Infinity Performing Arts' steel drum instructor Howie Feldman is retiring.
A reunion concert will be held on Saturday from 7-9 p.m. at the Infinity Arts Cafe in honor of Feldman's retirement. At the event, current and former Infinity students will recognize Feldman's contributions to the program. The show is open to the public, and admission is free.
The concert will feature Collective Groove and the former Infinity band, Midas. Collective Groove will perform with special guests - and former students - Katherine Petersen and Melissa Mandel. Midas consists of Stephanie Rogers, Cale Hawkins, Steve Lundsten and Jeremy Bunce.
Pictured above in the front row from left are: Jerecho Johnson, Irys McKotch, Alec Hawkins, Ryan Sandberg and Howie Feldman. In the back row from left are: Sarah Marchitelli, Ryan Hawkins, Alexis Smith, Lily Ellis, Tommy Gerace, Xavier Sommerville, Zac Ricker, Cameron Lunz and T.R. McKotch. Not pictured is Olivia Reinhardt.
P-J photo by Dusten Rader
"The show is going to be really cool," said Feldman, of Lakewood. "Katie and Melissa were both members of my professional quartet group at Infinity, so it's cool that they are going to come back and interact with the current students."
According to Shane Hawkins, Infinity director, Feldman has been a staple of the program for many years and was instrumental in acquiring steel drums for the program.
"As far as I know, Howie (Feldman) has always been here," said Hawkins. "It's just been nothing but good with Howie around. He's great with the kids and is just a great person. He is fun to be around, and the kids think he is hysterical. It's been great having a person the kids can connect with as a mentor so that they feel safe asking questions, and someone to really listen to so that they can incorporate what he says into their own lives. Together with T.R. McKotch, the kids have really skyrocketed with that program."
Feldman, who is a native of Long Island, earned a degree in music from University at Buffalo before moving to Chautauqua County. While searching for a band job, he came across the G.A. Learning Center and began teaching children how to play various instruments. Then he was inspired by a steel drum performance by Paul Ferrette and spent the next 10 years teaching steel drums to the G.A. Learning Center youth. And he worked at Randolph Academy for 22 years.
Feldman got involved with Infinity Performing Arts through its founder - and his friend - Ron Graham. Feldman is the instructor for two groups: a beginners' group called "Rising Stars," an advanced steel drum group, and together with McKotch he works on the Collective Groove project.
"What I think is cool about the steel drums program is that it gives the kids (a) great self image," said Feldman. "It also gives them an opportunity to play music in a different way and learn it with the emphasis on making the groove and not so much getting through the concert."
Another aspect of the program that Feldman believes is important is that Infinity encourages its students to become instructors.
"One of the first instructors (who was a former student) was Eric Pearson, who ended up being a jazz guitar player," said Feldman. "Another is Katie Peterson, who is currently working on a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology. So, what you see is my work going to Katie, and then Katie going to college and coming back to teach. It says a lot for the program - to think that students came back to become instructors."
Feldman said he would never leave his steel drum group without an instructor, so he has been working with Infinity's music coordinator Sarah Marchitelli to prepare her to inherit the group.
"Not only does she have a head start, but she has a program given to her that is very successful with kids who are just burning up the music," said Feldman. "T.R. (McKotch) has also been helping instruct the students. And, I'll absolutely continue to be involved in the program as much as I can. I would not stop working with these kids until they play at Disney World or festivals because they are ready right now to hit the road for two weeks. They could play for any place; their repertoire is more than an hour long."
Originally from Rochester, Marchitelli attended SUNY Fredonia to earn a bachelor's in music education and performance in saxophone with a master's in saxophone performance. She started studying steel drums with Feldman in August so that she could take over for him after he retired.
"While going to school I always wanted to work for a community arts school," said Marchitelli. "But I never imagined I'd have this opportunity. As a member of a saxophone quartet I had played at Infinity's cafe a couple of times, so that's how I heard about the program. After I graduated, I applied and told Shane I'd do anything she wanted me to; I just wanted to work at Infinity. I know that no one will ever be able to replace Howie, but I hope to bring some new arrangements and to continue what Howie started by trying to expose the kids to as many different styles of music and to play steel drums in a variety of ways. I'm very enthusiastic about trying to get them out to perform more. This program really fosters a sense of creativity even in timid kids."
After retiring, Feldman hopes to do some traveling with his wife, who has been retired for five years. He is considering a move to New Orleans, where his daughter is currently living. But, he said he plans on sticking around the area for at least a few more years.
Infinity Arts Cafe is located at 115 E. Third St. in Jamestown. For more information call 664-0991 or visit www.infinityperformingarts.org.