Both a space of learning and of performing, Kaufman Music Center is home to Merkin Concert Hall, Lucy Moses School, and Special Music School. The organization was founded in 1953 and receives most of its funding through donations from music enthusiasts.
The Merkin Concert Hall has been around since the 1970s and was renovated with the rest of the building in 2007. Vocal and acoustic performances of classical and new music send resonating sounds throughout the spacious 450-seat room, with its well-lit stage and impressive grand piano. Each year, the concert hall hosts the Ecstatic Music Festival, which presents one-night-only artist collaborations from across the spectrum.
The Special Music School is the only public school in the city to offer music as a core subject to its gifted students, and the Lucy Moses School offers a variety of classes in music, dance and theater. "Lots of people will come back to play here as an adult having taken classes as children," explained Communications Director Joan Jastrebski.
In the summertime, the classrooms turn into musical theater workshops where specific age groups work with writers and choreographers to develop a performance for their final recital. Because every good show needs its props, a team of designers gets together to go over every last detail. Alex, one of the interns, shared with me the story of how the team scurried around to fabricate a prop microphone out of tape and foam when one went missing from the set, only to find it moments from show time.
"What is exciting about the center is what people are doing," Joan added when she took me to watch little ones dance passionately to playful music in the Ann Goodman Recital Hall. She also allowed me a peak into one of the private practice rooms on the third floor where Genya Paley, who had been with the center for over three decades, was giving a piano lesson to a young boy. "Yes, right," said Genya as the child played each chord individually, "Now put it together." The lovely harmony that followed exemplified the intersection of practice and performance.
One of the first things children are taught to say at Silver Music is "I like chocolate ice cream. " While this may seem like a way to enhance a kid's sweet tooth, it is actually a clever method of teaching one of the primary rhythms of the Suzuki method. "We used to have ice cream parties at the end of the year, " the founder, Ellen Silver, told me. "We didn't want to torture the children by just talking about ice cream all year – but now there are just too many students. "Ellen, a cellist who has worked as a teacher with the internationally recognized "Music Together" program, has always been fascinated by the way very young children approach instruments. Every child is different, but she noticed patterns of learning that she believed would help her better prepare toddlers for music lessons. She started out in 2005 with a class of five students in her Upper West Side apartment and began teaching them the beginning stages of piano, cello and violin. This involved singing, holding a bow, improvisation exercises, and learning how to take directions. "Those children are now fourteen or fifteen, and they still come to Silver Music! " Ellen said proudly. Though Silver Music has since expanded by offering programs for all ages, that beginner's class, called "Ready, Set, Play, " is still a major component of the school. There are at most four kids in the class, generally from two to four years old. "Over time they want to learn how to play an instrument the right way, " Ellen explained to me. "And that means they are ready for lessons. " Though the classes still focus on violin, cello, and piano, she is thinking of possibly adding guitar into the mix. With a strong core of instructors, Silver Music is able to offer lessons to well over one hundred students, as well as another seventy who come specifically for "Ready, Set, Play. ""All of our teachers are amazing performers, but they are passionate about teaching, " Ellen shared. She then went on to tell me that she moved the school to 72nd street in 2014 with the help of her husband, who is an architect. Because of what we do at Manhattan Sideways, it was interesting to hear that the two of them walked the side streets in this neighborhood in order to find the perfect location. When they found their home on 72nd street, they redesigned the space and sound-proofed it. Ellen assured me that the residents of the building love them, especially since many of them are musicians, themselves. In addition to the main center, Silver Music has a one-room location on Tiemann Place in Harlem and does outreach programs at two different preschools. I looked in through the window, grinning from ear to ear, at the young children holding their tiny instruments. Ellen told me that kids can be taught to hold a bow at the age of two. "It's just so amazing to see them develop these skills that you may not have known they could have, " she said, and showed me a video of one of her youngest students sliding a small bow along the strings of a Lilliputian violin. I was pleased to discover that many of their small instruments come from David Segal, whom I had met a few weeks prior. Ellen uses a variety of methods to teach the children. She encourages them to love and respect their instruments (often through song – she sang a snippet of the "I love my cello" song for me), but she also inspires them to explore. She lets them see what new sounds they can make, asking them fun questions like, "How do you make a slippery slide on the cello? " She urges them to discover their own way of playing, and then gently introduces a new way. Ellen also uses elements of the Dalcroze method, an approach to music that incorporates movement. It was fascinating to learn that by showing them to how to explore music with their bodies, Ellen can better teach small children how to read and write music. Using strokes for long beats and connected strokes for short beats, she creates a physical and literary code that children can understand. Each long beat is a stomp, whereas the quick beats are running in place. Children often learn to write this beat notation by the age of four, and some even learn it before they know how to write letters. There is no doubt in my mind that Ellen and her team are having a remarkable impact on many little ones who will inevitably grow up with a deep appreciation for music. Silver Music has taken into consideration every aspect of reaching people through music. Their classes continue through the summer, when each week ends in a small concert with the campers. They present concerts throughout the year, either held in a family's home or at the American Academy of Arts and Letters on West 155th Street - a place that Ellen describes as a "hidden Carnegie Hall. " Ellen also offers classes to families who want to learn to play an instrument together, and Chamber Music sessions for adults who are eager to be a part of an ensemble. Although, initially, Silver Music's adult clients were the parents of the children, today Ellen is pleased that her grown-up students are coming from various parts of the city - and some young students come to camp from as far away as Massachusetts and Vermont. Ellen's true devotion will always be with respect to her youngest pupils. "Every kid can benefit from our classes.... and we nurture each little avenue. " Students learn to follow directions, concentrate, and develop language skills. She finds great joy in the children who sing and dance almost before they can walk and talk. Her tireless goal is to foster an environment where these children can continue to receive personal attention to allow their particular skill set to grow.
