Newport: Sunny Days and Sometimes Foggy Nights

If you’ve spent a day in Newport, you know Newport’s coastline trumps all 400 miles of beaches throughout Rhode Island. The Vanderbilts, Astors, Belmonts and Van Beuren’s also knew. Come celebrate summer with us.

Independence Day is quickly approaching, and we all question where we’ll watch the fireworks. This year, the City of Newport’s fireworks will commence at 9:15pm. They are shot over the Harbor from Fort Adams. A few solid viewing locations open to the public are Fort Adams (90 Fort Adams Dr), King Park (125 Wellington Ave), Newport Harbor facing West (if you’re sailing or walking limited paths), the causeway connecting Goat Island, Perrotti Park (near the ferry landing), Storer Park (near the Goat Island causeway), Grace Vanderbilt Rooftop (fee after 7pm, 41 Mary St), Top of Newport (Hotel Viking, 1 Bellevue Ave), Rose Island Lighthouse (ticket price includes transportation to and from island, BBQ feast, clam chowder, soft drinks and music), The Lawn at Castle Hill (enjoy the adirondack chairs at 590 Ocean Dr).

newportFILM is a year-round, non-profit documentary film series in Newport that features established and emerging filmmakers and their current documentary films, curated from film festivals around the world. Now that we’re into the summer season, the films are being taken outdoors! Experience award-winning documentaries, live music, interviews with filmmakers and subjects, fabulous food and loads of community spirit among Aquidneck Island’s beautiful outdoor spaces. Thriving nature preserves, sprawling ocean-front lawns, elegant mansion gardens, public parks and working farms are just a sampling of venues used for these outdoor cinemas. These epic film events take place every Thursday night, all summer long, and are free of charge. Bring your own picnic or buy from one of the few food vendors participating in the series. newportfilm.com 

The Black Ships Festival takes place July 13 – 15, and this summer, the event is expanding to Bristol. blackshipsfestival.com

The Association Tennis Professionals (or ATP) will be on World Tour in Newport to compete in the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships on July 15 – 22. These rare grass courts have hosted the best of the best of tennis since 1880. This is the only opportunity to see professional men’s tennis in the Northeast prior to the US Open. halloffameopen.com

Visit the URI Athletic Fields this summer for camping, a carnival, food vendors, music and hot air balloons at the South County Balloon Festival, taking place July 20 – 22. You’ll find Roomful of Blues, tethered balloon rides, rock climbing, food and craft vendors. southcountyballoonfest.com

The Newport Jazz Festival is a three-day event sprawling across Fort Adams on August 3 – 5. World class musicians perform across four stages while ticket-holders absorb the smooth sounds across the surrounding lawns. It’s truly amazing how sound travels here, and how one performance doesn’t bleed into another unless you waltz to an adjacent stage. There is no shortage of food vendors, beer tents, Del’s Lemonade or merchandise. Check out newportjazz.org to plan which day(s) you would like to attend. Each artist in the event’s line-up is linked with a video of their sound. Allow yourself time to arrive because there will be car traffic. A launch will be available to transport ticketholders; however, be prepared to wait your turn. Cycling may be the quickest form of transportation.

Hosted by the Preservation Society of Newport County, authentic 19th century coaches drawn by matched and highly trained teams of horses visit Newport every three years for a Weekend of Coaching on August 16 – 19. The public can enjoy free viewing of the colorful and historic coaches every day, as they strut through the streets of Newport and the grounds of the Newport Mansions, celebrating and preserving a century-old sporting tradition. newportmansions.org/events/a-weekend-of-coaching

The Newport Mansions Wine and Food Festival takes place September 20 – 23, and events include the Wine & Rosecliff Gala, tastings with hundreds of wines, celebrity chef appearances and cooking demonstrations, bordeaux dinner, jazz brunch, and an after dark party. Need I say more? If you’re a wino or a foodie, be there. newportmansions.org/events/wine-and-food-festival

The Preservation Society of Newport County is dedicated to historic preservation. They invite you to explore their 11 Newport mansion properties, representing more than 250 years of social, architectural and landscape history in one of America’s most historically intact cities. While you’re at the Breakers Mansion, grab a soft drink, sandwich or snack in the new, breathtaking, garden-feel welcome center. newportmansions.org/plan-a-visit And

Don’t be fooled by their similar logo — it’s not Warner Brothers that everyone is sporting in this city by the sea, it’s Water Brothers. This authentic, local surf shop has been around since 1971 and nods to some serious local surfers and their growing community. One of the best point breaks was saved by these guys. For lessons and gear, visit originalwaterbrothers.com Another surf shop is Island Surf & Sport islandsurfandsport.com Unfortunately, Rhody Surf is no longer with us. They’ve “Gone Surfing” as of this spring.

