Continuing Verso Studios’ education initiative, the Fairfield County-based organization LiveGirl will co-host a nine-week Leadership Lab for high school girls, grades 9-12, at The Westport Library. Sessions start on October 3 and run each Monday through December 14. The program is free, with pre-registration required.

Founded in 2014, LiveGirl is a Connecticut-based nonprofit organization that strives to build confident, inclusive leaders. Its mission is “to prepare the next generation of diverse, brave female leaders with the skills, community, and connections so that all girls may thrive and make a positive impact on the world. LiveGirl’s vision is to contribute to a world free from both gender and racial inequality.”

Utilizing the state-of-the-art Verso Studios media facilities at the Library, the LiveGirl Leadership Lab will focus on creative arts empowerment, multimedia expression, and training. Participants will foster their storytelling skills and be exposed to multiple creative channels such as video, music, and podcast production.

“Our girls have stories to tell that are worth hearing about,” said LiveGirl Program Director Shamare Holmes. “Partnering with Verso introduces LiveGirl’s Leadership Lab participants to practical media channels they can navigate to share their narratives in ways that are relative to the culture. This opportunity will also provide transferable skills that can help further their cause throughout high school, college, and/or the workplace. Our girls are truly looking forward to finding their ‘Lab Language.’”

“As an organization committed to equality, diversity, and inclusion, as well as engaging the next generation, I’m beyond excited that Verso Studios is partnering with LiveGirl,” Westport Library Executive Director Bill Harmer said. “We envisioned that Verso Studios user base would be limitless in multimedia training and learning. This Leadership Lab represents Verso and the Westport Library team executing on that vision to deliver a program we think will be of great value to the community.”

This Leadership Lab will feature frequent Verso Studios collaborator and patron Sheneta Walker, who will serve in a mentor capacity to the group.

Register for the LiveGirl collaboration with The Westport Library by clicking here. While the program is free, spots are limited.

Famed keyboardist and noted producer and radio host Mark Naftalin is bringing his talents to The Westport Library as part of a new series of blues concerts to be held monthly, starting in September.

Mark Naftalin's Blue Sunday kicks off on Sunday, September 18, from 3 to 5 pm, presented by The Westport Library and Verso Studios. It will be hosted by Naftalin, the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer who rose to fame as the keyboardist with the influential Paul Butterfield Blues Band.

The Blue Sunday kickoff will feature singing guitarists Chance Browne (The Twinkies, Hi and Lois artist), Chris “Otis” Cross (Otis and the Hurricanes) and Paul Gabriel (Blue In The Face, Paul Gabriel Blues Band, Connecticut Blues Society Lifetime Achievement Award); singing harmonicists Manny Foglio (Manny and the Mojomatics) and Mark Zaretsky (Cobalt Rhythm Kings); bassist David Anastasia (Mojomatics, Walter Lewis Blues Trio, The Zero Boys); percussionists Matt Moadel (Mystic Bowie, Fuzz On It, The David Morgan Trio, Portal) and Barry Urich (Blue In The Face, Jose Feliciano); accordionist-pianist-vocalist Smokin’ Joe Najmy (Otis and the Hurricanes, Mill River Band); sax master Crispin Cioe (Albert Collins, James Cotton, Uptown Horns, Cracked Ice); washboard wizard Washboard Slim (Washboard Slim & The Blue Lights); and Naftalin on piano.  

Pathbreakers in the 1960s blues boom, the inter-racial Butterfield Band opened doors for blues masters like B.B. King and Muddy Waters, and Naftalin went on to record and/or perform with a host of blues stars, including Michael Bloomfield, James Cotton, Lowell Fulson, John Lee Hooker, Etta James, Percy Mayfield, Carla Thomas, Irma Thomas, Otis Rush, Big Mama Thornton, Big Joe Turner, and many others. In 2015 he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. 

Living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area, Naftalin produced more than 1,300 blues radio broadcasts on three FM stations, in addition and more than 30 blues festivals. His Blue Sunday at The Westport Library is a nod to his Blue Monday Party, a weekly blues show and dance in the Bay Area (1979-83) that featured more than 60 blues artists and groups and was the scene of 86 live radio broadcasts and three TV specials. 

