Senator Ken Donnelly

Providing aid to our veterans is one of the key services that the Commonwealth performs. State wide, the caseload for Veterans Services has increased by 40% in the last three years. With the economic downturn, the increasing number of older veterans living on fixed incomes, as well as younger veterans coming home from serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is clear that the need for Veterans Services is as important as ever. The Town of Lexington has seen a dramatic increase in the number of veterans seeking services and aide from the Veteran’s Service Officer (VSO). From serving five veterans in 2002, to now serving approximately 91 veterans, not only has the need for monetary assistance increased, so has the administrative demands for the VSO. The need for these veterans ranges from helping with their food and living expenses, to getting health benefits, to providing job training and counseling. The position of the VSO in Lexington is evolving from one that was done in a few hours each week, to one that requires on average 15 hours of work. For example, each Veteran who applies for assistance needs to go through the intake and assessment process to determine what types of funds they need. Some of these veterans are homebound, therefore requiring the VSO to make home visits. Given both the increase in veterans seeking benefits, and the increase in administrative duties, the current level of funding does not meet the demand. The question is where can we find this funding? It is obvious that additional funding is needed for almost every social service program run by the Commonwealth as well as essential services in each town. Unfortunately, we cannot make more money just appear. This then leads to the age-old problem of who of our needy residents need assistance more? Do we take money away from our public schools that are educating our Commonwealth’s future so that the brave men and women who defended our country can receive the services they so greatly deserve? Or would it be more preferable that the funds for our veterans are taken from the Adult Day Health Centers, which serve thousands of adults across the state who cannot care for themselves independently, yet are not at the stage of needing to be placed in a nursing home? Neither of these options is acceptable in my opinion, nor any option that would take money from one service program to give to another. It is our responsibility as a Commonwealth to help our neediest and most vulnerable residents. The problem the Commonwealth faces is a lack of revenue. Without generating increased revenue, we will continue to have to make the difficult decision of who needs our help more, those with mental disabilities or veterans, children in need of a safe learning environment, or elders who need living assistance? Instead of only looking at how we can cut funding, we must start looking at how we can generate more revenue. This includes continuing successful initiatives to bring new businesses to Massachusetts, as well as reviewing our tax structure to effectively pay for the services we need. There is currently a bill before the Senate to address this. Senate Bill 1416, An Act to Invest in Our Communities, would increase the income tax while at the same time increasing the personal deductions, holding down tax increases for middle and working class families. The net revenue increase could then be used to fund programs like Veterans’ Services, without having to take funding away from other critical programs. Sharing scarce and diminishing resources among our vulnerable residents does not reflect the kind of Commonwealth we wish to be. It’s time to have a real discussion about how we fund critical services in a fair and sustainable manner.

 

 

Senator Donnelly represents the

Fourth Middlesex District in the Massachusetts

State Senate. He currently

serves as Senate Chairman of the

Joint Committee on State Administration

and Regulatory Oversight. If you

would like to contact Senator Donnelly

or his staff, they can be reached at

their State House office by calling 617-

722-1432.

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Making Music and Making Connections

Holly Stumpf with several of her students

By Elena Murphy  |  Holly Stumpf’s Unique Teaching Style Helps Her Students Hear the Music All Around Them

On a recent afternoon, students are smiling widely as they start thumping on drums or shaking a rattle made of beads in Hollace Stumpf’s classroom at Harrington Elementary School.

So is their music teacher. “I’ve always enjoyed making music with others,” says Stumpf. “When I began teaching, I wanted kids to feel music is connected to their lives.”

Recently, her approach has won recognition. A music specialist at Harrington for a number of years, Stumpf was named a Distinguished Educator by Yale University School of Music, one of only 50 educators from around the country to receive the biennial award. Educators who win this award have integrated music with other curriculum and included a multicultural perspective.

Finding connections to other subjects students are learning, and bringing influences from around the world into the classroom is something Stumpf has always done. When she was just out of college, she read about the Orff Schulwerk, an institute founded by composer Karl Orff. The institute offered a program that was unlike anything she had heard about in her studies to become a music teacher and flutist.

