Jazzed up: Indonesian jazz musician Elio Adriano plays piano for attendees on Thursday, Aug. 29, during the second Stoop Session Porch Concert in Forest Park. | Alexa Rogals/Staff Photographer

Paul and David Gulyas will kick off the 2022 edition of Stoop Sessions with a concert on the front porch of Michelle Fitz-Henry’s home at 1041 Thomas in Forest Park on Tuesday, June 14 starting at 7 p.m.

The concept of the Stoop Sessions, which the Forest Park Arts Alliance (FPAA) started in 2019, is to give local artists the opportunity to perform their music on the front porches of residents for an audience seated on lawn chairs.   FPAA member Cecily Roland called the sessions a “small Ravinia.”

Hosts for the concerts include Michelle Fitz-Henry, Deb and Chuck Michalak, Lin Beribak, Mark Borough and the Drever Family.  

The performers, who range in age from 12 to 70, will present listeners with a wide variety of musical styles. 

For example, David Gulyas, who will accompany his son on guitar, is 70 years old, while Paul is 36 and will sing original songs from his “multi-genre production outfit, Cutta.”

In contrast, Noa Garcia is just 12 years old but already has an impressive resume.  She performs with The Soul Children of Chicago and has been to New York twice for Broadway call backs.  She will be singing jazz classics from artists like Nina Simone, Etta James, Edith Piaf, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughn and more!

Gabe Medina and Kelvin Grzelak, who are both 17, will be performing with Camilo Medina, 19.  Kelvin’s mom Kathy said, “The kids jam together often, and have learned a fusion of music styles that are infused with rhythms and styles from all over and times past.”

Kathleen Lane, who is 27, said, “I recently graduated with a second degree in music with a focus in Jazz Vocal Performance. A lot of my original music tends to have an indie/singer-songwriter/jazz vibe to it. I will be performing songs from my yet to be released album.” 

According to its website, the rock band Dig Engine, “writes original songs that look at the joys and struggles of life and relationships through an ultimately hopeful lens.”  Dig has performed shows at top Chicago venues including Reggies Rock Club, Fitzgerald’s, Martyrs, the Cubby Bear and the Elbo Room, in headlining and supporting slots.”

Rick Wagner, who has been a homeowner in town since 2002, put into words why art is important, especially in these times, saying, “As a member of the Forest Park Arts Alliance since its inception I believe in supporting all arts in Forest Park.  Having strong support for all the arts makes a community more vibrant.  Art lifts the spirit through music, word, theater or visual presentation.  Forest Park has so many talented individuals and its very important that we showcase their work.”

Cecily Roland, a Forest Parker for 20 years, added that in addition to giving local talent some exposure, the Stoop Sessions help build community. “This,” she explained, “gives people of the community an opportunity to interact with each other.” 

Deb and Chuck Michalak, 66 and 73 years old respectively, have lived in Forest Park for 33 years and therefore “walk the talk” when it comes to building community.

When asked why they are hosting one of the concerts, Deb Michalak said, “We have attended Stoop Sessions each year and have thoroughly enjoyed the music, the camaraderie, the peace and unity of the event, and the fact that it is a free offering. We have been impressed with the variety and scope of the presenting musicians, and we love the spontaneous conversation that crops up between previously unknown Forest Park neighbors. 

“We are motivated to host because although we are not musicians, we are music lovers, and Stoop Sessions offers us an opportunity to participate at a grassroots level in the magic that is music. As we think about the world we live in today and reflect on how we grew up, we know that our home communities provided us with a safe place to formulate opinions, grow into caring, giving people, and set the stage for who we have become as adults. We believe that neighbors and neighborhoods influence development, so it is imperative that we continue to gather as neighbors and demonstrate joy whenever possible.”

 Beribak said the Stoop Sessions were cancelled for 2020 due to Covid but that the FPAA was able to have Sessions last year with Noa Garcia, Kathleen Lane and Dig Engine!

“Initially,” she said, “the performers received what was collected when we passed a bucket for donations. Last year, we had enough in our coffers to pay a stipend of $100 plus the bucket. This year, Mark Hanson, a State Farm agent, is covering the $100 per performance and we will still pass the bucket. It’s not much, but at least some appreciation.”

The Scoop on the Stoop

June 14 Paul and David Gulyas 1041 Thomas rain date 6/16

July 12 Noa Garcia 505 Ferdinand rain date 7/14

July 26 Gabe Medina & Kelvin Grzelak 1529 Elgin rain date 7/28

August 9 Kathleen Lane 503 Thomas rain date 8/11

August 23 Dig Engine 905 Elgin rain date 8/25