Reinventing the Wheel: Where the hope lies for Music promoter

By Amy Nicole Tangel

Musicians and the venues they call home are in an unprecedented battle to keep establishments alive while the stages are dark.   But many in the music community say they are finding their hands tied as they desperately seek ways to stay alive.

If the only hope lies in the unity of the music community, music could seemingly live on forever.  In spite of the times, Adam Craig Ellis, promoter and director of marketing at The Paramount in Huntington, N.Y., and his team are giving it their all to utilize the space the best they can to generate revenue until things can fully reopen.

Attached to The Paramount is Spotlight, an art bar, and now restaurant, supporting local artists and musicians where Adam’s new focus as promoter has been reinventing operations since they re-opened in the early summer, after only having initially opened its doors in September 2019.  From the middle of March to the end of June, the Spotlight was closed, and now it has seemingly been a lifeline for The Paramount and some of its staff.

“We were only operating for a couple months before we had to shut everything down,” Adam said.

Being the person responsible for providing entertainment in a time where it barely exists in an essential world has left Adam worried for himself and for fellow colleagues about what the future lies.  During a time when everything was completely shut down, Adam said even though he enjoyed the temporary break from the stress and the pace, he just worked to try and make things better for what’s to come.

With a career spanning 25 years, Adam started out his career doing promotions and marketing for arena football in Florida working for various companies, eventually landing with the Tampa Bay Rays as promotions assistant for a season in 1999. He made his way to New York in 2001, working as promoter for Feld Entertainment, best known for its production of, Disney on Ice.  A couple years later, he signed on with Nassau Coliseum as director of marketing for six and a half years before taking on The Paramount, which he has called home since 2011.

“It’s been quite a ride, and unfortunately now there’s pretty much nothing left of the industry,” he said.

With local venues like Revolution in Amityville, N.Y., recently shutting their doors for good as a direct result of the pandemic, losses are being felt across the board.  Performers and staff of venues across Long Island and throughout the country, including Adam, have taken action by petitioning Congress to help save their stages and their livelihoods.  The #SaveOurStagesAct and the #RestartAct have simultaneously been initiated by the National Independent Venue Association pleading for financial assistance from the federal government to be able to re-open.

Adam said, “If you look at all of Broadway to every trade show, convention, arena, stadium, performer, hot dog vendor, and ticket taker it is something not too many people put too much thought into right now, because it’s not essential and nothing about it is, but to some people it’s their entire lives.”

“It is an opportunity out there for those of us in the industry that have been affected by this to rally around some sort of cause that will be an ability, for at least the venue owners, to recoup some of the expenses that they’ve lost,” he said.

Throughout the summer, Adam brought weekly live music to Spotlight, utilizing a safe and socially-distanced space by opening the restaurant to the street and expanding what he had to work with.  The calendar was filled with events such as live music every Sunday in July and August with singer, Chelsea Takami, Audition-Night-at-Spotlight; a chance for a local Long Island musician to win a spot playing outside under The Paramount Marquee, and special discount days to dine as a way of giving back to support First Responders, Industry and Essential workers in the community.

Adam said the different themes have become an opportunity for he and his staff to become creative with the calendar with fun things to keep them excited and entertained while they wait for the stage at The Paramount to re-open.

With a seating capacity of 1,573, The Paramount is smaller in comparison to arenas and stadiums waiting to re-open, but all the more fragile in how much it can withstand with the doors remaining closed for an indefinite period of time.  Looking at the glass half full, Adam is optimistic in the idea that, because of their smaller nature they will be among the first to re-open, but it then becomes about financially being able to do it.

Although it is too early to tell, Adam said he foresees one of the primary changes to The Paramount upon reopening being the elimination of general admission.  Everyone will have to remain seated, but having previously had regular evenings of comedy shows, boxing, and seated acoustic shows, Adam has confidence in their ability to configure safe, socially-distanced shows moving forward and said furthermore, “they have to.”

“The GA floor with a thousand people on it, moshing, the dancing, the jumping, the sweating; We’re a long way away from that coming back,” he said.

Looking towards the future, Adam said the reality is a lot of people in the industry have had to rethink their careers, but he is just trying to stay hopeful and stick with it taking it all one day at a time. 

For more information about upcoming events at Spotlight, visit http://www.spotlightny.com, and to keep up to date with future happenings at The Paramount go to http://www.paramountny.com.

