News will be posted as it happens, previous press clippings posted below.
“Tom Callinan is a charismatic performer, whose musical ability and inventive compositions have fashioned his recognition as a celebrated Connecticut troubadour." - John Ostrout, Executive Director, Connecticut Commission on the Arts
More Quotes listed Below
Last wish inspires a song
Published 02/15/2013 12:00 AM - Updated 02/14/2013 08:36 PM
By Peter Huoppi
The story of a New London woman who, as part of her final wishes, wanted her casket to ride down Pequot Avenue in a horse-drawn carriage aroused the Irish in Tom Callinan and inspired him to write a song.
Callinan, who was named the first State Troubadour in 1991, sat down last week after hearing about Josephine Pollio’s last ride on Feb. 5 and wrote “I Want to Go Down Pequot Avenue One More Time.’’
Text of Article Below
Woman's last ride down Pequot inspires former state troubadour
By Kathleen Edgecomb - Publication: The Day - Published 02/15/2013 12:00 AM - Updated 02/15/2013 12:12 AM
Peter Huoppi/The Day
Norwich singer/songwriter Tom Callinan performs Thursday at Beechwood Manor in New London. Callinan recently wrote "I Want to Go Down Pequot Avenue One More Time'' about a woman's last wish for a carriage ride down the New London street after seeing a story in The Day.
New London - The story of a New London woman who, as part of her final wishes, wanted her casket to ride down Pequot Avenue in a horse-drawn carriage aroused the Irish in Tom Callinan and inspired him to write a song.
Callinan, who was named the first State Troubadour in 1991, sat down last week after hearing about Josephine Pollio's last ride on Feb. 5 and wrote "I Want to Go Down Pequot Avenue One More Time.''
"I'm such a sucker for horse-drawn carriages anyway,'' he said. "My family was agrarian farmers in Ireland, and dairy farmers here. ... The story just hit all the right buzzers for me."
Pollio, an 87-year-old New London resident, had made her funeral arrangements 16 years ago. She picked out a blue casket and asked that the funeral home hire a horse and cart for a trip along the Thames River. She also asked that snacks be provided for the horse, which turned out to be Gus, a Percheron draft horse.
"Gus is taking me out for one last carriage-ride, Down Pequot Avenue, to enjoy the lovely view,'' the song begins.
"The clip-clop on the pavement and the creaking of the wheels, Even though it's not the 'Gilded Age,' I feel so damned genteel," is the refrain.
"I didn't want to write anything maudlin,'' Callinan said. "I thought it was such a positive experience.''
Pollio's daughter, Anna Culbertson, was unaware of the song but was delighted when told her mother's last wish was being immortalized in music.
"That sounds so wonderful,'' she said.
Callinan left a CD at St. Mary's Church for Culbertson to pick up.
He was at his home in Norwich battling bronchitis when he read in The Day about Pollio's last ride.
"The story was fabulous,'' he said. "It hit a key spot and opened up the muse in me. She poured out. It was like a volcano."
He pulled out his guitar and a clarinet he hadn't played in years, and wrote the song.
Callinan, who has released 15 CDs and is working on one with a War of 1812 theme, performed the song at a Valentine's Day party Thursday at Beechwood Manor in New London.
He had performed the ditty for the first time earlier this week for senior citizens in Waterford.
"They started singing along,'' he said. "It's very nice when that happens."
PEPPERELL -- Jackie Callinan is a Pepperell resident who was looking for things about her Irish heritage.
Tom Callinan, no relation, a Norwich, Conn.-based regional songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who has released 14 albums, performed on the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage, National Public Radio and Shining Time Station alongside Ringo Starr, appeared on her search. In September of 2005 she sent him an e-mail. "It turns out our ancestors lived 9 miles apart from one another in Ireland," Jackie Callinan said.
Both Callinan's began an online correspondence, e-mailing one another back and forth about family histories, political jokes and other conversational things. Before long, Tom Callinan was scheduled to play a concert in Amherst, N.H. and Jackie Callinan went up to see him.