It does not matter what I am looking for, I always stop by Stationery and Toys first, certain that I will find what I need. Sometimes I find myself laughing out loud when I ask either of the owners of this fantastic old world shop, a father and daughter, for the item that I am in search of that day, and they answer "of course we have it. " With its simple name and treasure trove of items for children and adults alike, it is one of the last of its kind, and it makes me happy simply to wander the aisles. "I used to sell wholesale to Hallmark stores, " Larry Gomez, the founder, shared with me one day. "Now there aren't places like this anymore. " On the day that I visited with the Manhattan Sideways team, Larry took the time, in between ringing customers up for paper, pens, puzzles and party supplies, to tell us how the store began. He said that his daughter, Donna Schofield, came home from college to help him in the wholesale business. As Larry tells it, Donna said, "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, I don't want to sit in a warehouse anymore. I want to work in retail. " Donna, when I spoke to her, tells it a little differently. She says, "I was talking to the same people every day with very little sight of daylight. I wanted to work in a store. "Either way, the outcome was a positive one. Larry gave Donna her wish in 1988 by opening Stationery and Toys. One day, I asked her what it was like having children while working around toys. She said, "My son thought the warehouse was Santa Claus's section. " The boy, who is now fully grown, knew to stay away. His younger sister, though, needed more convincing not to play with the toys. Donna gave the keys to the store to her brother-in-law for a while in order to spend more time with her family, but in 2009, she returned. "She's the big cheese, now, " Larry declared. Today, during the week, when a customer walks into the store, they will see Donna behind the counter and on the weekends it is Larry who is there, allowing his daughter to remain at home. "I'm the Saturday Sunday man! " he said with a grin. Donna's son, however, has started coming in on weekends to work with his grandfather, while he studies to become an electrician. It is this sense of family that Larry believes has saved their store. Donna and Larry form a friendly pair of faces for neighbors to recognize from year to year. He says that they still see many regulars from when the store first opened, though as Larry put it sadly, "there are many that we've lost. " He brightened, however, when he told me about the men and women who come in with their children. Larry recognizes many as having been frequent shoppers when they were kids themselves. He considers himself quite fortunate to have stayed in business through the years. When he first started, he explained, the area was known as "Needle Park" and in order to stay out of danger, people got out of the neighborhood by six in the evening. Now, Larry embraces the fact that the street is a place where families can safely thrive. When speaking with Gary - a sales assistant who has been with the store "for a long time" - I asked him how they decide what to stock, since the inventory seems to be infinite. He replied, "Donna gets it word of mouth, through the kids. The best thing to do is to listen to them. " Donna agreed, saying "If I get asked for an item three times, I get it. " Just before we were leaving, we witnessed a beautiful yet typical moment when Donna noticed a little boy eying a batman figurine on the counter while his mother was making a purchase. Donna sweetly handed the toy to him and told him that it was now his. Neighborhood kindness and generosity is alive and well at Stationery and Toys.
Since 1907, Stephen Wise Free Synagogue has continued to build upon progressive Jewish thought in adherence to the values of its founder, Rabbi Stephen Wise, who stressed the importance of offering a free pulpit. In addition to today's Senior Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch’s sermons on matters concerning the State of Israel, amongst other topics, and the traditional services held Friday nights and Saturday mornings, the congregation is a “singing community” in line with the aspirations of Cantor Daniel Singer. A professional five piece band livens up Shabbat services. Since 1988, the temple has performed nationally renowned Purim Spiels written and directed by Norman Roth, including Megillah Musicals playing on Mamma Mia, Grease, and Glee. The Spiels have gained an international reputation and are now performed in synagogues around the globe. For members outside its community, Stephen Wise Free Synagogue has been performing mitzvahs for decades. Every Saturday morning volunteers offer food packages to those in need. Most inspiring to me, the synagogue voluntarily began running the Next Step Men’s Shelter in 1984 (after Mayor Ed Koch spoke at the synagogue), housing ten selected men for the majority of the year, providing them warm meals and a safe place to sleep at night. In accordance with the play-based learning philosophy, children of the Balfour Brickner Early Childhood Center even decided to tie-dye some bed sheets in an effort to make the space homier. According to director of communications, Samantha Kessler, while other synagogues in the city are struggling to survive, Stephen Wise continues to grow. She was quite proud to expand on the appeal of the Rabbi's stimulating sermons, the emphasis on music, strong engagement in public outreach, and a continued focus on education and religion. It is no wonder that the congregation supports the synagogue's efforts.