Photos courtesy of Adam Craig Ellis & Kate Fox

A Window to the Soul

By Amy Nicole Tangel

While summer is coming to a close and we go forward into the next chapter of the new unknown, for many artists it is a very dark time, but through it all humanity is resilient and there is a light shining bright in one musician who has turned his time off-stage into an opportunity to help others.

By day, Frank Junior Guertin has worked as an IT Specialist for Nassau County for the past 27 years, but for the rest of the time he is a father and member of Long Island Rock band, Craving Strange.  As one of the original members for the past 13 years, other than a brief hiatus while raising his son, the 46-year-old guitarist has been a foundation of the band on lead guitar.  Most recently, he has taken his found time during the shutdown to not only make new music with the band, but to start his own blog, Frank Junior: Pages of My Life; sharing some of the most painful and intimate details of his life with readers in hopes of giving insight and support to those need.

“It’s just a window into me; who I am, what I have been through,” he said.

Sitting in the Craving Strange studio in Amityville, N.Y., Frank sat back to talk about what he describes as a bumpy road in life; from his childhood to his passion for music, his life with addiction and the gift of sobriety, topped off by his love for his son and how it all led up to his recent mission to pay forward. 

Frank, remembers third grade being a lonely time for him and having no friends.  Attending Catholic school during a time when all the kids on the playground were playing kickball and baseball, left Frank, who was the only one in his class listening to KISS and Led Zeppelin, sitting on the sidelines by himself.

“For years, I was just shunned away.  I had to figure out, as a child, how to take care of me…at an early age, it’s just what I had to do,” he said.

Frank always loved music and at 4-years-old he said he first felt drawn to guitars when his older sister started taking lessons.  He would beg the instructor to let him hold the guitar after every lesson and the instructor would encourage him, so when Frank turned five, he was finally able to begin taking lessons.  Beginning with lessons from Lou Capic, Frank went all-in learning how to play guitar and at the age of fourteen he first taught with Al Pitrelli, best known for his work with Megadeth, Alice Cooper and Trans-Siberian Orchestra at Focus II Guitar Center- New York Music Emporium in Bellmore.

At 16-years-old, Frank experienced a tragedy no child should ever have to face when he came home from school and found his father passed away in the basement from an aneurysm. In Frank’s eyes his father was his mentor, the rock of the family and his best friend.  He was left devastated and haunted by the memory of not only having to be the one to tell his mother, but the entire family turned to him to bring everyone together, and he said it was too much pressure to take.  Frank had never even experienced death in his young life before his father’s passing, and it turned his world upside down.  Frank ultimately turned to drugs and alcohol to deal with his pain.  Before his father’s passing, Frank said he never even thought about drugs or alcohol and that life was good; he felt safe. 

“I was alone raising myself.  My brother and sister split, my family members moved away.  I was alone, so I then dove into the wrong things, because I had such pain; I didn’t know how to cope with pain,” he said.

As much as Frank hopes readers will be validated in their own life struggles by reading about his heartbreaks, he seeks to spread positivity and hope to inspire people with his stories of sobriety which he credits in large part to the birth of his son.  The day Frank found out he was going to have a son he was also given the alarming news his unborn son had Gastroschisis, a birth defect in which the intestines grow outside of abdominal wall, and there was a high chance he wouldn’t survive. 

Frank made the decision the minute he found out he was going to be a father to stop all drinking and drugs immediately, did a two-week detox in his house and began attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings.  He would go during lunch breaks, at night, weekends and Sunday mornings where he found a men’s meeting he just gravitated to, and eventually became his home group.

“I never stopped.  I went every day,” he said.

When Frank’s son was born, the baby underwent surgery to correct the defect and Frank said he was told the baby would probably be in an incubator for months, but miraculously his son was home in three weeks and has never had a stomach issue ever again.  Although there are some special needs, they go through them together, and  Frank said his now, 15-year-old son Frankie who has recently followed in his father’s footsteps and picked up the guitar, is the strong one, a true warrior and his inspiration.

“Everything my father taught me I instilled on him, and he’s brought it back home,” he said.

The blog is not about the follows or the likes for Frank who will celebrate 15 years of sobriety this upcoming February 2, but the connection he makes with people by sharing his stories.  He said right now with all the negative, the anger and the fear in people’s minds, it turns into situations, so for his blog to be a place for people to learn how to face problems and come out of them for the better, it’s a win.

