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Neighbors: Snippets of Life From Your Community
Who: Maureen Sager.
Where: Spring Street Gallery.
Q. What’s your day like?
A. I wear many hats. I’m executive director of Spring Street Gallery and right now we’re developing a show on birds that will open on April 29.
Q. What’s another hat you wear?
A. Project director at the Upstate Alliance for the Creative Economy. People tell me about projects they’re working on and we look for ways we think the creative industries can be developed in this region. And we’re finding lots of ways to bring business and arts organizations and parks organizations and others together, and to roll it into a vibrant, economically thriving way to address the creative industries and the arts.
Q. How big is the region you oversee as project director?
A. It’s eight counties, as far a south as Columbia and Greene and north to Washington and Warren counties.
Q. Do you have a nickname?
A. Moe. Everyone calls me Moe.
Q. What did you want to be when you were a kid?
A. A fashion designer. I had two aunts that went to Fashion institute of Technology and boy, that captured my imagination as I was growing up in New Jersey. I thought that was a very glamorous career.
Q. What was your first concert?
A. The Jacksons at Nassau Coliseum. I was like 10 years old. My mom wanted to do something exciting for us, so she took us to a Jacksons concert. It was on Easter Sunday. What was really embarrassing: we were in our Easter outfits. It was so bad. I never felt like a bigger dork in my entire life.
Q. What’s your favorite brush with fame?
A. I used to be in the entertainment industry and so many of my stories about famous people are not good. But, someone who delighted me goes back to my first job in New York, when I worked for management company for Kiss, the rock band. I saw them regularly at the time, but much, much later - about 13 years later, while I was working for a big record company, I ran into Paul and Gene in the elevator. I was thinking: should I say hi? Ah, they’re never going to remember a girl who worked for them that long ago, but I finally said, ‘Paul and Gene you probably won’t remember me…’ I thought they were going to blow me off, but instead, Gene says: ‘Paul! Look! It’s her!” Ha, they were so sweet about it. They didn’t remember me, of course, but they made good fun out of it, and I thought that’s the kind of famous person that I really appreciate. They were so generous in that moment, to acknowledge me and to give something back, because that’s something in that industry that’s so rarely done.
Q. When did you move to Saratoga?
A. Twelve years ago.
Q. How has the city changed in that time?
A. It’s changed a lot. My first couple of years here, I felt that I knew a small subset of people who I’d run into in town. I thought that was just a wonderful way to bring up my kids and raise a family. Now, I’ll sometimes go to an event in Saratoga and I won’t know anyone. And that’s also very exciting in a way, to have groups of people with such varied interests. I think Saratoga benefits from all these varied interests we have.
March 31st - April 4th
Alison J. Pecor, age 20, of Corinth, was charged on March 22 with first-degree vehicular manslaughter, and second-degree vehicular assault – both felonies, driving while ability impaired, and reckless driving – both misdemeanors, and two violations of traffic law, in connection with a serious motor vehicle collision that occurred on Feb. 5 in the town of Hadley. Pecor is accused of driving under the influence of narcotics when her vehicle crossed her lane of travel on Route 9N and struck a vehicle operated by 55-year-old Denise Scofield. Pecor’s 18-month-old daughter, who was in Pecor’s vehicle but not properly secured in her child safety seat, died as a result of injuries suffered in the crash, according to the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office. Scofield remains hospitalized and is recovering from her injuries. Pecor was sent to County Jail in lieu of $15,000 cash, or $30,000 bond.
Katelynn M. Skoda, 25, of Ballston Spa, was charged on March 26 with one count DWI, one count driving while ability impaired by drugs, speeding and operating a motor vehicle without insurance following a crash at Forest Hills Mobile Home Park in the town of Milton. It is alleged Skoda was operating a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs, left the roadway and struck a tree, according to the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department. Skoda was extricated from her vehicle by members of the Rock City Falls Fire Department and flown to Albany Medical Center for non-life threatening injuries. She will appear in Milton Town Court at a later, unspecified date.
