It’s an old adage, that many high school-age students can do advanced trigonometry but not balance a checkbook.
Tom Henske is out to change that.
On Sunday, March 26, Henske, Westport resident and a leader in the financial industry for nearly three decades, will bring his Total Cents program to the Library’s Trefz Forum for a talk, followed by a panel discussion with fellow experts. The goal: to help parents, grandparents, and guardians get comfortable with teaching their kids about money and the importance of finances.
The event, Raising Financially Savvy Kids with Tom Henske, will begin at 2 pm in the Library’s Trefz Forum. The event is free; registration is encouraged.
“It's fitting that The Westport Library jumped at the chance to bring financial literacy to the forefront of parents in our community,” said Henske. “Everyone sees the clear value and importance of developing good financial habits in our children. It's time for parents to take ownership of this part of their child's development, and that effort is going to start on March 26.
“My hope is that Westport becomes the epicenter for teaching parents how to talk to their kids about money, and in doing that, we will change the way our entire country addresses this important topic.”
Joining Henske in conversation will be Caroline Barney, author, inspirational speaker, and parent of two Staples High School students; John Lanza, author of The Art of Allowance and an expert of youth financial literacy; and Kathy Soderholm, former Wilton High School personal finance teacher and founder of The Good Bookkeeper, a full-service bookkeeping company specializing in nonprofit organizations.
[Related: See the Raising Financially Savvy Kids event listing for full bios on all the panelists.]
Henske's efforts with Total Cents include a book, It Makes Total Cents: 12 Conversations to Change Your Child’s Financial Future, published in 2022, and a podcast he developed in collaboration with the Library. Total Cents is also active on TikTok, with videos produced in collaboration with Total Cents interns from Staples High School.
“Tom’s knowledge and expertise is exceeded only by his passion for finance and teaching kids how to be responsible stewards of their own futures,” said Westport Library Executive Director Bill Harmer. “Add that up and you have a session that promises to be informative, engaging, and fun. Plus, Tom brings with him an all-star panel well-versed on communicating to parents and with kids from the youngest ages. You won’t want to miss this event.”
Raising Financially Savvy Kids with Tom Henske
Sunday, March 26, 2 pm
The Westport Library (20 Jesup Road)
The Westport Library has long supported all types of educational efforts, whether that is furthering your studies, providing reference materials and experts to help with research, or learning technical skills through our MakerSpace or Verso Studios.
Starting this spring, we’re building on those efforts with the launch of Verso University, a year-round series of high-level classes, workshops, and lectures designed to further education and learning — and above all, learning for a lifetime.
Offerings will run the gamut of educational opportunities to take your learning to the next level, ranging from one-time lectures to ongoing courses to classes that meet weekly or perhaps monthly. And they will cover a wide variety of topics, with classes and courses to appeal to all ages and interests, from our younger patrons to our most experienced.
Each semester, we’ll be offering classes tailored to your interests, responding to what our community wants to deliver programs that will resonate.
“Fundamentally, a library is a place of learning, of engagement, where patrons can come to explore and grow,” said Bill Harmer, Westport Library executive director. “Verso University is a natural extension of that lifelong interest and curiosity. Our innovative spaces and innovative technologies enable us to lead the development of 21st century models of literacy and learning. These models are community-based and focus on dynamic, interpersonal learning integrated with 21st century infrastructure and technologies.”
Here is a closer look at what we’ll be offering for the spring semester (more classes to come this summer and fall):
Launch Lecture: Martin Yellin on Space
Monday, March 13, 1-2 pm, Trefz Forum
We kick off the spring semester with a launch event for the ages, courtesy of longtime Westporter and scientist Martin Yellin, who will visit the Library to offer an overview of the fascinating and sometimes unexpected discoveries we’ve made in space, and how, from absolutely nothing, we’ve begun to understand where we are and how we got here.
The Range of Literary Realism: Four Masterpieces of 21st Century Fiction, with Dr. Mark Schenker
Tuesdays, April 4 & 18, May 2 & 16, 2-3 pm, Brooks Place
In this series of classes, Mark Schenker, renowned lecturer in English at Yale University, examines four novels that reflect the range of literary realism as portrayed in 21st Century fiction. The novels are considered masterpieces, three of which are ranked by The Guardian in the Top 50 of “100 Best Books of the 21st Century”:
Got Problems? Think Them Through for Better Problem Solving!