“I love helping people.  I do.  What matters is who we are inside and the love we give each other,” he said.

As for the music in Frank’s life, Craving Strange has been in the studio separately and now together throughout the pandemic.  While live shows are on hold, they have been live streaming from time to time, including a recent performance for News 12, and have just finished recording three new songs with the first titled, “Rise” being released this upcoming October.

To read Frank’s blog visit, www.frankjuniorpagesofmylife.rocks and to keep up with all happenings Craving Strange, you can follow them on  Instagram, Facebook, www.craingstrange.net, and watch live YouTube content on www.youtube.com/cravingstrange.

Photos courtesy of Frank Junior Guertin

Celebrity Chef Jonathan Scinto talks food, family and helping others

By Amy Nicole Tangel

Chef Jonathan Scinto may have reached celebrity status from cooking in front of the camera, but for Jonathan, his true focus is on his evolving homegrown entertainment company, upcoming projects, and first and foremost, his family.

Long before MasterChef and Rooftop Chopped, the Queens native said he began cooking somewhere between the age of 4 and 5 years old, and while many other children were watching cartoons, he was watching Julia Child and making scrambled eggs on the floor.  Before he even knew what he was making, he said he would take food out of the refrigerator and just blend things together.  Even though he jokes it was a mess for his mother, Jonathan said she always encouraged him and let him run with it.

“My mom allowed me to really get in the kitchen and have some fun,” he said.

Even though Jonathan loved to cook, during his school years he focused primarily on his passion for art.  He received a scholarship to study art at the University of Hartford in Connecticut, but after his first year he felt overwhelmed and something inside him told him he needed to just get to work.  Jonathan said he always had an entrepreneur mindset, and over the course of time, he continued to cook and worked for various businesses while he took classes at New York Institute of Technology (NYIT).

With time and commitment, Jonathan received a BFA in Computer Graphics from NYIT, and said learning those skills in particular benefitted him tremendously with his cooking career and his ability to maximize all of his social media platforms.  After completing his degree at NYIT, Jonathan began cooking for Post Perfect, a post production company in Manhattan formerly located in the old Daily News building, and worked his way to Catering and Client Services Manager while cooking for artists such as Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey, Linkin Park and CEOs for various television networks.  It was during his time at Post Perfect where he said he really paid attention to his clients and how they represented themselves to help him grow his business.

A year later, 9/11 happened and the NYC company suffered a financial casualty as a result of the tragedy, so when Jonathan showed up for work one day to chains on the doors, he was left blindsided and wondering where to turn.  Although the loss left him unsure about what to do with his career, the entrepreneur in Jonathan kicked in, and between 2002 and 2003, he opened his first restaurant, Home Cookin Café, in Bayshore, N.Y., with his father.  Only two years later, his father fell ill, and they sold the business.  Jonathan then became the Assistant Director of Admissions and Director of Recreational Cooking Classes at the Culinary School and worked night and day.  He tried to make the most of it, but he was wasn’t happy.

One day, he came home from work and he said his wife, Annmarie, suggested he quit his job and find something that would make him happy.  Jonathan said she told him he looked deflated and it was upsetting for her to see him that way.  He could not believe what he was hearing and was stunned.

“I just sat there and debated it for like a full day, and the next day after we had that conversation she said, MasterChef was auditioning in New York City and that I had to go audition,” he said.

At the time in 2014, Jonathan said he had already developed a decent social media presence, so when MasterChef called him, they offered a VIP Audition with only hours to prepare.  Jonathan stayed up until 5 a.m. creating a dish and said he made it to the 5:30 a.m. train by the skin of his teeth, with his backpack of food in tow.  He had three minutes to prepare with no cooking allowed, and he plated his food in less than a minute.

“I made a chicken marsala soup and I had a military thermos to keep it hot,” he said.

From that moment, Jonathan spent approximately four months overall going through the process to successfully make it on MasterChef Season 6.  Contestants were disconnected from the world and lived in hotels with limited access to television and communication with loved ones.  For Jonathan, this was a challenge for him having a wife and daughters at home, but he said his wife supported him all along the way.  Before he left, he said he made videos for all of them to watch while he was away to help pass the time and stay connected in anticipation of little to no contact for a period of time while filming.  Throughout the entire MasterChef experience, Jonathan made the most of everything and said he even journaled every day and took guesses on who was going to stay or go.

