Music from the heart of Wilton
With seasoned veterans and new voices, Acoustic Wilton returns to perform Saturday, March 11, at 8 p.m. in the Little Theater at Wilton High School with a playlist that spans from a Bob Dylan tune to a Chance the Rapper song and features its first all-girls band.
Tickets are $20, and may be purchased at wiltoneducationfoundation.org or at the door while supplies last. Proceeds from the concert will benefit the Wilton Education Foundation.
Like all teams, Acoustic Wilton has gone through some changes — founding student members have graduated and moved on — but its foundation is solid and its mission has never changed. It brings together students and adults to make music, raise money for the schools, and perhaps most importantly, shine a spotlight on students who might otherwise not get the opportunity to gain recognition for their talent.
Liv Benjamin and Ian Filaski are examples of the “quiet” students with more than a little to give.
Ian is a senior at Wilton High School who has been with Acoustic Wilton since eighth grade.
“Ian has been our Rock of Gibralter,” said Joan Wallace, a member from the beginning who has taken the reins from founder Scott Weber, who is still a performer but has passed the organizational baton to her.
“Ian is one of Scott’s ‘shy kids with the guitar’ who fills in wherever he’s needed. His first Acoustic Wilton gig was playing the guitar for a chorus rendition of Here Comes the Sun.
On Saturday, though, Ian will be joined by two friends — Lucas Mendola and Steffen Nobles — in a performance of Little Black Submarines by indie rock band The Black Keys.
“It’s a band we all like,” Ian said of their selection. “The first part [of the song] is acoustic, then it gets into hard rock. We’re making our own cover. It sounds cool all acoustic.”
Liv, who is a sophomore, found her way to the band through Wallace talking with her mother. Liv sent a recording of her singing.
“Liv was a shocker,” Wallace said. “She’s extremely talented and has a beautiful voice.”
By her own account, Liv said, “I never really get out much,” although she has done some open mic nights in Norwalk.
A serendipitous pairing has Liv and Ian performing Freckles and Constellations by YouTube artist Dodie Clark. They will be backed up by Dan Berg and perhaps Betsy Wallace.
“This is my first time doing it and I’m feeling at home,” Liv said of her Acoustic Wilton debut.
“It’s very low pressure,” Ian said. “It doesn’t really feel like a performance. It’s more of a gathering of people who love music, who are jamming and having a good time.”
While Ian will be playing the guitar for Freckles and Constellations, Liv will be playing the ukulele, which she discovered while vacationing with her family in Hawaii. She was 9 at the time.
“Our hotel room was across the pool from the smoothie shack,” she recalled. “I heard someone play the Lazy Song by Bruno Mars.” When the servers moved aside, she could see it was someone playing the ukulele.
She was instantly smitten. Her mother bought her a “tiny soprano uke” and she learned two songs on the spot from the smoothie shack singer
The novelty wore off and she put it away for a few years, but then she picked it up again and hasn’t put it down since — although now she plays a concert electric ukulele, and that’s what she will be playing while she sings Saturday night.
Liv is in the all-girls choir at school, while Ian said he is involved in “nothing structured” musically, although he takes lessons and plays with friends. It is the easygoing atmosphere of Acoustic Wilton that attracts them both.
“We had our first rehearsal a month ago,” Liv said. “It’s not a lot of commitment, which is why people enjoy it.”
It’s also an opportunity to get to know other people they might not otherwise meet.
“I’ve met other kids,” Ian said. “I never knew Liv until Joan put us on a song together. I’ve gotten to know others better.”
“I talk to the other kids in Acoustic Wilton in school much more,” Liv said. Noting she is a sophomore and Ian is a senior, she added, “I never would have met Ian.”
Lest anyone think Acoustic Wilton is primarily a student “talent show,” it is a true blend of older and younger musical voices.
Ian appreciates “the expertise of the adults — they provide guidance.”
Liv said she was originally going to sing a song called Dog Days Are Over by Florence and The Machine, but she didn’t know the chords. “Then I started singing Freckles and Constellations and Dan [Berg] said, ‘That’s the song.’” Although the song was originally for one ukulele, in Saturday’s performance it will include bass, percussion and guitar.
Adding to the intertwining generations, Wallace said, is “a ‘family affair’ thing going on.” There are multiple members of the Wallace, Berg, Addison, Mendola, and Amodei families participating. “How often do parents get to be on stage with their kids? Or bothers and sisters doing a song together?” she pointed out.
Adult performers include Joan Wallace, Scott Weber, Dan Berg, Molly Mendola, Patty Perry, Kelley Addison, Matt Greene, Adrienne Reedy, and Eric Mendelson. Students are Julia Foodman, Skyler Addison, Brooke Amodei, Lucas Mendola, Steffan Nobles, Betsy Wallace, Joe Appuzzo, Rachel Strazza, Ryan Farinas, Izzy Gouveia, Olivia Gladstein, Taylor LaMantia, Cameron Berg, Sean Maljanian, Ian Filaski, Liv Benjamin, John Fortuna, and Tyler Warren. Ryan Amodei returns as a student alum.
The show runs the gamut musically, with some original work, a “1963 girl ballad, blues by Reedy, and Wallace performing a Beyonce song. Ryan Farinas and Rachel Strazza will do a rap song with high school teacher Eric Mendelson. And this year, Acoustic Wilton features its first all-girl band, freshmen Taylor LaMantia, Olivia Gladstein, and Izzy Gouveia.
No one would divulge the group finale, but Liv promised that “it’s going to be great."