Our Future Stars

Get a sneak peek before the curtain rises on some of the county’s most talented young performers.



We don't have a crystal ball.  But we can recognize talent, at least when it’s staring us in the face. From an 18-year-old folksinger who’s been touring the country’s clubs and coffeehouses to a 29-year-old dancer/choreographer who’s received commissions from some of the nation’s top ballet companies, these up-and-coming stars—all under 30 years old—certainly prove that Westchester’s got talent!

“He was the youngest on the bill at Manhattan’s Symphony Space’s sold-out program.”

Maxilmilien “Max” Darché

Juzz Trumpeter

The Artist: With his short brown hair, conservative corduroys, and cotton collared short-sleeve shirt, 25-year-old Harrison resident Maxilmilien “Max” Darché’s appearance might not be like that of an archetypal jazz virtuoso. But his playing is. Darché made his musical debut playing the violin in third grade, but his older brother persuaded him to try the trumpet the following year—and he’s been hooked on the horn ever since. Darché recently received his master’s degree from Purchase College’s Conservatory of Music, where he was the protégé of touted trumpeter Jon Faddis.

The Big Break: Darché’s long list of accomplishments includes appearances with the Jon Faddis Quartet at such prestigious venues as Blues Alley in Washington, DC, Scullers in Boston, and at the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island. He also earned a standing ovation last fall when he was the youngest on the bill at Manhattan’s Symphony Space’s sold-out program, “Legacy: Three Generations of Jazz Trumpet.”   

The Buzz: “Jazz is in good hands with Max Darché,” assures renowned saxophone master James Moody. Named one of the two inaugural James Moody Scholars at Purchase College in 2007, Darché got the opportunity to perform live last spring at a college fundraiser held at B.B. King Blues Club and Grill in Manhattan, where the young trumpeter jammed onstage with many of the jazz masters who’ve inspired him, such as Moody, pianist Kenny Baron, and trombonist Slide Hampton.

What’s Next: Keep an eye out for Darché to perform with Faddis this spring at such New York City hot spots as The Jazz Standard and The Blue Note, plus a return to B.B. King’s. For a detailed schedule, visit maxdarche.com.

Rachel Lee

Photo by Boun-Sook Koo

“One will be following her ascent with great interest.”

Classical Violinist

The Artist: Twenty-year-old Scarsdale resident Rachel Lee recalls “asking my mom for a violin for my fourth birthday.” At the age of seven, she flew from her native Chicago to New York City to successfully audition for the Pre-College Division of the Juilliard School. Several years later, Lee began taking lessons with world-renowned virtuoso Itzhak Perlman. Now a junior at Harvard College, she commutes to Manhattan once a month to study with Perlman, whom she calls “my biggest mentor and all-around favorite violinist.” And just so you don’t think Lee is all consumed by classical music, a recent check of her iPod revealed a hearty dose of Top 40 hits—Al Green, Björk, and even Madonna!

The Big Break: At age nine, Lee became the youngest musician ever selected to perform in the La Jolla Chamber Music Society’s Prodigy Series. Since then, she has become one of the most successful young talents on the concert stage, performing in recent years with major orchestras and making her European concerto debut with the Staatskapelle Berlin. In 2006, lucky locals may have gotten a peek at Lee when she played a Mozart violin solo with the Westchester Philharmonic.

The Buzz: Rave reviews seem to follow the young violinist wherever she goes. The Chicago Tribune called Lee’s sound “big and luscious” and commended the “dazzling dexterity” of her bow work. The paper proclaimed, “One will be following her ascent with great interest.”

What’s Next: An English major, Lee plans to complete a joint degree program between Harvard and Boston’s New England Conservatory. In addition to her classes and rigorous practice schedule (four hours a day), she intends to continue touring internationally.

“Her dances have dazzled audiences as far away as Spain, Aruba, Montreal, Vancouver, and Toronto.”

SIDRA BELL

Dancer/Choreographer

The Artist: Willowy White Plains resident Sidra Bell, 29, says, “I was so shy growing up that I hardly ever spoke outside my home.” Instead, Bell expressed herself by dancing. She was admitted into the Dance Theater of Harlem School when she was seven and began training at the Ailey School of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in her sophomore year in high school. Upon graduating from Yale in 2001, she immediately founded her own contemporary dance company, Sidra Bell Dance New York (SBDNY), and found time to get her master’s degree in choreography from Purchase College’s Conservatory of Dance. “I’m very spatial in my approach to choreography—I see shapes and movement all day long.”

The Big Break: Her company recently was showcased at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in the Berkshires and at Joyce SoHo in Manhattan, and her dances have dazzled audiences as far away as Spain, Aruba, Montreal, Vancouver, and Toronto. In addition, Bell received two large commissions last year from two major dance companies, Ballet Austin and the Sacramento Ballet. Keeping it in the family, Sidra set both pieces to original scores composed by her father, Dennis Bell, an award-winning pianist, producer, and composer.

The Buzz: Ron Cunningham, artistic director of the Sacramento Ballet, calls Bell’s work “unique and highly original” and says her dances have “an improvised look yet are highly structured.” Describing “Opus Romanza,” the piece Bell created for Cunningham’s Modern Masters program, he says, “The final result is an atmosphere of emotional tension emphasizing the strength of women in a universe of mystery.”

What’s Next: Not one to take a break, Bell is hard at work on her next projects, including a piece for Ailey II that will tour the country during the company’s 2008-09 season, and she recently performed for the Juilliard Dance Ensemble at Lincoln Center’s Peter Jay Sharp Theater. Locally, plans are underway to showcase SBDNY in one of the upcoming Westchester Arts Council’s “Live @ the Arts Exchange” concert

STEVEN KAPLAN

“Variety.com called Kaplan “outstanding” and praised his film for being “tightly scripted and strongly acted.”