Stumpf says Orff saw similarities between learning music and learning a language. In his view, students need opportunities to listen, imitate, and experiment as they develop mastery. Unlike schools that only taught musical technique, Stumpf took percussion and movement classes along with ensemble and music theory. Students connected music to dance, art, and everyday life. Stumpf says, “In a broader sense, Karl Orff was teaching how culture is in a lot of places.” It was only in the West, she says, that music was increasingly being separated from other activities, such as dance.

This experience changed everything about how Stumpf saw music education, and after two more years of studying and playing the flute professionally in Europe, she returned to the United States and embarked on a career that has brought influences as diverse as African drumming and the study of bird songs together.

“I realized I wanted to teach through music, not just teach music” in terms of technique, says Stumpf. To achieve that, she says she’s integrated music with almost anything in the curriculum, and has enjoyed collaborating with teachers over the years. When one class studied birds, she asked each child to choose an instrument that sounds like the bird they had researched, and replicate the bird’s song. She also blends in music theory, such as pointing out woodpeckers’ style of rapidly tapping their beaks sounds “staccato,” while smooth, more melodious songs are “legato.”

Students in her class also look at painting or sculpture to learn about music. The polygons in an Edward Hopper painting, she says, can be connected to different time signatures, with four-sided figures representing four beats and triangles representing three beats for a measure of music.

As Stumpf sees it, “If kids are doing things, they’ll remember a lot better.” So she has younger students compose music based on shapes: circular drums, a triangle, and rectangular wood blocks. She also has them recognize the high and low notes they can produce with their voices, so when she explains “pitch,” they already know the concept.

But she doesn’t stop with teaching musical technique. “When you want kids to be creative and experimental, think about expressing emotion,” she says. To do this, she uses “small frameworks,” such as asking children to “improvise a rhythm” with only two notes, before adding more notes or other guidelines.

The biggest challenge is “kids get stuck in their own heads that they ‘have to do it right.’” With just two notes to work with, they can create a pattern, and know they have achieved a goal, “and I can honestly tell them they’ve been successful,” says Stumpf.

To show how music figures in daily life around the world, Stumpf often invites guest artists to perform. After a trip to Senegal, Stumpf arranged for an African drum and dance performance followed by a workshop for students. This year, she had Hawaiian dancers perform in traditional dress, so students saw “authentic movement and instruments.”

Stumpf says that once a teacher decides to bring in multicultural influences, “it affects everything you do.” She’s been to Africa twice, most recently to Ghana, and as a result, enjoys African drumming herself. But her diverse interests also include English country dance from 600 years ago, and she has even taken up the cello to play in a chamber music quartet.

“If students see ‘different’ and make a connection or remember experiencing something different in my classroom, and recall that they liked it,” that’s part of “making the world a better place,” says Stumpf. “Different can be interesting.”       

 

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Facelift for a Lexington Icon

 

By Heather Aveson  |  The Hayden Recreation Centre Renovates For Families and the Future

 

 “It’s at Hayden”, “I’m headed over to Hayden”, “Take a right at Hayden”, these are all phrases that any Lexingtonian knows refer to the Josiah Willard Hayden Recreation Centre on Lincoln Street. Hayden is such an integral part of life in Lexington that we may not think much about it until earth movers, construction signs and fences draw our attention.

Originally built in 1958 the building is undergoing its first major renovation since 1990. The changes will not only help the center further J. W. Hayden’s wishes for the organization, but mechanical upgrades will bring the building well into the 21st century.

THE MAN BEHIND THE NAME

Josiah Willard Hayden came from a background rich in local history. His Great Great Grandfather was Samuel Hayden, a colonel in the Revolutionary Army and Lexington Minuteman. His “Great Grandfather six times over”, as John Chase describes him at the building dedication in 1958, was Simon Willard, who founded the Town of Concord.

Hayden grew up in Boston as part of a wealthy merchant family. He was the younger brother of Charles Hayden. Charles amassed a great fortune during this lifetime and dedicated himself to philanthropy. Although best known locally for funding The Hayden Planetarium in Cambridge, he was a major donor to The Boys Clubs of America and other groups.

