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News : Entertainment Dec 12, 2012 - 12:32:21 AM

The Pop Music Academy Showcase to Raise Money for the Bennett Cancer Center and Music Scholarships

By The Pop Music Academy in Stamford

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Christine Occhino, owner and artistic director of The Pop Music Academy in Stamford, will donate a portion of the proceeds of The Pop Music Academy's Showcase Performance on January 10th, 2013, to the Bennett Cancer Center’s Music Therapy program as well as towards scholarships for underprivileged students. To purchase tickets and for details about how to contribute to the causes, call 203-322-4767 or email (contributed photo)
Professional musicians and aspiring student performers will be featured at The Pop Music Academy Showcase Performance at the Rippowam Middle School Auditorium (381 High Ridge Road, Stamford) on January 12th, 2013, at 7:00pm (doors open at 6:30pm). Christine Occhino, owner and artistic director of The Pop Music Academy, will donate a portion of the proceeds to the Bennett Cancer Center’s Music Therapy program as well as towards scholarships for underprivileged students at the Academy. “I am so delighted to be able to have this showcase to keep the performing arts alive and well in our community and to help raise funds for Stamford Hospital’s Music Therapy Department and student scholarships. This will provide an opportunity for low-income students to have access to a quality performing arts education and be exposed to the various professional opportunities in the music industry,” explains Christine. Hosted by esteemed jazz vocalist Richard “Cookie” Thomas, the event will have live music accompaniment by “Last Call,” a professional Top 40 band that includes instructors from the Academy. A guest speaker from the Bennett Cancer Center will be present at the event to raise awareness and answer questions about the Stamford Hospital’s Music Therapy department. Tickets are $10 for kids (under 18) and seniors, $15 for adults, and $25 for VIP seating and can be purchased at The Pop Music Academy at 1200 High Ridge Road in Stamford. For office hours and details about how to contribute to the causes, the public can call 203-322-4767, visit, or email

Featured student showcase performers will be (from Stamford) Sophia Davila, Caroline Emery, Kate Gunnip, Shannon Lyons, Cristina Mazzeo, Michael McDonald, Francesca Nault, Sophia Negyesi, Emmely Orozco, Joshua Pickel, Adriana Rabita, Caitlin Reynolds, Aaron Stark, Sophia Seeger, Zoë Usowski, and Ionna Zoumboulis; (from Westport) Lucy Kaplan; (from Rowayton) Grey Zeigler; (from Darien) Molly Cutter and Audrey Rowe; (from Greenwich) Sophia Georgas; (from Norwalk) Isabella Bardos and Aimee Madigan; and (from New Canaan) Gabrielle Balzano, Grayson Connors, and Elaine Rojas. Other participating artists of the Last Call band ( include vocalist Christine Occhino, guitarist Pete Cornell, drummer Michele Pimpinella, bassist Chris Marrone, and pianist Bryan Dmuchowski. Cornell is a New York University graduate with a degree in Music Composition and currently performs as a guitarist in two bands, composes original music, and shares his talents with students at the Academy. Pimpinella has been drumming since childhood, studying with several jazz legends and establishing two bands in Fairfield County, in addition to dancing competitively for the greater portion of her life. She graduated from American University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Communication and Marketing. Marrone is a talented bassist and Berklee College of Music graduate with a degree is Music Production and Engineering, currently performing with two different bands, concentrating on classical training with modern application. Dmuchowski is a pianist, composer, music director and educator that has performed in a wide variety of venues, including the famous Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis. He has been honored as one of the top jazz pianists in Connecticut for three years straight, and graduated cum laude from Boston College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Music and Performance.