According to Discover Newport, the first U.S. Open Championship was held in Newport in 1895, and golf has thrived in the area ever since. Enjoy Scottish links-style courses with panoramic vistas of the Narragansett Bay and the Atlantic Ocean throughout Newport and Bristol County. Check out Green Valley Country Club, Jamestown Golf Course (jamestowngolf.com), Montaup Country Club (montaupcc.com), Newport National Golf Club (newportnational.com), Wanumetonomy Golf & Country Club (wanumetonomy.com) and Windmill Hill Golf Course.

Go tandem skydiving at 211 Airport Access Road in Middletown over New England’s most scenic dropzone. It’s the thrill of your life! You’ll want to see the world this way. Tell Nick Sergi I sent you. skydivenewport.com

What would this sea-faring state be without sailing? Please visit sailnewport.org/calendar for all and any sailing events in and around Newport this season.

Generations of families and friends return to Newport Polo year after year as a summer ritual and testament to the global fraternity of this sport and its place in the community. Teams from every continent have visited the grounds as international challengers. nptpolo.com

Gurney’s Newport Resort & Marina is going into their second season, and whether you’re from out of town or local, this New York-based company has brought a new, updated vibe to the classic Newport scene. This location has everything. With sprawling ocean and harbor views come fiery sunsets, and the cabanas are reserved on a first-come, first-served basis. You can sip on a casual cocktail at Pineapples bar or poolside while listening to various musicians during the day and cozy up to a fire pit at the Regent deck when the sun goes down. However, for a truly fine dining culinary experience, Scarpetta is unsurpassed. From house-made pastas to clean cooking with experimental layers of flavor, this restaurant is taking Newport by storm. If you’re a wino, you’ll want to read their wine list like a romance novel. Save room for dessert, the chefs did not fall short when creating their dolci. Experience your meal indoors in their restaurant designed like a mega yacht, or enjoy the al fresco dining overlooking the harbor and historic Point Neighborhood. Make a reservation. With dinner at Scarpetta, valet is free. gurneysresorts.com/newport

Keeping it Free and Fun

When the days are longer — and we’ve all become desperate for the summer that seemed like it would never come — the temptation to pack your days with as much fun as possible can be costly. Sure, the zoo is free for PVD residents on first Saturdays, the RISD Museum is free on Sundays and third Thursdays, and your local library has options, but what about when you’re in the mood for more seasonal entertainment that won’t break the bank?

Beaches are the big obvious for RI summers. It might seem like fuzzy math, but we have 400 miles of coastline. Yet so many of us get locked into our beach-of-tradition (Narragansett! Misquamicut! Fight!) that it’s inevitable the average Rhode Islander is missing out on other beaches that could become a new favorite. Have you seen Block Island’s Mohegan Bluffs? Checked out the conservation area at Tiverton’s Fogland Beach? Bird watched and lit an evening fire at Goosewing Beach in Little Compton? Make it your goal to visit at least one new beach and be sure to do your research online for any free parking tips. (Like if you arrive to Goosewing Beach early enough, try to snag a spot in the P.T. Marvell Preserve. And while ozone alert days are definitely not a situation to be celebrated, remember RIPTA runs free.)

lebowskiwebMovies on the Block goes on a bit of a construction-imposed hiatus this year, but has found a temporary new home on Fountain Street. We love this series and their bold “eff it” programming (who else would publicly project The Shining or Lost Highway on the side of a downtown street?) and encourage you all to join them for their two limited screenings this year: The Big Lebowski on June 21 and Pulp Fiction on July 19. Bring your beach chairs to the parking lot next to The Strand at 78 Fountain Street. For straight-up family friendly movies, visit Rocky Point Park’s Movies in the Park series (facebook.com/movienightri).

Abandoning dimly lit bars for live music outdoors is one of the purest joys of summer. The Burnside Music Series at Kennedy Plaza begins Noon Tunes (live music during your lunch hour, every Wednesday) on June 6 with Czésare Santana’s Latin Folk fusion. The park’s official Music Series & Beer Garden is held Thursdays at 5:30 in July and August. On the coast, North Kingstown Town Beach offers a free music series on Tuesdays, beginning June 19. Rooftop at Providence G also offers music throughout the week, including rock on Thursdays and acoustic reggae on Sundays, giving you all the good summer vibes you need to ease into the work week. Also in Providence, you can generally count on music in Waterplace Park, especially on evenings where there’s another little-known event: WaterFire. Every time we think it’s too obvious to mention, we hear someone say, “Fire… Water? RiverFire?” And then we’re reminded to not take the spectacle for granted. For more than 20 years, bonfires burning bright have been one of the greatest free summer activities we have. Is your summer really complete without people watching on Memorial Boulevard, taking pictures with a human gargoyle and trying to find the right Insta-filter for your river shot?

