Acoustic Wilton returns with a new lineup

Acoustic Wilton — 26 members strong — will take to the stage in the Little Theater at Wilton High School, 395 Danbury Road, at 7:30 on Saturday, March 22. The event will raise money for the Wilton Education Foundation and Wilton Youth Council. Both groups will have a reception at 6:30 with refreshments to showcase programs and events as well as fund-raising and volunteer opportunities.

Tickets are $20 and may be purchased online at wiltonyouth.org or wiltoneducationfoundation.org.

At next Saturday’s event, Acoustic Wilton will say hello to new members, say good-bye to one veteran and welcome back two returning students.

For Cole Smith, who has been a member of Acoustic Wilton since his freshman year, the concert will be bittersweet. He is leaving a group that has helped him flourish as a musician, but he will move on to new challenges in college. The institution is not yet decided upon, but he told The Bulletin last week he plans to double major in music and environmental science.

Until he joined the group, Cole, who plays the violin, was focused on a classical repertoire.

Playing with Acoustic Wilton, where the music can range from folk to country, jazz, blues, pop, bluegrass and zydeco, “was demanding,” he said. Without the aid of sheet music “I played what I heard. I was forced to improvise.”

As a result, he said, he has developed an interest in jazz and other musical genres. He also joined with three new friends from Acoustic Wilton — Forrest Rappaport, Ryan Amodei and Wes Wallace — in forming a band called Greyrocks. He’s also been asked to play with other musicians and a spin-off of the group in Weston called Acoustic Weston.

And, he’s gotten into doing some writing. “If I have an idea I’ll play it, expand on it, whatever comes up,” he said.

Next Saturday he will play a zydeco tune with Will Comer and a jazz number, Tchovolo Swing.

Cole’s talent has not gone unnoticed.

“I have never performed with anyone who is as musically talented as Cole,” said Scott Weber, Acoustic Wilton’s founder. “I am sure many of the performers in Acoustic Wilton would say the same.

“Cole has great versatility as a musician. He can play classical, reggae, folk, rock, zydecajun — really anything. And what is most fascinating is that he hears something one time and then plays it like he wrote it.”

On the flip side, Wilton High School sophomores Daniel Walter and Jared Gladstein are the new kids on the block, making their Acoustic Wilton debut. Both are guitar players and have been friends since eighth grade. They have just started a band called — at least for now — Split Second with friends Tristan Clark and Brennan Murtha and hope to play in the Battle of the Bands later this month at Trackside Teen Center.

Daniel said they were interested in joining Acoustic Wilton because it’s for a good cause and Jared said, “We play a lot through amps and we like the idea of acoustic music.”

At the concert they will play Melissa by the Allman Brothers Band with adult members Dave Keefe and Matt Greene.

The two friends went to last year’s concert, which is what sparked their interest in the group. They had no idea their friends — Ace Sakamoto, Wes Wallace or Forrest Rappaport — were musicians, too.

Asked to offer some advice to Daniel and Jared, Cole said, “Don’t be afraid. If you have new ideas, don’t be afraid to tell Scott. He’s truly an open guy. Some of the best performances were based on kids speaking up and giving their own musical twists.”

Family act

The Reedy family has more than one musical talent, but Acoustic Wilton has been the province of Quinn Reedy, a sophomore who has been with the group three years. His mother Adrienne, is a well-known gospel singer who knows complications can arise when a parent and child participate in something together.

“I loved it,” she said of Acoustic Wilton, “but I never, ever wanted to be in it unless he was comfortable with it.”

When Mr. Weber asked Ms. Reedy if she would join, she first asked Quinn if he was OK with it.

“I love the concerts,” she said. “They have been really wonderful. I feel honored to be part of it. I did not want to go in and take over or take away from him.”

Far from her gospel repertoire, she will perform Stevie Wonder’s Signed, Sealed Delivered and I Don’t Wanna Be by Gavin DeGraw.

“I always try to do something that has a nice universal-type message that goes beyond the culture,” she said. “I just try to bring songs that will work for everyone.” Of these songs, which Mr. Weber suggested, she said, “I like the message. It’s not the kind of music I usually sing. It’s more of a challenge.”

As for Quinn, she and he recently sang the national anthem at a Wilton-Ridgefield basketball game. It was their second time performing together.

“You know how it is working with your kids,” she said. “They don’t always like to listen to you.” But, she added, “musically we have an understanding. When it comes to music he can take advice and it’s not his mom talking. I loved it and I hope we can do it again.”

Fifth anniversary

Next Saturday’s concert will mark Acoustic Wilton’s fifth anniversary. Over the past four years, the group has raised more than $20,000 for the Wilton Education Foundation and produced two CDs, which will be for sale at the show. They may also be purchased online at http://www.events.org/cpage.aspx?e=72375.

The money raised has helped the foundation expand music and arts in the schools and help establish a new artist-in-residence program.

The songs to be performed at the concert span the range from Etta James’ At Last to Imagine Dragons’ Radioactive as well as some original material.

Student performers are Caitlin Witty, Quinn Reedy, Cole Smith, Betsy Wallace, Peter McDowell, Carter Vail, Morgan Denslow, Wes Wallace, Jared Gladstein, Daniel Walter, Paulina Schaefer, Ryan Amodei, Jackie Cooke, Andrew Sakamoto, John D’Elisa, Cam Berg, Forrest Rappaport, Ian Filaski, Will Comer, and Laura Knapp.

The adult members are Scott Weber, Joan Wallace, Dan Berg, Molly Mendola, Dave Keefe, Matt Greene, Patty Perry, Sue Broudy, Maggie Jo Shapiro, Adrienne Reedy, Chris Brown, and Kelley Addison.

Returning will be Nicole Smirnov and Ellie Mendola.

“All of these students and adults are wonderfully talented,” said Mr. Weber. “It’s really amazing to find a group of individuals who mesh so well musically and who come from very diverse musical backgrounds. And then realize they only get to play together a couple of times a year.

“I am really pleased that Acoustic Wilton has made such a contribution to our community, both financially and musically. This went far beyond my expectations from when we started this back in 2009.”