Actor

The Artist: White Plains actor Steve Kaplan, 20, has been hamming it up ever since he started taking classes at his hometown Play Group Theatre back in elementary school. In addition to commercials for Nickelodeon and a guest spot on Law & Order, Kaplan’s acting credits include a student film at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts (where he’s currently a junior) and performances at the New York International Fringe Festival and Young Connecticut Playwrights Festival.

The Big Break: While out to lunch celebrating his birthday with friends last summer, Kaplan got “the call” from his agent that he had been cast in the independent film, Bart Got a Room. His next step was to fly down to Hollywood, Florida, where he got his hair permed and spent four weeks playing the role of Danny Stein, a nerdy teenager trying to find a date for his senior prom amidst the havoc created by his divorcing parents (played by veteran actors William H. Macy and Cheryl Hines). Asked if he relied on his own experience for inspiration, Kaplan admits, “My prom was normal.”

The Buzz: Kaplan got the full red-carpet treatment at the film’s debut at the Tribeca Film Festival this past May. The flick won rave reviews from such important industry websites as ScreenDaily.com and Variety.com, which called Kaplan “outstanding” and praised the film for being “tightly scripted and strongly acted.”

What’s Next: Kaplan and his agent are keeping their fingers crossed that Bart Got a Room gets picked up by a movie studio for wide-scale distribution. In the meantime, you can get a sneak preview by watching the trailer on youtube.com.

Photo by Chris Chin

“He could very likely be the musical spokesperson for his generation.”

ANTHONY DA COSTA

Folk Singer/Songwriter

The Artist: One of 18-year-old Anthony da Costa’s first memories is of sitting in the back of his parents’ baby-blue Honda and listening to cassette tapes of early Beatles, Chuck Berry, Elvis, and Jerry Lee Lewis. A lover of music since those early years, da Costa started guitar lessons in fifth grade (he also plays the harmonica, piano, trombone, and cello; he “dabbles in drums”). However, it wasn’t until delving into his father’s record collection and discovering Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits that da Costa started leaning toward folk music, playing his first open-mic show in a church near his Pleasantville home when he was 13. Why folk over pop and rock? “I appreciate music that’s intimate, raw, and real.”

The Big Break: The Pleasantville High School senior, who admits to “writing lyrics in the middle of class,” is now in demand at some of the country’s top folk festivals, where he’s been raking in awards. He was the youngest winner ever of both the Kerrville Folk Festival’s New Folk competition in Texas and the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival’s Emerging Artist (Hillsdale, New York) competition in 2007. He recently released his seventh CD, Bad Nights/Better Days, with singer Abbie Gardner, which Richard Cuccaro of Accoustic Live! magazine called a “work of staggering emotional power.”

The Buzz: Louis Meyers, executive director of the Folk Alliance International, says: “At fifteen, Anthony was one of the most impressive artists I’d ever seen at any age—and he keeps getting better. He could very likely be the musical spokesperson for his generation.” 

What’s Next:  It seems that da Costa can’t stop writing songs—he’s penned more than 150 to date and is busy making plans for his eighth release. He’s also got a full schedule traveling the East Coast to perform at festivals, theaters, clubs, and coffeehouses. You can see him perform with “The Long Island Blues Boy” Phil Minnesale at the Garden Stage in Garden City, Long Island, on January 9 or at the South Salem Library in South Salem on April 4. Get details at anthonydacosta.com.

“Plans are underway to bring Jihad: The Musical to the stage in London or New York.” 

BENJAMIN SCHEUER

Musician/Playwright

The Artist: Whether it’s Led Zeppelin or Frank Sinatra, Larchmont native Benjamin Scheuer has always had an appreciation for a wide range of music—and the talent to create it, too. Scheuer, today 26, started piano and guitar lessons at age five and took up songwriting in his pre-teens. By the time he graduated from boarding school at Eton College in England, he was composing scores and lyrics for musical theater, a creative pursuit he continued while majoring in English at Harvard. Now back in Larchmont, Scheuer has transformed his sprawling family home into a full-fledged recording studio, where he frequently can be found playing his 1957 Martin OO21 guitar (a gift from his late father), while jamming with his rock band, Lady Clown.

The Big Break: A couple years ago, Scheuer’s uncle asked him, “What’s the worst musical you could ever write?” He jokingly answered, “Jihad: The Musical,” and a seed was planted. Last summer, Scheuer and his longtime pal, Zoe Samuel, brought the resulting controversial musical satire to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where it created quite a stir with songs like “Building a Bomb Today” and “I Wanna Be Like Osama” (which Scheuer reports has had more than 300,000 hits on youtube.com). In addition, Lady Clown’s first album, First Lady Clown, debuted last April.

The Buzz: Veteran producer Peter Denenberg (Spin Doctors, Deep Purple, Martin Sexton), who co-produced and engineered First Lady Clown, says, “Ben lives for experimenting. And Lady Clown counts off a song and kills it, flat-out awesome, usually on the first take.”

What’s Next: Scheuer is busy in his Larchmont studio collaborating with his partner, Geoff Kraly, on Lady Clown’s next album. Get the band’s updated performance schedule online at ladyclown.com, where you can download sample songs and buy the CD. Also, Scheuer reports plans are underway to bring Jihad: The Musical to the stage in London or New York–complete with singing terrorists and dancers in pink burqas!

BenjaminScheuer.com

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