Great Singers: Born with Talent or Honed with Practice?

I was unequivocally born a singer. It’s plain and simple. I was singing before I knew what notes were. I’ll have you know; I was also singing in key too! There is no doubt in my mind on this. The only difference is what you, or I, consider a singer. In the traditional sense, at age 5, I wasn’t a singer that could sell records, but I knew I was on the right path.

Kurt Cobain was a great performer but not a great singerThis is such a loaded and unfair question. I fear it may be nearly impossible to answer correctly. But I’ll take a shot. The biggest problem with this question is that everyone has a different definition of “singer.” Some people think Kurt Cobain was a good singer. I can assure you he was not. He had a memorable voice and sang with his soul. That’s what made him famous. But his voice had a particular quality that sold records. The label says “singer.” Therefore that is what he must be right? That’s where my definition of “singer” differs from most.

Be Great with Training

To be an R&B singer, jazz singer, opera singer, etc., and be good at it, you need to have training. The now proverbial 10,000 hours needed to be good at anything, is inevitably required to be any kind of success as a singer. Any yahoo can sing up a storm at the local karaoke bar. They just don’t have nearly the fit and finish of a trained singer will have, like someone who has taken the best singing lessons in NYC. But to be a pop singer, you don’t need as much of the 10,000 hours. Mostly you need heart & soul. Just like Dylan. And to clarify, this is about just “singers” and not “singer-songwriters.” I say this before I get bashed for putting down two of the best songwriters ever. I am not putting them down as songwriters, just as singers.

If you ask any person on the street, not intimately familiar with Dylan’s work, if they think he sounds like a good singer, you would get a resounding, NO! Conversely, you are more likely to get many people who think Miley Cyrus is a great singer. OUCH! I think this is where the possibility to answer this question correctly starts looking grim. What it comes down to is the opinion of the people. The problem is people don’t know what they are listening to.

Maroon 5 songs feature too much audio enhancementsSingers by Technical Enhancements

In today’s fast-paced society, with technically enhanced voices, and a lazy public who couldn’t care less if the singer is good or not. Because they just want a good beat and looped shreds of older good songs, it’s hard, if not impossible, to market someone as a singer without all that extra stuff. The best and only recent example of this was Maroon 5, ‘Songs About Jane’. This was a stripped down minimalist album chalk full of great licks, catchy hooks, and a singer who is a good as they come.

Are people born singers? Again, I say yes. Their talent just needs to be sharpened. There are just varying degrees of what a singer is, or is perceived to be by other individuals. Basically, it depends on who’s listening. Unlike any other skill performed by a human, singers are typically only measured by other humans listening. Singers are not quantified upon hearing them. You hear them and you like them, or you don’t.

Our ability to discern sound and music is unlike any other. We pretty much know right off the bat if we like a singer or not. Sure a particular singer might grow on us, but if we didn’t want them from the beginning, chances are they’ll never be our favorite. I believe every person is born with their respective talents. It’s up to each of us to hone these talents or pursue other ventures.

Magic: How to Make a Coin disappear

Whether you just want to amaze your family or friends or perform professionally, coin magic is a lot of fun! There are numerous coin magic tricks that you can learn in a matter of minutes, or that can take months to master, but all are certain to amaze! As coin tricks are improvised easily, these tricks are popularly used for ‘sleight of hand’ magic . Children find delight with coin magic as do many adults. There are some sleight-of-hand coin tricks including The Classic Palm, The Finger Palm, Classic Palm Vanish, Biting Coin, Palm Transfers, The Utility Switch, Folding Coin, and Coin Switches just to name some. Over the years, coin tricks consistently earn the respect of many professional magicians and are regularly used during performances. The key is knowing what type of coin to use and how to use it.

Types of Coins to Use

The size of your hands and fingers will help you decide the best size for a coin to use while performing coin magic. Some magicians use pieces that are 2.8 cm in diameter, while others use coins that are 3.0 cm in diameter or larger. When learning coin tricks, you should experiment with different coins to determine which ones will work best for you. A special note, the tricks which involve gripping the edges of a coin are usually better with a coin that has a rough milled edge. Also, a large shiny coin usually produces better results as it stands out more than a copper one. You can find “magic” coins right here online or in your local magic shop. Be sure to practice your trick several times before you decide to show anyone!