Emanuel W. Philippe, age 21, Brooklyn, and Elizabeth M. Stanley, age 20, Schenectady, each face multiple charges following an incident that occurred on March 17. Saratoga Springs Police said an officer on patrol stopped a car driven by Phillipe, and with Stanley as its passenger, for speeding on West Avenue. It is alleged a search of the vehicle returned marijuana, a scale suspected as being part of drug paraphernalia, an AR-15 assault weapon and two loaded magazines for the weapon that each contained over 20 rounds ammunition. Police said Phillipe fled the scene on foot, was quickly apprehended and found to have on him more than 25 grams of powder cocaine was packaged in small quantities for individual sale. Philippe was charged with six felonies and three misdemeanors, mostly related to weapons and drug possession charges in connection with the incident and sent to jail in lieu of $75,000 cash, or $150,000 bond. Stanley was charged with three felonies related to criminal possession of a weapon and sent to jail in lieu of $50,000 cash, or $100,000 bond.
Kristen M. Pohl, age 23, Ballston Lake, was charged on March 12 with criminal possession of a controlled substance, unlawful possession of marijuana, and consumption of alcoholic beverages.
Samantha M. Hamelin, age 21, South Glens Falls, was charged on March 11 with misdemeanor DWI, and a vehicle equipment violation.
Richard L. Heithaus, age 21, Saratoga Springs, was charged on March 11 with criminal possession of a hypodermic instrument, a misdemeanor.
Azaria C. Traver, age 27, Edgewood, Maryland, was charged on March 11 with misdemeanor DWI and operation of a motor vehicle by and unlicensed driver.
John P. Henry, age 24, Saratoga Springs, was charged on March 11 with aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, and failure to stop at a stop sign.
James C. Lynch, age 43, Saratoga Springs, was charged on March 10 with criminal contempt in the first degree, and aggravated family offense- both felonies.
Keith B. Hedge, age 53, Gansevoort, was charged on March 10 with misdemeanor DWI.
Ezekiel J. West, age 23, Schenectady, was charged on March 10 with two felony counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance – alleged to be cocaine, and the misdemeanor charges: criminal impersonation, criminal possession of a controlled substance, aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.
Unikia L. Cross, age 34, Saratoga Springs, was charged on March 10 with aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, and failing to signal a turn.
Jacob S. Wright, age 35, Middle Grove, was charged on March 9 with misdemeanor petit larceny.
Jerritt T. Chura, age 31, Stillwater, was charged on March 9 with speeding, and unlawful possession of marijuana.
Tatyanna A. Antoski, age 23, Ballston Spa, was charged on March 9 with misdemeanor DWI, aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle/ under the influence – a felony, and a driving violation.
Corey A. Spruiel, age 29, Ballston Spa, was charged on March 9 with misdemeanor DWI and a driving violation.
Michael T. Connelly, age 27, Gansevoort, was charged on March 8 after being involved in a motor vehicle accident with misdemeanor DWI and aggravated DWI, and a driving violation.
James B. Belden, age 27, Hudson Falls, was charged on March 8 with third-degree assault, a misdemeanor.
Daniel J. Taber, age 21, Amsterdam, was charged on March 8 with aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, operating an unregistered motor vehicle on a highway, and not having a valid inspection certificate.
Rachael A. Carson, age 28, Hudson Falls, was charged on March 8 with aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, a vehicle equipment violation, and unlawful possession of marijuana.
John R. Daniele, age 30, Ballston Spa, was charged on March 8 with criminal possession of a controlled substance.
Katie A. Gregorek, age 30, Stillwater, criminal possession of a controlled substance, aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, and a vehicle equipment violation.
Kevin R. Kelly, age 26, Saratoga Springs, was charged on March 7 with aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, failure to signal a turn, and criminal possession of a controlled substance.
Joseph J. Casertino, age 49, Saratoga Springs, was charged on March 7 with obstructing governmental administration in the second degree, a misdemeanor.
Shannon L. Tracey, age 33, Saratoga Springs, was charged on March 7 with felony criminal possession of a weapon, and the misdemeanors: menacing, resisting arrest, and criminal trespass in the third degree.