When you’ve had your fill of sweaty humans and need to retreat into nature, RI is filled with opportunities to hike, stroll or take what’s perhaps best referred to as a “woods walk.” On the less woodsy and more opulent, sweeping views/cover-of-a-romance-novel side of the coin, Cliff Walk in Newport is a must. The walking trail is largely accessible and offers simultaneous vistas of both ocean and mansions. There’s a reason it’s recommended in any Rhode Island guide book. For trails more off the beaten path, visit and follow the Hiking in RI Facebook page (fb/hikinginrhodeisland), which is updated constantly and loaded with tips and trails. If you want to add a touch of darkness to the summer sun, check out the trails at DuVal Farm in South Kingstown, which includes a small cemetery. Plentiful blueberries and a scenic overlook that offers a peek of the ocean on a clear day keep the hike from going too goth.

Salve Regina French Film Festival 2018

The 13th annual Salve Regina French Film Festival take place from Sunday, Febrary 25, through Thursday, March 8. There are a total of six films, said French professor Dean de la Motte, the festival coordinator, all open to the public.

“We’re always trying to involve both the [broader] community and the university community and encourage different groups to attend, so it’s sort of a cross-section of students, faculty, and Francophiles and cinephiles in Newport,” de la Motte said. “It’s part of our cultural outreach of the university but also helping to promote French culture and French cinema in the United States, which is one of the reasons we receive … a small grant from French cultural services called the Tournées grant.”

“At this point it’s rare to find any of these on Netflix, there might be one or two that you could find occasionally, but we don’t want things that people can just find really easily, obviously,” de la Motte said. “We don’t organize necessarily thematically. What we like to do is have a broad range, and the Tournées festival requires us to choose five contemporary films and one classic, so that’s the framework. Then we have a menu of films that we choose from. It’s not any French-language film in the world — it’s the ones that are sponsored by the Tournées grant process. They tend to be serious films artistically and deal with serious topics, and some of them push the envelope a little bit. We’re not getting a lot of mass-marketed French comedies or that sort of thing.” The menu of selections this year was 21 contemporary films from 2014-2016 and six classic films, and selections are made by a volunteer committee drawn from faculty and students. The Alliance Française of Newport also donates, de la Motte told us.


“The opening film, Panique (“Panic”), is a film-noir that was sort of rediscovered recently and is very hard to find in this country, so that’s an interesting thing for the history of French cinema. It’s a postwar film,” de la Motte said. Although a total failure both critically and commercially at the time, the 1947 film is now almost universally regarded as the definitive masterpiece of director Julien Duvivier, based on the 1933 novel Les Fiançailles de M. Hire (“The Engagements of M. Hire”) by Georges Simenon (a prolific author primarily remembered for his hundred or so mystery novels and short stories featuring the memorable Police Commissioner Jules Maigret). Panique is about a lonely and eccentric Jewish tailor – M. Hire was originally M. Hirovitch – who becomes embroiled in a complex web of criminal intrigue as he observes the woman in the next building who never closes her blinds. Duvivier, who took refuge in Hollywood during the Nazi-Vichy occupation of France, clearly intended Panique as a parable about the psychological mechanisms of enemy collaboration.

Focusing on a Moroccan-born single mother raising two daughters, the younger of high school age and the older studying for medical school, Fatima, directed by Philippe Faucon, is a drama inspired by a semi-autobiographical writer who gave her own name to her main character in Prière à la lune (“Prayer to the moon”) and Enfin, je peux marcher seule (“Finally, I can walk alone”) by Fatima el-Ayoubi, works quoted in the guise of letters to her daughters. The film dominated the 2016 César Awards, the French version of the Oscars, winning Best Film, Most Promising Actress and Best Adaptation. Soria Zeroual was nominated for, but did not win, the Best Actress César for the title role as an immigrant housecleaner and was, in fact, working as a housecleaner and had no acting experience before being cast. “It deals with immigration and people of Arab descent, in particular racism and illiteracy and generational conflict,” de la Motte said.

L’Avenir (“The Future” or “Things to Come”), written and directed by Mia Hansen-Love, features major French film star Isabelle Huppert as a middle-aged high school teacher trying to maintain a positive outlook and sense of purpose while her life is falling apart around her: her husband leaves, her mother dies, and the publishing house where she works as an editor is going out of business – conjuring thoughts of a female version of the Book of Job.

