Doing good

A Hudson Valley Musician gives back

Author: By Jay Blotcher
Posted: Friday, October 23, 2009
Hemberger’s karma

In the late 60s, Al Hemberger was already working in the not-for-profit world. The teen guitarist was writing music for stage shows at Bronxville’s Loft Film and Theater Center. Established to provide an outlet for creative children, The Loft also nurtured Hemberger’s evolving talent. He eventually scored 20 shows – from fairy tales to Shakespeare – for the 70-seat theatre. “It was a great lab for me as a songwriter,” he says. “It was a chance to write something and two weeks later it was on stage.”

During his 18 year career with this grassroots outfit, Hemberger, 56, also served as bookkeeper, business manager, board president and stage director. At the time, Hemberger had no idea that one day he would take over The Loft.

In the 1980s, The Loft went from performing arts center to recording studios, thanks to Reagan-era cuts in arts funding, and Hemberger took the reins. Now the Cold Spring resident is engineer for studio sessions involving world-class artists like pop star Rihanna – Hemberger has worked on each of the singer’s three releases. “She’s a real sweetheart,” he says. “We developed her for about a year before she was signed to Def Jam.”

He’s also worked with former American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson and local teens using music to articulate their dreams. Hemberger performs in several local bands, including Tiki Daddy (20s and 30s Hawaiian), Uncle Wade (roots and blues) and The Renovators, a blues-rock party band that has recorded seven CDs. Gigs and studio work consumes many hours, but Hemberger makes time for his wife, Hope Turino, and daughters, seven-year-old Raina and four-year-old Matisse. “We started our family a little late in life but I’m so glad we did,” says Hemberger. “I love my kids and they are the most fun in the world!”

Raised to give back

Now Hemberger is doing for his kids what his parents did for him – showing them how to give back.
Raised in the 1950s by unabashedly progressive parents – his father visited Soviet Russia at the height of the Cold War to foment better relations – Hemberger upholds their values. He devotes significant time to many Hudson Valley charity projects. Uncle Wade has performed on the Clearwater sloop several times. 

This past summer, Hemberger also performed at the Clearwater Revival Festival, an environmental music festival held at Croton Park.  He found himself playing beside his idols, the legendary Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie.
                                                                                                                            
Hemberger also plays with Annie and the Natural Wonder Band (wonderband.com), where he takes a stand on environmentalism (the group sings of green living to young audiences) and he has recorded three of the groups CDs.

Upcoming charity gigs abound: Hemberger is booked to perform at benefits for local libraries, schools, parks, a bereavement group, environmental groups, the Glynnwood Center for sustainable, organic farming, Cold Spring’s farmer’s market and the United Way. Maintaining such a strenuous schedule for charitable events, Hemberger says, is about karma. “I think what goes out comes back, I guess,” he says. “Whatever you put energy into, that’s what has energy in it.”                     

Al Hemberger’s upcoming gigs:
  • November 14: A benefit at The Howland Center in Beacon with Local 845 – a music collective run by Stephen Clair. It will feature many local musicians from the Hudson Valley. The benefit is to raise money for a Summer Waterfront Concert Series in Beacon. For updated information, join Local 845’s Facebook fan page.
  • November 15: Gig with Work o’ The Weavers 2pm in Newton Center, MA. For more information, visit www.workotheweavers.com.
  • December 5: Cold Spring Christmas – a town-wide fundraiser for PARC, an organizaiton that provides lifelong opportunities forpeople with disabilities. For more information, visit www.putnamarc.org. To keep up with Al and other Cold Spring musicians, join the ‘Live Music in Cold Spring’ Facebook page.

Hudson Valley writer Jay Blotcher had a brief relationship with the cornet during the early 70s.

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