Saratoga YMCA Youth Basketball Finals
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The play-offs for the Saratoga Regional YMCA’s youth basketball league were held recently, marking the end of the league’s current season before the new summer league commences in June. In the Saratoga Rotary Jr. Division, the D’Andrea’s Pizza and BHHS Blake Realtors teams faced off, with D’Andrea’s coming out on top, 42-32. In the Saratoga/Wilton Elks Lodge Sr. Division, the Toyota of Clifton Park and Mexican Connection teams competed in the finals, with the Toyota of Clifton Park team taking the win, 56-46.
Along with the finals, the youth league also gave out the James Cudney Award, which goes to the player who most exemplifies the YMCA’s core values. This year, the award went to Saratoga Springs High School junior Elias Wohl.
Fighting for a Cause: Local Boxing Night Raises Money for Bob Miller Fund
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Amateur boxers came together in Saratoga Springs this past weekend to fight for a good cause.
On March 25, the Saratoga Springs City Center played host to a night of amateur boxing to honor and raise money for celebrated Capitol Region boxing promoter, Bob Miller. Miller, a 60-year industry veteran and founder of the Uncle Sam Boxing Club in Troy, was in a serious car accident on Oct. 15 of last year that left him paralyzed. Shortly after, the Miller family established the Bob Miller Fund, a GoFundMe campaign with the goal of raising money to help cover Miller’s expenses, including “his medical care, the equipment (e.g., wheelchair, braces) he will need, and lodging for Linda, our father's wife, and the immediate family so that we can continue to support him during his long rehabilitation away from home,” according to the page’s description.
Doors opened for the event at 6:30 p.m., with the first bout commencing at 7:30 p.m. A total of 13 bouts took place over the course of the show, which drew around 850 attendees. According to city center executive director Ryan McMahon, when factoring in volunteers and trainers, the total attendance number for the night was closer to 1,000.
“Very strong,” McMahon said about the night’s attendance figures.
Some of the bouts on the card included Schuylerville-native Joey Barcia against Francis Hogan of Boston, Alison Watson of Vermont against Jamere Shelby of Albany, Malachi Davis of Albany against Richard Hogan of Boston, and the Uncle Sam Boxing Club’s own Tugar VanDommelen against Gianni Gragnano. In addition to the boxing, other fundraising activities at the event included a raffle and a silent auction.
At time of writing, event organizer Dave Wojcicki estimates that the event raised around $15,000 for the Bob Miller Fund. When asked if the city center would possibly work with Bob Miller and company in the future, McMahon was optimistic.
“We would love to,” McMahon said. “Bob is a long standing client and fixture in Saratoga Springs boxing.”
Anyone interested in donating to the Bob Miller Fund can find the campaign’s page at www.gofundme.com/bob-miller-fund-2unsxys.
All photos in this story are by PhotoAndGraphic.com.
Manners and More: Local Students Learn Real World Skills
SARATOGA SPRINGS – A group of local students recently took a break from esoteric calculus and SAT prep to learn some more practical real world skills.
The Saratoga-Sponsor-A-Scholar program decided to do something a little different for its yearly feedback session, during which they find out what their senior students like and dislike about the program for the sake of future improvements. Responding to a complaint that has been common from students over the years that they did not learn enough about handling certain social situations, Mary Gavin and Kristie Roohan organized an “etiquette dinner” that would help their students learn to be more comfortable in such situations, in addition to giving them an opportunity to give their feedback on the program.
Held at Sperry’s Restaurant in downtown Saratoga Springs, part of the goal of the dinner was to teach the students about restaurant etiquette, including using menus, how to order, which utensils to use, among a variety of other things. Beyond all of that, the broader goal of the night was help the students learn to feel comfortable in social situations that might take place in environments similar to Sperry’s, whether they be meetings, interviews, parties, or any other similar sort of occasion.
“It was so much better than we could’ve expected,” Mary Gavin said of the dinner. “They loved it.”
Students were encouraged to ask any questions they had about anything during the night, and they asked plenty, as many of them had never had experience with restaurants like Sperry’s before. According to Gavin, questions ranged from wanting to know about certain menu items that they had never heard of, to asking if it was okay to ask to take their leftovers home. To their credit, Gavin said that the wait staff at Sperry’s were courteous and grateful throughout the night, helping students with anything and everything they needed or wanted to know about.