Louise en hiver (“Louise in Winter” or “Louise by the Shore”) is an animated film for an adult audience in which elderly widow Louise becomes trapped in a deserted summer resort by missing the last train, and holes up with her talking dog and memories of her childhood in a hut on the beach.

Voir du pays (“Viewing the Country” or “The Stopover”) is about French soldiers returning from deployment in Afghanistan, taking a rest and recuperation stay in a high-end hotel in Cyprus as they participate in group therapy sessions, especially focusing on sexism experienced by female soldiers at the hands of their comrades.

Eastern Boys is about a middle-aged gay professional man who finds an illegal alien teenager from war-torn Chechnya in a train station and invites him to his home, making himself a target of a home invasion by a gang. The two continue to see each other as the initially sexual arrangement takes on the character of a father-son relationship.

All screenings are on campus at the Bazarsky Lecture Hall in the O’Hare Academic Building, Salve Regina University, 100 Ochre Point Ave, Newport. salve.edu/french-film-festival To avoid lines at the door, patrons are encouraged to buy a festival pass online. For questions, call (401) 341-2197 or email frenchfilmfestival@salve.edu

Z-Boys’ Residency, Newport Blues Café, Starts Feb 1


The Z-Boys are a power trio that set themselves apart. This act from Newport brings an amplified style of surf rock that shreds into the infinite abyss. Guitarist and vocalist Greg Burgess has a unique jazzy flair. The rhythm section of bass guitarist Amato Zinno and drummer Ziggy Coffey is incredibly tight. When their talents come together, it is an amazing thing to witness. Starting on Feb 1, Burgess, Zinno and Coffey will be having a Thursday night weekly residency at the classy Newport Blues Café featuring a range of special guests.

“This came about when Jim Quinn, the owner of the Blues Café, approached me about playing every Thursday,” Zinno explains. “The Z-Boys have been at Perro Salado in Newport on Wednesdays for a long time, and we were starting to feel a little confined, so moving to a bigger room made sense. We picked February 1st to start the residency because we wanted to take a short break, write some new songs, and get people hyped up about the change.” With The Z-Boys already having a solid reputation for a good time in the City by the Sea, folks are for sure going to get amped from the first night onward.

Each night will have the trio sharing the stage with a stellar opening band. The styles range from blues to indie rock to hip-hop, so each night will be a bit different. “The first month’s acts are all bands or performers we really enjoy and respect,” said Zinno on the openers. “The Silks are a great foil for us. Julie Rhodes is an amazing singer. And Roz and the Rice Cakes are the first band I saw after moving to Providence, and they are still one of my faves. Camden Murphy is also a great friend, a talented performer, and he invited us to play the first show we did at the Blues Café. It’s only right that we have him on for one.”

“What people can expect is great music on a great sound system in one of the best rooms in Rhode Island!” exclaimed Zinno. “It’s going to be a party and we wanna start it off right, so by the time we get into spring and summer, it’ll be humming every week.” Come on down for what should be a swell way to spend Thursday nights at the Newport Blues Café with a band that brings a one of a kind experience.

Event page: facebook.com/events/1356829037777246

Newport Blues Café: newportblues.com

Z-Boys: facebook.com/zboystonight

Night Before Thanksgiving in RI: 5 Things to Do

[Although all information is believed accurate at time of publication, everything is subject to change, especially pricing. – Ed.]

Dusk Nightclub, PVD
Dusk Nightclub, PVD

The holidays are a wonderful time of the year. There’s stuffing your face full of food, catching up with family and enjoying new gifts from loved ones. There’s also the night before these holidays where people go out, run into old friends and have fun while probably seeing that scumbag from high school whose maturity level still hasn’t gone past age 17 even though in reality they’re pushing 40. The night before Thanksgiving is one of the biggest bar nights of the year – closing time is 2am in PVD – and there’s plenty of stuff going on in Rhode Island to induce the hangover you’ll most likely have the following morning. To give you some tips on what to do, I narrowed down a list to five in no particular order.

