Columbia Rocks to showcase tomorrow’s stars

HUDSON–Student singer-songwriters who had the temerity to apply and audition for Hudson musical producer Henry Hirsch and successfully caught the attention of his highly trained ear are being rewarded this week with a professional music experience much more experienced performers might envy.

For a week they are getting the chance to fine tune, arrange, record and perform their original material with someone who has recorded the stars. On Friday, July 13 at noon they’ll perform at Club Helsinki and their original songs will be available online at

“The kids that have been chosen are outstanding,” said Henry Hirsch, who has spent

the past week with each of the young musicians using all his skill and resources to make them shine as artists.

“Henry and I both want to shine the light on these kids,” said Jeffrey Levitsky, education consultant for the Columbia Arts and Humanities Fund of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation. Mr. Levitsky recruited Mr. Hirsch to head up the project and had the idea for the project that furthers the foundation’s mission to help kids by connecting them to the local arts community.

Mr.Hirsch, a music producer for 35 years, has worked with Lenny Kravitz, Vanessa Paradis, the Charlatans, Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger, Madonna, and others. He is coaching each musician, arranges their songs, records them and will produce a CD of their music. He even hired a drummer to provide professional percussion tracks.

Robby Hagadone and Andrew Cruisce, guitarists and singers, are both 17 and classmates at Ichabod Crane High School and formed a two-person band called Riptide. Last spring, they saw fliers for this project at their school, so they applied and auditioned.

Edward Donohue, 11, has played guitar for three years and has sung as long as he could talk.

“He’s a prodigy. He couldn’t sing off key if he wanted to,” said Mr. Levitsky.

Olivia Klingler and Maddie Morrell play ukulele and guitar. “We were expecting to find kids with notebooks filled with poetry,” said Mr. Levitsky. “The poems ask to be sung. They’ve just started singing them. Mia McGiffert a student at Taconic Hills High School is another poet songwriter. All three had poetry. Henry helped them develop their voices,” he said.

Aaron Martin, 19, graduated from Hudson High School this spring without plans for college. He plays electric acoustic guitar, has a strong affinity for the blues and a voice that evokes Jim Morrison. In high school, he said, he would have liked to play in the jazz band, but by the time he learned of it, it was too late in the year to apply.

“This is really big for me. I didn’t expect it to be this big,” he said. “It’s the chance to work with a professional who has produced so many great artists.

He’s a fan of two, Lenny Kravitz, and Mick Jagger, and described his own work as being influenced by late ’60s blues rock, psychedelic rock, and early ’90s alternative rock bands like Nirvana.

“This kid is fabulous, he has a great sense of rhythm and a bluesy growling voice, but he’s never performed. He started this week,” said Mr. Levitski as Aaron sang. “I thought he was great in the audition but now he sounds like the equal of Jim Morrison.”

“He has exceptional singing ability. He needs a good year of experience to be taken seriously,” said Mr. Hirsch. “We’re not going to get this level out of everyone.”

“I did not really know how extraordinary Henry is professionally. It gives kids something totally different from what they get at school, how to keep on beat, on pitch, how to breathe, the whole structural core of how to develop a song. They end up getting through months of work in just a few days…. They have been getting better every hour.”

All the young musicians are focused and well behaved, practicing as they wait to perform, writing out their lyrics at Mr. Hirsch’s request.

“Our goal is to showcase these kids and connect them to their community through art,” said Mr. Hirsch.“These may be tomorrow’s stars.”

He said the musicians would be “pushed to the utmost to get the most out of this experience. Then it’s up to the parents and schools to continue the quality of their musical education.”

Friday’s performance at Club Helsinki will be informal. “I want the kids to be human and loose. I want it to be the best performance experience they can have,” he said.

“Henry is committed to helping kids,” said Mr. Levitsky. “He treats them as if they were professionals and they rise to the occasion.”

Columbia Rocks!  A project of the Columbia Arts & Humanities Fund of the Berkshire-Taconic Community Foundation. For more Information call 518 828-4800 or go to The performance at Club Helsinki, 405 Columbia Street is from noon to 1:30 p.m. To find music online once it’s posted, go to



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