Brothers Charles and Josiah enjoyed the advantages of a privileged youth spent enjoying the outdoors and sporting activities. Gayla Beu recounts Josiah’s desire to share those benefits with other children in a 1962 Hayden newsletter. ‘Mr. Hayden, a rich man’s son, had had a very happy childhood, with many advantages. He wanted many children to enjoy the sort of things he had, including the opportunity to learn games and sports” 

When Josiah and his wife moved back to the family’s hometown of Lexington in 1904 he was surprised, and disappointed, to find that there were no gymnasiums in town, not even in the schools. William Greeley, a contemporary of Hayden, remembered the situation this way. “The attic room in the Hancock School provided a cramped and dangerous makeshift for smaller children to play their games in, and was responsible for a broken nose or an injured arm at intervals. The children of High School age longed for a gymnasium of some kind, but with little hope of having one.” Josiah Hayden, William Greeley and Henry Putnam set off to remedy the situation.

HOW THE PLANS ALMOST FELL THROUGH – LITERALLY

The three formed the Lexington Gymnasium Foundation in 1906 and started looking for an appropriate location to hold classes. They settled on the second floor of what was then known as Historic Hall and which is now the Masonic Temple at the fork of Bedford and Hancock Streets. Again, Mr. Greeley recalls those early days in a paper titled ‘The Lexington Gymnasium Association.’ “Classes were soon enrolled and ready to begin. We found an able teacher named Vickers, living in Arlington. He took the girls’ classes while I took the boys, two evenings each week.” Things went well for a year until “…security of the floor construction began to be questioned and a careful inspection showed that it would not be safe to continue with the gym classes. It was a sad blow.” The year long experiment ended with an exhibition by the children at Town Hall to which the whole town was invited.

THE NEST EGG

The group turned their attention to outdoor athletics. Probably a wise move as solid ground was less likely to give way to active children than an aging wooden structure. A ‘baseball nine’ was fielded, games were well attended and a small fund was being accumulated. According to Greeley, as Treasurer, J.W. Hayden decided to take custody of these funds and build a nest egg for the construction of a proper gym. Research later showed that the initial “nest egg” was a $2 deposit in the Lexington Trust Company.

Photo, courtesy of The Worthen Collection

Baseball games were not the only fundraisers in support of the Gymnasium Fund. Hayden took the effort from playing field to Pageantry. He sponsored both the original 1915 “Pageant of Lexington” and the even more grand150th anniversary Pageant in 1925. The pageants were extravagant affairs full of lighting effects and melodrama. The widely published article ‘Lest we Forget’ describes the 1915 pageant this way. “The English arrive, and possess Lexington: over the hill comes a catafalque borne by angels carrying a doll, and the program says it represents the birth of Lexington.” The 1925 pageant took the event to a whole new level. Ms. Beu describes it as “similar to that of 1915, but said to be “far ahead” of it. World-famous dancer, Ruth St. Denis, portrayed the figure of Freedom in an unforgettable role.”

From his efforts in the field of pageantry J.W. Hayden was able to deposit $4,154.14 into the Lexington Gymnasium Fund. By 1938, the fund had grown to $10,000, still far short of what he’d need to realize his dream.

A NEW CHAPTER SETS THE STAGE FOR THE JOSIAH WILLARD HAYDEN RECREATION CENTRE

Board Member Dave Eagle and Director Don Mahoney in the lobby where a large observation window will allow viewing of the pool area.

In 1937 Charles Hayden passed away a bachelor and left his vast fortune and philanthropic foundation in the hands of his only brother J.W. Hayden. Josiah administered the foundation with a steady hand and an eye to the interests in athletics and recreation that he and his brother shared. Shortly after Charles’ death The Articles of Organization were drawn up for The Josiah Willard Hayden Recreation Centre, Inc. with Josiah as President and Treasurer. The document set forth the following purposes.

“To assist and found, equip, build, and maintain buildings and gymnasia…for mental and physical recreation, and whole educational entertainment and physical training of youth of both sexes in said town of Lexington…

To establish a place of meeting of the youth of Lexington for their moral, mental and social improvement and development and in general to do all things which may promote directly or indirectly their intellectual, social and physical welfare.

To assist and advance any and all religious, educational, charitable and benevolent activities for the moral, mental and physical well being, upliftment and development of the youth of both sexes of the Town of Lexington.