Thanksgiving Eve Rockathon @ News Café, 43 Broad St, Pawtucket

Over at one of the coolest dives in the Ocean State, there’s going to be an abundance of amplified hard rock invading the News Café. A lineup consisting of post-apocalyptic rockers Blackletter, punk rock phenoms The McGunks and Newport rock ‘n’ roll ragers We Own Land will be getting loud. There will most likey be a special cocktail or two available at the bar along with a nice and friendly clientele being present. The News always provides a great atmosphere for live music. Also, make sure to wear earplugs to this one.
9pm / 18+ / $6

Friendsgiving @ The Grange, 166 Broadway, PVD

Along with being a great place to eat delicious and healthy food (especially if you’re vegan or vegetarian), The Grange has also become a great place to see live music. The entertainment database blog PVDLive will curate a night featuring four immensely talented singer-songwriters: Steve Delmonico from The Quahogs, Rachel Jorgensen, Russ Connors and Nashville artist Zach Schmidt will be performing. If you like folk music and intimate settings, this show is for you. Also don’t forget to try the seitan wings.
9pm / all ages / free

The Silks, The Little Compton Band, Gumption and Glory @ The Café at Parlor, 200 Broadway, Newport

For a heavy dose of blues, head on down to the heart of Aquidneck Island as three of the best bands around take the stage for what should be a fun night. The Silks have become one of the most sought after live acts in New England and sooner or later their popularity will go beyond the region. With a groovy jam vibe reminiscent of The Grateful Dead, The Little Compton Band has a pristine sound that’ll make anyone gravitate to them. Gumption and Glory will be playing their soulful music in between sets and their horn section is magnificent. If you find yourself in downtown Newport while this is going on, definitely stop by.
9pm / 21+ / $10

Funksgiving 2017 @ The Parlour 1119 N Main St, PVD

If you’re familiar with The Parlour, then you know that every Wednesday night there’s funk played by The Phunky Autocratz. This amazing band is dynamic and incredible, and they’ll be doing it all over again to ring in Thanksgiving. Shzz Mack will be spinning records all night long, and the party will be poppin’ off from the get-go. Wednesday nights at The Parlour are always fun and you should stop by if you’ve never been. Take advantage of the delicious food and wide assortment of beer and spirits while you’re there.
7pm / 21+ / $5 after 9pm

Night Before Thanksgiving Dance Party @ Dusk 301, Harris Ave, PVD

Ty Jesso, John O’Leary and Studs Jerkel are three of the best DJs in Rhode Island. Jesso is exquisite in his knowledge of soul, R&B, garage rock and the Motown sound. O’Leary is a savant when it comes to ‘60s British rock, new wave and Britpop. Jerkel has such a wide assortment of records that he can go from calypso to ‘80s alternative rock in a matter of seconds. At Dusk, they will unite to put on a party that can only happen at this specific location. It’s a time to put the groove shoes on and shake it up.
10pm / 18+ / free

A Musical Summer in Newport

The musical culture of Newport has attracted tourists from all over the world for decades. The Folk and Jazz festivals at Fort Adams State Park along with the Yachting Center’s Celtic Rock Festival, Reggae Festival, Summer Comedy Series and Summer Concert Series have been favorites of Newport’s tourists and locals alike. The City by the Sea has never been boring for music lovers. However, following years of fun, music and food, the public lost the Yachting Center. In 2014, the Newport Harbor Corporation sold the land to invest further in their ever-expanding restaurant and hotel operations, according to WPRI Eyewitness News. Walking down America’s Cup Avenue at night is now, by comparison, a practically silent venture.

After expressing this grievance to Steve Lepre, he quickly pointed out that Newport’s music scene has never been boring, regardless of the time of year. As I walked down the street in the rain with the promoter and sound engineer of Jimmy’s Saloon, we discussed the current state of things. Steve argued that tourists don’t have to limit their visits to Newport to only once or twice a year in order to hear great music. “You have to remember that Newport pubs didn’t just start hosting live bands after the Yachting Center closed. This has been going on since the 1970s.” Bob Dylan’s revolutionary electric performance in 1965, the Newport ska punk scene, Big World and Throwing Muses are just a few things that came to mind. “Tourists don’t have to go to Fort Adams or another big venue to see a national act. Awesome bands play more often than you think, if you know where to go.”

Leading the resurgence of live music in Newport, Jimmy’s Saloon has actively participated as both a host and an educator. In 2015, Jimmy’s partnered with Collective Thought Media and launched “Straight from the Stage,” a series of interviews exploring the history, influence and goals of Newport’s musical community. Sid Abruzzi of the punk band Big World shares stories about the national acts that have come through Newport over the years. Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Twisted Sister, the Ramones, The Dictators and the New York Dolls have done sets at the Hotel Viking, the Newport Hotel (formerly the Electric Elephant), Festival Field and other, smaller venues. Many of the musicians interviewed reminisced about their favorite events and spots in Newport, all highlighting live music’s communal effect. Lead singer Craig Ferris of We Own Land sums it up when he says, ”Live, local music is basically the heartbeat of any town.”

