News at Greenwich Arts Academy

May 2019 Newsletter

In this issue:

Kids Need More Sleep!

My Russian (Mis)Adventure, Part 1

Escapades in Moscow, June 1991


t was raining in downtown Moscow.

I was in the front seat of a Lada — a scary little Russian sedan with no suspension to speak of — and my KGB driver was taking the turns way too fast and hitting every pothole. Tied to the bouncing roof was a flight case containing my precious, broken Yamaha SY77 keyboard, for which I’d paid every cent I had.

We pulled up in front a nondescript government building. The bricks were laid poorly — actually all the government buildings had crooked courses of bricks — and rain poured down the walls from blocked gutters many stories above. My driver couldn’t untie the knots he’d used to secure my keyboard case to the roof of his car. The twine was soaking wet. He cut my keyboard loose with a knife he produced from his pocket. The case slid off the roof but we caught it before it could splash onto the sidewalk.

The KGB guy and I carried the keyboard through the heavy oak door. Do you remember the KGB? Russian secret police? Now he, I, and my keyboard were vanishing into a Soviet Government building in the middle of Moscow. It was August, 1991.

How did I get here?

Mr Michael, founder and director of Greenwich Arts Academy
Mr Michael in 1991

In 1990 I was a 20 year old music composition student at UC Berkeley in California. I wasn’t much liking the music we had to create for class; my passion was always for musical theater and film music, and this modern concert stuff wasn’t really “my thing.”

At that point I was playing with a band every Friday and Saturday, and conducting a choir and playing pipe organ every Sunday at a church two towns over. Every waking moment was music, music, music. I was a year away from graduating and had no clear idea what I was going to do next.

Then one spring Sunday, the Monsignor at the church asked me to drive with him from Concord to Malibu the following week. He was in his eighties and didn’t want to make the eight-hour drive by himself. The band wasn’t playing that weekend. I hadn’t been to LA in years. This sounded like a nice, paid vacation.

I was figuring on some free food and time at the beach. What I didn’t know was that my old theater cronies from high school were putting on a production at Pepperdine University in Malibu that week. I hadn’t seen them in three years. This was before cell phones, before social media... heck, it was before the internet. I jumped at the chance to reconnect.

By the end of the trip, my former theater director had commissioned a new musical from me.

This was not what I had expected when I drove down to Malibu that spring.

I wrote the thing in two weeks flat. Rehearsals started while I was still composing. The work was called Cinderella, with original score, lyrics, and book. We rehearsed for six weeks, then the curtain went up on my first professional show.

I was completely stunned. Seeing this beautiful confection of a show transferred from my imagination to the stage was an utterly enthralling experience. I didn’t want to do anything else. I’d found “my thing.”

A year later it was 1991 and I was working on my second commission for the theater troupe. This one was to be a new version of Beauty and the Beast. I had a unique deadline this time: Disney’s film of the same story was appearing in May of that year. I wanted the last note of my score on paper before their movie opened, so no one could accuse me of plagiarizing. I beat Disney by a week.

The new show was going to be produced in the fall of 1991. Before that, though, was another first for our group: we were going to produce a musical overseas. Specifically, West Side Story. In Russia.

This was to be a co-production between our Youth Theater Group and the Young People’s Theater of the Bolshoi Opera in Moscow. 13 American teens and 14 Russian teens would grace the stage with their energy and passion. It was tricky to get permission to produce West Side Story, since the show was banned in the Soviet Union. They didn’t want a show about class and race warfare in their Soviet class-less society. But... this was the era of Gorbachev and “glasnost,” or “openness.” We would put the show on for a week in Moscow, then return to the States to tour the show through California.

My Beauty and the Beast was to be set in 14th-century Russia, so we planned to workshop the bits that were complete while we were there as well.

So I packed up my keyboard, and away I went.

To be continued...

Local News for Families

local news for families at Greenwich Arts Academy

ur goal for this local news column is always to provide our busy moms and dads some local ways and means to make their lives easier, less stressful, more productive (if it won’t increase the stress!), and hopefully more fun.

The Discovery Museum and Planetarium in Bridgeport is celebrating Sci-Fi Day on May 4, from 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM. Activities will include:

  • Create an Alien
  • Design a Spaceship
  • Green Screen Photos
  • Planetarium Shows

... and much more. Check out:

(Note: May 4th is actually Star Wars Day, but they’re not calling it that. The internationally recognized Sci-Fi Day is January 2nd, which just goes to show what a nerd Mr Michael is for pointing it out. May the 4th Be With You!)

* * *

The Bartlett Arboretum on Long Ridge Rd. is having a massive (and amazing) plant sale on Saturday, May 11, from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM. If you’re into gardening, this is a not-to-be-missed event. Their site describes an “...alluring selection of native perennials and shrubs. You will be enticed by the sight and scents of our herbs and veggies.”
Even if you’re not into cultivating your own greens, the Arboretum is a wonderful place to stroll around, have a picnic, read a book in the shade... You know what, that sounds so good, I’m heading over there as soon as this column is finished.

