Art, Dance, Music & Theater

The Evolution of the Tree Stumps: Russ and Ron Jankowski

The earliest version of The Tree Stumps included signature members, brothers Ron and Russ Jankowski. From childhood, Ron and older brother Russ played as a duet or trio for church functions and parties, with Ron on guitar and Russ on accordion and occasionally on drums. Like many Cleveland kids in the 1950s, Russ took up the accordion and later switched to the electric organ for the onslaught of rock ‘n’ roll (he still uses the same accordion in his current band).  Ron played guitar from age seven on, cutting his teeth on groups like the Ventures.

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Volume 1, Issue 5, Posted 4:10 PM, 10.30.2013

Is Cleveland Becoming a Filmmaking Mecca?

In 1940 Cleveland was the fifth-largest city in the nation.  But since the post-war years, Cleveland has lost much of its industry, more than half its population and, more important, its sense of identity.

Like many other post-industrial cities, Cleveland has been trying to reinvent itself.  It hasn’t been easy. Once known as a manufacturing powerhouse, we’ve become known as a “foodie” town. The cuisine draws people from all over the region to sample culinary delights, the list of which has grown larger than the stalwart pierogies and brats found in most traditional pubs on both sides of the river.

The Greater Cleveland Film Commission also hopes to make Cleveland a much larger draw for something else: Hollywood.  Several blockbuster movies have come to town recently and, while flying under the radar of the mega-budgeted movies, so have many small, independent, micro-budgeted films.

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Volume 1, Issue 4, Posted 4:26 PM, 10.03.2013

I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane

It was Christmas morning, I was 8 years old, and a big mysterious box with my name on it was staring at me from under the tree. I anxiouosly awaited the time to open it, pretending like I didn't even notice it. I peeled off the paper and opened the box to find a brand-new Olympic White Fender Stratocaster, just like Jimi Hendrix played. It was love at first sight! I remember my pops showing me how to play "Iron Man" by Ozzy and some Nirvana tunes. That is where it all started, I was on my way. I would lock my bedroom door and stand in front of my mirror with my guitar and lip-sync to songs by Led Zeppelin, Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana. I wanted to be Kurt Cobain.

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Volume 1, Issue 4, Posted 4:31 PM, 10.03.2013

Fairview Park's Rock and Roll Hair Designer: An Interview With George Yunis

George Yunis is a man of many talents. He is an icon in the world of Rock and Roll and a hair wizard at Fusions Salon and Spa in Fairview Park. Loved by many from all generations, George knows how to give his passion on the stage and on the salon floor. I had the honor and pleasure of speaking with George in an exclusive interview.

How long have you been in Cleveland?

I’ve lived here all of my life and I love it, but it's a damp town. I always wear a scarf around my neck, even in the summer. As a singer, I need to protect my vocal cords.

Do you "warm up" before a gig?

Yes. I learned vocal techniques and a warm-up method from one of my vocal coaches. Mental preparation also goes along with warming up and getting focused. 

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Volume 1, Issue 4, Posted 4:40 PM, 10.03.2013

The Evolution of The Tree Stumps: Mike Hay, Part 1

As a founding member of The Tree Stumps, Mike Hay left an indelible mark on the local music scene. The evolution of the band would include many lineups of talented young musicians. But Mike was the early cornerstone and in retrospect, he was a figurative pioneer in the local West Shore music scene.

The Very Early Years

In the late 50’s Mike was taking guitar lessons at Grabowski Music in Fairview Park. There, he purchased his first guitar and cleaned the store during off hours to pay for it. Interested in starting a pop music band, there were very few other young musicians around to draw on other than formal school bands. Searching for another guitar player, he called Grabowski’s flagship store in Parma where he was referred to Ron Jankowski, also taking lessons. They quickly teamed up, practicing in the Jankowski basement. Older brother Russ would soon join on accordion occasionally and later play organ full time. Their first jobs were at the Irish American Club on Lorain Rd. playing mostly instrumental hits of the era with some standards mixed in for good measure.

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Volume 1, Issue 3, Posted 7:54 PM, 09.03.2013

Cherie Brennan, Singer Song-writer, Lights Up Rocky River Church

The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Rocky River threw open its doors the night of Friday August 24th to Cherie Brennan, the Florida-based Christian Inspirational songwriter and singer, for a concert previewing her new CD release ‘He Loves You a Lot.’

Seated behind a Yamaha electric keyboard, in front of the church’s pipe organ, the blonde, soulful singer, with a hint of country-western twang in her voice, wove a tapestry of stories and songs together for a 90-minute show that kept her audience both delighted and enthralled.

