. Susan Forscher Weiss (Professor of Musicology at the Peabody Conservatory and John Hopkins University), joined by her fellow co-editor Dr. Matthew Shaftel (Dean of Westminster College of the Arts at Rider University), and Cole Porter scholar Dr. Lynn Laitman Siebert (Director of Arts Participation and Communication at Morris Arts) shared background on the book project and their insights into the 11 Porter songs  beautifully performed by sopranos Melissa Wimbish and Sarah Berger, with pianist Choo Choo Hu (all Peabody Conservatory graduates).

The magnificent Evergreen House Library and Museum was once the private home of the Garretts, who were close friends of the Porters.  With its own concert hall on the upper floor, Evergreen House was an especially fitting setting for a Cole Porter program.  The standing room only audience was highly enthusiastic and engaged, even joining in an impromptu sing-along (Porter’s Don’t Fence Me In) at the end of the program! Q & A extended into the following reception and book signing in the elegant rooms on the main level below.  

Here are some photos:

Some reviews of the book:

“A Cole Porter Companion is simply an indispensable, unadulterated joy of a book–required reading for anyone who loves music, lyrics, the theater, and of course the inimitable Cole Porter–from the non-music-reading fan to the most sophisticated and scholarly musicologist. A landmark volume, bridging the gap between academe and the general listener with a bubbly élan worthy of the master himself.” –Maury Yeston

“Is there a need for a book like this, a compendium of essays by scholars and experts in musicology, music history and sundry ancillary specialties? The answer is an emphatic yes… To return to Irving Berlin, ‘ya don’t need any larning’ to appreciate this most sophisticated and well educated of American songwriters, but the huge amount of detail and analysis packed into this book enhances that appreciation.”–The Washington Times

Here is the description of the event from Evergree/Johns Hopkins:

House Beautiful Lectures: A Cole Porter Companion
by Evergreen Museum & Library

… A Cole Porter Companion (University of Illinois Press, 2016) sets the stage for a recreation of Evergreen evenings long ago with the great Mr. Porter, his wife (and Alice Warder Garrett confidante) Linda, and their friends gathered about a piano. Hosted by the book’s co-editor, Dr. Susan Forscher Weiss, this evening entails little-known stories about the master tunesmith’s life and art, interspersed with performances of timeless Cole Porter songs.


 Cole Porter entertaining - from Evergreen House publicity

 Cole Porter (at piano) entertaining



Common Ground exhibit in Gallery at 14 Maple closed on August 23rd

This wonderful exhibit, entitled COMMON GROUND, curated by Jeanne Brasile and featuring works by artists Mel Leipzig, Alaine Becker, Dahlia Elsayed, Dominant Dansby and Alex Piccrillo closed on August 23rd.  In divisive times, finding that which unites us as humans is the theme of this exhibit. Click HERE to see the exhibit catalogue and scroll down to read more about the artists and their work.

On March 8, 2017 nearly 100 people attended the opening reception for the Gallery at 14 Maple’s seventeenth exhibit, entitled COMMON GROUND – along with the presentation of the Ehlers and Coladarci Scholarships. It was a fascinating and inspiring evening.

Check out the recent PBS special on renowned artist, Mel Leipzig, who is one of the artists in this show.

Here are some photos from the Opening:

For this show, the Exhibition Committee of Morris Arts and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, with guest curator, Jeanne Brasile, selected works by six outstanding New Jersey artists, including Alaine Becker (South Orange); Dominant Dansby (Jersey City); Dahlia Elsayed (Palisades Park); Heejung Kim (Bogota); Mel Leipzig (Trenton) and Alex Piccirillo (Nutley). As Curator Brasile states, “There are many sayings in many cultures that note the importance of the collective.  Unfortunately, in difficult times such as now, we tend to focus on the things that divide us…This group exhibition, Common Ground endeavors to express the interconnectedness of the human experience through a variety of artistic impressions.” 

Click HERE to see the exhibit catalogue.