She soon found out about Tom's vast music catalog and interest in history. Tom Callinan began playing clarinet and saxophone in grade school, but picked up many more instruments, 20 in all, by the time he graduated high school. He studied to be an English teacher at Central Connecticut University. There he also took on a music minor and would later attend Wesleyan University for a master's in liberal arts with a concentration in music.
After five years teaching English, Tom Callinan began a music career. He plays to people of all ages, educating young people and doling out nostalgia for the elderly.
His first gig was as part of The Morgans, a Hartford-based folk band, after he returned from service in the Marine Corps. He was also a part of a rock group called the Twisting Tornadoes when he was younger. It is his solo work, however, that has been the biggest part of his life.
Inspired by his father, a barbershop quartet and minstrel show singer, Callinan began writing songs and playing guitar. He follows in the ilk of big bands like Tommy Dorsey, the Clancy Brothers and other traditional Irish folk music, school marching bands. In 1991 he was deemed the first "Official State Troubador" by the Connecticut General Assembly.
Tom Callinan's solo career is marked by regional history. He turns stories into songs. His next album is called Commemorations and will feature tributes to small characters from the dustbin of history.
When Jackie Callinan learned of his love for history, she suggested a Pepperell girl worthy of his pen: Prudence Wright.
So he wrote "Prudence Cummings Wright" and, in November, is coming to perform it for the town. The Pepperell Historical Society and Prudence Wright Chapter of the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution are co-sponsoring a concert with Tom Callinan. It will be his first time in Pepperell.
"Its important to teach these things and boost people's awareness," he said. "My work is a tribute to people, real people."
Commemorations features the Prudence Wright tune, and songs about people like Deborah Sampson, another female hero who faked her identity to fight in the Continental Army; inventor David Bushnell, who pioneered the first submarine; and Michael Donlon, a Conn. man who died saving a mother and daughter from an on-coming train.
"I don't plan on this stuff, it just comes out of me, these are inspiring stories," Tom Callinan said.
Other's he has sung about include a lawyer who helped start the American Association of Variable Star Observers, the compassionate British Commander William Campbell, the bookish Noah Webster, level-headed Oliver Elsworth and the Paul Revere-like Sybil Ludington. He says he usually hears about these characters like he did Prudence Wright and then researches them intensely to learn all he can. By committing them to rhythm and rhyme, he says, they are accessible, understood and preserved.
The concert will take place at the Pepperell Senior Center on Thursday, Nov. 3, at 6:30 p.m. Admission will be free but donations are accepted. Information on Tom Callinan can be found at http://www.crackerbarrel-ents.com/Callinan/bio.htm. His album Commemorations is out now and will be available for sale at the event.
The 90 degree temperatures, the bright sunshine and
the aroma of hot dogs and ribs wafting through the
air was the perfect setting for the Sisters in residence
at the Provincial House and their guests to say hello
to summer from the comfortably recently renovated
(thanks to the generosity of our donors) pavilion.
In anticipation of the Memorial Day weekend and the
official beginning of the summer season, recreation
directress Claudia Bettez and her associate Patricia
Podurgiel welcomed the staff and the employees of
the PH to join the Sisters for this special celebration.
The delicious and ample lunch was enhanced by the
music and song of Connecticuts first Official
State Troubadour Mr. Tom Callinan who serenaded
the group with his traditional fare of old time favorites,
encouraging everyone to sing along as much as they
wanted. He struck a special chord with the picnickers
when he led them through a roaring rendition of Alouette
and Sur le pont dAvignon and Those
were the days. Several Sisters of French Canadian
descent also proudly sang the Canadian national anthem
as Tom accompanied on his guitar.
Norwich Bulletin 7/03/09
Concer: Entertainer sings history of Norwich, Callinan
was state troubadour Link
Posted Jul 03, 2009 @ 11:37 PM
To create his CD, "Where Three
Rivers Come Together (Norwich Through the Ages),"
TomCallinan of Norwich was a one-man tour de force.
