Some may sing for their supper.


But musicians in the Stanwood-Camano Island area chose to play songs to support the animals at Camano Animal Shelter Association (CASA).


The idea for "Forever Home," a benefit CD of local artists, came to Darren Hakenson while he and Norm Peterson, both of Camano Island, were working on another CD last winter. Hakenson said he thought that with the number of talented local musicians, an album for a cause would be ideal.


"It's a hotbed of artists," he said.


CASA seemed the obvious choice, since it is so dependent on donations to pay for its services, Hakenson said. In a down economy, one would expect those donations to be less.


"CASA is working most of the time with their backs against the wall," he said.


The shelter not only cares for animals until they are adopted, the employees pamper them, Hakenson said.


Peterson said he felt like CASA was a good cause to support. He will also perform at CASA's fourth annual auction, which starts at 5:30 p.m., Sat., Oct. 3, at the Camano Senior and Community Center, at 606 Arrowhead Rd.


The CASA board named the CD, using the organization's slogan, Hakenson said.


"Forever Home" includes 10 original songs by local artists. Hakenson, Peterson and Alex Cook produced the album, along with donating their own songs.


After all, part of the point was to feature talented artists, he said. An original song chosen by the artist does the best job of featuring them.


One thing "Forever Home" has for sure is variety.


"It's a nice mix of tempos, a nice mix of interesting music," Hakenson said.


The artists include One Ton of Ducks, Hurricane Ridge, Albritton McClain, South End String Band and Gerry Andel & the Roughriders.


Also included is "Common Ground" by Laurie Z., an internationally-known Camano Island pianist who died from cancer February 2006. The song is beautiful, and was likely one of the last songs she created prior to her death,  Hakenson said.


Being able to include Z.'s work was an honor, he said. 


"She was 100 percent for the love and care of animals," Hakenson said.


When Hakenson first heard "I Can't Wait," a rock song on "Forever Home," by Ken Shortt, it made his toes start to tap. It was both well thought out and well recorded, he said.


Peterson's favorite song on the album is Jammin' Jeff Lohmeier's "Pool of Tears." The song is beautifully done, and leads "Forever Home" as the first track, Peterson said.


Hakenson and Peterson, known as Hurricane Ridge, performed "The Hard Way," and Peterson added an instrumental solo song, called "Corgi Butts."


Peterson owns four corgis, and said the dogs, which don't have tails, have an interesting walk. The song's chorus goes "Corgi butts, drive me nuts."


Profits from the CDs will go straight to CASA, Hakenson said.


CASA appreciated that the benefit CD's producers and artists wanted to do something for the shelter, said Tegan Locker, CASA manager.


The shelter receives a small stipend from Island County for caring for dogs only, she said. For everything else, the shelter is entirely dependent on donations.


The project turned out better than Hakenson imagined it would. And with its success, another benefit CD could be in the future, he said. However, the second installment would benefit a different local charity.


"Forever Home" will be available for $12 at CASA, 387-1902, at 160 Can Ku Rd., on Camano Island, or through the organization's Web site at





Laurie Z.® had only one piece of advice for the students Joe Montanez was teaching in his horticulture classes at Nobel Middle School in Northridge.


“Take time to smell the roses,” the acclaimed pianist and electronic musician told the kids, as she bravely fought lung cancer despite a lifetime of never smoking. Laurie Zeluck — Laurie Z. was her professional name — died at age 49 in 2006 surrounded by hundreds of letters from Joe’s students, and more than 75 bouquets of roses sent to her. The kids had taken her words to heart. Every day, they stop to smell the roses they’ve planted in their own rose garden at Nobel. They do it for their teacher’s childhood friend, and the memories of their own late family members — grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins - they want to honor with a rose in their garden.


“It makes this garden a very special place knowing the beautiful roses you’re growing are in someone’s memory,” says 13-year-old Myrna Estrada.


“It’s inspirational,” adds her classmate Chris Carrolls, 14, grabbing a hoe and getting to work tilling the ground Wednesday.


Arguably, working in Joe’s rose garden is the most popular class at his school, says Principal Robert Colburn.