Problem solving is making a decision, accomplishing an objective, working toward a goal, and solving a dilemma. Join problem-solving coaches Mike Hibbard PhD and Patricia Cyganovich EdD to learn thinking-it-through problem-solving processes to use in any area of life, to learn how to think through a situation and use strategies to identify and solve the problem, and much more.
Fiction Writing Master Class, with Gabino Iglesias
Renowned noir writer and Westport Library StoryFest alum Gabino Iglesias will be on hand to teach a master class-style writing workshop.
Rolling Admission, Spring through Fall
In 2022, more than 100 people participated in Verso Studios training and more than 30 engaged in Crew Call — a training program focused on live media production skills. Crew Call is an incredible opportunity for volunteers of all ages to gain real-world experience in video recording and production. Crew Call participants are now regularly supporting the many productions that happen every week in the Library. Available spots are limited.
VersoFest is The Westport Library’s annual celebration of music, media, and creativity, four days of innovation, inspiration, and exploration. This year, it will have a special artistic component to match.
The Artists Collective of Westport will be celebrating music through visual arts with a two-part exhibition that will encompass all three of the Library’s galleries — Music to Our Eyes residing in the Sheffer Gallery and the Jesup Gallery, and Piece by Piece in the South Gallery.
The exhibits will run March 4 through May 9, with the reveal of Piece by Piece to be held during a special reception held March 8 from 6 to 8 pm.
“Music to Our Eyes, and its companion exhibit, Piece by Piece, was conceived as a way to add a visual arts component to the VersoFest musical experience,” said Westport Library Exhibit Curator Carole Erger-Fass. “I am thrilled to have the Artists Collective of Westport partner with the Library in this all-member exhibit, which showcases the myriad of ways that artists are inspired by music.”
Piece by Piece is a 6-foot by 10-foot art installation composed of the work of 60 Artists Collective members. Each artist received a 12-inch by 12-inch blank panel along with a 6-inch square section randomly selected from a single iconic music-themed painting. The artists created their individual piece, replicating a part of the larger painting in their own style, without knowing what the final painting will look like until it is revealed at the opening reception.
“The end result,” said Artists Collective founding member and longtime Library supporter Miggs Burroughs, “is an entertaining exercise in community, creativity, and collaboration.”
In addition to Burroughs, those contributing to Piece by Piece include Katherine Ross, Michael Brennecke, Nina Bentley, Susan Fehlinger, Eric Chiang, and Elizabeth DeVoll.
For Music to Our Eyes, each of the Artists Collective members were invited to display a work in the medium of their choice, interpreting music through painting, drawing, photography, and collage.
“The history of visual art has been fundamentally tethered to the history of music,” said Fehlinger. “Many famous artists have credited music as a muse for their work, while some musicians have revealed that art or an artist has been their inspiration. Since antiquity, artists have found inspiration in the songs, instruments, and musicians of their eras for inspiration to push the visual arts forward.
“In this show, over 50 local artists will be exhibiting their musically themed paintings in the Library’s Sheffer Gallery. Some artworks were inspired by a style of music, and some were inspired by a specific piece, but all are related to the artists’ musical experience.”
Each 12-inch by 12-inch “piece” of Piece by Piece will be available for purchase starting the night of the reception. Each square will be $100, with 50% of the proceeds supporting the Library’s art programs and 50% going to the artist. The additional artworks on display in the Sheffer and Jesup Galleries will also be available for purchase, with a percentage of the proceeds going to benefit the Library.
The Artists Collective of Westport is a group of creative individuals who have joined forces to discuss, create, and develop dynamic experiences for the Fairfield County community. The collective is open to all active artists in pursuit of expanding their careers and in developing a strong, diverse arts community.
Exhibit support is provided by The Drew Friedman Community Arts Center.
Related: Video from the 2021 Piece by Piece exhibition:
Due to predicted inclement weather in the Westport area for Monday, February 27, and Tuesday, February 28, the Spring 2023 Malloy Lecture in the Arts with renowned artist and musician Richard Butler is being postponed.
The lecture, originally scheduled for Tuesday, February 28, will now be held Saturday, April 1, at 7 pm in the Library’s Trefz Forum. It will still feature Butler in person and in conversation with Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer Chris Frantz, and all currently held tickets will be honored for the rescheduled date and time.
With the rescheduling, the Spring 2023 Malloy Lecture in the Arts will now be held in conjunction with VersoFest 2023, The Westport Library’s annual music and media festival being held March 30 through April 2.