The dinner also gave the program organizers their annual opportunity to solicit feedback about the program from the outgoing senior students. According to Gavin, students expressed their satisfaction with the program as a whole, in particular with the mentors that they have been working with, while also expressing dissatisfaction with their mentors’ tendency to be gone certain days on official business, leaving them without guidance. Gavin said that they will be taking that latter criticism into account moving forward.
Saratoga-Sponsor-A-Scholar is a ten-year-old not-for-profit program that works with “financially-disadvantaged” students in the Saratoga Springs school system by assigning them mentors who help them to finish high school and prepare for college. Many of the students in the program end up being the first in their families to enter college, according to Gavin.
Ultimately, Gavin said that one thing stood out to her the most as a sign that the night had been a success.
“I think the highlight was we didn’t see a single cell phone the entire night,” Gavin said.
What do you think of SSAS's etiquette dinner idea? Should more school program's teach practical social skills? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
All photos in this story are by PhotoAndGraphic.com.
Saratoga Springs Seeks Members for Human Rights Task Force
SARATOGA SPRINGS – City residents and visitors alike will soon have a centrally located resource to bring their ideas to foster a better understanding of cultural differences, as well as express concerns about potential human rights violations.
“Luckily, we’re a very safe city, but I’ve had enough proof and input from our citizens that we’re not immune to problems,” said city Mayor Joanne Yepsen, who after appointing five people to a human rights-focused planning committee is “moving forward to the next level” and coordinating a seven-person Human Rights Task Force.
“It’s hate crimes I’m most worried about: prejudice, not accepting one another as equals - basic human rights,” Yepsen said. “We’re going to be proactive but also in a reactive mode, too, if anything were to occur like the swastikas.”
Last November, spray-painted swastikas surfaced on city streets. Police conducted a hate speech investigation after a social media site that referenced neo-Nazis mentioned Saratoga Springs High School, and a senior class student of Jewish descent came upon anti-Semitic acts.
“The idea of this human rights group came up a year ago. This is a need. It wasn’t because of the Trump election,” Yepsen told a group of reporters gathered in the mayor’s office, before the question could be asked. “It was more a case of: we need to be a better city. And being a better city means we take care of our citizens. I would like to have a resource to help ensure we can maintain our status as a community that fosters mutual respect and understanding among racial, religious and nationality groups in the city.”
The Schenectady County Human Rights Commission served as an informational resource, said Yepsen, who also consulted with state legislators. The Schenectady Commission, which was established in 1965, is a policy-making body composed of 15 commissioners appointed by the County Legislature. The proposed seven-member Saratoga Springs task force will differ in regards to the amount of power it may wield.
“The Commission in Schenectady County can take calls and work on cases. We’re not going to be qualified to do that, but we do have a lot of organizations in town that are, and we can suggest a list of referrals – like EOC, like the Racecourse Chaplaincy, like the Legal Aid Society,” Yepsen said.
“We depend greatly on people from other cultures to work here. Let’s face it, there are 2,500 different people working for the racing industry and many of them are Latinos. I think there are seven different dialects spoken on the backstretch alone and more and more of these families are settling in our city as community members. We also have a lot of restaurant workers who come here and try to make a go of it, so we’re trying to respond to their needs.”
The city’s Human rights Taskforce will focus mostly on education, programming and collaboration. The mayor cited the city’s annual series of public events and programs celebrating the work of Martin Luther King Jr. as a model of what can be done year-round related to human rights to foster a better understanding of cultural differences.
Anyone interested in joining the Human Rights Task Force can apply via the City of Saratoga Springs Board Application form on the city’s website. Deadline for applications is April 12 and Mayor Yepsen said she hopes to appoint members to the seven-person group at the April 18 City Council Meeting.
Charter Review Commission Releases Charter Draft
The Charter Review Commission has released a draft of a proposed new Charter for Saratoga Springs city government. The 24-page document may be viewed at: https://saratogacharter.com/. A referendum will be held in November.
The City Council will hold a pre-agenda meeting 9:30 a.m. Monday, April 3, and a full meeting 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 4 at City Hall.
The Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) Technical Review Advisory Committee (TRAC) will hold a meeting 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 4 at Saratoga Music Hall.