Joe fills six classes a day and there’s always more students wanting to get in. His program, which also includes landscaping the school, is one of only 11 horticulture programs honored by the California Department of Education.


“In that rose garden, Joe has his kids growing emotionally as well as educationally,” Coburn said. “He’s a great teacher.” It’s not all tilling the dirt, weeding and getting your hands dirty, Joe says. Not all — as the kids in his classes say with a smile — “working outside with your friends instead of sitting in a classroom.”


“Each student designs a complete landscape project on their computers in class, in addition to working outside,” says Montanez, who was named the first Daily News Teacher of the Year in 1994. “Even after 26 years of being an educator, I still think it is essential to pass on to my students the importance of caring,” Joe says. “Many of the students I have taught seem to be desensitized to the world around them. I want to instill in them the knowledge to do what is best for both themselves and the environment.”


As he speaks, it’s a beautiful, crisp day outside. Twenty of Joe’s horticulture students are busy working in the 60- by 80-foot garden — tilling and listening to a CD of Laurie Z playing the piano. His childhood friend would have loved this moment, the onetime teacher of the year knows.


Kids smiling and enjoying themselves at school as they grow emotionally and educationally.
Smelling the roses.




For four Stanwood Middle School girls, it was a surprise announcement last Wednesday.


Nicole Montgomery, a seventh grader at Stanwood Middle School, said when she first heard she had received the Laurie Z. Memorial Scholarship, she had no words. She was “silly happy,” and called her mom right away to tell her the good news.


Montgomery, sixth-grader Makenzie Zinkand, seventh-grader Rachel Andelin and eighth-grader Cheyenne Jablinske were the first recipients of the Laurie Z. Memorial Scholarship, which gives them each $500 for an instrument or music lessons.


This is the first time a scholarship for middle school students has been offered in the area, said Theresa Metzger, executive director of the Stanwood Camano Area Foundation.


Laurie Zeluck Carter of Camano Island, a Grammy-nominated pianist known to her fans as Laurie Z., died Feb. 9, 2006 from lung cancer. She was a non-smoker. Laurie Z. made sure that her estate would benefit the community, said Michael Handley, executor. In addition to the scholarships, the Stanwood Camano Food Bank and Freedom Park at Terry’s Corner have also received donations.


As a professional musician, Laurie Z. had an affinity for children, he said. “This is Laurie’s desire to leave something to the local community.” he said.


Laurie Z. used to play the piano at Nordstrom in Alderwood Mall during the Christmas season. While she played, young girls would come up to her, and she would talk to them and give them encouragement, Handley said. He remembers hearing the girls tell Laurie Z. that they wanted to be just like her.


All 20 of the applicants were qualified, Handley said. He felt the four chosen would reap the benefit from the scholarship.


In the application, the students had to explain why they deserved the scholarship and how music made a difference in their lives, Metzger said.


“It was really hard making the decision,” she said.


Those who received the scholarship demonstrated a commitment to music, Handley said.


For Montgomery, the scholarship means she will be able to take piano lessons all year instead of just in the summer. Montgomery also plays the flute, but said she enjoys the piano because she can see what she is doing while she is playing.


Andelin applied for the scholarship to help pay for piano lessons, so money could be put toward upgrading her piano. She said she has played the piano for about seven or eight years, as well as the flute, singing and dancing. “The longer you do it, the better you get,” Andelin said. Andelin said she is grateful for the scholarship.


For Zinkand, the scholarship is a chance to own her own flute, which can cost anywhere from $300 to $500. She said she started playing the flute this year, using a borrowed instrument. Zinkand said she likes the flute, because she gets to play the melody.


Jablinske asked for an alto saxophone and lessons, Metzger said. Zinkand said she appreciated the scholarship from Laurie Z. It gave her something to look forward to.


The scholarship is meant to help girls further their music education, Handley said.


Metzger said the scholarship helps the girls realize that adults in the community want to support them. The others who applied won’t be empty-handed. Each will soon receive one of Laurie Z.’s music and mementos. Handley said he hopes to continue the scholarship with the public’s help.


“Laurie Z. was an absolutely fabulous musician, community supporter and friend to many,” Metzger said.