A Note on “Spinning” Coins

There are various spinning coin tricks that magicians practice, and many are pretty simple to learn. The spinning of a coin on its edge is not a difficult feat but takes some practice with the object where the coin will be spun – a hat or bowl. It is best to use a felt hat without lining so that the coin can get a good grip on the surface. In the case of the hat, the coin is merely thrown in roughly with the left hand, while the right-hand moves the hat round and round in concentric circles (towards the left). The coin may jump around at first but after a short while, will settle down and run smoothly around the edge of the hat. This is a marvelous and easy trick to learn!

When is a Hop-on Hop-off Bus a Waste of Money?

When visiting a big city such as New York, double-decker buses are familiar sights going around the main attractions of the area. Even as a local, these buses never fail to amuse because of their catchy colors, texts, and the many people availing of the service.

Double decker buses for NYC touristsLooking at the price tickets of these hop-on-hop-off buses, you will quickly realize that they don’t come cheap. Each adult ticket is priced for at least $50, which covers your bus tour for the entire day. It does not include entrance fees for sites that you want to see. Although you can avail of discounts once you purchase a hop-on-hop-off bus ticket.

Despite the ticket being a bit costly, it is interesting that many local and foreign visitors still avail of it. It may be because of the convenience of going around the city. The opportunity to get on and get off on areas that you want to visit. You are not forced into going to every site just because it was included in the itinerary. You now have the option to choose, which is something that many visitors value.

Going for a hop-on-hop-off bus is valuable if you are a first-time visitor to New York. Or you are here only for a few days, and you want to see the main points of the city. It is also advisable if you are traveling with children or the elderly, who would struggle to go on walking tours. It is excellent for groups, too. Because you get to pick sites that you want to visit. And you get to go together as a group again when you go to another location. You may want to meet each other up once the whole loop is finished. It is easy for everyone logistics-wise.

However, a hop-on-hop-off bus can be a waste of money in some instances. When is it a waste of money? Here are some scenarios:

1. It is a waste of money if you intend to go to just a few places

Remember, when you want to visit museums and other attractions, you have to pay for their entrance fees separately apart from the hop on & hop off in New York City bus ticket. So, if you already know what you want to visit, and you don’t intend to explore all sites included in the route. Then it is best if you just visit the attractions individually. Just use the money that goes to the bus ticket to the entrance fee of what you want to see.

The New York City Pass gets you discounts on several attractions2. It is a waste of money if you are a student

Many attractions in New York are student-friendly, meaning, they give at least half-price discounts to local and international students. Therefore, if you have your student ID with you, it ends up being cheaper just going to the attractions, showing your ID, and getting a discount. Although you can get a student discount with the hop-on-hop-off bus ticket, you can also get a discount with subway tickets. The government-sponsored New York City Pass which allows you to visit over 90 attractions in the city. Therefore, going for the hop-on-hop-off bus as a student is a waste of money because the local government encourages students to visit the city. Thus, giving generous discounts to students.

A hop-on-hop-off bus is okay to take if you are visiting New York for the first time. Or if you are traveling with children or seniors. However, it becomes a waste of money if you are disinterested to visit all the sites included in the route and if you are a student. It is expensive to travel around New York, so be cautious when signing up for tours like this. Make sure it is the right fit for you.

New York’s Bindlestiff Family Cirkus Soars to New Heights

For the New York-based performing group Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, tradition is something meant to be challenged, even as it’s being celebrated.

Bindlestiff Family CirkusAnd while the circus remains a real family tradition, Bindlestiff is turning the genre on its ear, merging acrobatics, burlesque, and vaudevillian humor into one action-packed, surprising show.

A Cirkus is Born

Founded in 1996 by Stephanie Monseu and Keith Nelson, the talented troupe of two to 16 performers per show regularly performs at theaters, colleges, and festivals, sharing its love of the variety arts with audiences worldwide.

With its founders well-versed in the art of fire eating, Bindlestiff offers audiences a chance to view the nearly impossible, providing a spectacle that for adult audiences stretches the definition of what is traditionally considered a circus, crafting a somewhat raunchy and utterly riveting production that merges sideshow, burlesque, music, and vaudeville.

A Little Bit of Magic

For several years, the troupe performed in what it billed as “the last vaudeville house in Times Square,” presenting several shows a day and giving both audiences and performers a chance to explore vaudeville-style arts better.

They were forced to close up shop when the former shoe store was demolished in 2004, but the group soon hit the road, bringing its finely-honed, edgy acts including sword swallowing, fire eating, acrobatics, contortion, magic, and buffoonery to audiences worldwide.