Creating a tapestry of sound, the former
teacher and now full-time entertainer/traveling bard,
Callinan used a diverse group of instruments for the
songs that pay tribute to Norwich's350th anniversary.
"I wanted as concisely as possible
to tell of the history of some of Norwich's moments,"
said Callinan of the title song of the CD. Callinan
will officially debut the 15-track CD Monday with
a performance at Otis Library Monday.
John Shishmanian/ NorwichBulletin.com
Tom Callinan of Norwich used a variety of instruments
in making his CD commemorating Norwich's 350th anniversary.
Callinan will perform Monday at Otis Library in Norwich.)
He worked in his studio - in his historic
home on the town green, using an intriguing collection
of instruments, such as the penny whistle, saxophone,
Irish drum, six-string banjar, harmonicas and guitars
to get the folksy sound that mingles with other styles.
And the style blends with whatever story he is telling.
"It's history put into song," said Bill
Champagne of Preston, a member of the Norwich Historical
Society who recently heard the title song on one of
Norwich's walking tours. "It's an easy way to
learn about history and it's fun."
To prepare himself for the making of
the CD, which he began in January and completed in
June, Callinan researched Norwich, buying books and
talking to historians. But Callinan, who was Connecticut's
first official troubadour, is already well immersed
in history - writing more songs about Connecticut
than any other songwriter. And he also takes material
from his own experiences - as well as a love for Norwich,
having moved here two years ago from Clinton.
In "Where Three Rivers Come Together,"
Callinan begins with the sale of Norwich by Uncas
to the settlers, and takes listeners through the Revolutionary
War, the Civil War, the textile boom and the efforts
to rebuild a city desolated by the departure of the
"I still see the foundation for
recovery," said Callinan, who leaves the verses
on a positive note - highlighting Norwich's positives,
such as the art galleries, the Slater Museum and Mohegan
He also likes imagine life in the past, evident in
his song "Meeting House Rock." Callinan
was fascinated with the rock behind the Town Green
where settlers worshiped.
In rain, mud, freezing weather and dressed
in black from head to toe in scorching heat, they
made their pilgrimage up to this vantage point with
guns at the ready - a dedication that impresses Callinan,
a pluck he portrays by infusing the song with a boogie-woogie
One touching song came about by chance.
Callinan is a collector of Norwich items, and when
he bought a silver pitcher off e-Bay that came from
the old Norwich Inn, he found the seller was from
Norwich. He called them up and agreed to meet to avoid
the hassle of mailing. He found out the seller, Larry
Canova, didn't want the pitcher because it wasn't
made by Thermos, the company his grandfather worked
for. The experience inspired Callinan to write a song
about the grandfather, Aldo Canova, and the trucks
he would drive for Thermos.
He also penned a thoughtful song on Norwich's most
infamous resident - Benedict Arnold - who is oftentimes
overlooked when Norwich reviews its storied past.
"I wanted to give tribute to him as both a patriot
and traitor," Callinan said. To punctuate Arnold's
struggle between the two, Callinan placed "Yankee
Doodle Dandy" in a minor key to shade the song
with a sense of foreboding. He used the bodhran drum
and the penny whistle to replicate the sound of the
fife and drums - representing the Colonial militia.
Callinan's CD also covers the diversity of Norwich
in the song "Patchwork Quilt of Many Colors,"
and even the dragon boat races on the river. But whatever
Callinan lends his creative spirit to, whether the
past, or present, he does so with a passionate curiosity,
and love for his craft.
"He has a captivating personality, he's a charmer,"
said longtime friend, Dick Curland, who had Callinan
perform at his school, Valley View, in Portland, when
he was principal.
"He makes you feel very much at home. While he's
confident, he's not overbearing about it. He has a
nice way about him," Curland said.
Home Grown Articles - U.S.S. Connecticut
USS Connecticut song written and recorded by troubadours
Anthony Castagno, Contributing Editor, From The Bridge
STATE TROUBADOURS Tom Callinan (left) and Bill Pere.
