Saturday, December 15, 2007

Rocking for rights in West Hartford

Tattoo photo by Kiernan Majerus-Collins

Copyright 2007 by All rights reserved.

A reporter's take on Among Criminals

By Wesley Saxena (pictured on right)
WEST HARTFORD, Conn. – Teens who showed up for Rock for Rights on Saturday got a treat when Among Criminals took the stage.
The crowd rewarded the band, the fifth in the lineup at the event, with jubilant applause and cried for more.
Much of the enthusiasm was because of the guitar and lead vocal skills of Ryan Gaughan, who said he’s been in the group for 15 months.
Gaughan said Rock for Rights organizer Steph Sperber asked the band to participate after they had played at Hall High School – where Sperber teaches social studies – because Among Criminals is known for its politically aware songs.
Motivated by other bands who were speaking out, band members formed Among Criminals to “get the message out,” said Gaughan.
They were inspired by the musical styles and messages put forth by Bob Marley, The Foo Fighters and The Police, according to Gaughan.
With the nickname “Hippie,” Gaughan has strong feelings about the way the government is run and the war in Iraq.
Through the band’s unique style combinations of Latin, reggae and rock, they sing against unjust laws and for human rights.
They’ve been spreading political awareness going on tour for the past year, playing 300 shows at various locations including hotels, bars and schools. When they performed at Hall this fall, they expressed their views about the government between songs and answered many students’ questions about their opinions.
With teens screaming at the band to “play another song” as they were packing up at Rock for Rights and at Hall, Among Criminals is registering well with America’s youth, which means Gaughan’s messages are getting through.

Tattoo photo by Kiernan Majerus-Collins

Crowd dancing while Among Criminals plays on stage at Rock for Rights! concert in West Hartford.

Link to Among Criminals' website

Copyright 2007 by All rights reserved.

Environmental club seeks to raise awareness

Tattoo photo by Kiernan Majerus-Collins

Sam Mollodtz and Sam Arcata, Hall High School juniors, at the Rock for Rights! concert in West Hartford Saturday.

By Wesley Saxena
WEST HARTFORD, Conn. – With rock and roll blasting all around them, Sam Arcata and Sam Mollodtz sat ready Saturday to talk about human rights abuses going on in the world today.
As members of the Hall High School Environmental Club and the Hall High School Human Rights Coalition, the two juniors staffed booths at the Rock for Rights event Saturday.
Their table covered in pamphlets, Arcata and Mollodtz said they were trying to “raise awareness” about environmental and inhumane problems all over the world by talking about the issues and answering questions.
They joined the environmental club and the human rights coalition to “make a difference in the world,” said Arcata.
One of the differences the environmental club has made was “cleaning up” Bugbee School in West Hartford by improving its recycling system.
The group’s adult leaders, who are teachers at Hall, had heard of Rock for Rights and decided that it would be a chance to show West Hartford’s youth what was going on the world, the students said.
Arcata and Mollodtz said that although having booths don’t directly help people and the environment, they will “make people think” about atrocities such as slavery, sweat shops and pollution.
The booths had information about how little sweat shop workers make, what companies utilize sweat shops, human trafficking, slavery and what it takes to stop it.
Arcata said that before she joined the groups she didn’t “know anything about what’s going on in Darfur.”
By attracting teens at Rock for Rights, the groups hope to make others aware of Darfur and other issues as well.

Copyright 2007 by All rights reserved.

Zox hits the stage

Tattoo photos by Kiernan Majerus-Collins

Happy feet

Tattoo photo by Kiernan Majerus-Collins

Organizer and students

Tattoo photo by Kiernan Majerus-Collins
From left to right: Sam Cantor, 16, and Andrew Stocker, 16, both Hall High School juniors; teacher Steph Sperber; and Hall seniors Colleen Smith, 17; Paige Dzialo, 17; and Laura Ramirez-O'Rourke, 17.

Empty Bowl

Tattoo photo by Kiernan Majerus-Collins

Hall High School students Rahki Agrawal, left, and Kelsey Mix working the Empty Bowl booth at Rock for Rights!

By Beth Pond
WEST HARTFORD, Conn. – For Hall High School sophomore Rahki Agrawal and freshman Kelsey Mix, bake sales are only the beginning.
Agrawal and Mix, who are both active in the Empty Bowl Club at Hall, manned the club’s booth during the Rock for Rights event held at the West Hartford Town Hall on Saturday.
According to Agrawal, Empty Bowl is “one of the largest clubs at Hall.”
The club has about 50 members and participates in about 10 to 15 events throughout the school year, most of which are bake sales.
The club’s biggest and most popular event is the Spring Banquet where students and local residents purchase bowls of soup.
“The art department decorates the bowls,’ Agrawal explained. “And we fill the bowls with soup.” Proceeds raised at the Spring Banquet as well as other Empty Bowl events benefit local charities.
The members of Empty Bowl also sponsor an auction.
“We get businesses to donate items.” Mix explained.
The purpose of Empty Bowl is fairly simple.
“We spread awareness about things like poverty and hunger.” Agrawal said.
Empty Bowl has shown both Agrawal and Mix how lucky they are, they said, and has afforded both girls an opportunity to help those who are less fortunate than themselves.