“It took me three years to complete this CD (her second) and there were many challenges and seeming obstacles in my path, but God sustained me at every turn,”` she said. “I have been incredibly blessed. I give credit to God, who, as always, has given me the music, lyrics, and the inspiration for singing, playing, and writing.”

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Volume 1, Issue 2, Posted 4:38 PM, 09.12.2012

Lively Up Yourself | Rockport Impresario Packy Malley Celebrates Over Two Decades of Festivity, Roots Rub-a-Dub Reggae Style (This Year Including a 5K Run)

For legions of friends, fans, and acquaintances, the name Packy Malley is associated with some of the best times of their lives, the musical mountain-top moments that set the standard for exhilarating exuberance and life is good epiphany.

For close to 25 years, the Fairview Park native son and Rocky River resident has been synonymous with good music, good times, and afterglow memories reaching back to his days at Ohio State, plugging in an amp and putting on the parties at a little slice of Eden recalled by many from the Buckeye campus as Mirror Lake. It was there that many first boarded the bus that would forge lasting friendships and annual musical rejuvenation.

Since those initial halycon days of merry prankstering, Packy has perfected the art of festivity, most notably through the annual creation of his Midwest Reggae Fest, now celebrating its 21st year, setting up this weekend at Whiskey Island's Wendy Park on Saturday (following stretches at Nelson Ledges and Meadowridge Farm) with a special Sunday follow-up show at the Beachland Ballroom.

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Volume 1, Issue 2, Posted 6:10 PM, 08.06.2012

Rocky River's School That Rocks!

Mike Shields, a local songwriter and musician, recently told me that “everyone should be in a rock band”. Mike didn’t need to explain - I already knew that being in a band has unique benefits. Working in a team environment, band members collaborate to create a musical product and to present that product to the public. This process of self expression and camaraderie has the potential to alleviate perceived or real fears and inadequacies, especially for children and teens.  In my opinion, “rocking out” can be a confidence-builder for anyone.

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Volume 1, Issue 2, Posted 9:43 AM, 08.21.2013

“When the Music’s Over, Turn Out the Lights”

On a Saturday night in July, Stamper’s Grill Pub in Fairview Park, hosted the Reunion/Evolution of the local rock band, The Tree Stumps. If you were fortunate enough to get in the door, you were part of a “standing room only” crowd, soaking in the humidity and good vibes. Everyone rocked to three sets of vintage songs performed by combinations of many of the band’s former members, including Mike Hay, Ron and Russ Jankowski, Woody Leffel, Alan Howarth, Michael Stanley, Kendall Stauffer and Gary Harrington. Supporting musicians were friends and family: Norm Strelka, Dan Jankowski, Adam Christian, Bob Wick and Chuck Inglefield. Truly a reunion, many members, friends and fans had not seen each other in 40 years. Over $2,000 was collected for the local charity of St. Jude Church. 

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Volume 1, Issue 2, Posted 7:54 AM, 08.02.2013

On a Treasure Hunt for Silver Tips from the Eponymous Antique Shop Owner

Are you looking for summer fun? Venture into shops when you are on vacation, head off to a summer estate sale or visit the antique dealer in your own backyard. These are all wonderful places to find treasures. And silver is one such treasure to look for.  As a shopkeeper, I hear people comment that silver is out of style and not appreciated. I feel differently. However, with the general public losing its affection for silver and silver prices falling, there could be more bargains for the rest of us.  So get out there and start looking for silver! You will get hooked trying to identify: maker, origin, pattern and the type of piece you find. In this article, I hope to inspire you and arm you with the tools needed to go on the hunt.

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Volume 1, Issue 2, Posted 7:54 AM, 08.02.2013

Rock Haul | Three Rocky River School of Rock Students Make 2012 School of Rock All Stars Tour, perform at Brothers Lounge this Sunday

Three Rocky River School of Rock (SOR) players, Jake Cohen (17), Dan Hyland (16), and Evan Nickels (18) joined the School of Rock AllStars Tour and will perform this Sunday, July 8 at Brothers Lounge as part of the LOVE HOPE STRENGTH AllStars Tour, a tour that has made summer stops at rock venues throughout the Midwest, the rock disciples playing alongside professional bands and with the franchise’s most talented young musicians hailing from surrounding states.

Music featured on the LOVE HOPE STRENGTH Tour will include selections from The Beatles, led zeppelin, King Crimson, Carole King, Beastie Boys, the Pretenders and Cleveland’s the Dead Boys.

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Volume 1, Issue 2, Posted 10:26 AM, 07.06.2012

Winners All The 22nd Annual Rocky River Art Exhibit

Thanks to the staff and volunteers, the Rocky River Senior Center was transformed into an art gallery for two weeks in July. The walls of the center vibrated with color from more than 180 pictures submitted by 74 artists. Serene scenes of summer and winter, portraits and drawings drew appreciative looks from viewers, while a few pictures of animals - ferocious or not - elicited smiles from young and old. The judges must have had a hard time picking the winners!