My biggest delight when I scoop my little granddaughter out of her car seat on a visit to Manhattan is when she looks up at me and says, "G, can we go to the shoe store now. " Perhaps it is not as exciting for my husband as we prance across the street to Tip Top Kids and purchase not one, but usually several pairs of shoes for my precious bundle of joy. Be it sneakers, party shoes, Uggs, rain boots or sandals, this little girl is well equipped with comfortable and adorable footwear - and all of it from one shop. While chatting with Margot Wasserman, the daughter of the owner of Tip Top Shoes next door, she told me that they have been seeing the same faces returning year after year. "We have parents who brought their child in for their first pair of shoes and today they are still coming back at age thirteen. " I understand why the customers return, since Margot strives to select both the trendy and the practical shoe for her customers. Growing up in the world of shoes, it made perfect sense for Margot to entertain working in fashion. After a few years with Ralph Lauren, she made the easy transition to West 72nd to run the children's division of her father and brother's company. "I am very happy to be here, " Margot told me, "it was an easy adjustment. " She began her training by immersing herself in every aspect of the business, but then found herself focusing on the kid's shop. By 2014, she was "full force" in the world of children's shoes and continues to add new accessories to their inventory each season. From backpacks to leggings, tutus, princess dresses, hair ties, and of course, socks, this is not only a fabulous place for parents (and grandparents), but even more importantly, a shopping paradise for children. As for Margot, she enthusiastically declared, "I wake up every day happy to go to work. "
An inviting gourmet deli for both to-go bites and sit-down fare, Cafe Fresco offers a salad bar, an omelet station, sandwich fixings, "legendary bagels, " and many other options for all sorts of cravings. One of their featured dishes, the eggplant Milanese, is made with oven-roasted eggplants, pesto ricotta and fresh mozzarella. Open windows give each seat a full view of either First Avenue or St. Catherine's Park. When I stopped in with a fellow Sideways member on a brutally humid summer day, we watched the children swinging higher and higher outside at the park as we hid inside from the heat, refueled ourselves, and recharged our cell phones.
Tavern on the Green, a restaurant that opened in 1934, has not forgotten its origins as a home to the ewes and rams that grazed in Sheep Meadow. Images of sheep are everywhere - carved into the fireplace, decorating the menu, holding up the table in the lobby. In 2010, the building ceased to be a restaurant for a brief stint, serving instead as a visitor's center and gift shop. After being taken over by partners, Jim Caiola and David Salama, and a lengthy renovation, the Tavern made a culinary return with a rustic and seasonal menu. I have eaten here on a number of occasions since its debut in the spring of 2014, but strolling in and out of the various rooms with members of the Manhattan Sideways team was a whole different experience. None had ever been, and I was amused and pleased with their reactions to this iconic Central Park locale. The Tavern contains three main areas. In the front dining room, the vast space resembles a summer hunting lodge. A large, circular bar takes up the center with a rotating carousel of gilded horses above it, and mammoth roof beams run along the ceiling like an old mead hall. Separated from the outdoors by a large glass wall, the second dining area is far more modern with creams, ivories and a collection of glass chandeliers. And though it was a hot day, a few brave souls ate outside in the exterior dining space, under umbrellas and large, mid-century street-lamps. The other side of the building features a beer garden with its own menu of simple bar fare. Finally, for the thousands of people who jog, bike or are simply wandering in the park, there is now a delightful little take-away window called "Green-to-Go. " It offers both a breakfast and lunch menu, and tables to sit down, relax and enjoy either a cup of coffee, a bowl of oatmeal, or a variety of wraps and salads in the afternoon. If nothing else, it is a terrific spot to watch both tourists and New Yorkers passing by.
Delle Celle features many respected brands of Italian-fabricated women's clothing, as well as its own line of garments. The pieces are full of color and pattern, with an abundance of styles - there are very few repeats. Walking in, one is greeted by a friendly salesperson, happy to answer any questions. Face-to-face shopping is a vital component of this business, void of an online site. And the integrity and authenticity of the pieces certainly warrants this tactile form of transaction.
"You are now in Bedford Falls, " a sign read in this 67th Street bar, named after a location referenced in the classic movie, "It's a Wonderful Life. " With a bounty of liquor, an arcade golf game, and sports on all the televisions, this bar is the ultimate man cave. A food menu is also offered, including the ever-popular Bedford burger and a nice brunch assortment for the weekend. When I ventured in on a Wednesday night, men in good spirits, many of whom were regulars, occupied the main bar. A more private room featured cushy leather for quieter comfort, and the backroom was complete with high-legged seating and a wooden-booth. Tables appeared to be repurposed beer boxes, and the place was otherwise furnished with whiskey barrels, brick walls, and light alternative music. And through an intriguing walkway, I found myself in the splendid beer garden.