Located just off the Merritt Parkway exit 35, the Pop Music Academy opened its doors in February 2012 and has been growing steadily since, attracting students from all around Connecticut and New York. As the only pop music school of its kind in the region, The Pop Music Academy offers a plethora of performing arts classes from vocal and instrument instruction to advanced artist development coaching. Private and group classes are currently offered for voice, guitar, keyboard, performance, musical theatre, acting, dance, college and audition prep for the performing arts, artist development and recording studio production, music business consulting, songwriting, and music production and engineering. Since opening, students have received training leading to accomplishments in movie roles, commercial spots, professional agency deals, and original music CD creation ready for shopping to record labels and artist management. Students benefit from the synergy within classes and coaches, being able to have a variety of instruction all under one roof. Many students enjoy going straight from voice lessons to instrument lessons, having the opportunity to combine both skill sets to learn to accompany themselves and begin the singer/songwriter process.
Artistic Director, Christine Occhino, has a Bachelor's Degree in Music Business and Management from the prestigious Berklee College of Music, where she received a scholarship as a vocalist. A singer, actor, model, and dancer, she has performed in TV, videos, print ads, fundraisers, nightclubs, with live bands as well as acted in theatre and film, including a scene in a feature film with Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino and Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson. She has headlined at venues throughout New England and was selected to perform with Michael MacDonald, Mavis Staples, and Chucho Valdés for the Berklee Commencement Concert in the 7,000-seat Boston University Agannis Arena in 2011. Christine has worked with top hip-hop producers and been vocally trained by renowned industry professionals from New York City to Boston. She has danced for seventeen years, studying hip-hop, jazz, ballet, tap, and Latin resulting in appearances in professional theatres and television. Ten years of acting and musical theatre training has also added to her well-rounded performance experience. She has worked in the music business for several years working as an Artist Associate for "Ask Darcie" Music Business Consulting in Boston and in the Digital Marketing and A&R departments for the Big Red Program at Columbia Records/Sony Music Entertainment in Manhattan. Prior to opening her business, she taught voice classes at a local music conservatory where she developed a passion for providing music education to students. After passing on several job opportunities from Sony Music Entertainment, she decided to start The Pop Music Academy in January 2012 where she is able to apply her years of music business education and industry experience and share her talents with aspiring performers. Christine is a member of The Grammy Recording Academy, is an ASCAP registered songwriter and publisher, and a member of the Berklee Alumni Association.

Host and featured performer Richard “Cookie” Thomas’s career began in Philadelphia in 1960 when he had the opportunity, at fourteen, to open for B.B. King. His voice is especially suited to well-known classic standards and his inspiration is drawn from the likes of Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, and Johnny Hartman. In fact, you can hear a bit of each when Richard sings. Richard has studied voice with screenplay writer Jay Fredricks of Westport, vocal coach Jackie Presti of NYC, and Voices International of New York City. Richard also provides vocal coaching to several seasoned and non-seasoned singers. Richard maintains a close relationship with the well-known studios in CT including Carriage House Studio of Stamford, Presence Studio of Westport, and Edge Studio of Fairfield—one of the area’s leading resources for voice-over education. He is affiliated with James Daniel Music of Stamford, John Ragusa Music of NYC and the Johnston Agency of Norwalk. Richard currently performs at SoundWaters Community Center in Stamford, which is home-based. Additionally, he performs at other well-know venues such as the Silvermine Tavern in Norwalk, the Foxwoods Casino, the Jackie Robinson Jazz Festival in Norwalk, the Rich Forum and Palace Theaters in Stamford, the Greenwich Polo Club, Danny’s Skylight Room, the Carlyle, and Waldorf Astoria hotel in NYC. He has also performed for the Christopher Reeves Foundation and Pitney Bowes, Inc. Richard's full list of past performances around the country can be found at Richard has shared the stage with countless talented musicians over the years. Notable pianists include Alan Simon, Danny Mixon, Rob Silvan, Jay Rowe, Chris Coogan, Joe McWilliams, and Sarah Jane Cion, winner of the 1999 Great American Jazz Piano competition. He also performs with guitarists Chris Morrison, Carmine Marino and John Cain and drummers Bobby Leonard, Don Mulvaney, and Arti Dixon, who toured with Ahmid Jamal. Richard has impressed audiences with saxophonists Marion Meadows, Houston Pearson, and Ken Gioffre, and bassist Phil Bowler, who accompanied Horace Silver, in addition to having the opportunity to perform with the world famous Joyce DiCamillo Trio. His current CD, Touch You With A Song, produced and arranged by pianist John di Martino, is a complement to his collection, which includes The Pleasure Of Your Company and Holiday Classics, both arranged by pianist Lynne Arriale. His latest recording Live At SoundWaters was performed on location.

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