On January 17, professional musicians and singers from New York and Connecticut and aspiring student performers will be featured at The Pop Music Academy Showcase at the Rippowam Middle School Auditorium at 381 High Ridge Road in Stamford. The performers include esteemed jazz vocalist and host Richard “Cookie” Thomas, vocalist and Academy owner Christine Occhino, and live musical accompaniment by The Pop Music Academy house band of professional instructors. “Audiences always tell me how inspiring it is to watch the young talent develop over the years and transition from being lead singers, to back up vocalists, to musicians in the live band, to starring in their own music video. My goal is to produce an exciting show that allows students to explore the various aspects of the music industry while having a platform to raise funds for people in need. The finale with all the musicians and singers is always a huge crowd pleaser,” explains Christine. Doors open at 6:00 pm with red carpet photos followed by the Showcase from 7-9 pm. Reduced pre-sale tickets start at $10 and can be purchased online at ThePopMusicAcademy.com, over the phone by calling 203-322-4POP (203-322-4767), or in person at 980 Hope Street, 2nd floor, in Stamford. General admission the night of the show is $20 at the door.
A portion of proceeds are donated to the Music Therapy Department at Stamford Hospital’s Bennett Cancer Center. After the intermission, Music Therapist Amy Zabin from the Bennett Cancer Center will speak to the audience via a recorded video message about how her work provides emotional coping tools that help decrease fears, pain, and feelings of isolation for patients who are hospitalized or receiving chemotherapy. Funds will also be raised during the show for Academy scholarships for underprivileged students who want access to a quality performing arts education and exposure to the various professional opportunities in these fields. To learn more or to contribute to these important causes, call The Pop Music Academy at 203-322-4767.
The Pop Music Academy’s Artistic Director Christine Occhino is a professional vocal coach, music business consultant, and performing artist. Christine founded the Academy in February 2012 and has since expanded to a larger 2-level facility with a state-of-the-art recording studio and performance stage at 980 Hope Street, 2nd floor, in Stamford. As a curious coincidence, the Academy is located just across the street from where she was first introduced to the performing arts when taking her first ballet lesson at the age of 3. In the years to follow, she would continue with dancing, acting, and music and vocal lessons, culminating in a vocal scholarship and a degree in Music Business & Management from the prestigious Berklee College of Music. Christine has headlined at venues throughout New England and was selected to perform with Michael McDonald, Mavis Staples, and Chucho Valdés for the Berklee Commencement Concert in the 7,000-seat BU Agganis Arena in 2011. Prior to starting her own business, she worked in the Digital Marketing and A&R departments for the Big Red Program at Columbia Records/Sony Music Entertainment in Manhattan, was an Artist Associate for "Ask Darcie" Music Business Consulting in Boston, and taught voice classes at a music conservatory in New Canaan. She is a member of The Grammy Recording Academy, an ASCAP registered songwriter and publisher, a member of the Berklee Alumni Association, and a contributing writer for the music blog at Sonicbids. Christine has performed in TV, videos, print ads, fundraisers, nightclubs, arenas, and with live bands as well as acted in theatre and film, including a scene in a feature film with Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino and Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson. She continues her vocal work as a session musician and performs with various bands at live music venues in the NYC metropolitan area.
The Pop Music Academy offers students 8 years old to adult a unique plethora of performing arts classes, from basic music instruction to advanced artist development coaching. Private and group classes are offered for voice, performance, guitar, keyboard, bass, drums, songwriting, music theory, audition & college prep for the performing arts, music production and engineering, artist development and recording studio production, and music business consulting. Since opening, students have received training leading to accomplishments in movie roles, commercial spots, music videos, professional agency deals, and original iTunes album releases ready for shopping to record labels and artist management. Students benefit from the synergy within classes and coaches, being able to have a variety of instruction all under one roof. Many students enjoy going straight from voice lessons to instrument lessons, having the opportunity to combine both skill sets to learn to accompany themselves and begin the singer/songwriter process. For details visit ThePopMusicAcademy.com.
Showcase host Richard “Cookie” Thomas’s career began in Philadelphia in 1960 when he had the opportunity at 14 to open for B.B. King. He has performed at Foxwoods Casino, Manhattan’s Carlyle and Waldorf Astoria, the Jackie Robinson Jazz Festival in Norwalk, the Palace Theaters in Stamford, the Greenwich Polo Club, Danny’s Skylight Room, SoundWaters Community Center in Stamford, the Christopher Reeves Foundation, and Pitney Bowes, Inc. The list of renowned musicians with whom Richard has performed as well as his CDs can be found at CookieThomas.com.
The house band is musically directed by multi-instrumentalist Aaron Staniulis of Wilton who is an active musician, teacher, producer, engineer, and the General Manager and Recording Studio Manager at The Pop Music Academy. He holds a degree in Jazz Studies and Audio Production from Ithaca College’s School of Music, and has worked with The Roots, Rockapella, Incubus, members of the Saturday Night Live Band, and more. Pianist Lisa Occhino of NYC is a multi-talented songwriter, instrumentalist, and notable award/scholarship recipient who has performed on television, radio, and many live music events. She holds a degree in Music Business & Management from Berklee College of Music, runs her start-up company SongwriterLink.com, and is the Managing Editor for Sonicbids/Billboard in Manhattan. Drummer Jason Staniulis of NYC holds a degree in Sound Recording Technology from Ithaca College, is a professional touring and session drummer, and works as an engineer at the prestigious Germano Studios in Manhattan. On guitar and bass, Jack Sheehan of Trumbull is an alumnus of Berklee College of Music and a music instructor at The Pop Music Academy.
Featured student performers will have the opportunity to sing lead and background vocals, as well as join the live band on their instruments during the big performance. The night will also debut the Popstars 101 Class music video starring young students who professionally recorded their vocals at The Pop Music Academy recording studio and were choreographed and professionally filmed for the video. Performers include Eva Allison (Stamford), Hannah Allison (Stamford), Abby Anderson (Stamford), Brooke Boccuzzi (Stamford), Jena Boccuzzi (Stamford), Victoria Bodine (Pound Ridge), Cassie Culhane (Stamford), Gil Daniels (Stamford), Sarah Eisenstein (Stamford), Ella Feuerstein (Stamford), Alyssa Fish (Stamford), Kaitlin Ganshaw (Greenwich), Nina Giancola (Stamford), Danielle Gibson (Stamford), Shayla Hernandez (Stamford), Lucy Kaplan (Westport), Becky Lozado (Stamford), Shannon Lyons (Stamford), Bella Martinez (Stamford), Grace McEvoy (Stamford), Meg McKeever (Stamford), Sophia Negyesi (Stamford), Lizzie Pettee (New Canaan), Andy Putterman (Stamford), Caleigh Radzin (Greenwich), Annabel Regan (Stamford), Melanny Sanchez (Stamford), Chiara Schmidt (Greenwich), Lucy Scorziello (Stamford), Sophia Seeger (Stamford), Emma Sharma (Stamford), Karthika Siva (Stamford), Naama Teitel (Stamford), Sophie Teitel (Stamford), Emily Tuller (Stamford), Rachel Weiner (Stamford), Anna Wright (Greenwich), Sophia Zanga (Stamford), and Anastasia Zygmont (Greenwich).