Kinko the ClownFrom Kinko the Clown, who made a satirical bid for president in 2008, to Mr. Pennygaff’s sword swallowing, Miss Una’s surprising aerial feats and Philomena’s precision bull whip handling, a skill that allows her to slice a rose held between a volunteer’s trembling teeth. The show is a risque celebration of the circus, one that pushes boundaries while still allowing viewers to be swept away for a while by the death-defying feats.

Educational Opportunities

Bindlestiff is also dedicated to teaching performers the art of the circus, and the non-profit organization offers workshops, performances, and lectures for the general public along with advanced classes and internships within the group.

The troupe also performs and presents workshops in schools, ranging from single workshops to two-week programs that explore the circus, vaudeville, Wild West touring shows and sideshows, ultimately offering a study of more than a century of American entertainment.

The courses allow everyone who has ever dreamed about running away to join the circus a chance to realize that dream for a while, generating increased interest in the spectacle that ultimately is the circus at the same time.

Beyond Bindlestiff

More than 400 Bindlestiff graduates are currently performing at a variety of venues worldwide.

Worldwide Circus Summit Committees

Executive Committee

Gary Payne – Founder WCS 2015 (CFA President)
Wayne McCary – Co-Chair WCS 2015
Bruce Hawley – Co-Chair WCS 2015
Ken Sopelak – Eastern States Exposition & Storrowton Tavern Liaison
Joe Barney – Entertainment Director
Brian Liddicoat – Facilities, Logistics & Staging Director
Jane Kycia – Hospitality Director
Lane Talburt – Jackpot Junction, Film Festival & Circus Photos Director
Rodney Huey – Media Relations & Publicity Co-Director
Tim O’Brien – Media Relations & Publicity Co-Director
Donald Covington – Program Director and Inter-Organizational Liaison (CFA Past-President)
Julie Kycia – Registrar & Bursar


Pete Adams – CFA Auction Co-Coordinator (CFA Past-President)
Barbara Moore – CFA Auction Co-Coordinator
Joyce Rucci – CFA Auction Assistant
Joanne Rucci – CFA Auction Assistant
John Polacsek – CHS Auction Coordinator (CHS Past President)

Banquets & Receptions

Amy Cohen – AYCO Youth Reception
Jane Kycia – CFA Banquet and Opening Reception Coordinator
Alan Campbell – CHS Banquet Coordinator
Bob Yorburg – COAA Banquet Coordinator
Connie Thomas – WJU Banquet Coordinator

Eastern States Exposition (ESE), Storrowton Tavern and ESE Circus Museum

Greg Chiecko – VP and Director of Sales ESE
Don Calvanese – Manager, Storrowton Tavern
Brooke Evans – ESE Circus Museum Guide

Ecumenical Service

Fr. Jerry Hogan – Ecumenical Worship Service Coordinator
Fr. Dick Notter (CFA Chaplain)


Joe Barney – Entertainment Director
Frank Panzer – Actor portraying P.T. Barnum
Bob Yorburg – Carousel Organ Demonstration Coordinator
Connie Thomas – Circus Band Concert Producer & Windjammers (Immediate Past President)
Lane Talburt – Circus Smirkus Liaison
Sara Wonderle – Circus Smirkus Group Ticket Sales
Pat Cashin – Clown Coordinator
Wayne McCary – Cole Bros. Circus Liaison
Lisa Dufresne – Horses, Horses, Horses! Show Producer
Joe Barney – Master of Ceremonies for Opening Reception and CFA Banquet
Joe Barney – Summit All-Star Circus Producer
Scott Nelson – Summit Side Show Producer
Elmo Gibb – Teeny Weeny Circus Producer
Amy Cohen – Youth Component Coordinator & Showcase Producer (AYCO Executive Director)

Facilities, Logistics and Staging

Brian Liddicoat – Director
Wil Hevey – Lighting Coordinator
Mike Butash – Model Builder & Participating Organization Display Coordinator
Randy Peterson – Sales Room Coordinator
Paula Purdue – Summit Store Coordinator


Jane Kycia – Hospitality Director
Nancy Dulac – Decorations and Goody Bag Coordinator
Art Niccoli – Decorations Assistant
Barbara Pelli – Raffle Basket Coordinator
Leah MacPherson – Greater Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau Hospitality & Sales Coordinator