The April 1 lineup for VersoFest 2023 will now feature Butler, Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club drummer Frantz, and legendary producer Steve Lillywhite, reuniting three of rock’s seminal figures, all of whom rose to international prominence in the late 1970s and 80s. Lillywhite will deliver his festival keynote, a conversation with Frantz, on Saturday, April 1, at 1 pm.
The Spring 2023 Malloy Lecture in the Arts with Butler will replace the previously scheduled laser light show at VersoFest 2023. The laser light show will be rescheduled for a later date.
“While we’re disappointed Richard won’t be able to join us as planned on February 28, we’re elated that he can be here April 1, and that Chris is able to reschedule as well,” said Bill Harmer, executive director of The Westport Library. “First and foremost, we want to ensure the safety of Richard, Chris, and all who would be traveling to the Library on a potentially snowy and icy evening. Looking ahead, this creates a truly incredible experience, to have Richard join our already incredible VersoFest lineup.”
Butler rose to international fame with the Psychedelic Furs, with the Furs emerging as one of London’s leading post-punk bands in the late 70s. Their self-titled debut, produced by Lillywhite, was Top 20 on the UK Albums Chart, and their run of success continued with six subsequent albums released between 1981 and 1991, including Talk Talk Talk and Forever Now.
Butler put his painting on the backburner to accommodate the Furs’ record promotion and worldwide touring, returning to his first love when the band took an extended hiatus in the early 90s. Since then, he’s kept at it and found a balance between the two endeavors.
With his daughter as his muse, Butler produces expressionistic portraits of female subjects who he said serve as ciphers for himself, smudging, distorting, and overlaying patterns onto his models’ faces to create what has been described as “dynamic compositions that are at once naturalistic and hallucinatory.”
“In a way,” said Butler, “I think all of my paintings are self-portraits in that, though the face I am painting may not be my own, the feeling I get back from the painting is certainly an important element of my own psyche.”
Butler’s work has been featured worldwide, with the artist having launched exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, London, Berlin, and at other prestigious galleries across the globe.
Despite the shift in artistic expression, Butler has continued to create music with several side projects. He also released a solo album in 2006, and in 2020 he put out the first new Psychedelic Furs album in nearly 30 years, which was met with international chart success and rave reviews from both fans and critics alike.
Past Malloy Lecture programs have included Philippe de Montebello, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; distinguished playwright Arthur Miller; artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude; musicians Joshua Bell and Frederic Chiu; U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins; Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation; author Joyce Carol Oates; cartoonist Roz Chast; actor Christopher Plummer; stage, film, and theater star John Lithgow; preeminent classical dancer Jacques d'Amboise; music legend Clive Davis; author Salman Rushdie; Falsettos: In Conversation; Bernstein on Broadway; playwright, actor, and educator Anna Deavere Smith; and Tony Award-winning actress Kelli O’Hara in conversation with renowned American theater director Bartlett Sher.
There will be a livestream broadcast of the Spring 2023 Malloy Lecture in the Arts, and a recording will be featured afterward on The Westport Library YouTube channel.
The Malloy Lecture in the Arts is made possible by a generous contribution from Westport artist Susan Malloy. The Westport Library created the lecture series in 2002 as a free, public discussion by an individual who has had a significant cultural influence and whose work has enhanced the understanding and appreciation of the arts.
From Sunflower Bean to the Smithereens, Alice Cooper costumes to evolving androgynous rock fashion, hip hop’s 50th anniversary to primitive garage rock, VersoFest 2023 returns for its second year, March 30 through April 2, celebrating music, media, and creativity in Connecticut, the tri-state area, and beyond.
An extension of Verso Studios at The Westport Library, VersoFest is a media festival and conference where experts share their perspective and vision; where intimate workshops provide creators the opportunity to deconstruct, improve, and hone their craft; and that features performances that entertain and inspire.
“Our state-of-the-art media facility Verso Studios grew out of The Westport Library Makerspace, with a vision to engage a broader audience in media production and educational events,” said Westport Library Executive Director Bill Harmer. “VersoFest is our call to the community to be immersed in some of the greatest local and global multimedia talent. We are developing a special space and significant driver for our creative and business communities in the region.”
Last year’s inaugural festival welcomed more than 2,300 visitors over three days of concerts, panels, and workshops. 2023 raises the bar with New York City’s Sunflower Bean kicking off the festival in concert on Thursday, March 30, hot off the band’s headlining presence at South by Southwest.
