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Gary Simboli, now retired as teacher, will stay busy as a performer

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 August 2020 at 9:21 pm

Teams with Amy Sidari in Sid-Boli Productions, Crossroads Studio

Photos by Tom Rivers: Amy Sidari and Gary Simboli will be welcoming tour buses and concert-goers once the restrictions on crowd sizes ease due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Simboli last summer performed six concerts at Sidari’s Cabaret at Studio B for six bus tour groups.

ALBION – Gary Simboli, Albion’s musical director the past 35 years as well as a vocal teacher and choir director, has retired from his teaching career.

Simboli, 56, is continuing to perform in the community. Every Sunday morning he leads the music at the First Baptist Church of Albion and the First Presbyterian Church of Albion.

He also has joined forces with Amy Sidari in Crossroads Studio or Sid-Boli Productions.

Once the Covid-19 pandemic is over or restrictions relent on crowd sizes, Simboli will be performing at Sidari’s Cabaret at Studio B at the corner of Liberty and West Bank streets.

Sidari also runs the Gotta Dance by Miss Amy studio and Simboli has signed on to lead weekly sing-a-long classes for senior citizens. That starts in October.

“I will miss the kids and my theater team, but I’m very excited for this new chapter,” Simboli said during an interview at Gotta Dance and the Cabaret. “The kids have been great from the very beginning, with their heart and energy.”

Simboli and the high school drama program were working on Little Mermaid when the school was shut down on March 13. That performance was never able to happen. It would have been Simboli’s 70thmusical at Albion.

The shows were consistently recognized as among the best high school musicals in the Rochester Region by the Stars of Tomorrow program through the Rochester Broadway Theatre League.

Gary Simboli is pictured during the June 28, 2019 Albion High School graduation along with Board of Education members Wendy Kirby, left, and Chantelle Sacco.

Simboli, in his role with Sidari, gets to be the performer while she works out the details with bus tour companies.

“She is very innovative,” Simboli said about Sidari.

During the downtime with the Covid-19 pandemic, when her studio and cabaret were closed, Sidari and her father Ace Caldwell worked to create a new space. (Simboli joked he handed some drywall to Caldwell, who is in his 80s.)

The room will be another dance studio to spread out the dance classes, which will be offered in the morning, afternoons and evenings. It will also be a “green room” for performers at the cabaret to rest and prepare off stage.

“They will be treated like kings and queens,” Sidari said.

Caldwell and Sidari also put in the infrastructure for a kitchen. Down the road, Simboli said he would love to prepare meals as part of a dinner theater at the site.

“When it’s finished, I think this place will be impressive,” Simboli said about the latest improvements.

Simboli has two shows for the performances – “Musical Mischief” and “All You Need is Love.” He performed last summer to the tour bus groups, for people who hadn’t been to Albion. They were positive about being in the historic downtown with the Courthouse Square and the Erie Canal.

“When you live here you forget just how beautiful this community is,” Simboli said.

He also is working on recording a Christmas album in time for the upcoming holiday season.

Sidari said she sees the studio and cabaret as a resource bringing hope and energy to the community, especially during trying times with the pandemic.

She is grateful Simboli is sharing his talents with the community. He has long been loved and appreciated by Albionites, but Sidari said the shows last summer proved Simboli has wide appeal. The tour bus groups all are eager to return.

“All six tour groups were booked to be back this year, with a dozen more possible,” Sidari said. “This will be a building with great energy.”

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Chamber Phoenix Award: Fair Haven Treasures

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 September 2014 at 12:00 am

Ray and Linda Burke bring a grand old house back to life

Photos by Tom Rivers – Ray Burke is pictured outside Fair Haven Treasures, which opened in May after 18 months of renovations. The site will have a peace garden in the spring by the flag poles.

GAINES – Ray Burke says he was looking for a “project.” About two years ago he and his wife Linda bought a stately old house at the corner of routes 98 and 104 in the heart of the Cobblestone Historic District.

The house has been vacant for five years and needed significant renovations. Burke and a team of volunteers went to work. The site was given a new life as “Fair Haven Treasures,” a business featuring crafters and artisans. Fair Haven now has nine vendors with room for more.

The Chamber of Commerce has picked Fair Haven for its “Phoenix Award,” recognition given to a significant restoration effort. The award will be presented on Sept. 20.

“It’s a lovely old home and I’m glad we did it,” Mr. Burke said. “It’s been a lot of work and there’s more to do.”

Linda and Ray Burke are pictured inside Fair Haven Treasures on the business’s opening day in May.

Gaines Town Supervisor Carol Culhane watched the old brick house decline in recent years before the Burkes bought it. She served on the Zoning Board of Appeals with Mr. Burke a few years ago and the two became friends. Culhane suggested the Burkes buy the building and she envisioned it as a site for high-end artisans, live music and other special events.

Culhane and her husband Gerry helped bring the building back to life. They teamed with the Burkes and other volunteers to remove plywood and linoleum from the floors, and discovered hardwood floors underneath. They took out one wall to make a bigger room that can be used for performances, book-signings and public events.

“You could see the house was declining,” Culhane said. “It’s so tragic to see these beautiful stately homes decline.”

She grew up in the “Dutchtown” neighborhood in Rochester. That area in Jay, Childs and Ames streets has been overwhelmed with crime, and so many of the houses, even her old high school, have been torn down, Culhane said.

When she saw the brick house deteriorating, she worried it would meet the same fate as some of the beloved buildings of her youth.

These bowls and a table were created by Ted Hicks of Oakfield. He has other wooden furniture for sale that he made from reclaimed wood.

The 3,040-square-foot brick house was built in 1834, the same year the Cobblestone Universalist Church was erected across the street. Burke said the house is a prominent location and should be a showcase for the community.

“It’s the crossroads of the county and the crossroads of our town,” he said. “It’s a stately building that sits up on a hill.”

Burke is retired from DuPont in Rochester. The former machine shop foreman also has renovated smaller houses as rental properties. He has built his own plane and driven a Harley. He was looking for something else, a new challenge with the brick house.

“I’ve had all the toys and I’ve always been busy,” he said. “I can’t stand to sit still. This house will probably never be done. The list is on and on.”

Burke put in a new driveway and parking lot for the house, which required 1,300 tons of stone. He just added three flag poles out front and in the spring, there will be an International Peace Garden by the flags. It will be the second peace garden in Orleans County. Brown’s Berry Patch has the first.

To be a peace garden, the site needs to have a historic connection to the War of 1812. The site was once owned by John Proctor, who is considered the Paul Revere of Ridge Road. He warned residents the British were coming during the War of 1812. Proctor also gave the hamlet the name Fair Haven.

Fair Haven could be used for wine-tastings, concerts and other special events.

Culhane helps manage the site, lining up vendors and planning events. Fair Haven will begin offering “paint and sip” classes every two weeks beginning on Sept. 17. Participants can sip wine and paint in classes led by Culhane.

Fair Haven also is working with two other businesses, Tillman’s Village Inn and The Cabaret at Studio B, for an “Evening in Orleans” this Sunday. Fair Haven will host a wine-tasting from 3 to 4 p.m. before the activity shifts to the Village Inn and then the Cabaret.

Burke said he has been encouraged by the business partnerships in the community and other new business ventures. Tillman’s is expanding its dining facilities, and Ridge Road in Gaines also is home to other recently opened ventures including the Old Goat antique store, Cobble-Ridge Co-Op and the Rocking R Ranch.

He sees the Ridge Road corridor as a draw for culture and history enthusiasts.

“Things are happening in the town,” Burke said.