The Design Review Commission will hold a meeting 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 4 at City Hall.
“Everybody Is Born Differently…People Should Be Who They Are”
SARATOGA SPRINGS - Erica Morocco sat at the head of the table, her series of paintings sprawled across the tabletop. One featured a jump-roping owl. Another depicted a pink-glazed doughnut that looked good enough to eat. In the third, a cat bowed a violin and a cow leapt over the moon.
“Be what you are and do what you like to do,” she says with encouragement. “If you like to paint, then paint. If you like music, make music.”
Morocco, who was diagnosed with Williams syndrome, lives by a simple motto. “Everybody is born differently,” she says. “You can’t change it. My feelings are that people should be who they are.”
Williams syndrome is a genetic condition that is present at birth and is characterized by medical problems, including cardiovascular disease, developmental delays, and learning disabilities. The developmental disorder affects an estimated 1 in 7,500 to 10,000 people, according to The National Library of Medicine - a center of information innovation founded in 1836, and the world’s largest biomedical library.
Morocco grew up in the town of Malta, and in 2009 moved into one of Saratoga Bridges’ community-based homes in Saratoga Springs.
Saratoga Bridges is responsible for the 24/7 care of over 830 individuals and houses 132 people in its 19 community based homes. The organization, which employs nearly 600 people, is marking this pause in time to take note of Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and to bring intellectual and developmental disabilities to the forefront. The group has provided services and programs to people with developmental disabilities and their families for more than 60 years by promoting their abilities and achievements in every aspect of community life.
“I like living on my house because we go out in the community and I have more opportunities to do different activities,” says Morocco. who takes art classes on Mondays and Wednesdays. Thursdays are reserved for studies on the art of the collage, and on Fridays Morocco and the group of seven who share the home go out dancing and to sing karaoke. There are weekly trips to the grocery shop, daily house chores and free time spent volunteering for Meals on Wheels. Sports is also a passion.
“I play softball, do the long jump, the 50-meter run. I like to do all of it,“ says the 38-year-old, a pair of medals clinging to her neck chain showcase her abilities in snowshoeing and track and field.
Her art pieces have received awards in juried shows, and she uses the earnings of the pieces she sells to enable her to go traveling.
“I sell my art work, saved my money and went on a tour. I’ve been to Florida, Chicago, and Boston. I visited museums and saw other artists’ work. I like traveling. I like vacations,” she says. “When I sell a piece of artwork, I feel happy inside because I worked had on it to get it to be good.”
It is a long time removed from her younger days in school, when she was bullied and caused her to be upset.
“When I was in school, when I was young, I got picked on,” she says. “You get older and you move on.”
Her advice to the world when meeting people with disabilities?
“Just treat people they way that you would like to be treated,” she says.
Presentation Tuesday of Urban Renewal Program and Origins of Preservation
SARATOGA SPRINGS - The Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation is kicking off its 40th Anniversary celebration by hosting the presentation “Origins of Preservation: Urban Renewal in Saratoga Springs 1962-1986” 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 28 at Universal Preservation Hall, 25 Washington St.
Join Matthew Veitch, Saratoga Springs County Supervisor and Treasurer of the Foundation, as he explores the often controversial Urban Renewal Program and the origins of preservation in Saratoga Springs. This presentation will feature rarely scene photographs from the 1960s, '70s, and '80s of the areas impacted by the Urban Renewal Program.
Urban Renewal provided federal funding for cities to cover costs of acquiring slum areas to demolish dilapidated buildings, consolidate the vacant lots, and then sell those lots to developers to create new “modern” residential and commercial buildings. When the Urban Renewal Program was approved in 1961 the city was facing an economic decline following the changes in tourism, the loss of the grand hotels, and gambling being illegal resulting in disinvestment in the existing building stock. In 1962, the Urban Renewal Agency was formed to eliminate slums and blight, expand and strengthen the central business district, establish a central residential area, expand the tax base, provide off-street parking, and improve infrastructure and traffic patterns.