Jackpot Junction, Film Festival and Circus Photos

Lane Talburt – Jackpot Junction, Film Festival and Circus Photos Director
Wil Hevey – Circus Film Festival Projectionist
Gary Cooper – Circus Photos Presentation Coordinator
Steve Gossard – Jackpot Junction Coordinator


Barbara Pelli – RV Campground Coordinator
Gary Payne – Hotel Coordinator

Media Relations and Publicity

Rodney Huey – Co-Director of Media Relations and Publicity
Tim O’Brien – Co-Director Media Relations and Publicity
Wayne McCary – Local Media spokesperson
Charmaine Liddicoat – Media Interview Booth and Author Signing Table Coordinator
Jennifer Goodwin – Summit Logo Designer
Cindy Pagel – Summit Website

Melha Shrine Temple

Al Zippin – Shrine Volunteer Coordinator


Julie Kycia– Registrar and Bursar
Julie Kycia – Registration Desk Coordinator


Don Covington – Director of Seminar Programming (CFA Past-President)
Deborah Walk – Circus Yesterday Seminar Series Coordinator (CHS President)
Peggy Williams – Circus Today Seminar Series Coordinator
Amy Cohen – Circus Tomorrow Seminar Series Coordinator (Executive Director AYCO)

Souvenir Program and Summit Daily Newsletter

Brian Liddicoat – Summit Program Publisher
Barbara Moore – Souvenir Program Advertising Sales Coordinator
Jaquan Fields – Summit Program Cover Design
Don Covington – Souvenir Program Co-Editor
Lane Talburt – Souvenir Program Co-Editor
Renee Phinney – Souvenir Program Layout (Spotlight Graphics)
Ron Morris – Souvenir Program Printing (Spotlight Graphics)
Bill Biggerstaff – Summit Daily News Editor (Circus Report)
Jan Biggerstaff –Summit Daily News Publisher & Printing (Circus Report) (CFA Vice President)
Peter Wagner – CFA “take one” Flyer Printing (CFA Immediate Past President)


Ken and Jan Sopelak – Directors of Transportation
Sara Gordon – Hotel Shuttle Coordinator
Doug Cole – On-site Shuttle coordinator

On-site Volunteers

Please check the Summit Daily News for the names of additional people who volunteered on-site to help with the Summit.

Official CFA Hotels

NEWS: CFA’s Hotel #1 (Hampton Inn) is now FULL.

CFA’s Hotel #2 (Holiday Inn) is still accepting reservations for CFA members attending Summit, at the same rate as Hotel #1 – Same hot breakfast included @$109.
CFA Hotel #3 to be announced soon

There are TWO official CFA Hotels for WCS2015. They are both operated by the same management team and are now both taking reservations for WCS2015.

Each WCS2015 hotel will accept your reservation at the convention rate, two days prior and/or two days after the Convention dates of July 14-18th, thus you can get the same rate/deal from July 12-20th.

The hotels are nearly identical, each fully and newly renovated, and triple checked by our committee. Each earns three stars, with large lobbies, swimming pools, hot breakfast buffet included in the special CFA price of $109 + tax.

Each hotel is less than three miles to The Big E (Eastern States Exposition) and convention activities. For WCS2015, your hotel is literally your bed and breakfast only. All events take place at the Big E.

CFA official hotel #1 FULL
Hampton Inn
1011 Riverdale Street
West Springfield, MA

CFA official hotel #2
Holiday Inn, 1 Bright Meadow Blvd.
East Longmeadow, MA
(closest hotel to airport)

Hampton Inn

Hampton InnRelax and refresh in one of our spacious guest rooms and find everything you need and more for a comfortable stay. Surf the web with free high-speed internet access and enjoy a peaceful night’s rest in a clean and fresh Hampton bed®. All rooms are equipped with microwave and refrigerator for your convenience.

Catch up with work or print last minute boarding passes with free print services in the hotel’s fully equipped business center. Make the most of the critical leisure time with a revitalizing swim in the outdoor pool or workout in the fitness center.

To view the Hampton Inn website, click here.

Holiday Inn Springfield

Holiday Inn: We provide guests with upscale amenities, including our airport shuttle to nearby Bradley International. Our hotel also has a fitness center, indoor/outdoor pools, and on-site recreational activities that include tennis, volleyball and basketball courts. You can enjoy excellent dining at our restaurant, Panini Grill & Bar, and then experience a better night’s sleep with our updated bedding and comfortable rooms.