To aid deserving boys and girls of the Town of Lexington and assist them in attending education institutions in this country and abroad”

A clear vision of Josiah’s desires had now been set forth. But it would be another 20 years before the vision became a reality. It wasn’t until his death in 1955, from injuries received in a devastating car accident on Concord Turnpike here in Lexington, that money from the estate become available to fund the organization and construct the center of educational and recreational training for the youth of Lexington that Hayden envisioned.

On January 24, 1958, fifty-two years after the Lexington Gymnasium Association was originally formed, The Josiah Willard Hayden Recreation Centre buildings were dedicated. John Chase, the centre’s first President charged the residents with these words. “…from now on it behooves the officers and Directors of the Centre, the members of the staff and, most important of all, the people of the Town of Lexington to breath life, high purpose and dedication into this frame of opportunity which Mr. Hayden has provided.”

LIFE, PURPOSE AND DEDICATION

It’s hard to imagine a centre with more life than Hayden. Generations of Lexingtonians have learned to swim, played basketball, gathered and grown at Hayden. Don Mahoney is the current Director, “When I got here in the ‘80’s I got a lot of parents that came in and said, ‘I came here as a kid’, now I have grandparents saying the same thing”.

Some things have changed since those early days. The centre was originally two completely separate buildings, one for boys and one for girls, and the offerings were different as well. Dave Eagle is a member of the Board and the Building Committee, “Back in the ‘50’s it was always separate. Sewing and arts and crafts for the girls and woodworking for the boys.” Don Mahoney adds, “On the girls side it was called arts and crafts on the boys side it was pottery.” Josiah Hayden had never mentioned anything about wanting separate facilities, but his brother Charles had been a big supporter of The Boys Club, which was always separate from The Girls Club. It was a common configuration for the times. Tom Brincklow practically grew up at Hayden. Tom is a Lexington Native who now teaches Phys Ed in the LABBB program. “When I used to go as a kid there was a boys side and girls side. Joe Burns was in charge of the boys side. I look back at it now and I laugh, but that’s just the way it was. I don’t think that would go over now.”

The first major renovation in 1990 ended the separation by joining the two buildings with a cut-through. This coincided with the welcoming of adults to the facility. The Centre developed schedules that allowed adults to use the pool and gyms in the morning and later in the evening, reserving prime time in the afternoons and early evenings for the kids. Making more use of the facility fit perfectly into Josiah’s vision. He stated in his will that it was his “hope that the buildings maintained by the Recreation Centre shall be kept open at all reasonable times and made so attractive that the youth of Lexington will make constant use of its facilities and of the privileges which it affords.” And the numbers show that Hayden Rec Centre is doing just that. “On a good day we’ll have a 1,000 visitors between the rink and this facility. We have more than 3,800 members and they’re all from Lexington. We can keep the membership costs low because the endowment offsets the operating costs so everyone can enjoy it,” says Don Mahoney

UPGRADES, UPDATES AND FAMILY FRIENDLY

Looking at an aging infrastructure and increased usage by youth, adults and families led the Board to consider some major building upgrades. Improvements had been made along the way mostly to improve energy efficiency and conservation. Dave Eagle points out that all seventy-seven windows have been replaced for greater heat savings and all the lighting has been upgraded to be more efficient as well. When the board realized how much water was being used at the centre, they dug a well that provides water to irrigate the field and make ice for the rink.

But now it was time for a major facelift. About two years ago the three building committee members, Don Mahoney, Dave Eagle and Bill Kennedy began meeting to discuss their options. “We got input from the staff and some of the kids. At first it was no holds barred,” says Don Mahoney. But, those old partners time and money had their say too. Don continues, “then it became, what do you need? And what would you love? One of the essential things is that we have to be ready to go at full speed when September comes.”

Everyone agreed adding a family changing room and upgrading the boys and girls locker rooms were a major priority. Then there were the aging mechanics and utilities serving the building as well new ADA regulations to be considered. A renovation of the second floor was also in the running. Then sticker shock set in.