Lasting from 1962 through 1986, the Urban Renewal Program resulted in the city’s largest urban change in its history. It cleared the way for large development projects, such as the City Center and the Public Library which continue to provide tremendous benefit to the community. It also resulted in affordable housing projects and low-income housing as well as parking areas on Woodlawn Avenue and High Rock Avenue. While the demolition of many historic buildings was unfortunate, it did result in an increased awareness about the need to preserve our community’s architecture. Additionally, many feel the program ruined the very fabric of the community by displacing a large African-American community from the west side of Broadway. “Today we are still affected by the Urban Renewal decisions that were made, some of which continue to benefit the city today while others still remain to be completed and the benefits have yet to be realized,” said Samantha Bosshart, the Foundation’s Executive Director.
Reality TV Star Comes to Saratoga
The long line of humanity stretches far as the eye can see. It flows past the rows of fiction titles and shelves filled with historical tales. It weaves beyond bookcases that cradle publications with lessons about eating well and losing weight. It crisscrosses through the bookstore’s neighboring café, curls around a table that boasts new releases and spills out the front door, eventually coming to rest in an adjacent alley on the north side of the building.
The line is composed of 500 people who have come to “meet-and-greet” Theresa Caputo – author and TV star of the reality show “The Long Island Medium.” She said she had been given “The Gift” at a young age.
“I’ve been seeing, feeling, and sensing Spirit since I was 4 years old, but it wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I learned to communicate with souls in heaven,” Caputo says.
She came to Northshire Bookstore Saratoga in between tour dates in New Jersey and Connecticut and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to promote the release of her fourth book, “Good Grief: Heal Your Soul, Honor Your Loved Ones, and Learn to Live Again.” Five hundred tickets were offered for the Saratoga Springs event. They were quickly gone.
“We watch her on TV and love her,” said Lela Barber-Pitts, who made the journey from Schenectady to Saratoga Springs to meet Caputo, and who holds the last place on the long line. “I’m thrilled she’s come to our area.”
The cost of admission requires a simple process: purchase a copy of the new book and in exchange receive an autographed copy of the publication and a picture standing alongside the author.
Sunday morning, Caputo held court in the center of the bookstore, her Long Island accent fully engaged and her small black-draped frame accented by a gold neck chain that reads: Blessed.
The event guidelines for ticketholders are clear: all books are pre-signed by Caputo - which she does Sunday morning in the bookstore’s offices upstairs - with no additional personalization possible. Every fan gets a professional photograph taken of themselves with Caputo and instructions on how to retrieve it. Asking for a personal “reading” is not permissible; the line must be kept moving quickly. Do the math: 500 people in two hours’ time equates to four people per minute. It does allow for brief exchanges: “Hi. How are you? Nice to meet you. I hope you enjoy the book.”
Despite an understanding of event instructions, the mind inevitably wanders. Whether people are here for the TV star factor and in appreciation of Caputo as an entertainer, or believe she has a way to connect with those who have left this mortal coil, everyone has got someone who they have lost – an Aunt Mary, a cousin Bill, a mother, a father, a family pet – and some can’t help to thinking: wouldn’t it be nice to hear from them again.
“I hope my mother comes through. She was a feisty one, and she loved Theresa,” said Michelle Milks, who arrived at the bookstore two-and-a-half hours prior to the signing and scored one of the first positions on line.
“I’m hoping to get help in healing,” said Liz Witbeck, while waiting in line to meet Caputo. A few moments later, the two women engaged in a brief discussion and posed for a photograph together. Then Witbeck was on her way, book in hand and the trace of a smile on her face.
Record Club Finds New Home at Caffè Lena
SARATOGA SPRINGS - The Rochmon Record Club has hosted monthly learning and listening parties featuring classic rock ‘n’ roll albums since last fall at Universal Preservation Hall.
With the Washington Street space set to undergo a lengthy renovation, Rochmon brainchild Chuck Vosganian announced this week – during a listening party that featured Queen’s “Sheer Heart Attack” – that the sound and vision show will be relocating to Caffè Lena for the foreseeable future.
Vosganian credited the local creative arts community for making the relocation to Lena’s café possible. The Rochmon Record Club series continues Tuesday, April 18 at Caffè Lena where the album focus will be on Jethro Tull’s 1971 album, “Aqualung.”