Troubadours first emerged, singing their lyrical poems, just after the turn of the last millennium in the midst of the Middle Ages. Starting in France, they soon were everywhere throughout Europe, singing songs of heroism and love, bringing news of great deeds and accomplishments. The troubadours became a vital part of the arts and cultures of the times, passing these songs and stories from generation to generation.
It is fitting, then, that two of Connecticut's own troubadours have composed a song to honor the USS Connecticut.
Tom Callinan and Bill Pere, two of Connecticut's official state troubadours appointed by the state Commission on the Arts, have put the finishing touches on a recording of their song, "USS Connecticut".
The song pays homage to technology, but reminds us that it is people who have built the USS Connecticut and people who will guide her for the generation to come.
When the idea of a song was introduced at a USS Connecticut Commissioning Committee meeting last June, committee member John Stratton immediately thought of recruiting his friend and Pfizer coworker, Bill Pere, to help. Pere contacted Tom Callinan, and the process was underway. Pere and Callinan met several times over the summer and into the fall to compose lyrics and music for the song.
Although as troubadours they share certain common interests and philosophies, the differences in their, styles would make this collaboration all the more interesting: Pere is technologically and orchestrally oriented while Callinan prefers a more acoustic, traditional folk approach.
The song was ready for its initial public performance in February 1998 at the Nautilus Museum reception for USS Connecticut crew and many other naval officers and area business leaders.
Just before they began, a klaxon sounded, calling everyone's attention. Both Pere and Callinan knew then that this exact klaxon sound would make an effective addition to the song when they recorded later in the year. They also knew they needed a realistic but reasonably melodic sonar sound to punctuate the mention of sonar in the first verse.
"One thing I've learned is that there's no such thing as a dead end," said Callinan, who undertook the "sonar" search. He contacted friends who had USS Connecticut song written and recorded by troubadours worked at the former Underwater Sound Lab, which led him to other friends at Sonalysts in Waterford, and they had the perfect sound. Pere and Callinan held a contest for a prospective cover design and selected the one painted by Ledyard artist Amy Francis-Renaldi. The cover art is a dramatic portrait of the submarine surfacing in the middle of a stylized U.S. flag shaped like the State of Connecticut.
About the Troubadours
Both Pere and Callinan have a "no dead ends" philosophy when it comes to their art. And both are committed to using their own talents, and tapping the musical and artistic talents of others, to promote social and environmental improvement. In fact, these beliefs have characterized much of what both of these troubadours have already accomplished in their lives.
Callinan was named Connecticut's first official state troubadour when the program was created by the Connecticut Commission on the Arts in 1991. He has been a full-time creative artist and performer since leaving junior-high-school teaching in 1977 and currently gives more than 200 concerts a year all along the East Coast. He has received several awards from the Connecticut Songwriters Association and has performed at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the National Theatre in Washington, DC and has been featured on ABC TV's "Good Morning, America," Peter Jennings retrospective "Images of the 80s," PBS's "Shining Time Station," CNN's "Earth Matters," and many others. As part of his work with the nonprofit group, National Week of the Ocean, he received a grant to present programs to more than 6,000 middle school students in Florida. When named state troubadour, he decided to use his one-year tenure to promote environmental causes, particularly those involving Long Island Sound and the oceans. He also established an archive of songs about Connecticut, a project he continues with the Connecticut Historical Society. He and his wife, Ann Shapiro, manage Crackerbarrel Entertainments in Clinton; he has produced a total of 16 recordings: six solo albums and 10 with groups with which he performs. Collaborating on the creation, performance and recording of "USS Connecticut" has been "a tremendous experience," he says.