Featured image: Mel Leipzig’s June Wilson


Using graphite on paper, Alaine Becker suggests flesh and bone with her intriguing organic forms that investigate the body and its internal structures while Dominant Dansby bridges nature and artifice with his found materials assemblages that evoke compartments of the brain and the way we store and retrieve information. With whimsy and sly humor, Dahlia Elsayed draws on pop culture, using thought clouds to capture random sensations we all have had throughout any given day. Taking a more spiritual approach, Heejung Kim’s works reference the meditative aspects of mandalas and, with great delicacy, reveal the very neurons that power our thoughts and feelings.  By contrast, Mel Leipzig’s works focus on the human experience, portraying friends and family and the places they inhabit, utilizing the external landscapes to illuminate the internal qualities of each individual portrait. By contrast, Alex Piccirillo’s portraits exclude a “setting” and focus entirely on the individuals portrayed, capturing the mood and emotion of private moments, of stillness and solitude.

 The exhibit runs through August 23, 2017. The Gallery at 14 Maple is free and open to the public from 10am-4pm Monday-Friday and by  appointment.

Morris Arts gratefully acknowledges sponsorship for this exhibit by 




Atrium Gallery opened its special Winter Invitational Exhibit on January 26, 2017

On January 26, 2017 , more than 285 highly enthusiastic individuals joined Morris Arts at the free opening reception of the special Winter Invitational Exhibit at the Atrium Art Gallery, located on Floors 2-5 of the Morris County Administration and Records Building on 10 Court Street in Morristown. There, they met the 34 gifted artists and viewed 143 artworks that span styles from the contemporary abstract to plein air realism, created in a variety of media including oils, cut paper, 3-D works, photography, mixed media and acrylic. 

To see the Exhibition Catalogue, click HERE.

Here are some photos from the reception:

The fifth floor captures the languid beauty of Venice in the rich, luminous oils by prize-winning and widely exhibited artist, Todd L.W. Doney (Gillette). In the fourth floor Atrium area, contemporary abstract artist Andrea Epstein (Berkeley Heights) excites the imagination with her bold colors, textures and intricate lines very much in the abstract expressionist tradition.  In the fourth floor Hallway and Elevator Lobby, Adel Gorgy’s (Baldwin, NY) series of abstract photographic works, “Meditation in Five Dimensions,” presents meditative “mandalas for the 21st century.”  His conceptual, visual, spatial construct allows the viewer to see his images as either two-dimensional or three-dimensional abstractions and challenges our perception of visual reality. Also in the fourth floor Hallway and Elevator Lobby, Marsha Solomon (Baldwin, NY) follows the tradition of classic New York Abstract Expressionism, but through her unique artistic voice.  Her works, likened to those of Robert Motherwell and Helene Frankenthaler, combine the creative force of strong gestural painting surrounding soothing contemplative passages of soft paint.  In the third floor Atrium area, acrylics, oils, and collages by award-winning Pat Brentano  (Westfield) transform the space into a paradise of greenery, heightening awareness of nature’s layers of light and the infinite gradations of color in forested landscapes.  In the 3rd floor Hallway area, New York artist Elizabeth Gregory Gruen’s “Cut Work” series is an evolving exploration of emotion initiated though free hand scalpel cut multilayered organic imagery – and yielding three dimensional geometric forms of great intricacy and spatial depth. Experiential, contemporary realist artist Charles Newman (Haddon Towne) paints en plein air (outdoors), harnessing light to evoke moods and emotions. Whether a forest scene, an industrial landscape or a domestic interior, Newman’s works are suffused with atmosphere, warmth and a sense of the moment. The second floor features an exhibit within an exhibit, curated by New Jersey photographer and Coalition trustee Dwight Hiscano, and juried by Emmy award-winning filmmaker Eliott Ruga (Senior Policy Analyst and Campaign Coordinator for the Highlands Coalition), Kristy Brucale Jach (director of Speakeasy Art Gallery in Boonton), and Anita Fickenburger (Senior Art Consultant for ArtPlus, corporate art consultants in Livingston, NJ), and judged by Alexandra Willis (Curator for the Morris Museum). The exhibit offers multiple artists an opportunity to reach a wide audience while showcasing the natural and cultural resources of the spectacular Highlands region.