The following article appeared in the Tehachapi News at the release of Heart of the Holidays in 2001:


Touching the heart with music,
Jack Palance performs on album...

by Carol Holmes, Tehachapi News Editor




As people listen to the album Heart of the Holidays  this year, they will easily recognize one distinctive voice that has endeared movie audiences throughout the world.


Actor, painter and poet Jack Palance joins talented pianist Laurie Z. on a new musical album recently produced for this holiday season.


After recording three instrumental albums featuring her own brand of improvisation and arrangements, Laurie wanted to produce an album for the holidays.


“I knew it was the right decision when Jack agreed to sing on the album,” Laurie said.


Palance, who hasn't recorded a song in 30 years, and vowed he would never record a song again, changed his mind after falling in love with Laurie’s musical style.


“I love everything about her music,” he said. “She is a genius. I love what she does with music.”


Palance's trademark voice presents a delightful reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” And despite the years that have transpired since he last recorded a song, his voice carries through in a lovely upbeat rendition of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.”


Laurie enjoys watching the reaction that takes place when someone listens to the album for the first time. She said their eyes open and they immediately recognize Palance's voice.


“This big smile comes on people’s faces and I love it,” she said. “It is worth it right there.”


As a singer as well as the executive producer for the album, Michael Carter, also enjoys the Palance performance. Carter was Palance’s acting co-agent with William Morris Agency for several years.


He said every time he listens to Palance’s “Night Before Christmas,” he always envisions Jack sitting in a large wing back chair, facing a fireplace with a roaring fire and surrounded by young children listening to him telling
them a story.


“That is how I envisioned this before we did the album, and I thought there is no one in the world who can do this better than Jack,” he said.


But Palance thinks the credit should go to the man who wrote the ageless poem.


However, according to Laurie, Palance breathed new life into the classic poem.


In 1972, Palance recorded “Old Home Town,” with Buddy Killin in Nashville. Palance said the album did very well and he was signed to a six-year contract.


However, shortly after signing, Palance went to Italy and attended an opera. He admired and appreciated the quality of the vocalist and felt his own voice wasn’t that good so he called Killin to cancel the contract and to tell him “I’ll never sing again.”


Palance’s passion for good music developed in his growing years when he learned to play the violin, the accordion and the harmonica.


“I played the little squeeze box and the harmonica,” he said. “I still play the harmonica.”


Besides enticing the well-known actor to perform on the album, Laurie has taken warm, familiar holiday melodies and wrapped them in new and intriguing arrangements.


“We’ve taken the traditional melodies and added new arrangements to them and made them a little more modern, a little more upbeat,” Carter said.


A good example of Laurie’s improvisation skills on a timeless classic can be experienced by listening to “What Child is This.”


“I started thinking I’d like to do something different with this song and it became a Latin up beat version of ‘What Child is This’ and it just fits.”


Laurie also gives a new sound to the Chanukah song, “Sivivon.”


As she began playing the song she said somewhere from her heart came an intensely emotional rendering of a song completely different from the familiar composition.


“So I try to do different things with every song,” she said.


Laurie remembers that after one listener heard the new arrangement of “Sivivon,” he began to cry.


For Laurie, music is about moving people to dance, to feel, to rejoice, and to laugh.


“Each song has an emotional statement to make,” she said.


Laurie composed two new songs for the album, “Heart of the Holidays” and “Warmth from Within.” Both songs are sweet, comforting melodies that touch the heart and memory.


Laurie began taking piano lessons at age 4 and had her first public performance at age 5.


For Laurie, playing the piano and composing and improvising is “a piece of cake.”


“It’s pretty much like breathing for me,” she said. “I can actually read a book and play.”


According to Carter, Laurie is one of the best improvisers he has ever heard. He said if she is given a title and note she can create a melody in one minute.


Carter, who has a 17-year long background in singing, is also returning to singing after 30 years. His voice lends mellow tones to Laurie’s accompaniments of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”


One of the most moving selections on the album can be heard as a children’s choir sings: “a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year, let's hope it's a good one, without any fear.”


Those words, recorded a few days before the Attack on America, gave poignant meaning to the album.






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