Best Of Hudson Valley 2011: Best Actors, Chefs, Musicians, and People in the Hudson Valley, Upstate NY
Best people in the Hudson Valley PLUS: Readers’ Picks, including Best Actor/Actress, New Band, Author, Morning Show Personality, and Politician
Soul sound: Band members Xiques (left) and Dominguez of WeMustBe
WeMustBe, Ulster County
While many current up-and-coming bands are writing folk songs about workingman’s woes or angsty rock about love and society, duo WeMustBe is bringing a fresh new sound to the Valley. To put it simply, the pair describes their sound as “organic pop,” consisting of upbeat lyrics, feel-good beats, and a jazz-like approach to freeform playing, allowing the song to shape itself. Sultry-voiced singer/guitarist Christine Dominguez, who grew up in Newburgh, and skilled percussionist T. Xiques — originally from Putnam Valley — say their songs have been influenced by a wide range of artists, from Ray Charles to Bill Evans to Led Zeppelin. They recently released their self-titled debut album — full of soulful grooves and danceable riffs — and have been seen and heard around some of the Valley’s most well-known festivals (Mountain Jam, Clearwater) and venues such as The Chance, Bearsville Theater, and others. • www.wemustbe.com
Danielle DeZao, founder of H♥rt1, Poughkeepsie
When you meet Danielle DeZao, you face a well-spoken, bright-eyed blonde with a firm handshake and an open smile. She is not meek by any means, and you certainly don’t picture the chatty Marist College fashion merchandising student as the kind of girl who could be pushed around. But she was.
Two years ago, DeZao was on the receiving end of a physically and emotionally abusive relationship. “My ex-boyfriend was perfect. My parents thought we were going to get married,” she says. But when frivolous arguments over her clothes and friends culminated with her ex insisting on knowing (and controlling) every moment of her day — and eventually pushing, shoving, and striking her — DeZao decided she’d had enough. After nearly a year of abuse, she sought guidance from school counselors and her parents (“I probably took 20 years off their lives when I told them everything,” she laughs), and ended the relationship for good.
DeZao then learned that one in every three young adults is involved in a similar relationship. She felt moved to do something. “I started making bracelets,” she says. Now, as head of H♥rt1 — a student-run organization that aims to “heal a heart, remove the one [young adult in an abusive relationship]” — DeZao has been invited to the White House; featured on ABC and Fox News programs; and worked with fashion guru Tim Gunn and Liz Claiborne, Inc. to raise awareness and stop physical and emotional abuse. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month; to get the message out, DeZao is teaming up with Poughkeepsie’s Grace Smith House to host vigils and events at Marist. She is also working to reinstate domestic violence training programs for campus security guards — the first such lessons in 15 years.
Throughout it all, DeZao has stayed positive; she offers some advice for teens and young adults who find themselves in an emotionally and/or physically abusive situation: “Trust yourself. Love yourself enough to not let anyone else hurt you. And most importantly, tell someone — anyone — about it!” • www.removethe1.com
James Earl Jones, Pawling
Melissa Leo, Stone Ridge
Best Artist: Tarryl Gabel of Hyde Park
Tarryl Gabel, Hyde Park
Steve Hamilton, Cottekill
Rico Suave’s Chimps in Tuxedos, Hyde Park
Marcus Guiliano, Ellenville
Rhett Meyers, Poughkeepsie
Best Local Musician: Natalie Merchant