Around the Island

Island music fans ‘weather the storm’ for bluegrass show

Saturday night’s snowstorm didn’t stop music lovers from filling up Shelter Island School’s auditorium for the Brooklyn-based Damn Tall Buildings bluegrass concert presented by Sylvester Manor.

“It was very well attended despite the snowstorm. Many of the attendees are from off-Island so these folks ‘weathered the storm’ for this group,” said John Kerr, who helps organize the shows. “They were rewarded, for it was one of the best groups we have had in the 26 years of the concert series.”

Primary vocalist and lyricist Max Capistran’s singing recalled old blues while Sasha Dubyk’s rich vocal tone and soulful flair reflected her time spent studying musical theater. The interplay between Avery Ballotta’s fiddle and Jordan Alleman’s banjo married perfectly with the churning rhythm section of Capistran’s guitar and Dubyk’s bass. 

“Given the wintry weather, we were thrilled with attendance,” said manor events planner Alice Clark. “Beyond their obvious talent, the band brought heart, humor and positive energy to the stage that was clearly felt and returned by the audience.” She added that over 220 tickets were sold. 

The band was made up of four quintessential roots instruments — the banjo, double bass, acoustic guitar and fiddle — all played by graduates of Boston’s Berklee College of Music. 

“The talent of the individuals was wonderful to behold in folks so young,” recalled Mr. Kerr. ‘Watching Avery Ballotta “Montana’s” skills on the fiddle made the concert lots of fun and the energy of Max Capistran along with his songwriting skills and showmanship made for many smiles. Sasha Dubyk on the bass provided bottom for the group and her strong vocals balanced out the others’ tones. Great harmonies also came from Jordan Alleman’s vocals and his banjo skills were superb.”

This post-holiday Shelter Island tradition began back in 1994, when a group of Island musicians, including Mr. Kerr and Tom Hashagen, the manor’s musical events coordinator, decided to start producing the shows. They decided on bluegrass and the concerts have branched out and now include spring and summer shows as well.

“This group had it all and was wonderful to be in their presence. If you didn’t go, you missed a wonderful time,” said Mr. Kerr. “It was perfect for a snowy night in January.”

To hear more of the band’s music, visit