Most works are available for sale, with details and pricing provided in the free catalogues found in the elevator lobby areas on floors 2-5. The Atrium Art Gallery is free and open to the public during business hours, 8:30am-4:30pm on Monday-Friday. The exhibit remains in place until March 16, 2017.

First Night Morris County celebrated 25th Anniversary – bigger and better than ever!


December 31, 2016 marked the 25th Anniversary of New Jersey’s biggest and brightest First Night, a New Year’s Eve family-friendly, alcohol-free celebration of the arts – with over  200 artists, 92  events in 27 venues – representing dance, theatre, music, world cultures, visual arts and children’s events.  For the last quarter century, Morris Arts has served as First Night Morris’ artistic programmer, securing topflight talents who attract thousands of people from throughout the state and beyond.  More than half of the program features new artists (or artists returning after several years), many of whom have performed at top venues (the White House, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Ringling Brothers, Madison Square Garden), won international recognition, performed on national radio/TV, in major films and/or collaborated with superstars of performing arts. On that night, people experienced everything from Broadway stars to a comedy dog circus!

Check out the FIRST NIGHT MORRIS PROGRAM HERE and visit for more information.

To see VIDEOS of multiple performances taken by staff of, click HERE

And to see comprehensive coverage of First Night, with photos, history and additional information, by, click HERE.

For coverage by the Daily Record, click HERE

For coverage by the Jersey Hills Media group, click HERE

For additional media coverage, click HERE   

Here are some  PHOTOS from the event

  1. Photos by Jeff Sovelove for

2. Photos by staff from the Daily Record: 

3. Photos by Dr. Lynn L. Siebert of Morris Arts:


4. Photos provided by Stephen Christopher, “Mr Hypno”:

Clockwise from top Left: Brian LaBlanc and his multi artist tribute band; Ukelele rock group, Cousin Earth; Blues harmonica virtuoso/vocalist Rob Paparozzi; Frances Catherine Ihling sings Alison Krauss and other modern country hits; The Feinberg Brothers bluegrass band; Maggie Worsdale sings Patsy Cline.

On the Rock/Pop front, Brian LaBlanc’s multi-artist tribute band (which opened for Grammy winners such as Blind Boys of Alabama), featured dazzlingly authentic performances of Billy Joel, Neil Diamond, Johnny Cash, John Lennon, and more!  Making big sounds with tiny instruments, the ukulele rock band Cousin Earth not only offered Rock, but also Fusion, Ragtime, Funk, Bluegrass, Hip-Hop and even Electronica.

For Blues/Bluegrass and Modern Country, First Night is the place. Audiences grooved with the “real deal” in Blues, R&B (and funk) as Yankee Stadium organist Ed Alstrom’s Quartet which featured Rob Paparozzi, the Grammy-nominated vocalist/harmonica virtuoso from the original Blues Brothers Band and Blood Sweat & Tears bands. Another solid pro, jazz singer Maggie Worsdale paid homage to the earthy, innovative Nashville sound of legendary Patsy Cline and, for those who preferred traditional Nashville-style bluegrass, there were the tight, soulful harmonies and serious fiddle/guitar and mandolin chops of the Feinberg Brothers – with champion banjo master Terry McGill. If the modern country/folk sound of Alison Krauss and James Taylor were your taste, audiences enjoyed the haunting, clear, pure voice of rising talent, Frances Catherine Ihling.

Clockwise from top Left: Jazz bassist/vocalist Nicki Parrott performing with jazz guitar greats Frank Vignola and Vinny Raniolo;  Modern troubadour Lara Herscovitch; Mauricio de Souza, Bossa Brasil bandleader;Folk singer/humorist Mike Agranoff;  “The Bishop of Jazz,” pianist Rio Clemente. 

