Who We Are

The Kandoo Band is a group of musicians/friends who first came together through the Williams Syndrome Association and Nancy Goldberg's Belvoir Terrace WS Music Camp in Lenox, MA. The band's name was inspired by a Goethe quote: "Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it." Some of the band members have been playing together for over ten years. All have studied music performance at Berkshire Hills Music Academy in South Hadley, MA, where they had an opportunity to hone their professional skills. The Kandoo Band was formed in the summer of 2007 to play at a Special Olympics benefit, but disbanded shortly thereafter to pursue different musical paths. A phone call from John Esteves, Sr. of Disability Resource Network, Inc., inviting the group to play at the 2009 Connecticut Youth Powerfest was the impetus for the reformation of the Kandoo Band. Now based in Connecticut, the band has six members (all of whom were born with the rare condition called Williams syndrome) who hail from three different states. The past two years' highlights include:
  • A benefit performance for the Edna Y. Schwartz Scholarship Fund and Belvoir Terrace at The Allen Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center. (Please take a look at our scrapbook of that memorable evening!)
  • Expansion of pre-teaching curriculum materials to accompany the band's D.R.E.A.M. Ability Awareness Assembly for elementary, middle, and high school audiences
  • The digital release of the Kandoo Band's first original song, "Take the Diss Out" on iTunes, in support of the "Spread the Word to End the R-Word" campaign. Listen to the soul/pop version: http://www.tunecore.com/widgets/show/71332
  • A live radio broadcast from the WWPT FM Media Lab at Staples High School, Westport, CT: Watch the interview with the band by Staples Inklings journalists: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnoCuArJezo
  • Two Best Buddies CT Friendship Walks, the Best Buddies Ball at Staples H.S. Westport, CT, and the Best Buddies Celebration of Friendship Reception at Roger Williams Botanical Center, Providence, RI
  • Winner of the First Annual Talent Search for Best Buddies International. Watch the winning five minute video:    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gSzRyLq1Uo or watch the inspiring Best Buddies International Leadership Conference Opening Ceremonies: http://www.bestbuddies.tv/assets/lc2011opening.html   (Kandoo Band performance begins about 56 minutes in.) 
  • The Berkshire Hills Music Academy 10th Anniversary Gala at Boston House of Blues
  • Best Buddies Challenge: Hyannis Port 2012 events, including performance at Harvard Stadium for the Tom Brady Charity Football Game, a cappella performance of National Anthem at start of 100 mile bike race and 5 K run/walk, and opening got the Plain White T's at the finish line clambake celebration
  • National 2012 Williams Syndrome Association Convention, Boston, MA
  • Best Buddies International Leadership Conference 2012, Featured Opening Night performers, The Auditorium, Indiana University
    
           Brendan                  Bret                    John                     Tori                   Lucas                   Robby

Keyboard player and vocalist Tori Ackley, from South Hadley, MA, has performed all over the country, including appearances at actor Matthew Perry's annual benefit for the Lili Claire Foundation. The winner of Best Buddies 2007 American Idol competition, Tori is an accomplished singer/songwriter, and released her first EP of 3 original songs recorded at Berklee College of Music in 2009. She recently completed her second EP. One of the original members of the BHMA Performance Troupe, and a member of the BHMA Extended Learning Community (ELC), Tori thrilled fellow Red Sox fans singing the national anthem at Fenway Park in 2009.

Trumpet player and bassist Robby Belknap, of Lynbrook, NY, was a member of the BHMA Troupe and the Best Buddies Friendship Band. In addition to his music, he has worked as a stagehand in numerous musical theater productions for the Black Cat Theater and Granby Arts Productions (GAP) in Massachusetts. He has also played for the Bay Road Band. Having studied trumpet with noted Connecticut Valley musician Brian Bender and bass with Mannes College of Music graduate Dirk Litzner, Robby's versatility in being able to switch from the rhythm to the horn section makes him one of the band's most valued utility musicians! 

Drummer and vocalist Bret Fleming, of Westfield, NJ, has garnered numerous accolades for his rock solid percussion work. He has played in the pit for 7 years in an array of musicals with community theater groups, Springfield College, and the Academy of Music in the five colleges area of Western MA. As a former member of the BHMA Performance Troupe and the Best Buddies Friendship Band, Bret has performed extensively across the New England and Tri-State area, as well as working as a studio musician with Edgar Almeida and Dirk Litzner. Bret's vocals cover a range from rock to opera and are featured on "Take the Diss Out", for which he co-authored the lyrics, and "Dream Engine". Bret worked as as a music therapy assistant at Lake View School in Edison, NJ. for 3 years, and was a member of the Celebration singers for the 2011-2012 season. Bret's affinity for writing lyrics is evident in his most recent song for the Kandoo Band, "Can I Get A Taste?"

Drummer, guitarist, and bassist Brendan LeMieux, of Madison, CT, earned his Honors Certificate from the New Haven Neighborhood Music School's three year Certificate Program, where he concentrated in percussion, studying jazz with Jesse Hameen II and Afro-Carribean drumming with Baba David Coleman. He has performed with Sarah LeMieux & the Superblue Band, at  Arlene's Grocery, Make Music New York, and the Georgetown Saloon, and he regularly sits in with John Russell's Big Easy Trio at Bill's Seafood. Brendan was a reporter and band member for the MTV series How's Your News? and July 2011 marked his 6th year playing with the Grand Ole Opry House Band, 5 years on drums, 1 year on guitar, to accompany the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center/ACM Lifting Lives Campers. He co-composed the music for Kandoo Band's singles "Take the Diss Out" and "Dream Engine", both of which were digitally released through TuneCore in 2011 and 2012. Recently, Brendan received the Best Buddies Connecticut 2012 Community Advocate Award. He is currently participating in the Best Buddies Ambassador training program, to further his goal of being an advocate.

Classically trained clarinet and saxophone player John Libera, of South Hadley, MA. twice won the regional Junior Award for the Handicapped of the National Federation of Music Clubs. As an original member of the BHMA Performance Troupe, he has performed frequently at the Audi Best Buddies Challenge at Hyannis Port. An accomplished player of classical music, more recently he has developed a jazz sound as a student of the internationally known baritone sax player, Gary Smulyan. Appearing as a solo performer as well as in ensembles, John has brought his smooth background music to numerous receptions and conferences, including events in Massachusetts, Missouri, and California. Helped by a Best Buddies Leadership Training Program, he has recently begun public speaking as an advocate, with his first speech at Holy Cross College chapter of Best Buddies. In 2012, John was honored by the Department of Developmental Services, Holyoke/Chicopee Area, for his volunteer work helping younger children with disabilities.

Of guitarist and vocalist Lucas Wahl, of Waddell, AZ, it's been said he channels the spirit of Jimi Hendrix with his always soulful guitar stylings. Lucas has also been a member of the BHMA Performance Troupe and Best Buddies Friendship Band. He was also a reporter and band member for the MTV series How's Your News? He and Brendan have performed with the band State Radio at Toad's Place, New Haven, and the Bowery Ballroom. After spending a year in Connecticut pursuing his music studies at Neighborhood Music School, then another year back at BHMA, Lucas returned to Arizona to attend Estrella Mountain Community College. He has recently moved back to Massachusetts, where he is furthering his musical goals.







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Kandoo Band 4 sided business card 8-2011  1398k v. 1 Aug 18, 2011, 5:08 AM Anne LeMieux
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