Barefoot Truth guitar playing

Tattoo photo by Kiernan Majerus-Collins
Check out Barefoot Truth's music at

The difference a teacher can make

By Rachel Glogowski
WEST HARTFORD, Conn. – Music and one teacher’s desire for student involvement in current issues merged Saturday during the Rock for Rights event in West Hartford.
That teacher was Steph Sperber, a 23-year-old social studies teacher at Hall High School in West Hartford. She organized the event, which involved seven bands, including three area high school bands, one local group, and a few touring bands.
Student groups set up booths at Rock for Rights focusing on issues such as hunger, peace, crime, and teen pregnancy.
“The purpose of the event is to encourage students to get involved in current issues and spark an interest in student involvement,” Sperber said.
Sperber said the inspiration to start an event encouraging student involvement came from her favorite teacher, Liz Divine, who pushed the formation of a student rights coalition at Hall when Sperber was a student there.
“Now that I’m faculty, I really want students to have the experience that I always wanted,” Sperber said.
Organizing Rock for Rights took months of work, setting up websites and getting the word out.
According to Sperber, the money raised will help pay various expenses, including the costs of food, shirts, and a few of the bands that were paid to come.
Any excess profit will be split between the two participating high schools, Hall and Kingswood Oxford, to sponsor student groups and pay for guest speakers to visit the schools.
As for the success of Rock for Rights, Sperber says she is “really happy,” considering the fact that this is the event’s first year and she “literally had to create it from scratch.”
She plans to organize another Rock for Rights again next year.
“Maybe it’ll be in the spring,” said Sperber. “That way, we won’t have to worry about snow.”

Tattoo photo.

Tattoo writer Rachel Glogowski, at work on her story.

Rock for Rights posters

Not your average English teacher

Tattoo photo by Rachel Glogowski

By Rachel Glogowski
WEST HARTFORD, Conn. – Jesse Stanford is an average English teacher. Except he is also the lead singer in a local band.
“I’m an English teacher by day and a rock star by night. Or by late afternoon,” Stanford said Saturday at Rock for Rights.
His band Oak Soldier has a “folk rock sound,” said Stanford. They write all their own songs, Stanford said.
“We’re better at performing our own stuff than other people’s,” he said.
But the band, which has been together for a little under two years, draws their inspiration from a number of different musical performers, including Bob Dylan. And they like to listen to both classical groups such as The Beatles and more modern performers such as Radiohead.
To the “select group of musicians and English enthusiasts” out there, Stanford lists “don’t do drugs” among his suggestions.
“Just always try to stay inspired, whether you draw your inspiration from a band or a tree. Find inspiration everywhere you go,” he said, adding again, “Oh, and don’t do drugs.”
Stanford teaches at the Hartford Academy of the Arts in Hartford, Connecticut. Although he loves working with kids, he says that music has always been a part of his life.
“It can be tricky balancing the two sometimes,” he said.
But the English-teaching, music-writing, lead singer of Oak Soldier probably wouldn’t have it any other way.

Dancing to Among Criminals

Tattoo photo by Kiernan Majerus-Collins

Banging the drums with Among Criminals

Tattoo photo by Kiernan Majerus-Collins

Dancing at Rock for Rights!

Tattoo photo by Kiernan Majerus-Collins

Among Criminals performs at Rock for Rights!

Tattoo photo by Kiernan Majerus-Collins

Rock for Rights band lineup

A little late, but still helpful, here's the band lineup for today:

12-12:30 Burmese Nights (5th Ave Jazz Combo)

12:50-1:20 Party On the Hindenburg (5th Ave Jazz Combo)

1:40-2:10 The Direct (Mitch Hingham)

2:30-3:15 Oak Soldier

3:40-4:25 Among Criminals (Mitch Hingham)

4:40-5:25 Barefoot Truth

5:45-7 p.m. ZOX

Oak Soldier lead singer

Tattoo photo by Kiernan Majerus-Collins
Oak Soldier's lead singer, Jesse Stanford, who teaches at the Hartford Academy of the Arts.

Tattoo writers at work at Rock for Rights

Tattoo photo
Tattoo writers Kiernan Majerus-Collins and Luke Pearson writing story a few minutes ago.

Rock for Rights takes the stage in West Hartford

By Luke Pearson
and Kiernan Majerus-Collins
Tattoo staff writers
WEST HARTFORD, Conn. – From the West Hartford Town Hall comes the music of the future.
Rock for Rights is a concert featuring local bands and aiming to raise awareness about human rights issues through a number of booths, including a homeless shelter in Hartford called My Sister’s Place and a group doing surveys on teen pregnancy.
The bands, which are mostly from West Hartford, are primarily run by kids in high school. But not all of them are rock bands, despite playing at Rock for Rights.
“We play all kinds of music, rock, Latin, [and] jazz,” said Adam Holtzberg, a Hall High freshman. Holtzberg plays drums for the 5th Avenue Jazz Combo.
Matt Kampe, the lead tenor sax player for 5th Avenue Jazz Combo, said he loves to playing with the band. He said he’s known the guys in the band “forever.”
One of the band’s favorite songs to play is “Chameleon.”
Now with great music you have to have some sort of politics.
State Sen. Jonathan Harris was here not only to listen to some great music, but to give some inspiring messages about this event.
“Individuals are learning to talk about important issues in this state and in this world. It’s our world and we have the power to change it, Harris said.
Check back for more updates.

Hall Human Rights Coalition

Tattoo photo by Kiernan Majerus-Collins

Rockin' and rollin'

Tattoo photo by Kiernan Majerus-Collins

Handing out t-shirts

Tattoo photo by Kiernan Majerus-Collins

The Tattoo's live coverage of West Hartford's Rock for Rights

Today, Tattoo writers will be covering the Rock for Rights fundraiser in West Hartford, Connecticut. Watch this spot for more!