As a private foundation, all the funds for building, upkeep and operation come from the endowment left by Josiah Hayden. The board votes on any allocation, and this was going to be a big one. They decided to cut costs by saving the second floor renovation for a later time. Ready to move ahead, the Centre’s endowment was caught in the economic downturn and construction was delayed for a year until their financial situation improved. Now it’s full speed ahead throughout the summer with a completion date of September 12, 2011.

The main lobby has been turned into temporary changing rooms while the boys and girls locker rooms have been taken down to the concrete walls and floors and will be replaced with brand new facilities and a family changing room will be added for those with young children.

 

 

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Let’s Bowl!

By Heather Aveson  | 

Its the early 1950s. Its Saturday night. You’re looking for something to do with your sweetheart, a group of friends, or your sweetheart and a group of friends. You might head over to the movie theater to catch On the Waterfront or High Noon, but you may be just as likely to gather up the group and head to a local bowling alley. And you’d have plenty of choices. In the 1950s there were lanes in just about every town Waltham, Woburn, Burlington, Winchester, Cambridge, Somerville, and yes, even Lexington.

Bowling in Lexington

The Lexington Bowladrome was located downstairs at 1690 Mass Ave in Lexington Center, more commonly known as the building where Decelles used to be.

Frank Armstrong, veteran salesman at Michelson’s Shoes, remembers being a pinsetter there as a young teenager in the mid-1940s. If you were setting up, you’d sit on a board straddling two alleys with your legs tucked up. You had to keep your eyes open because sometimes pins would fly up or the balls would fly up. If a pin hit you, the bowler might slide a nickel or dime down the alley. Frank got paid six cents a string to set the pins and return the balls in those days. So the nickels and dimes came in handy when he headed back to the nickel coke machine that dispensed 6 oz. glass bottles. Frank says it was mostly men in those days, “After the war it was a place for guys to go.

Or you might have gone to the iconic Wal-Lex, just over the line in Waltham. At its height in the early 60’s Wal-Lex offered 60 lanes of candlepin bowling, roller-skating, billiards and mini-golf. Dave Breton grew up at Wal-Lex.  He started bowling there in kindergarten and took a part time job as soon as he was old enough. He bowled in an adult league there until Wal-Lex closed in 2002, and still has a great love for the place, Wal-Lex had a lot of leagues. After it closed some of the bowlers went other places, but a lot of people just gave up. It was a shame because now the kids have nothing to do. I still have the key to the front door in case it comes back.

Game Over

The Lexington Bowladrome and Wal-Lex weren’t alone in closing their doors. Alleys in Burlington and Winchester are also gone. Bowling hit hard times in the 70s and 80s as American life began to change. John Leverone, Manager of Lanes and Games in Cambridge, has followed its ups and downs over the past 34 years. When I was kid in Arlington there were buses that came around and picked us up and brought us here to bowl after school. Now there are more and more organized sports competing with bowling. There were also a lot fewer women working outside the home and they made morning leagues popular. Men usually worked an 8 hour day, finishing up around 5pm, leaving time to spend a few hours a week bowling on a league. Although statistics show a steady decrease in league play, the Bowling Membership Organization estimates there are still close to three million Americans participating in league play.

A League Of Their Own

I caught up with several leagues while visiting local bowling venues. And from what I saw I’d join any one that would have me. Bowling is about so much more than scores. There is friendship and camaraderie, friendly competition and in many of these leagues, a rich history, all of which are integral to enjoying the sport itself.

Vinnie Logrippo and Charlie Taylor go for a strike.

Sacco’s Bowl Haven in Davis Square was a traditional family owned alley for 70 years. Last summer The Flatbread Pizza Company took over the business creating an eclectic blend of old and new. You can sit in one of the original vinyl upholstered bowling benches and enjoy trendy and delicious pizza cooked in a clay and brick oven just across the bar from ten lanes of candlepin bowling. No computerized scoring here. Get out your pencils and mark the frames, spares, and strikes yourself. Wednesday afternoons at 1pm you’ll find the Somerville Senior Center League gathering. Many members of this co-ed league have been bowling for decades. And it reminds me that league play was often a company or club activity. Vinnie Logrippo is an outgoing guy, the unofficial greeter and ready with a story. I used to be in a steel company and we played other steel companies. Then at the end of the season we had a big party. We had strippers and somebody watched the door to make sure no one came in. Charlie Taylor is a little more reserved. He’s collecting dues, so I ask him where the money will go, prizes? No prizes, he says, they’ll host a banquet at the end of the season. But, no strippers.