Jazz heaven came to First Night with the amazing Frank Vignola Trio. One of the top jazz guitarists in the world, Vignola and talented Vinny Raniolo join forces this year with a fellow Les Paul colleague, the irresistible Aussie vocalist/bassist, Nicki Parrott (who has performed with Paul McCartney and Tommy Emmanuel, among others). Mauricio de Souza’s band, Bossa Brasil®, added a touch of smooth, Brazilian-tinted jazz and, First Night would never have been complete without our own sizzling jazz pianist, Rio Clemente (the “Bishop of Jazz”) whose inventive and sparkling improvisations astonished and inspired all. 

For the soaring, heart-stopping songs of Broadway, A Night of Broadway Stars brought the Great White Way to First Night, featuring actual Broadway stars singing unforgettable songs from Broadway productions such as Phantom, Wicked, The Color Purple, Fiddler on the Roof, and Cats.  Who could resist?

If Folk Music is your bag, audiences enjoyed the “pure musical poetry” of troubadour Lara Herscovitch who’s appeared on the Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor, and checked  out the witty and sly humor of the Folk Project’s own Mike Agranoff. For more Electic   musical tastes, there were kazoos and washboards with the Philadelphia Jug Band and drumming with Carol Peña in the Gefyra Participatory Drum Circle.


Clockwise from top Left: Harmonium Choral Society; Dennis Kobray as Bach/Meet the Musicians; Solid Brass Lite; Shuang Guo Wroe,  conductor of  the NJ Festival Orchestra; Peter Saleh’s Marimba & Percussion Ensemble; and Laryssa Krupa with Nova Chamber Ensemble.

If you preferred Classical Music, First Night offered the artistry of the NJ Festival Orchestra, the piano virtuosity of Laryssa Krupa (with her trio), the grand brass of Solid Brass Lite and the polish and inventive programming of Harmonium Choral Society. One could also delight in Peter Saleh’s distinctive Marimba & Percussion Ensemble or travel back in time and meet Bach himself with Dennis Kobray’s Meet the Musicians.

Clockwise from top Left:  Random Test Reggae; Eco Del Sur; Afrika Meets India; Nai Ni Chen Dance Company; Taikoza; Kleztraphobix; .

First Night also offered a generous sampling of World Cultures such as the renowned Nai Ni Chen Dance Company, blending traditional and contemporary Chinese dance or Taikoza’s thundering, powerful drumming, folk dance and delicate shakuhachi flute music from Japan. With its pre-colonial instruments, colorful costumes, music and dance, Mexico Beyond Mariachi explored the long cultural history of Mexico while Eco Del Sur performed ancient and contemporary music from multiple Latin American regions on indigenous instruments.  Audiences danced along with the infectious Latin salsa, merengue and tangos of Daniel Herrera’s DREAMS dancers and savored the rich musical blend, performed on tabla, bansuri, mbira and kora by the global fusion ensemble, Afrika Meets India. A hot group with a cool name, the Kleztraphobix blended the traditional and contemporary with its mix of klezmer, Macedonian music and jazz and people channeled their inner Bob Marley with the lilting, joyous Caribbean sound of that great shore band, Random Test Reggae.


Clockwise from top Left: Comedian Keith Alberstadt; Comedienne Erin Jackson; Shakespeare Theatre of NJ’s comic actors Connor Carew and Patrick Toon; Mr. Fish who will demonstrate his knife throwing and bullwhip skills; and  Mr. Hypno (comedy hypnotist, Stephen Christopher).

Love Theater/Comedy?  Audiences laughed their way into the New Year with exceptional Comedians Keith Alberstadt (featured on late night shows with David Letterman, Jimmy Fallon Seth Meyers and appearances on SNL), and Erin Jackson (seen on Last Comic Standing, Ellen DeGeneres, Comedy Central and Standup in Stilettos). Not to be outdone, the Bard also provided laughter as Connor Carew and Patrick Toon of the Shakespeare Theatre of NJ presented the Abbott & Costello classic skit, “Who’s on First?” – but in Elizabethan English: Who Doth Inhabit the Primary Position?!