Pere was named the official state troubadour for 1995. He decided to use his tenure to bridge art and science and to demonstrate that the two are powerful complements of each other. Pere, a senior research scientist at Pfizer, gives several dozen performances a year and donates all proceeds to local organizations that fight poverty and hunger, including the one he founded in 1989: Local United Network to Combat Hunger (L.U.N.C.H.) . L.U.N.C.H.'s fund-raising events and their eight recordings have raised well over $150,000, all of which has been donated to help hundreds of thousands of people at area shelters, soup kitchens and group homes. The power behind Pere's allvolunteer program is the involvement of children, showing them how music can be used to help others. To date, more than 750 children have participated in his programs. A musician and songwriter since he was a teenager, Pere has received many awards and honors including being named Connecticut Songwriter of the Year in 1983 and 1993, the first recipient of the Connecticut Renaissance Award and the recipient of a citation from the Connecticut General Assembly in 1997 for his work with L.U.N.C.H. Pere, too, was honored to participate in the creation of the "USS Connecticut" song and considers it another way, "to use power of popular song to bring interesting events to public awareness."
The recorded version of "USS Connecticut," complete with klaxon sounds from the Nautilus , is available on cassette or compact disc. For more information, contact Tom Callinan at Crackerbarrel Entertainments, 860-669-6648, Email: email@example.com; or Bill Pere at Local United Network to Email: WDPSongs@aol.com .
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 21, 1998, NEW LONDON SERVING EASTERN CONNECTICUT SINCE 1881 VOL.117, No. 204 36 PAGES 50 CENTS
'The ships that bear our name'
will be something to sing about
By ROBERT A. HAMILTON
Day Staff Writer
Connecticut salutes you
you slip beneath the foam,
Our name and hearts go with you
Until you're safely home.
In this "Land of Steady Habits,"
Some things stay the same;
The pride of folks who build and sail
The ships that bear our name...
Groton - So Goes the refrain to "U.S.S. Connecticut," the song troubadours Bill Pere of Mystic and Tom Callinan of Clinton have composed for the submarine of the same name that is under construction at Electric Boat.
"It's important to commemorate important events in our state, both past and present," Pere said. "And with all the focus that is going to be on the ship, I wanted something that would place the emphasis on the people who designed it, the people who built it, and the people who will sail it. It's a very people-oriented song."
The two songwriters have also begun a contest to come up with cover art for the cassette tape they expect to issue after the tune is recorded next month, Callinan said. The contest is seen as a way to get more people interested, and involved, in the commissioning of the Connecticut, the second of the Seawolf-class submarines EB is building.
Callinan was the state's first official troubadour, in 1991 and 1992. Pere was the fourth.
"Some people say I've written more songs about Connecticut than anyone in history," Callinan said. "I don't know if that's true or not, but I'm willing to accept the title."
The Connecticut, which is scheduled to be delivered to the Navy late this year, is the fourth warship to bear the state's name. Pfizer Chairman William C. Steere was appointed chairman of the Commissioning Committee by Gov. John G. Rowland, whose wife Patricia Rowland is the ship's sponsor.
Commissioning Committee member John Stratton, who works with Pere at Pfizer, said he knew Pere was a songwriter and approached him a few months ago about doing a song specifically for the commissioning. In the past, many ships have had their own commissioning songs.
Stratton said the committee has several projects in the works designed to promote awareness of the Connecticut commissioning.
Pere said he called Callinan, whom he has worked with in the past, "and we got together a few times and worked out the song."
"U.S.S. Connecticut," sung, to the tempo of a march, has three stanzas, with lines such as: "Her hand-picked crew was chosen for the task; With inner strength and well-honed high-tech skills; Together they have learned to work as one; They've trained to fight, but pray they never will." The song will go to the Commissioning Committee for approval in a couple of weeks, Stratton said.
Pere said until the committee officially approves the song, he's not sure what the recording arrange-ments will be, but he and Callinan would probably publish it themselves if they have to.
"Whether it makes a penny or not is not really important to me," Pere said. Any money he makes off music typically goes to local social service agencies or nonprofit groups, he said.
"I like to use music as an inclusive vehicle, allowing as many people as possible to participate," Pere said. "So this song, and the art contest, this gives people in the community chance to contribute."
Mail entries in the art contest to Pere at Mystic Music, 40 Bruggeman Place, Mystic 06355, or to Callinan at Crackerbarrel Entertainments, 168 Shore Road, Clinton, 06413.
