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At Holiday Jam, musicians bridge age divide

Center Stage, a veteran band in the East

Center Stage, a veteran band in the East End live music scene, is joining some local teens for the annual Riverhead Holiday Jam. (Dec. 8, 2010). Credit: Erin Geismar

Donning a red military jacket, black pants and a forward-tilting black cap, Justice Winter, 9, of Riverhead, rattled off a list of musicians and actors in his family.

His mom was a dancer and agent, his sisters were in commercials, and his grandfather once jammed with the Beatles.

So, for Justice, getting on stage to sing Michael Jackson’s “Beat it” and “Billie Jean” with Center Stage, a veteran band in the East End live music scene, didn’t seem like such a big deal.

“He loves the attention,” said his mother, Marilyn, during a band rehearsal Wednesday night. Not to mention that her uncle was once a part of the Center Stage band, she added, so there’s a lot of history there.

Justice is one of four East End Arts Council students performing with Center Stage at the council's annual Holiday Jam concert at 7 p.m. Friday. The concert will benefit the council's School of the Arts scholarship fund.

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The six-member band participated in last year's Holiday Jam, but this time decided to let the students choose their own music, which the band would learn for the performance rather than the other way around.

Band members figured they’d have to learn some of the current songs the students, ages 9 to 13, would want to perform, but instead the students chose songs by V.V. Brown, ABBA and Michael Jackson.

“These songs came out before any of them were born,” said Charlie Parker, a member of the band.

It’s just another nod toward the timelessness of music, said bassist Dennis Cole, along with the generational gap the EEAC is bridging by having the students perform with adults.

Kiera Solomon, 13, of Westhampton, plans to sing V.V. Brown’s “Shark in the Water” with the band at the Holiday Jam. She said she was nervous going into her first rehearsal.

“You know that you’re the youngest one out there,” she said. “So you want to show them what you can do. The nerves just melt away because you have to try not to be a little kid about it, you have to get out there and just do your best.”

The students said they’ve learned from members of Center Stage. Matthias Philips, 12, of East Quogue, said Cole and Parker showed him how to perfect a few notes on his bass. Philips will play bass to accompany Winter, 9, in his Michael Jackson medley.

Maddy Seitles, 10, of East Moriches, will also sing Friday. She’s performing “Dancing Queen,” by ABBA, and said the combination of working with the band and performing in front of such a large crowd has made her practice three times a day for weeks.

Parker said the students are impressive and professional performers who have been a pleasure to work with.

“It’s very rewarding,” he said. “It’s good to know that when I can't pull my strings anymore, there’s going to be someone right behind me that can.”

The concert will be held at Riverhead Polish Hall, 214 Marcy St., Riverhead. Tickets are $15 each or $125 for a table of 10; they are available at the EEAC and online at


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