* * *

Finally, the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk is having it’s annual Family Overnight from May 31 @ 6:00 PM - June 1 @ 9:45 AM. There’s dinner, breakfast, behind-the-scenes at the Aquarium tours, crafts, and of course... falling asleep in a sleeping bag staring at sharks or jellyfish.
So. Cool.

See you around town!

Kids Need More Sleep!

New Research Confirms What Parents Knew All Along

Kids Need More Sleep, declares Greenwich Arts Academy

es, our kids are tired. We all know it.

The question is, what can we do about it?

A “new” parenting practice called “Sleep Hygiene” has been generating a lot of buzz. Of course there’s nothing really new here: providing a cool, quiet sleeping environment; reading before bed; regular bed times. We all know this stuff works. Now, a new study backs up our experience with data.

University of British Columbia sleep expert and nursing professor Wendy Hall recently led a review of the latest studies to find out about the efficacy of these age-old parenting practices1.

“Good sleep hygiene gives children the best chances of getting adequate, healthy sleep every day. And healthy sleep is critical in promoting children’s growth and development,” said Hall. “Research tells us that kids who don’t get enough sleep on a consistent basis are more likely to have problems at school and develop more slowly than their peers who are getting enough sleep.”

Yes. We know.The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends the following amounts of sleep:

  • 4 to 12 mos, 12 to 16 hours
  • 1 to 2 years, 11 to 14 hours
  • 3 to 5 years, 10 to 13 hours
  • 6 to 12 years, 9 to 12 hours
  • 13 to 18 years, 8 to 10 hours

“We found good-to-strong endorsement of certain sleep hygiene practices for younger kids and school-age kids: regular bedtimes, reading before bed, having a quiet bedroom, and self-soothing -- where you give them opportunities ... to go back to sleep on their own, if they wake up in the middle of the night,” said Hall.

Regular bedtimes are important for older kids too. The review found papers that showed that adolescents whose parents set strict guidelines about their sleep slept better than kids whose parents didn’t set any guidelines.

Hall also found extensive evidence for limiting technology use just before bedtime. Studies in Japan, New Zealand and the United States showed that the more exposure kids had to electronic media around bedtime, the less sleep they had.

Yes. We know that, too.

“Good sleep hygiene gives children the best chances of getting adequate, healthy sleep every day."

Many of the studies also highlighted the importance of routines in general. A study in New Zealand showed family dinner time was critical to helping adolescents sleep.

Studies from China and Korea linked school-age children’s and adolescents’ short sleep duration to large amounts of evening homework. This comes as no surprise, I’m sure.

My takeaway is straight-forward: this review confirms what we as parents already know. And we already know the solutions: bed times, limiting tech and media before bed, winding-down routines.

The trick is integrating these practices into our busy, busy lives. More on that next time.

Student of the Month




Athena loves studying music at Greenwich Arts Academy

What instruments do you play?

  • Piano, voice, ukulele

How long have you taken lessons?

  • Well, I'm homeschooled, so I've kind of had lessons all my life.

Who are your favorite musical artists?

  • Sia and Billie Eilish

What are you other hobbies besides music?

  • Dancing, crafting, and writing

What is the coolest thing you've learned in your lessons in the last three months?

  • How to write songs on the ukulele!

Do you have any performances coming up?

  • I'm singing with the National Children's Chorus at Carnegie Hall in May

We want to thank 


 for referring her friends to the Academy!

Meet Our New Students

January 2023

Betty S.
Jeida S.
Darryn S.
Alejandro T.

Cats probably think we're cleaning our ice cream.

Is Your Teacher Sold Out?

The Academy is at 94% capacity.

Thank you, students and parents, for choosing us!

Refer a friend and get TWO free lessons!

If you have a friend who might like to take lessons, when you refer them to the Academy and they take 1 month of lessons, we’ll give you TWO lessons for free!

It’s very easy to refer someone.  Just visit:


Type in your name, their name, and their email address and we’ll take care of the rest!

There’s no maximum to the amount of free lessons you can receive!

Greenwich Arts Academy logo

Free Lesson Certificate

Thank you 

          your name here        

for referring 


 to the Academy!

1. To redeem your free lesson(s), call 203-439-5677 and sign up for an additional lesson, any day of the week, with your teacher or any of our other teachers. You are welcome to try another instrument if you like, or give this to a friend.2. Lessons CANNOT be rescheduled once they are on the Academy calendar.3. Certificates CANNOT be used for refunds to your account or cash.

Given by: 




yiayia's recipe box

Yiayia's recipe for meatless Greek Meatballs (keftedes)

Meatless Greek Meatballs (Keftedes)



  1. In a large mixing bowl, mash beans
  2. Add all other ingredients, mix with your hands till well-incorporated
  3. Let the mixture rest for 15 minutes
  4. Form little "meatballs"
  5. Fry in olive oil for a few minutes till brown (or bake for a healthier option)
  6. Serve with fries and a Greek Salad
Serves 4-6 as appetizers
From Dimitra Kontou
Click to Download Recipe
More Recipes