The song that makes Portland sing
By NANCY CUNNINGHAM, Middletown Press Staff
April 20, 2001
Tom Warren/The Middletown Press Tom Callinan, of Clinton, sings of the Portland quarries. His next album, to be released in June, will feature his song about the historic landmark.
PORTLAND -- The brownstone quarries inspired folk singer Tom Callinan to write a song about the national historic landmark.
Callinan will feature, "The Freestone Walk of Fame," on his next album titled "Connecticut Grown."
"‘The Brownstone Capital of the World' is Portland, Connecticut's name. Take a sedimental journey on the freestone walk of fame," Callinan sings as he plays the Bodhran, an Irish drum.
The solo album is scheduled to be released in June. It will include a song about the 350th anniversary celebration of Middletown called, "Middletown, The Forest City," and a tongue-in-cheek song about being stuck in traffic on Interstate 91, called "Connecticut's Lifeline I-91."
Similar to his first release in 1990, "Connecticut Troubadour," all the songs on "Connecticut Grown" tell a story about the history of the Constitution State.
"A song is easier than a history lesson," Callinan said. "A melody can give you a picture in your mind."
But, unlike his other albums, this one is uniquely Callinan. "Connecticut Grown" is an eclectic mix of mostly original compositions.
"If you like me you'll love it," Callinan said.
Callinan's musical career dates back to his high school days when he played the clarinet and saxophone for the former Woodrow Wilson High School band. It wasn't until 1977 that Callinan picked up the guitar. Chris Morgan of The Morgans, Callinan's other musical endeavor, left the band to pursue a career as a computer consultant, so Callinan stepped in. And, the band played on.
He composed "The Freestone Walk of Fame" after getting an e-mail from local fans. Town resident Kate Scott and her daughters Molly and Bridget recently e-mailed the folk singer asking him to write about the quarries.
"What better person than the Connecticut State Troubadour to write a song about the brownstone quarries," Scott said.
"We listen to his music all the time."
The Middletown native resides in Clinton with his musically inclined wife, Ann Shapiro.
Callinan will be performing songs of the sea and Ireland with Don Sineti, an original member of The Morgans, in East Hampton on July 5 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the gazebo on the green to benefit the Joseph N. Goff House Project. On July 12 Callinan will perform on the green in downtown Deep River at 6:30 p.m. and on Aug. 2 he will play with Ann in Clinton center at the gazebo at 6:30 p.m. His 18th annual South Florida Tour, An Ocean Odyssey, is May 4 through 13.
For more information, log onto www.Crackerbarrel-Ents.com or contact Crackerbarrel Entertainment at (860) 669-6648.
Saturday, January 19, 2002-Clinton Recorder Weekend
photo by Cathy DeMeo, CT Commission on the Arts
Musician Tom Callinan takes his role as State Troubadour seriously but not, too. The singer-songwriter prides himself on his "nutmeggery."
hen one thinks of a troubadour, one may picture a musician on foot wandering from town to town with a guitar strapped to his back.
Clinton's Tom Callinan, a Connecticut State Troubadour, fits the part in a way. He travels all over the state (he's performed in each of the 169 towns) and from Maine to Florida, playing some 300 dates a year. Only he gets around driving his station wagon, carrying his guitar, sound equipment, strings, a stool (for performing), and CDs in the back.
Callinan recently recorded "Tom Callinan: Connecticut Grown" a CD of his original music to mark his 10th anniversary of being the first appointed "Official State Troubadour." This CD is his second album of songs about The Nutmeg State.
The recording features songs about Connecticut with titles such as "Strawberry Socials" "Save The Singing Bridge," "The Shore Line East," "Christmas on the Shore," "Maple Sugar Time" "The Leatherman," to name a, few homey tunes.
Callinan joked that he is a troubadour "emeritus" and that it is a lifetime honor. In fact, to convince sate legislators to appoint him as troubadour in 1991, he wrote a song "Connecticut's Lifeline: I-91" at the request of a lawmaker.