L-R:  Johnny Peers & the Muttville Comix; Storyteller Julie Pasqual; Flea Circus Ringmaster  George Esparza.

Participants laughed along with Mr. Hypno’s humor and hypnotism (which can make people lose the number 6 or have an urge to ballet dance!).  Ringling Brothers grad Johnny Peers and the Muttville Comix (and 18 “rescue” dogs) combined the circus with slapstick humor. Picture a Bassett Hound on a skateboard! You could also dish the political dirt on first ladies with Maggie Worsdale’s First Ladies According to Martha Washington and join the enchantment cast by Storyteller extraordinaire, Julie Pasqual.  And street performer and flim-flam man, George Esparza  presented his suitcase Flea Circus & Wahoo Medicine Show.

Clockwise from top Left: Alborada Spanish Dance Theater; Latin dance with D.R.E.A.M.S. Dancer; NJ Tap Ensemble Soloists  Jeffry Foote and Maurice Chestnut; Nai Ni Chen Dance Company; Aztec dances performed by Mexico Beyond Mariachi.

When it comes to Dance, First Nighters savored  the fancy footwork and dazzling routines of NJ Tap Ensemble soloists Maurice Chestnut (who danced with Savion Glover) and Morristown’s own Jeffry Foote or sampled the swirling costumes and fiery flamenco dancers of the Alborada Spanish Dance Theatre.  Love salsa, tango and merengue? Audiences gave Latin dance a try with Daniel Herrera’s DREAMS dancers, and enjoyed dances from Aztec times to the present day with Mexico Beyond Mariachi. The award-winning Nai Ni Chen Dance Company highlighted ancient and contemporary Chinese Dance in all its power, elegance and grace. Its eight dancers performed everything from athletic, martial arts inspired dances to the graceful Ribbon Dance (and taught kids how to do the Ribbon Dance – to the delight of all).

Clockwise from top Left: Illusionist Benjamin Lipman; Facepainting by Gina Velazquez at Children’s Fun Festival; Rizzo of Rizzo’s Reptile Discover, with frog friend; Creative Caravan’s Tiny Book Workshop; Keith Leaf, light up juggler; Art 4 Kids with Christine Wagner .

For Children’s Programs: Kids of all ages loved Illusionist Benjamin Lipman’s Comedy Cascade with its magic and humor as well as Rizzo’s Reptile Discovery which shared the excitement and wonder of live reptiles (under the watchful eye of a seasoned animal handler). Perennial favorite and skilled circus performer, Mr. Fish  amazed audiences with his knife throwing and bullwhip skills!


L-R: Hula hooping with Whirled Revolution; Fun with LEGOs; Clowns “Glitter” and “Juggles,)  at the Children’s Fun Festival.

The Early Session for younger children (4:45-6:45pm) included hula hooping with Whirled Revolution, art making  activities with artist Christine Wagner’s Art 4 Kids and  the always popular Fun with LEGOs®. New to this year’s early session is the highly acclaimed Nai Ni Chen Dance Company, whose dazzling costumes and inventive choreography showcase traditional and contemporary Chinese dance – and the Creative Caravan’s Tiny Book Workshop where participants created their own unique tiny books. Additionally, both early and regular sessions featured the Children’s Fun Festival, with a lively mix of magic, juggling, balloons, facepainting, kazoos and even an organ grinder!


 Clockwise from top Left: Artworks at the ATRIUM GALLERY: Doug DePice’s oil, Rembrandt; Raymond Sigicinano’s oil, Mare, Sean Carney’s carved wood portrayal of the Lambertville Train Station; at ART UPSTAIRS, Medy Bozkurtian’s The Rolling Hills of Tuscany; At the STARLIGHT GALLERY, Nina Nemeth’s collage, All Things Illuminated; at the ATRIUM GALLERY,  Nicholas Gammarello’s oil, Eric Clapton with Black Beauty.

