Fletcher Farms hosts benefit concert for ESBR

The crowd at the ESBR fundraiser concert, hosted by the Fletcher Farms School. Photo by Paula Benson

LUDLOW, Vt. – On Friday night, July 15, 2022, a benefit concert for the Expeditionary School at Black River (ESBR) was held at Fletcher Farms Craft School in Ludlow, Vt. Jennifer Hartswick and Nick Cassarino performed for a good-sized crowd, spread across the field on blankets and lawn chairs. Children and dogs ran and played, and tasty, Mediterranean streetfare was served by Fork in the Road Food Truck of Plymouth.

The Black River School has a long history in Ludlow, first opening in 1835 as Black River Academy, then operating as a public high school from 1938–2019. ESBR was established in 2018, after members of the community, parents, and local business leaders came together with a mission and commitment to create an affordable, cost-efficient, innovative, and collaborative ecosystem of education.

ESBR partners with other organizations in the area, including Fletcher Farms, to “redesign the relationship with local schools, the business community, and taxpayers,” as stated on the ESBR website. Fletcher Farms provides ESBR with visual arts instruction, along with support regarding community engagement and fund raising.

Jennifer Hartswick and Nick Cassarino. Photo by Paula Benson

Friday evening’s performance showcased the musicians’ considerable talents and delighted the audience, which erupted in cheers and applause throughout the concert. Hartswick’s soulful, powerful voice, and Cassarino’s inspired guitar skills were notable. Hartswick also played a jazzy trumpet on several songs. Their two-hour set included covers of Prince, Bonnie Raitt, Radiohead, and

Paul Simon songs. Hartswick regularly tours with the Trey Anastasio Band. She is releasing an album, “Something in the Water,” slated to come out in September of 2022.

Both artists are native Vermonters, and Cassarino is an alumnus of the Black River High School. Cassarino expressed gratitude to Kendra Rickerby as a beloved teacher and mentor and thanked her for teaching him to be “curious,” and how to practice “outside the box thinking.” Rickerby is the Head of School and Lead Faculty for ESBR and organized the event, with sponsorship from Mary Davis Realty and Inside Edge Rentals.

All proceeds from the concert will benefit ESBR’s performing arts programs.

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