The legislator told him, "You know if you wrote one (a song) about I-91 you'd have a better chance of getting this out of committee," Callinan remembered.
The musician-songwriter recalled with humor how the state legislature at first wrestled with this appointment. Callinan good-naturedly swears politics had nothing to do with it.
In the car, on the way to a hearing on the matter, Callinan wrote the I-91 song.
"I still had to go to a hearing. I got there and brought my guitar - I'm a troubadour what am I going to do?" Callinan quipped.
Some lawmakers, however, looked askance at the musical instrument he carried and he was told, "There will be no singing at this hearing."
Now, those legislators and Callinan, a big booster for the state, laugh at this. In fact, Callinan has been called "an ambassador for the state of Connecticut."
Friends have told him that his appointment was "the only good thing in that entire session in the state legislature."
Callinan calls himself a "Conn-Oddity" (for his "penchant for nutmeggery") which is "better than being known as a Conn-Artist," he noted with a laugh.
He named the CD "Connecticut Grown" because of his connection to local farmers; Callinan comes from a family of dairy farmers and his family once owned the Sunshine Dairy in Middletown.
The songwriter wrote the song "Strawberry Social" to mark the 100th anniversary of a church's strawberry festival.
"Everybody comes out with a red ring around your mouth," he said about those who attend the annual June socials.
Another song that is close to his heart is "Christmas on the Shoreline." He was inspired by looking out onto the water from his home in Clinton one winter morning.
"I just looked out my window and saw it all - the snow line down to the waterline. It's like a postcard."
Callinan is a prolific songwriter and he admitted, "Some take me 20 minutes - some will never be finished."
"I don't write for fame or fortune. I write about things that make me feel good."
Callinan enjoys being commissioned for a song and added that his motto is "Jingles all the way."
`I'm the hired gun - I'm the hired pen," he joked.
Callinan has appeared on PBS' "Shining Time Station," ABC's "Good Morning America," CNN's "Earth Matters" and on public radio stations nationwide.
Callinan often performs locally with his wife, Ann Shapiro. The pair have formed Crackerbarrel Entertainment. They got the idea for their business name from "The old general store where people sat around the cracker barrel and played cards."
The name has an "old timey feel" and reminds Callinan of where people would go to "yuck it up."
Callinan especially likes handing out his business card for Crackerbarrel Entertainment when he visits Cracker Barrel restaurants.
"I always get really quick service. You see their eyes light up."
Editor's note: To order "Tom Callinan: Connecticut Grown" you may call or fax 860-669-6648 or visit their web site www.Crackerbarrel-Ents.com
CLINTON -- He can play the guitar, banjo, spoons, bodhran (drum), penny whistle, bones, and various other instruments. He has entertained crowds up and down the eastern seaboard, in Canada, Barbados, and even at the University of Notre Dame. He is Connecticut's first official state troubadour and he lives right here on the shoreline. Tom Callinan has been performing music since he was 10 years old, when he first learned to play the clarinet. A couple of years later he picked up the saxophone, and the rest is history. He now has a lengthy laundry list of musical instruments that he is able to play, and he does so on a professional level.
But it wasn't always that way. Tom received his bachelor's degree in English, with a minor in music, from Central Connecticut State University. During his college years he enlisted in the Marine Corps and served as a stateside Marine during the Vietnam War. After graduating from college, Tom taught junior high school English and reading in East Hampton from 1973 to 1977, before leaving that position to attend Wesleyan University. There, he completed his Master's degree in Liberal Studies with a music concentration.
"It was great," he says. "My culminating project was a concert."
Tom grew up in Middletown and moved to Clinton in 1978. He says that his parents had a summer cottage in town and, upon visiting it one day, he saw that a house was for sale only a half of a mile away. He knew the owner, negotiated a deal, and moved in. He now lives close to the cottage and co-owns it with his siblings. Tom says that he loves living in Clinton.
"It's a great town," he says.