Three Visual Arts exhibits (displaying over 300 artworks) and two sets of fireworks topped off that magical evening known as First Night® Morris County. To check out the full lineup of artists, visit:



Atrium Gallery – last few weeks to see Fall/Winter Invitational Exhibit

Don’t miss the chance to see the exciting and special Fall/Winter 2016-17 Invitational Exhibit at the Atrium Art Gallery before it closes on January 5, 2016. The Gallery is located on Floors 2-5 of the Morris County Administration and Records Building on 10 Court Street in Morristown  and open to the public Monday-Friday, 8:30am-4:30 and will be open on New Year’s Eve, from 7pm until midnight as part of the 25th anniversary First Night Morris County.

Visitors can enjoy seeing  the  273 artworks by 7 outstanding New Jersey/New York artists (Sean Carney, Doug DePice, Nicholas Gamarello, Cheryl Safren, Raymond Sicignano,  Gail Winbury and Etty Yaniv) and which span styles from the contemporary abstract to precise realism, created in a variety of media including oils, acrylic, pen and ink, charcoal, carved wood and mixed media on copper.

Click  HERE  to see the catalogue of this special exhibit.

L-R top row: Gail Winbury’s oil, Rites of  Spring; Doug DePice’s oil, Portrait of Rembrandt; Nicholas Gamarello’s acrylic on canvas, American Wolfpack;  L-R middle row:  Sean Carney’s wood stain and dremel on wood, State Theater; Raymond Sicignano’s oil, Denny’s Ice Cream; Etty Yaniv’s mixed media on paper, What Makes a Good Twit;  Bottom row: Cheryl Safren’s oil on copper, Habitation 5: Rainforest.Ta

A good friend of artist Nicholas Gamarello, Executive Chef David Martone,  added some special delicacies to the evening’s refreshments, including filet mignon with balsamic glaze and shrimp cocktail. A variety of delicious items – including fudge with homegrown lavender and German Springerle cookies, vegetables, chocolates and other delights – also graced the refreshment table.

Here are some photos from the evening’s festivities:



The fifth floor features the dramatic, brilliantly colored abstract oils by prize-winning and widely exhibited artist, Gail Winbury (Westfield). In the fourth floor Atrium area, prolific artist (and veteran teacher) Doug DePice (Secaucus), astonishes with a sampling from his vast output – with its extraordinary variety, energy, and skill. And, in the fourth floor Hallway and Elevator Lobby, internationally acclaimed Israeli born-artist Etty Yaniv (Brooklyn) shares her fluid, intriguing, almost surreal yet precise drawings and watercolors of contemporary life. With clients like Steven Spielberg, Mel Blanc, comedian David Brenner and as the subject of a feature article in the NY Times, artist Nicholas Gamarello paints on canvas and, distinctively, on leather bomber jackets, guitar cases and other unconventional media to capture the spirit of WWII fighter pilots, of heroism in and out of war, Native American themes, military history, vintage 1940s-style  pinups, classic rock stars, equestrian competitions, and other, contemporary themes. Gamarello’s works grace the third floor Atrium while the intricate depictions of landmarks, NJ streetscapes and iconic scenes, all strikingly crafted in wood (using only dremel and water based stains) by artist Sean Carney (Robbinsville), fascinate and delight the eye in the 3rd floor Hallway and Elevator Lobby. The second floor Atrium area features the stunning multimedia works by Cheryl Safren (Valley Stream, NY) which explore the intersection of science and art, utilizing paint and multimedia on copper and on canvas.  And, in the 2nd floor Hallway area, military engineer and fine artist Raymond Sicignano (Englewood) combines his talents and training in his vibrantly colored, highly detailed and precise canvases which convey his fascination with unique and rapidly vanishing streetscapes of modern urban life.



Most works are available for sale, with details and pricing provided in the free catalogues found in the elevator lobby areas on floors 2-5. The Atrium Art Gallery is free and open to the public during business hours, 8:30am-4:30pm on Monday-Friday and will be open from 7pm-midnight at First Night Morris County on New Year’s Eve. The exhibit remains in place until January 5, 2017.

Featured image: Raymond Sicignano’s oil, Mare