Over the last five years in particular, Jimmy’s Saloon has carried the torch for live, local entertainment. Not only do they host national acts like The Silks, The Viennagram, Sibinnac and Anklepants, but they also have a constant rotation of local bands. Jimmy’s does not discriminate against genres; IONEYE (Steve’s solo project), Chronovore, Oak Lonetree, Hellbound and the Cannibal Ramblers have all taken to the stage here and have yet to disappoint. Encouraging all musicians to perform, Jimmy’s also hosts an open mic night on Thursdays called Ocean Mic. Like all open mics, it is a fantastic opportunity for local artists to meet and jam with other musicians; but what sets Ocean Mic apart is its patronage and participation. I’ve been to other open mics where the house band just plays the whole time and there’s a handful of people at the bar. At Jimmy’s, they like to keep the line-up diverse and rotating; and, according to Mr. Lepre, sometimes the musicians, comedians and freestylers you see at Ocean Mic can really surprise you, and they might even give your Friday-Saturday headliners competition!

Along with Jimmy’s, other venues have been taking up the call for live entertainment. The Parlor Kitchen & Bar on Broadway hosts an open mic on Wednesdays and is a frequent venue for bands like the Ravers, Whisky Fyre and Folsom, the Johnny Cash Tribute. Buskers, Midtown Oyster Bar, Hotel Viking, Noreys, the Wharf Pub and Pour Judgment have many acoustic solo acts come in on weekends and weekdays alike, including Sean Rivers and Betsy Listenfelt. If live jazz is your thing, head over to the Fifth Element on either Sunday or Monday night to catch acts like the Groove Merchants, and be sure to visit Sardella’s Italian Restaurant on Wednesdays. The Fastnet Pub even has a live traditional Irish session every Sunday night and a live blues band every Monday. As Steve said, you will never run out of options or have an empty day of the week, if you know where to go.

Since the 1970s, Newport has been a hub for creativity, comedy, great shows and festivals, and original music. The city is looked upon amicably by locals and touring musicians alike as a place with great energy and patronage. Unfortunately, many also view the entertainment scene as part of Newport’s bygone days before it became about the mansions, beaches and restaurants; however, people like Steve Lepre want to tell both travelers and locals that it’s far from being a thing of the past. Live, original music is alive and well, and venues like Jimmy’s and the Parlor are there to make sure it is here to stay.

St. Patrick’s Day Event Map

Here’s What’s Happening in Rhode Island on St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick's Day Parade Map

FabNewport: “Make Your Life”

Education comes in many different forms and not every student learns best in a classroom setting, according to Steven Heath, executive director of FabNewport, a private non-profit organization that seeks to bring the “maker culture” to youth.

“We are born to learn. If you put a 2-year-old on the floor you don’t have to teach them how to play,” Heath said. It usually doesn’t work to “tell kids to sit down and be quiet for 13 years” as the conventional school system does. “By ‘making,’ we empower them.”

“Maker culture” is a loosely defined ethos that promotes the application of technology to “do-it-yourself (DIY) culture,” usually with 3D printing, laser cutting, CNC machining, microcontrollers (such as the Arduino and Raspberry Pi low-powered computers), electronics and motorized robotics. The movement comprises individual and commercial interests, such as Make: Magazine, but its core within the educational community is the “FabLab” concept pioneered at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and copied widely, including at AS220 in Providence and at FabNewport on Aquidneck Island.

“FabLab prescribes a set of tools, and you can make anything with those tools,” Heath said. The program encourages students to choose their own direction and figure out how to make what motivates them, rather than direct them into narrow channels with predefined assignments. “We teach kids to code, design in 3D and make decisions about social situations,” he said. The goal is to “develop agency within kids, and we just happen to use technology to do it.”

This is an educational concept with significant predecessors, Heath acknowledges, such as John Holt, Sugata Mitra, and Sergio Juárez Correa. “Not a day goes by that I don’t think about John Holt,” he said. (Ed. John Holt was an educator disillusioned with the school system who believed children did not need to be coerced to learn, but would do so naturally if given the right tools and environment)

Unlike most FabLab instances that cater to the adult or even to the artist community, FabNewport concentrates specifically on education, conducting training for youths and for school teachers. “Imagine if you are a young person and you see ‘learning available’ signs where you can get specific skills,” he said. “Some kids struggle with the basics of math and reading,” but they can “cultivate their jagged edges.” Heath said, “I’ve worked in education for 25 years, and I’ve never met a kid [who] doesn’t want to learn. Maybe they just don’t want to learn what you’re trying to shove down their throat at 3:15pm on a Tuesday.”

Heath said that he “wants to nibble away at the silos of education,” meaning the traditional model where each subject is compartmentalized and taught in separate classrooms. “Teachers working together can multiply their time and cut away boundaries that divide topic areas.”