“These TV shows, there is real cooking; there is no question about that, but it’s story based,” he said.

The two-time New York State “Taste of America” Champion in Seafood said when he came home from MasterChef he was ready to hit the ground running and start his own business.  He began cooking for charity events and with his wife by his side, they launched, Chef Jonathan’s Private Parties & Events.  The first year they did approximately 40-50 events and he said with the goal of wanting to help people, they gave away six figures that year through dinners they were cooking for.

With the support of local newspapers, Newsday and News 12, word began to spread for Jonathan’s business and helped them gain more dinners to host to help raise money.  March of Dimes, St. Jude’s, and countless local organizations that offer services for children and mental health, Jonathan said, are especially important for him to be a part of, because of his own daughter with special needs.  The first two years was taking no paycheck and networking, and he said it was really tough, but each year they grew.

Over the years, Chef Jonathan, who became well-known for his “Itasian” style cooking; taking traditional Italian cooking and adding an Asian flare, can also be seen on cooking competition shows such as Food Network’s Chopped and has pursued a career in acting appearing on hit shows, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Quantico, Blacklist: Redemption and Homeland.  He has been featured in Forbes and Good Housekeeping magazines and makes appearances such as his most recent stop with his live cooking show, Get’n Saucy with Scinto, at the Jacob Javits Center on March 10, 2020, just days before the shutdown. 

Throughout all of the hard work and successes, Jonathan has been fighting a very rare muscle disease known as, Schulman Syndrome, and last July it suddenly caught up with him. One day, while enjoying a family lunch at a pizza place, Jonathan suddenly started sweating profusely and the whole right side of his body went completely numb.  Trying not to alarm the children, they quietly made their way out, and his wife rushed him to the hospital to learn Jonathan had suffered a minor stroke. Prior to the stroke, Jonathan appeared on the cover of Preferred Health Magazine and openly shared his story with readers across the country. He made it a mission to share his illness and began working to spread awareness with hopes to help other people who are suffering from the disease.  Having suffered such a blow to his health, forced him to once again, re-evaluate his path; leading him to make the painful decision to take a step-back from full-time cooking.

“I really hide it well.  The pain that I go through on a daily basis is just crazy,” he said.

In true Scinto fashion, this did not mean the entrepreneur was quitting anything, but setting his sights in a new direction.  Taking all his years of experience, Jonathan said he decided it was time to start filming his own shows, so the actor, chef and philanthropist created and launched, JS Entertainment. Development for Family Kitchen Revival began in January 2019 and by July they were filming.  In the show, Jonathan hosts and cooks for eight families who want to say thank you to people who have helped them get through a difficult time in life.  He said he wanted to know as little as possible about each family to keep it as real and organic as possible.

Season 1 premiered on Amazon Prime in November of 2019 to great success, and while he is hoping to create a second season when things open back up for filming, for now Jonathan said he is in the process of redeveloping the show and working with a network who is planning to bring the show to an even bigger audience and a new platform very soon.

“As a whole we reached millions of people, which is just very rare for a tv show that has no major advertising,” he said.

Currently, Jonathan is getting ready to go back into production in September with a new show called, Two Dudes Get’n Saucy, a play on the name of Dudes Gourmet, a spice company he works with. The program will be an entertainment show set in different restaurants, venues and locations to talk about pop culture with various people.  They are working on the platform, but Jonathan is expecting it will be released first on Amazon.

In everything Jonathan does he said he tries to focus on balance.  From family, to cooking, filmmaking and especially social media, he said he gives his all to every facet of his life.  With social media being such a responsibility to use, he said he has learned over the years to ignore the bullies and move on.  He said he was bullied as a child and has been bullied on social media, and he knows how that can make a person feel, so he has been especially watchful of his teenage daughter and as a parent with everything going on in the world he keeps a careful eye.

At the end of the day, family is everything to Jonathan.  He balances his life around their happiness and takes life one day at a time bringing people together wherever he goes.

Family Kitchen Revival is available to stream on Roku through the Glewed TV App for free, and you can follow Chef Jonathan Scinto on Facebook and Instagram to keep up on all happenings.

Photos Courtesy of Chef Jonathan Scinto