Kids’ Almanac (Dec. 27 - Jan. 3)

Winners of the Young Artist Talent Search finals at the Towne Crier in Pawling.

Winners of the Young Artist Talent Search finals at the Towne Crier in Pawling.

A year from now, you will wish you had started today.
– Karen Lamb


Meet the Young Artist Talent Search winners

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the Young Artist Talent Search Finals at the Towne Crier Café in Pawling. It was amazing, hearing such incredible musical talent, all performed by youth under 20 years old. All 11 of the finalists’ performances were excellent. I’d like to highlight for you the kids who won First, Second and Third Place.

The jazz standard “Angel Eyes” was one of Ella Fitzgerald’s favorite songs, and I wish you could have heard recent Young Artist Talent Search First Prize winner Madi Guski enthrall the audience by singing it last Sunday. Thirteen-year-old Guski also captivated the room with her own artistic arrangement of the Number-One hit, “I’ll Be There.” “I like to take older songs and change them up,” she explained. To me, Guski embodied the essence of each of the songs that she performed, demonstrating a rich range of expression.

The Dutchess County singer has been making music since she was three years old and performing since she was nine. In addition to voice, Guski plays piano, guitar, trumpet and some saxophone. Beyond the music realm, she also enjoys acting. What are Guski’s influences? “I listen to everything you could imagine. My parents exposed me to so much older music when I was younger, and I enjoy it now.”

Guski expressed appreciation for the support from her family and her teacher at Community Music Space in Red Hook: “I couldn’t have done this without my awesome music teacher, Ben Senterfit. I started taking lessons with him three years ago. He’s helped me and guided me so much. I just have to thank him!”

So much power comes through Alicia Keys’s song “This Girl Is on Fire”: “Oh, we got our feet on the ground/And we’re burning it down/Oh, got our head in the clouds/And we’re not coming down.” The A-J Twinz, second-place winners of the Young Artist Talent Search, lit up the stage and exhibited the meaning of this song with their terrific, strong performance of it last weekend.

How did 14-year-old Annabelle Curcio and 15-year-old Jasha Woodall determine their name? “We came up with the name of our duo when we were about 10 years old. We liked the name because there were two of us, and even though we’re very different, we’re kind of the same when it comes to music: ‘Twinz.’ A is for Annabelle and J is for Jasha.”

Both young women play piano and guitar, and they sing covers as well as write their own music. “We like to do pop songs together. We love to write our own songs – mostly about relationships. We have about 11 or 12 originals. Our favorite songs to perform are our originals and songs that show off our harmonies.” Their harmonies are what help them stand out: Their voices blend so easily together, and even the judges commented that they sounded like sisters.

I wondered how they met: Curcio explained, “Jasha moved in next door to me when I was 4 or 5 years old. We slowly discovered that each of us could sing, and we started writing songs together. We also choreographed many dance routines together with our younger sisters.”

Curcio and Woodall keep pretty busy when they’re not singing together. Curcio plays basketball and acts, having performed in many local productions with Standing Room Only Theatre Company as well as Musicals at Richter in Danbury. Woodall is an actor, too, with three musicals so far, and is currently performing in West Side Story.

The A-J Twinz cite Demi Lovato and Alicia Keys as influences on their music, but they also emphasize the role that their families’ own musical backgrounds have played. Woodall shared, “My musical influence comes from my mother; she sings as well. When I was younger, I followed her footsteps and began to sing gospel music.” Curcio said, “My Dad is an amazing guitar player and singer and has his own blues band. My Mom is also a wonderful singer and plays piano and guitar,” adding, “I am very thankful for my sister and how she supports me. She’s always happy for me when I achieve things. She is a wonderful actress and basketball player too.”

You can check out the music of the A-J Twinz and Jasha Woodall’s solo work under ThreeJW on YouTube. I especially recommend their moving performance of Sarah McLachlan’s “In the Arms of an Angel,” recorded at the Young Artist Talent Search.

My favorite compliment from the judges at Sunday’s Young Artist Talent Search was directed to Third-Place winner Sawyer Fredericks: “Sawyer, you sound like you!” praising his unique, authentic sound as a sign of a great musician, that you can’t pin him down to any one particular category. This 13-year-old talented singer/songwriter performed two of his own awesome original songs at that concert: “Not My Girl” and “So Lucky.” Fredericks has such a good voice and seems so present and soulful while he sings. He’s just at home with the music.

Fredericks has been “singing before he could speak, basically singing perfectly pitched nonsense words…quick to pick up melodies he heard and creating his own melodies as well.” Fredericks was 11 years old when he decided that he might be ready to sing in front of an audience, and he joined a local summer children’s choir directed by Katy Cole. He has since learned guitar and recorded a demo CD of six original songs called Breaking Ice: A Demo Collection, selling signed copies at markets and online. He was a featured guest artist on a local radio show, and he has been on the Fab Chart, an independent music chart in England, more than any other artist in its history.

Fredericks has written more than 30 complete original songs and countless partial song “doodles.” In addition to his passion for music, he loves playing soccer, Xbox games, Minecraft, and the Magic the Gathering card game, as well as caring for the animals on the family farm on which he lives with his parents and two brothers near Fultonville. You can learn more about Sawyer Fredericks and hear his music at, and his Facebook fan page at

My congratulations again to Madi Guski, the A-J Twinz and Sawyer Fredericks for their winning accomplishments at the Young Artist Talent Search, which was judged by Tim Herrmann, James Lyles and John Battiloro. For more information about any of the musicians or about future young talent showcases, contact Suanne Elisabeth at [email protected] or


Holiday Open House Party this Friday at Van Wyck Homestead

With our area surrounded by so many modern conveniences like highways, supermarkets and shopping malls, it can be easy to forget some of our rich local history. This Friday, you can take the family to reconnect with some of our pre-Revolutionary roots by stopping in at the Holiday Open House Party at the Van Wyck Homestead Museum. This event takes place on Friday, December 28 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. and includes children’s stories, games, music, a reading of “A Visit from St. Nicholas” and refreshments in the 1732 kitchen. Admission is free, but a donation is recommended.

The Van Wyck Homestead Museum is located at 504 Route 9, near the junction of I-84 and Route 9 in Fishkill. For more information, call (845) 896-9560 or visit


Red Cross Babysitters’ Training this Saturday at Kingston YMCA

My favorite list of questions to ask prospective babysitters comes from one of my favorite books: Protecting the Gift, by Gavin de Becker. This Saturday is another opportunity for caregiver preparedness. Calling all youth between ages 11 and 15 years: Start the New Year as a trained babysitter. The American Red Cross Babysitters’ Training session takes place this Saturday, December 29 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Kingston YMCA. This seven-hour course “will be a guide to leadership, safety tips, understanding kids, caring for children and what to do in case of an emergency.” The cost is $25, and participants should bring a lunch, drinks, snacks and a pen or pencil.

The Kingston YMCA is located at 507 Broadway in Kingston. For more information or to register, call (800) RED-CROSS or visit To learn more about the YMCA, visit




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2 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. Thanks Erica!! Wonderful article <3

  2. Great article, Erica!

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