In one example of the kind of thinking he is trying to teach, Heath described “a kid came in needing plywood, to help his cousin move, so he could build his own trailer.” An 18 or even 17 year-old, he said, “can go to work, hopefully in a job [they] like, and acquire skills here.” After graduation, Heath said, “There’s no job out there just waiting for a kid. They have to go and advocate for themselves: make their life.” Not every high school graduate is ready for college, at least not immediately, he said. “Agency,” as he defines it, means “Kids who come out of school are not just dropping into some stupid job, but acquire even one skill that lets them connect to the world and gives them a sense of purpose so they want to share that with the world.” He predicts “in future years, families will be making decisions about their children’s learning that are less school-centric and more focused on their interests.”

FabNewport needs facilitators, Heath said. “I’d really like for people to come down and spend even one afternoon a month as adult volunteers.” He said that the organization is funded by grants, contracts with schools and gifts, with an annual budget of about $320,000 that funds two full-time and a number of part-time staff.

The second annual East Bay Edition of the Rhode Island Mini-Maker Faire will be coordinated by FabNewport on Saturday, October 15, Noon – 5pm, in an 1,800 square-foot space at the Florence Gray Center, 1 York Street, Newport. There were 1,200 attendees and 36 exhibitors and vendors at last year’s inaugural event, Heath said. Anyone interested in exhibiting or vending – “Makers, Manufacturers, Performers, STEAM Centered Organizations, Vendors, and Crafters” – can fill out a response by October 3 using the “call to makers” form; non-commercial exhibitions are free of charge. The public is invited, and admission is free.

FabNewport: fabnewport.org; Facebook: facebook.com/FabNewport; Newport Mini-Maker Faire, Oct 15: makerfaireri.com/2016/09/ri-mini-maker-faire-returns-to-newport-october-15; Worldwide list of FabLabs: fablabs.io/labs

Is This Jazz?: An Incomplete Guide To The 2016 Newport Jazz Festival


Anybody who has had the good fortune to attend the Newport Jazz Festival knows it can be a bit overwhelming. Large crowds swarming the grounds, a staggering number of killer musicians, and a cacophony of marvelous sound emanating from every corner of the festival presents a sensory overload to the uninitiated.

My first few years as part of this landmark event, I worked at one of the vendor carts lining the walkway on the outskirts of the Fort Stage. Although I was on the clock, from my vantage point I was blessed to see some amazingly dynamic performances that have remained permanently seared into my eardrums. A couple years ago I finally took in the festival as a true, ticket-purchasing audience member. It rained buckets on the first day, but I didn’t care. I just stood in the downpour listening to the Mingus Big Band blast through some of the most genius music ever created. Frozen bones and soaked clothes were no match for the raucous renditions of the best of the Mingus oeuvre.

I know how intoxicating the Newport Jazz Festival can be, and how equally maddening it is trying to hit every act on your list. Trust me, as hard as you try, you will undoubtedly miss something that everyone will be talking about for years to come — I still kick myself for leaving Terrance Blanchard’s electrifying set for another musician I ultimately found a bit less personally inspiring — but you will assuredly encounter moments and music that will stay with you longer than any regrets ever will. However, we need to make sure you are at least a little prepared, so even though this is a very short (and thereby terribly incomplete) primer, here are some of the sets I  am dying to see at this year’s Newport Jazz Festival.

Friday is a cornucopia of masterful saxophonists. From legends like Jimmy Heath and Steve Coleman to young lions like Kamasi Washington and Ben Wendell (Kneebody) and rounded out with Donny McCaslin and Ken Vandermark (Eric Revis Parallax), you will find many who have reshaped paths for the instrument and represent all facets of the saxophone’s supremecy. While I’m sure these sax sets will be equally great, after seeing  Kamasi Washington’s band, The Next Step, in Boston and hearing his presence on a few different masterful releases this past year —including his own The Epic — this group’s spiritual grace and ferociously intense groove is a must-see.

For those devastated by the loss of David Bowie, take solace in knowing that you can witness the other half of the genius that was his final album by checking out his collaborators in the Donny McCaslin Group. Made up of the some of the most mind melting, adventurous players in the business, these four mold sounds and music in a whirlwind that is far beyond description.

Saturday takes Friday’s excellence and cranks it up. If you’re looking for artists at the absolute peak of the mountain, then ready yourself for the titanic Chick Corea Trilogy with Christian McBride and Brian Blade. All three musicians represent the pinnacle of ability and expression on their instruments and together create motion not readily achievable by mere mortals. Brian Blade recently recorded at the Columbus Theatre with his group The Fellowship Band, so he definitely deserves some Rhody love for that.