Over at the Woburn Bowladrome on a recent Thursday night, I am welcomed by members of the Town Line Ladies. In the 1970s it was a group of Winchester friends, families and gal pals. It began as a way to get out of the house for a few hours. They’d bowl and then they’d play cards, says Joan Brownell. Her mother was an original Town Line Lady. Member Joyce Granara has been bowling for 60 years, and her daughter, Terri represents the third generation of bowlers on this league. The league moved to Woburn after the Winchester lanes closed and has expanded their membership to ladies from other local towns. Linda Durant of Lexington Financial Group is a newbie, joining just this season. They’re a great group of women. Once you start bowling with them you’re hooked, even if you do have a 61.9 average. They’re just so supportive. It’s just fun.

And you can’t help but get caught up in the fun these ladies are having, it’s like being at a sleepover with your BFF–there’s plenty of laughter, conversation and bowling. Joan’s got a bead on it. It’s really nice because people make connections. As we get older that’s really important. We all still the bowling, we all still love to win, but that’s not the most important thing. This league is all about inclusion. Their end of the season banquet used to include hand picked and individually wrapped gifts for every member, that doesn’t happen anymore, but they still make sure everyone is recognized. And everyone is proud of their sometimes notorious achievement. Elaine Callahan is quick to share her most coveted award. Three years ago I got a ribbon for Most Consistent for being Inconsistent. I think my low score that year was a 28 and my high score a 105.  Hmmm, I could be a contender for that ribbon.

The Next Generation

If the youth are our future, then bowling seems to be in good hands. At Lanes and Games on Route 2 you’ll find a great group of kids on Saturday morning bowling in the instructional league. Coach Bill and Coach Dave, our friend Dave Breton from Wal-Lex, are on hand to give guidance and support to the approximately 12 young bowlers here this morning. And on Sunday Coach Dave will take his traveling team on the road.

The Taranto family. Left-to-right: Marcellina, Gatetano and Isabella.

An unscientific survey of the kids showed most of them enjoy bowling because it’s fun and you get to hang out with your friends. Many siblings bowl in the league together. The Taranto family of Waltham has 3 children bowling this morning. Marcellina, 12, Isabella, 10 and Gaetano, 9. I asked them what their friends thought about bowling. In general their friends are supportive, but maybe don’t get it.

Gaetano offers, “They don’t like it because they’re not good at it. Big sister Marcellina adds “My friends usually tell me it’s not really a sport. It’s the only sport I’m doing now, but I’m doing track later.”

Well, Marcellina may have the last laugh there. According to the National Federation of State High School associations bowling is the fastest growing varsity sport for both boys and girls in the country. The number of varsity bowlers at the high school level has actually doubled in the last eight years, putting it just behind ice hockey and well above crew.

And for those looking for an edge in the college admissions game, that’s right–think bowling. More than 170 colleges and universities now have varsity bowling teams and thirty-nine offer bowling scholarships. The National Association of intercollegiate Athletics considers bowling an emerging sport sending it on its way to becoming a recognized NAIA championship sport.

These junior bowlers weren’t impressed when I shared this valuable nugget with them. There was a general shrugging of the shoulders mixed with New England pride and a general response that they probably all bowl 10-pin. Implying they spoke another language. But I think I caught a glint of interest in the parents’ eyes.

The Ultimate Test

I’d spent a bit of time around bowlers during the last week. And I was getting hooked. Now for the ultimate test. How hard would it be to convince a group of friends to head out for a Saturday night bowling adventure? One call to each of three friends and it was done. We had a group of eight ready to battle it out on the lanes. For this outing we decided to visit one of the hip new upscale bowling venues in the city. When we entered Lucky Strike, part of the Jillian’s complex on Ipswich Street we were greeted by polished wood panels along the walls and a stunning arrangement of fresh cut white hydrangea, lilies and roses at the door. Inside we found subtle lighting and lounge areas with low benches. I thought I’d walked into a Sex and the City episode.