The Smithereens featuring Marshall Crenshaw follow on Friday night with Americana opener Amilia K Spicer and the legendary Miriam Linna serving as vinyl DJ.
Saturday and Sunday provide the panel and workshop programming — and then some. Highlights include the Steve Lillywhite Keynote Conversation with Chris Frantz, Saturday at 1 pm. Lillywhite is a lauded record producer whose credits include the Rolling Stones, Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel, U2, the Psychedelic Furs, XTC, Morrissey, the Pogues, Dave Matthews Band, Guster, Phish, the Killers, and many more.
Earlier in the day, Deadheads and gearheads of all ages can enjoy a course presented by Steven Van Zandt’s educational foundation, TeachRock, on the Grateful Dead’s 1974, three-story, 28,800-watt hot-rodded PA system, “The Wall of Sound.” In addition, Anthony Coscia’s stunning 1:4 scale model recreation of the PA will be on display as a VersoFest installation in the Trefz Forum space, playing music intermittently throughout the course of the festival.
Come Saturday afternoon, author and journalist Rachel Felder will host a panel entitled, Evolving Rock Fashion: From Marianne Faithfull, to Debbie Harry, to Lizzo, with three fashion experts. Katie Settel, the Hartford Healthcare Amphitheater’s in-house photographer, will share a master class taking workshop participants through her journey, influences, and technique. Continuing in the photography realm, artist Dylan Hundley (Lulu Lewis) moderates a photography panel with Fairfield County natives Settel and Michael Friedman, and New York City's Julia Gorton and Lynn Goldsmith (who currently has a landmark art/IP case at the Supreme Court).
Saturday night will feature the rescheduled Malloy Lecture in the Arts, featuring renowned artist and Psychedlic Furs frontman Richard Butler in conversation with Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Famer Frantz (Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club).
Sunday features an all-day inaugural VersoFest Record Fair presented by Record Riots, with a handful of vinyl dealers wheeling and dealing in the library hub space.
Norton Records co-founder Miriam Linna is the subject of VersoFest’s Music Oral History with Beehive Queen and SNL singer, Christine Ohlman. Linna is a pioneering and guiding force in rock ‘n’ roll as a founding member of the Cramps, co-founder with her late husband Billy Miller of leading primitive/garage/punk/R&B label Norton Records, and hip pocket paperback publisher Kicks Books, as well as mastermind of Kicksville Radio, dedicated to 24/7 broadcasting of the lost heroes of rock n' roll. Ohlman’s stunning Joshie Jo Armstead music oral history was attended by tri-state area rock ‘n’ roll glitterati, and highly regarded as one of VersoFest 2022’s best offerings.
Linna will also host a very special table of goods at the record fair, including rare and never-before-seen Norton and Kicks memorabilia.
Early Sunday evening (5 pm), Connecticut celebrates the 50th anniversary of the advent of hip hop with a Legends Beats and Grooves block featuring scratch DJ demonstrations and discussion from the originator of the scratch, DJ Grand Wizzard Theodore, DJ Grandmaster Supreme (Lauryn Hill), DJ Ragoza, Tony Tone (Cold Crush Brothers), HOT 93.7’s DJ Billy Busch, hosted by Terrible Tee, with special performances.
Alice Cooper fans get a two-fer with the mini-museum exhibition of Alice Cooper Group costumes, stage props, instruments, unpublished photos, and more in Dr. Dreary’s Snakes! Museum of Alice Cooper Artifacts on Saturday and Sunday, plus a special screening of the documentary Live from the Astroturf featuring a Q&A and book signing (Snakes! Guillontines! Electric Chairs!) with original Alice Cooper bassist Dennis Dunaway that will conclude Sunday's programming. The film chronicles the surprise 2015 reunion of the original Alice Cooper Group at independent record store, Good Records, in Dallas. Record store owner and reunion conduit Chris Penn will also be in attendance.
Prior to the official festival, Dunaway's super group, Blue Coupe (featuring Joe & Albert Bouchard of Blue Oyster Cult), play a VersoFest fundraiser, Friday, March 10, with support from DJ B The T Sr.
The full schedule for VersoFest 2023 is available here.
Food trucks will be on site Saturday (The Steak Truck) and Sunday (Walrus Alley) in the library parking lot to supplement the many offerings of the Library Café.