Best of Show was awarded to Terry McGovern for his oil painting, Diversions at Sea. The theme of painting was captured by several musical instruments used by sailors in the 18th-19th century to wile away the long days at sea. Terry, a Rocky River native, took to art early on, acquired some training in high school and college, and planned  for an art career in advertising.


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Volume 1, Issue 2, Posted 6:25 AM, 08.02.2013

Wood-n't It Be Nice... | International Dutch painter premieres new works on wood at Cravings

Paul Sykes has been supporting art and bringing artists into his Cravings since taking it over in 2010, creating a cultural cafe on Lake Road that presents fresh and engaging work on a rotating basis.

He and Cravings will host Dutch painter, Rob Vander Zee, at an opening reception of an exhibit of  Vander Zee's paintings, entitled "Organic Nature," oil and varnish on wood on Saturday, July 7th from 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.

Rob Vander Zee (click here for artist's site) travels the world in search of inspiration for his paintings. Since childhood, the world’s cultures and natural environments have fascinated him. Now, at thirty-eight, his childhood wonder continues to grow as he explores some of the world’s most remote and beautiful places. During his travels, he carefully studies each environment - taking photographs, making notes in art journals, and mentally abosrbing as much of the feel and flavor of each place as his mind can absorb. Recent trips to Italy, the Galapagos Islands, and the Ecuadorian rainforests have been fertile grounds for his imagination, spurring two of his most recent series of paintings: “Sacred Earth” and “Visions of Paradise.”

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Volume 1, Issue 2, Posted 4:09 PM, 06.19.2012

A World of Water Color

The Aquarelle Society was organized in 1996 by six watercolor artists from the West Shore area. The group has since expanded to sixteen artists who meet weekly from September through May with professional artists conducting classes with demonstrations and critiques of work created both in class and otherwise.

The purpose of these classes is to improve skills through instruction, learning from each other, and painting for personal enjoyment and artistic fulfillment.

Classes usually begin at 9:30 AM and run until noon, however, four all-day workshops are conducted throughout the season for more concentrated sessions.The group is limited in number due to the space available in the Rocky River Public Library's Community Room that still allows enough area for each artist to work unrestricted.

The Aquarelle Society exhibits paintings periodically in libraries, city halls and  community centers throughout the West Shore area.  Classes have been held continuously at the Rocky River Library since its founding sixteen years ago (except for a two year period when the Library was being renovated). Each year a donation is given to the

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Volume 1, Issue 2, Posted 11:16 AM, 07.02.2013

Free Antiques Appraisal Fair

Free Antiques Appraisal Fair

Sunday, July 14

Rocky River Public Library and the City of Rocky River will cosponsor a free Antiques Appraisal Fair as part of the city’s annual River Days celebration on Sunday, July 14 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. at the Don Umerley Civic Center.  The Center is located at 21016   Hilliard Boulevard on the city hall campus complex.

The Antiques Appraisal Fair features six local experts who will speak with you individually about your antiques and collectibles, give you some idea of their value, and tell you where to find further information.  They will provide free informal appraisals.  All participants in the Antiques Appraisal Fair will be limited to one item or set per person. 

This will be your chance to have a free consultation with experienced professionals about your heirlooms.  The appraisers have a broad range of expertise including furniture, paintings and prints, decorative home antiques, pottery, vintage clothing, bric-a-brac, sports memorabilia, jewelry, silver, porcelain, stamps and coins. 

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Volume 1, Issue 1, Posted 9:51 AM, 07.01.2013

Everything Old Is New Again: A Rockport Greeting from the Eponymous Antique Shop Owner

Thanks to the Rockport Observer for inviting me to write a column. These installments will inform you about antiques, how they can work in your life and some fun and crazy things that happen to me while I buy and sell people’s treasures. 

The antique business has been dominated by an older generation and in theworld of antiques I am considered young. As a new generation, my perspective may be a little different; that being said, when I say, “This is not your grandmother’s antique shop” it is not being disrespectful, it is just letting you know that our attitude and approach is different. 

You will get to know me better as you read future articles, but why waste any time. How can antiques be a part of your life? The philosophy of gift giving for some can be summed up with two words “BRAND NEW”; others may disagree and give a gift that has age. For those who buy only new items, consider the tradition of a vintage or antique piece. And this would be one thing I hope to impart now and in future articles. An antique or vintage piece can make the perfect gift and turning to a shop like Mitchell Sotka may be the perfect solution for that special gift giving occasion.

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Volume 1, Issue 1, Posted 10:52 AM, 07.02.2013