Ken Willinger throws a strike.

Gone were the curved plastic bowling banquettes, replaced by elegant leatherette sofas facing low cocktail tables. Plasma screens lined the wall at the end of the alley, keeping score, giving bowling tips and cheering or jeering your latest roll. This was definitely not our father’s bowling alley.

After a few tentative frames we got into it, we cheered each other on and played up casual rivalries. Lexington Resident Ken Willinger bowled a suspiciously high 141 his first game and an equally overwhelming 132 for the second string. Turns out Ken’s father had owned an interest in Wal-Lex and he’d spent quite a bit of time there as a kid. Florence DelSanto admitted that the last time she’d bowled when was she and Ken were working in Moscow because there was nothing else to do. It made me think that just about everyone has a bowling story.

And our teammate Suzanne Rothschild of Arlington didn’t care how many other entertainment choices we had, she knew fun when she saw it. We should do this every month. Her husband John Baynard agreed, as long we could get bowling shirts.

As we headed out the lanes were filling up with groups of college kids and twenty somethings ready to take up where we left off.

All in all, I’d say it’s about the best eleven dollar deal around. Where else can you spend a couple of hours having a great time with friends or family, get a little exercise and wear cool shoes?

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Lexington Film Club to Hold First Annual Film Festival

The Lexington high school film club will be holding their first annual film festival at the Lexington Venue on Massachusetts Avenue, May 24th from 7-930 p.m. The festival is cosponsored by Lexington High School’s Television Production program, the LHS Tunnel Vision Film Club and the Lexington Venue.

Attendees will be treated to a variety of short films in a number of different genres. Lexington Venue owner Peter Siy has generously donated his theater for the evening. The PTSA has made a contribution to the festival that will cover the rental of a digital projector. This two-hour evening event features student written, directed and acted films. The event’s MC for the night will be former LHS student and present Emerson film student Sam Ruocco. Drinks and food will be offered by the Lexington Venue and DVDs with all of the movies shown for the event will be sold to the public.

LexMedia will be funding cash prizes for the winners. “Two areas of great interest to us are Youth production and working with the school system,” says Florence DelSanto, Director of LexMedia, “So naturally we jumped on the idea. This festival gave us an opportunity to work directly with the LHS media class and for them to learn about LexMedia and the equipment and resources we have to offer,” she says. “It’s also very special to have a privately owned movie theater in the center of town and it’s nice that the high school can take advantage of that community asset as well. I look forward to being on the judging panel and seeing the exciting and diverse entries and to a successful and fun event.”

It is expected that up to 100 films will be entered into the competition. All entries will be screened by members of the Lexington High School film club and group of finalists will be selected from the original entries. Volunteers have been selected from the community to serve as festival judges and each judge will be supplied with a compilation disc of the shorts to screen and to rate.

Lexington High School TV production teacher Mary Pappas is very excited that her small program has developed to this level. “I always wanted to have a film festival,” she says. “It just came together this year. “A number of my students are very passionate about film. They started Tunnel Vision which is the film club in October of ’09. They really wanted to have a film festival, and I said, ‘If you guys will work with me, we can pull it off.” The club started brainstorming, they did research: should we have an angle, should we have a theme? And we don’t,”  Pappas says. “That was deliberate. What we really wanted was a number of different types of films of different films in different genres that are really good quality. We are stressing quality and not the length, or the genre of the films.”

“I really can’t believe we’ve come this far,” Pappas laughs. “When I started here there were only two computers in this room! The first year I wheeled equipment around on a cart into the elevator and upstairs to the computer lab every day!”

Pappas talked with then-acting principal Van Seasholes and he recommended that she apply for a Lexington Education Foundation grant. “He really helped me with it. and I got it,” she says. “The grant was for 12 computers and a couple of pieces of equipment for the control room. Then, the PTSA gave me a grant for a number of cameras. I’m so grateful to these people because that really was the start of the program.” Since then FOLMADS has funded items like Final Cut Express software, several instructional videos and DVDs a Sony Cybershot still camera, and podcasting bundle.