All concerts and workshops are ticketed events; Dr. Dreary’s Snakes! Museum will also require a ticket for entry. (See all registration and ticket links here.) Panels and keynotes are free and open to all ages. A cash bar with wine, beer, and non-alcoholic drinks will be available all four nights of the festival. All VersoFest 2023 concerts are co-produced with the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce. A selection of events will be recorded by Verso Studios Crew Call and available on-demand at a later date.
Ed. Note: Story updated March 1 adding the Malloy Lecture in the Arts to Saturday night.
The Westport Library is gearing up for VersoFest 2023 with a trio of legendary musicians.
Blue Coupe, the supergroup formed of Alice Cooper group bassist Dennis Dunaway and Blue Öyster Cult founders Joe and Albert Bouchard will take over the Library’s Trefz Forum on Friday, March 10, at 7 pm.
Proceeds from the show will go to benefit this year’s VersoFest, which runs March 30 to April 2 and features live performances by Sunflower Bean, Amilia K Spicer, and the Smithereens, as well as a full set of programs and workshops featuring music luminaries and those behind the scenes who will come to the Library to inform, inspire, and entertain. Renowned producer Steve Lillywhite (U2, Rolling Stones, Talking Heads) will provide the keynote address on Saturday, April 1.
Sisters Tish and Snooky Bellomo of Manic Panic will be joining Blue Coupe for the show. DJ B The T Sr. starts the night on Verso Studios vinyl DJ decks, spinning the formative rock ‘n’ roll, R&B, and blues music that influenced and informed bands like Alice Cooper and Blue Öyster Cult.
“There aren’t many bands like Blue Coupe making music today,” said Westport Library Executive Director Bill Harmer, “and we’re thrilled to have them perform in the Trefz Forum. This is a good old fashioned rock band that delivers hits you know and hits you’ll come to love. It’s a really cool experience for our visitors and the perfect show to get us ready for VersoFest.”
Said Dunaway, “We're thrilled to be performing at The Westport Library because they excel in enriching the community in knowledge and all varieties of the arts.”
Blue Coupe’s live concerts are a mix of the best-known songs from their respective groups as well as new music from their studio albums. The band’s website describes the amalgam as “a powerful legacy of music that makes for a dynamic and exciting show.”
Dunaway is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee who co-wrote Alice Cooper band hits including “I’m 18,” “School's Out,” and “Under My Wheels.” Multi-instrumentalist Joe Bouchard — a VersoFest 2022 alum — and drummer Albert Bouchard founded Blue Öyster Cult and served as co-writers and arrangers of many of the band’s biggest songs, including “Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll,” “Hot Rails to Hell,” and “Astronomy.”
All told, Dunaway and the Bouchard brothers have sold 15 million-plus albums and have been awarded more than 30 gold and platinum records worldwide.
Blue Coupe has made three albums since its inception, including its most recent offering, ELEVEN EVEN, released in 2019 and recorded to have the feeling of a live show. “The stage is our second home,” said Dunaway, “so we all write songs with an arena feel.”
Also in 2019, Blue Coupe performed at the Sweden Rock Festival to rave reviews. The band followed that with the Great South Bay Music Festival in Long Island, New York, and a tour of the Midwest that culminated with a live-streamed interview from the main stage in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
DJ B The T Sr. was station manager and program director of WNHU from 1977 to 1981, where he helped break new bands like X, Blondie, U2, and the Motels, and fostered a burgeoning community of independent and original New Haven bands. After many years hunkered over his basement mixtape laboratory, he has reemerged with lively DJ appearances at Berlinetta Brewing in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Tickets to see Blue Coupe live in the Trez Forum are available on Eventbrite. All VersoFest 2023 concerts are co-produced with the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce.
From the stages of Glastonbury, Governors Ball, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Reading, and Leeds, as well as a recent sell-out at New York City’s Terminal 5, Sunflower Bean will open VersoFest 2023 at The Westport Library.
The Brooklyn-based band will take the stage for an intimate kickoff concert at the state-of-the-art Verso Studios Trefz Forum venue on Thursday, March 30, at 7 pm. DJ HYSTERICA will serve as the in-house DJ for the evening.
The festival will continue on Friday evening featuring headlining act The Smithereens featuring Marshall Crenshaw, with Amilia K Spicer kicking off the evening and the legendary Miriam Linna serving as DJ. A full slate of programs and workshops round out VersoFest 2023 on Saturday and Sunday, with famed producer Steve Lillywhite delivering the keynote Saturday afternoon.