In 2002, Mark and his wife, Ellen, moved to Westport, which is Ellen's hometown. His monthly broadcast, The Mark Naftalin Show, is now in its seventh year on Bridgeport's WPKN (89.5 FM, streaming world-wide at wpkn.org). 

Mark says he is “pleased as punch” to be collaborating with The Westport Library and Verso Studios on a blues series.

Westport Library Executive Director Bill Harmer said, “Blue Sunday capitalizes on the success of Verso Studios music and media festival VersoFest and the adventurous Chris Frantz Presents Emerging Musicians series. The Westport Library is honored to be working with yet another storied Westport creative resident as we build upon our mutual legacies.”

The events are free, but registration is required via this link.

L to R: Frank Critelli, The Sawtelles

The Westport Farmers’ Market and Verso Studios are teaming up to bring some of the best original Connecticut talent to the 10 am to 2 pm music performance slot. 

With Verso Studios curating, Local Bands Show host and singer/songwriter/troubadour Frank Critelli (New Haven) and Friends will be playing Thursday, September 1. The Sawtelles follow October 13 with their sparse and intricately arranged pop.

“It is super exciting to host our neighbors from The Westport Library’s Verso Studios at the market,” Westport Farmers’ Market Director Lori Cochran-Dougall said. “We are mutually such big fans of one another that this seems like a natural fit.”

“Going to the he Westport Farmers’ Market is such a quintessential part of the Westport experience,” said Bill Harmer, executive director of The Westport Library. “That the Library and Verso Studios can be part of that is really cool for us, and we hope fun for everyone who visits.”

Thomas Henske stands at the Verso Studios mixing board with Westport Library Sound Studios Manager Travis Bell. (Photo credit: Jerri Graham)
Tom Henske (right) in Verso Studios with Westport Library Sound Studios Manager Travis Bell. (Photo credit: Jerri Graham)

A financial advisor for 27 years and Westport resident for 20 years, Tom Henske knows his way around his field and his town. It was thinking about the two in tandem that brought him to a realization that has set him on a new path — and launched his latest endeavor.

“Westport is an affluent community,” said Henske, “and my concern was that the shoemakers’ kids were not going to have the right shoes! I needed to teach my kids about money, or at least get them thinking about it. I went looking for material to teach my son and there was nothing out there. It only took me years and years later, but finally, with the help of The Westport Library, we were able to create this amazing project together.”

That project is Total Cents, a 12-part Verso Studios Community Partnership Podcast that delivers advice and discussion points on financial literacy for teens. Each episode tackles key concepts in digestible 6- to 12-minute segments. Season One topics include insurance, money safety, legal documents, investing, saving, spending, the value of a dollar, and charitable giving.

[Related: Total Cents Podcast, Season One]

“It’s really a health and wellness podcast when you think about it,” Henske said. “One of the most important things for your kids to learn before they go to college is learning the basic jargon around money terms. If they don’t, they will be forever behind. They’ll start their first job out of college and won’t enroll in a retirement plan or get the right type of health insurance. All these are habits that need to be learned and practiced.

“The people who are financially successful have good habits, just like anything in life — it could be good eating habits, good exercising habits — it’s just having good money habits.”

Each podcast is reinforced by funny and topical TikTok videos appealing to teens, conversation guides for parents, and anecdotes from Henske’s forthcoming book (It Makes Total Cents: 12 Conversations to Change Your Child’s Future).

Henske acknowledges that the series has some stealth teaching components that may end up helping parents realize their own financial futures while they educate the next generation. He hopes grown-up conversations around money can help galvanize and advance other generational discussion on other potentially difficult topics.

As for Henske’s experience at Verso Studios, the longtime financial advisor and first-time podcaster said that “it was daunting for me at first to walk into the recording studio, which looks like NASA mission control. But the beauty of working with The Westport Library on this project is that Verso Studios made it really easy for me. They coached me along the way. What makes this project so special is that it’s not just one person; it’s collaborative. The experience could not have been better.”

***

For more information on the Verso Studios Community Partnership Podcast initiative, contact verso@westportlibrary.org.

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