Pappas was a television producer in New York City with ABC News before moving to Boston where worked for the Discovery Channel in the 90s. After she had her first child, she decided to change careers and went back to school. “I was always interested in computers, so I enrolled in a program for technology integration in education at Harvard Graduate School of Education. The program stressed all different kinds of technologies and how to integrate them into the schools. I loved it! It was a two-year program and Pappas went to work for the Weston Schools in 1997. When the TV production job at Lexington High School opened up she applied.

“I really wanted the position because it is the combination of everything I have done. And I love it. And the kids love it. Whatever you do today you’re going to have to know technology, space and you’re going to be using video whether you like it or not. What kids learn in this class will be really valuable to them in the future.”

Working on a film festival has given members of the television film club a look into the business side of getting films out to the public. Rae Aggerwhil and his friend Kevin Choi were instrumental in the formation of the film club. They brought the idea to Pappas and she was supportive.

“Everyone thought it was a great idea, we were all amped up,” Rae says. “When Peter Siy agreed to let us hold the festival at the Lexington Venue, the idea really took off. Everyone wants to see their work on the big screen,” Rae says.

Julia Friedman, another club member agrees. “It’s a really cool feeling to see something you do on a big screen. Now with everything on MySpace, we’re taking movie theaters for granted.”

These film students are really excited to have the opportunity to showcase their work. “We have lots of singing and acting and art here at Lexington High School, but we don’t have a place to showcase filmmaking. This film festival will give kids who want to be filmmakers a chance to show people what they can do,” Friedman says.

Magdalena Bermudez says that she finds film to be a very intellectual pursuit. “LHS produces a lot of intellectual students and film making gathers all of those skills together. It gives students a chance to reflect what they are learning here.”

Magdalena is interested in documentary filmmaking, but for this project she has chosen to interpret a friend’s dream. “It’s very surreal and dreamlike and I wanted to edit it in a style that’s like French new wave film.”Leo Gaskell comes to filmmaking from photography. The film that he has been working on for the festival is based on Ernest Hemingway’s short story Hills Like White Elephants. “I’ve been working on this for maybe a year now,” Gaskell says. “I’ve had lots of time to think about the techniques I want to use. Ideally, I’d love to shoot in 16mm—I have kind of an attachment to the actual medium of film—but, I have to work with what’s available.”

Leo has found that limitations have led him to think more creatively about his project. “It’s like when you’re writing a poem,” he explains, “if you want to make two lines rhyme, just making them rhyme will take you to a place that you wouldn’t have thought of.”

Leo has taken advantage of the facilities at LexMedia. DelSanto and her staff have encouraged all the members of the club to come in and use the editing equipment and the studios. Leo made use of the green screen in studio A to shoot some of his film.

During our meeting the students had a vigorous debate about film versus video. The ease, accessibility and relative low cost of shooting digital have made the medium more accessible. However, Kevin Choi talked about the “almost therapeutic” aspect of actually working with the film. “Now your only investment is time. Before, there was a huge investment in materials.”

Working in digital makes it possible to shoot endless amounts of footage. It’s something that the students seemed to view with mixed feelings.

Tyler Vendetti is working on a documentary video about Lexington firefighters. “With digital you can be less disciplined,” she says. “You can be excessive. Before digital you’d probably spend more time planning.” Tyler loves working in film because it allows her to bring her ideas to life. “You can write something down and then you can get actors to come in and make it come to life just as you visualized it. You can show your thoughts and your emotions. I like that whole aspect of filmmaking.”

Kevin Choi is working on an animation for the festival. “Recently I’ve been attracted to motion graphics and animation,” he explains. “With this new technology you can do an entire frame with the click of a button. It saves so much time. You can make a choice of having thirty frames or six—each frame is very valuable. You have to respect each frame.”

Kevin’s fellow founding member Rae Aggerwhil is immersed in film. He describes a project that he and some buddies worked on. They each took the same footage and edited it into three or four minutes. “We all had the exact footage and everyone edited it completely differently!” For Rae it’s a great form of self-expression. “Everyone has a different perspective,” he says.

All of the creative energy from these students makes me really look forward to the First Annual LHS Film Festival when the Lexington Venue will be transformed into our very own Sundance for a night!

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