VersoFest is a multi-day music and media festival/conference born out of Verso Studios at The Westport Library. Verso Studios is a library branch of the 21st century focusing on multimedia programming and commercial services as well as educational and content creation opportunities.
“Sunflower Bean is a prime example of a young band making their name through accessible media, blurring and fusing artforms and worlds, striving to make the world a better place through their art and activism,” said Westport Library Executive Director Bill Harmer. “In 2023, Sunflower Bean exemplifies the virtues and aspirations of Verso Studios and The Westport Library. This is a magical pairing tying the local to the global, micro to macro.”
Sunflower Bean frontperson, New York City-raised singer-songwriter Julia Cumming, arrives at her dad's adopted home base of Fairfield County hot off the band’s headlining presence at South by Southwest 2023. Recently, Sunflower Bean’s Headful of Sugar was named #41 of Rolling Stone’s 100 Best Albums of 2022, and Consequence of Sound proudly referred to the band as “one of the most consistent and beloved staples of the scene.”
Cumming (bass, lead vocals), Nick Kivlen (guitars, backing vocals), and Olive Faber (drums) formed Sunflower Bean in early 2013, “made up of young people staring down a terrifying future and finding camaraderie in the eclectic rock ‘n’ roll aesthetics.”
Their 2014 College Music Journal Music Marathon performance received press from (among others) Jon Pareles of The New York Times, who described their sound as “… what might have happened if psychedelia had emerged after punk and the Police rather than before."
The band has toured extensively with artists as disparate as Beck, Cage the Elephant, Interpol, Courtney Barnett, The Pixies, The Kills, DIIV, and Wolf Alice.
Outside music, Cumming programs events through her project Anger Can Be Power, inspiring young people, particularly women, into concrete political action.
She is also active in fashion, with Yves Saint Laurent Creative Director Hedi Slimane having signed Cumming to an exclusive modeling contract. Cumming has been frequently cited as “Hedi’s muse.” Her career has expanded to modeling for top, au courant designers like Anna Sui, Elsa Schiaparelli, Max Mara, Rochas and Fausto Puglisi, as well as global campaigns for H&M and Diesel.
Cumming is an active member in the Model Alliance, a group that advocates for the enforcement of existing child labor and contract laws, promotes equal opportunity, and fosters a culture of accountability in the fashion industry.
Cumming is the daughter of Cynthia Harden and Alec Cumming, the latter a familiar Fairfield County presence at 89.5 WPKN FM with his Snap Crackle POP! radio shows and frequent vinyl DJ sets at Berlinetta Brewing.
Joining Sunflower Bean for the evening is DJ HYSTERICA, who has been igniting DJ decks throughout the tri-state area with her selections of 60s psych, garage, glam, power pop, ye-ye, greasy R&B, new wave, dark wave, and punk. This extends to HYSTERICA's weekly Monday 3 pm Some Weird Sin show on WFMU's Sheena's Jungle Room and monthly Rock 'n' Roll Radio show on WHUS.
Tickets for Thursday night’s show are $25 in advance and available via Eventbrite. All VersoFest 2023 concerts are co-produced with the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce.
The Smithereens, the famed American rock band with a string of hits running from the 1980s into the 2000s, will headline Friday night’s VersoFest concert slot at The Westport Library on March 31 at 7 pm. Singer/songwriter and new wave pioneer Marshall Crenshaw takes the role of Smithereen lead vocals for the night.
Americana musician Amilia K Spicer opens the evening fresh off rave reviews from NPR, Popdose, and No Depression, and the legendary Miriam Linna DJs the night with 45s from one of the most-revered record collections in the world. Marc Miller of Kicksville Radio's "Crashing The Party" will also be in DJ tow.
VersoFest is a multi-day music and media festival/conference born out of Verso Studios at The Westport Library. Verso Studios is a library branch of the 21st century focusing on multimedia programming and commercial services as well as educational and content creation opportunities. The festival opens Thursday, March 30, and will continue with a full slate of programs and workshops Saturday and Sunday, April 1-2, with famed producer Steve Lillywhite delivering the keynote Saturday afternoon.
“This is a remarkable collection of talented artists to be joining us in one evening,” said Bill Harmer, executive director of The Westport Library. “The Smithereens are an institution, Amilia is a rising star, and Miriam is one of music’s leading lights. That they’re all coming to the Library to perform is a testament to the enduring power of music in our community and the continued growth of VersoFest in its second year.”