Although jazz rarely allows for prodigies, piano phenom Joey Alexander is the exception. Performing at the 2015 festival at only 11 years old, Alexander returns in 2016 with his trio to inspire awe with a virtuosic prowess and connection to the music that escapes some musicians thrice his age.

If you crave the feel and flair found only in New Orleans, look no further than Butler, Bernstein, & The Hot 9. While not previously acquainted with their  work, I came across this group by scouring the schedule and (having always had a big spot in my heart for jazz’s earliest sounds) couldn’t stop listening to every  piece I could find. Authentic, soulful and rich music.

Sunday is always bittersweet, but the finale is as explosive a day as any. After being mesmerized by their duo album Hagar’s Song, I have craved the chance to see saxophonist Charles Lloyd and pianist Jason Moran perform together live, and my prayers have been answered with the Charles Lloyd New Quartet. Complete with bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland, it’s difficult to find words that can accurately represent the depth of their sonic capabilities, so in lieu of a description I will simply deem this set as required listening for all.

Also on the required list are Christian Scott Atunde Adjuah presents Stretch Music. I’ve listened to a few different records that feature Scott and have yet to pin down just what makes his music so captivating. Defiant of genre, you will hear all phases of his experience and eras of influence within this one set.

As Sunday is your last chance for an entire year to see this much spectacular music in one place, I suggest hopping around as much as you can. From the Latin rhythms of the Yosvany Terry Quintet to the neo-soul tinged grooves of the Robert Glasper Experiment, from the jaw dropping collaboration of Potter, Holland, Loueke, and Harland to the genius of Ben Williams & Sound Effect playing a special piece commissioned by the George Wein/Doris Duke Artistic Programming Fund, you absolutely cannot go wrong with any stage.

I called this an incomplete guide because there are so many incredible, life-defining artists and sets on this year’s schedule that it simply defies completion. Head over to newportjazzfest.org for more information, artist bios and links to music so you can catch a glimpse of what’s in store. Have fun at the Newport Jazz Festival, travel safely on your journey, and be sure to let me know about your experience and your favorite sets. See you there!

Happening Around Town:

The John Allmark Jazz Orchestra; Mondays @ The Met (Pawtucket)

Is This Jazz?; first Friday, bimonthly @ AS220 (Providence) isthisjazz.tumblr.com

Joe Potenza; Fridays @ Tarragon Bar (Providence)

Groove Merchants; Mondays @ Fifth Element (Newport)

Jazz Jam;Tuesdays @ Ten Rocks (Pawtucket)

The Jazz Series; Mondays @ Fete (Providence)

Parlour Jazz Jam; third Sunday each month @ The Parlour (Providence)

Matunuck Beach Hot Jazz Party; Mondays @ The Ocean Mist (Matunuck)

Phrase Collective; Thursdays @ Mangos (Pawtucket)

Jazz Revelations; “Baba Yaga” July 23rd@ Firehouse 13, “Natraj” July 24th @ Aurora

 To add your listing please email isthisjazzri@gmail.com.

Ben Shaw is a local composer, performer, writer, entrepreneur, and podcaster. Dig into his works at ahueofshaw.tumblr.com or find him on Twitter @ahueofshaw.

Motif’s 5 Event Picks of the Week: July 20 – July 26

Thru July 24

Harold & Maude, 2nd Story Theatre, 28 Market St, Warren. Rebelling against the privileged life prescribed for him, 19-year-old Harold develops an inexplicably deep and intimate bond with the eccentric 79-year-old Maude, who teaches him that life is the most precious gift of all. 2ndstorytheatre.com

July 20 – 24

111th Annual St. Mary’s Feast: Twenty food vendors selling Italian sausage and peppers, Italian fried dough, cannoli, fried calamari, raw bar and other deliciousness. Non-stop live entertainment will crescendo with a 5k and a fireworks display! Knightville, Cranston. stmarysfeast.com

July 21

92 PRO-FM Presents, Melanie Martinez: Martinez is an unforgettable 20-year-old artist from New York. A stunning and provocative singer, songwriter and visual presence. 8pm, Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel, 76 Washington St, PVD. lupos.com

July 22 – 24

38th Annual South County Hot Air Balloon Festival: Hot air balloons, crafts, music, catch and release fishing, food and carnival rides all weekend. Also featuring a Friday evening concert, Saturday night fireworks and the Official RI State BBQ Championship. URI Athletic Fields, Rt 138, Kingston. southcountyballoonfest.com

July 23 – 24

Rock the Block 2016: Headliners and strong supporting local bands will entertain for two days, along with a fierce battle of the bands. Great music along with food, beer, amusement rides and vendors. 11am, Pierce Stadium, East Providence. rocktheblock2016.com