Founded in New Jersey in 1980, The Smithereens have been creating electrifying, original rock ‘n’ roll for 42 years. Jim Babjak (guitar), Dennis Diken (drums), and Mike Mesaros (bass) grew up together in Carteret, and lead singer, the late Pat DiNizio, hailed from Scotch Plains. The Smithereens formed their take-no-prisoners, East Coast roots-rock sound inspired by a well of rock ‘n’ roll predecessors including Buddy Holly, The Who, Nick Lowe, and The Move.
The Smithereens’ fame escalated in the late 1980s and 1990s with hits like “Behind the Wall of Sleep,” “A Girl Like You,” and “Only a Memory,” and the band was in heavy rotation on MTV and appeared on The Tonight Show, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and Saturday Night Live. Over the course of 17 albums and 2,500+ live shows, The Smithereens have performed on stages coast to coast from the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles to Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan, and internationally from Europe to Australia. Tourmates have included Tom Petty, Squeeze, The Pretenders, Lou Reed, and Ramones, among others.
After the 2017 passing of DiNizio, the surviving members decided to persevere and carry on their shared musical legacy, showcasing guest vocalists Robin Wilson of the Gin Blossoms and singer/songwriter Crenshaw.
Spicer, who hails from Austin, Texas, and Los Angeles, describes her Americana/folk rock style as “red-dirt noir, evoking majestic vistas — and shadowy mysteries.” Her 2017 album Wow and Flutter featured contributions from bassist Daryl Johnson (Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan), keyboardists Rami Jaffee (Wallflowers/Foo Fighters) and Mike Finnigan (Bonnie Raitt/Taj Mahal), pedal steel player Eric Heywood (Son Volt), and guitarists Tony Gilkyson (X, Lone Justice) and Gurf Morlix (Lucinda Williams). PopDose said of Spicer’s offering, “Wow and Flutter certainly makes it worth the wait for longtime admirers; it’s also a compelling entry point for new fans and one of the best albums, any genre, of the past decade.”
Joining Spicer in a duo format is Chris Masterson, longtime member of Steve Earle's band the Dukes. Masterson performs and records with his wife Eleanor Whitmore; together, this twosome make inspired albums of their own emotionally vivid, deeply humanistic songs. The duo's fourth set of original compositions is the appropriately titled No Time for Love Songs.
Linna is a founding member of the Cramps, co-founder with her late husband Billy Miller of leading primitive/garage/punk/R&B label Norton Records and hip pocket paperback publisher Kicks Books, as well as the mastermind of Kicksville Radio. On Sunday, April 2, Linna will be the subject of VersoFest’s Music Oral History program, moderated by Beehive Queen and SNL singer Christine Ohlman.
Tickets for Friday night’s show are $40 in advance and available via Eventbrite. All VersoFest 2023 concerts are co-produced with the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce.
A visionary music and media festival calls for visionary talent.
Enter Steve Lillywhite.
The lauded record producer, whose credits include the Rolling Stones, Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel, U2, the Psychedelic Furs, XTC, Morrissey, the Pogues, Dave Matthews Band, Guster, Phish, the Killers, and many more, has been confirmed as a headliner for VersoFest 2023.
VersoFest is The Westport Library’s annual music and media conference and festival where knowledge is shared and inspiration is discovered — a forum for media creators, artists, and fans to converge.
Lillywhite will be appearing on Saturday, April 1, in conversation with renowned Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club drummer Chris Frantz.
“Hello Versoites, come and watch my good friend Chris Frantz and me share some stories from the past on April Fool’s Day,” Lillywhite said. “What could possibly be better?!”
Lillywhite’s career began as a staff producer with Island Records, flowering with the emergence of new wave music. Island Records is widely regarded as one of the all-time forward-thinking popular record labels and rosters. With grand success in pioneering recording ethos and technique, as well as popular sales, Lillywhite was made a Commander of the Order of The British Empire (CBE) for his contributions to music in 2012.
Lillywhite’s VersoFest 2023 booking capitalizes on Verso Studios’ Island Records alumni connections, including Frantz and Grammy-winning producer and engineer Rob Fraboni, both key Verso Studios contributors and VersoFest 2022 alums.
“VersoFest celebrates the creative community, with a focus on innovation and inspiration,” said Bill Harmer, executive director of The Westport Library. “Steve Lillywhite perfectly embodies this spirit. He has left an indelible imprint on music and popular culture. His production credits are legendary and helped to define the soundtrack of a generation. It’s an honor to have him headline VersoFest 2023.”
VersoFest 2023 will run from Thursday, March 30, through Sunday, April 2, and include panels and keynotes where experts share their perspective and vision; intimate workshops provide creators the opportunity to deconstruct, improve, and hone their craft; and performances that entertain and inspire.
Contributors and artists will continue to be added to the festival. Sign up for Verso Studios e-news for all the latest VersoFest and Verso updates.
The Westport Museum for History & Culture is teaming up with Verso Studios at The Westport Library for a new community partnership podcast, Buried in Our Past, focusing on the histories all around us that have been lost to time.
Surprising, exciting, and sometimes peculiar, the series shares research unearthed by Westport Museum that offers a new way of looking at the past and rethinking the present.
The podcast is recorded at The Westport Library’s Verso Studios, with new episodes coming out monthly and available on the Library’s YouTube channel and podcast platforms Apple and Spotify.
“We are always looking for new ways to get people excited about history,” said Ramin Ganeshram, executive director of Westport Museum. “Working with the Library's spectacular Verso Studios to produce Buried in Our Past allows Westport Museum to reach audiences in a new way, which we hope will whet the appetite for more.”
The debut episode, available now, features the true story of the first Thanksgiving with guest Greg Porretta, a Julliard-trained actor and Westport Museum board member.
“We’re very excited to welcome Westport Museum as a vital community organization working with our Verso Studios to engage listeners on fascinating historical topics,” said Bill Harmer, executive director of The Westport Library. “Buried in Our Past is an excellent and natural concept met with our technical expertise and creative guidance. It’s continually thrilling to see Verso Studios’ mission to serve an inclusive, future-forward cultural and learning center come to fruition.”
For more about Verso Studios community partnership podcasts, visit our webpage and check out our playlist on YouTube. Click here to learn more about Westport Museum.
Chris Frantz is bringing his Emerging Musicians series back to The Westport Library.
The famed member of the Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club will reprise the series on Saturday, November 19, with two Fairfield County acts: Residual Groove, a funk-fusion, improv-heavy dance band, and contemporary singer-songwriter Brian Dolzani.
The show begins at 7:30 pm in the Library’s Trefz Forum and will run until 10 pm. Doors open at 7 pm.
The Chris Frantz Presents Emerging Musicians series at The Westport Library features up-and-coming regional, national, and international music, hand-picked by Frantz, with the goal of bringing new music to new ears and to be an incubator for rising talent. The concert is a music collaboration and production by Verso Studios at The Westport Library and the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce.
“I’m excited to be resuming the Emerging Musicians Series at The Westport Library in the beautiful and innovative Verso Studios,” Frantz said. “Both Residual Groove and Brian Dolzani are Fairfield County mainstays deserving of a larger platform. A fun night is in store.”
Previous sessions of the Emerging Musicians Series featured Lulu Lewis, The Problem with Kids Today, Daniprobably, and Enid Ze.
“Chris is one of the landmark figures in rock and roll, and we’re thrilled to partner with him once again to bring these incredible artists to our stage,” said Bill Harmer, executive director of The Westport Library. “When we planned and executed the Library’s transformation, we imagined creating a space that could feature creativity in all its forms and deliver first-class events to Westport, Fairfield County, and beyond. The Emerging Musicians series is another example of delivering on that vision and another opportunity to demonstrate the full capabilities of our Verso Studios.”
Residual Groove is a five-piece Funk-Fusion band out of Norwalk, featuring brothers Previn Edwards (guitar/vocals) and Kiran Edwards (keys/vocals), Miles Livolsi (bass/vocals), Henry Thomas (drums), and Garrett Halstead (percussion). Their bio reads: “With a healthy mix of groovy originals and surprising covers, Residual Groove joins their influences and creations together through tasteful segues and spontaneously improvised segments.” Westporters will recognize Residual Groove from its continued Dunville’s residency.
The storytelling roots of Dolzani’s music are in the singer-songwriter tradition of Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Cat Stevens, Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, and Credence Clearwater Revival, among others. He has played at famed stages such as the World Cafe, Daryl’s House, New York City’s Rockwood Music Hall, The 5-Spot in Nashville, and the Blue Plate Special radio program in Knoxville, among many others.
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.