It has been 25 years since Tom left teaching to write and perform songs, making music his full-time profession. Tom's music is "folk music based" with Irish and British Isle traditions. He has self-produced seven albums, including two of Irish music, one of sea songs, one sing-a-long, and one with a political satire theme.
His most recent album commemorates the 10th anniversary of his designation as Connecticut's first "Official State Troubador." It is his second album with a Connecticut theme and is called "Connecticut Grown." It features 23 songs with names such as "Connecticut's Lifeline, I-91," "Christmas on the Shoreline," and "Thumbs Up For Connecticut."
Tom has performed at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the National Theater in Washington, D.C. He has appeared on PBS's "Shining Time Station," ABC's "Good Morning America," CNN's "Earth Matters," and on public radio stations nationwide. Tom performs about 300 show per year.
"It's been an interesting career," Tom says.
Tom says that he has had many great experiences during his performances. He has watched Alzheimer's patients perk up upon hearing certain songs and even watched as an elderly woman with two prosthetic hips threw aside her walker to dance to "This Land Is Your Land." Tom has performed for blind people who are able to better connect to the music by touching the instruments to feel their vibrations.
"It's really amazing when you see it touch people like that," he says. "It just feels really good to do that for people."
He also performs at schools, libraries, historical societies, park and recreation centers, community concerts, senior centers, and for AARP groups.
"It's fulfilling work," Tom says. "It's not boring."
Tom occasionally performs with his wife, Ann Shapiro. Ann is the executive director of the Connecticut Storytelling Center at Connecticut College in New London. Tom says that her demanding job only allows her to be his part-time musical partner, but that the two are equally devoted to their music.
"We're consumed with the arts," he says.
Tom and Ann have been married since 1980 and have one son together named Emmett, who is a junior at Syracuse University. The couple is proud of Eli, Ann's son and Tom's stepson, who is a successful chef in California. Eli and his wife are planning a move back to New England, which is music to Tom and Ann's ears. Other than the family's East Coast reunion, Tom says he looks forward to doing more shows, to writing new songs, and to kicking off his 19th annual tour in Florida. He will also keep performing with his band, The Morgans, which has been together for 31 years.
"I will continue with my shows and with writing new songs as I get the inspiration," he says. "I have more albums that I want to do but when you are self-produced you have to weigh that with the amount of money you have."
Tom's "Connecticut Grown" CD, which is sure to be a hit among Nutmeggers and lovers of Connecticut alike, is available for purchase through the mail or through his website, www.crackerbarrel-ents.com. For further information, visit the website or contact Crackerbarrel Entertainments, 168 Shore Road, Clinton 06413.
A Song To Elian: It Was Inevitable, But What Rhymes With Gonzalez?
By PAT SEREMET
The Hartford Courant
April 13, 2000
Tom Callinan has been singing his whole life.
In 1991, Callinan, 53, of Clinton, was named the state's first official troubadour, a curious but heady distinction.
He sang about Iran-contra. He sang about Gorbachev. He sang about the Challenger explosion.
His newest song is about the boy Elian Gonzalez, caught in a tug-of-war between his father in Cuba and relatives in America.
The song is "Leave Elian Alone!'' and the sentiment is that Elian be with his dad.
"I'm a father,'' Callinan said. "I've got a stepson, 26, who's been with me since he was 5, and a 19-year-old son who's a freshman at Syracuse.
"I'm also a former Marine and have no love for Castro. Some people are political, but to me, this is clearly parental. He should go where his father wants him to go.
"I'd show up naked in shark-infested waters to get my son back."
When Callinan saw a video of Elian cavorting in Walt Disney World just days after his mother died at sea, he said: "It turned my stomach.'' Hence, he wrote the song. Callinan has sent it to "Send Elian Home'' Web sites and to radio stations. He said he heard it broadcast on New York's WABC-AM (770), on the Lynn Samuels show.
"I don't expect to make a dime,'' he said.
Here's the start of the song:
Elian Gonzalez left Cuba on a boat,
Three days later he was found clinging to a float.
His mother, stepfather, and 10 others lost their lives;
Elian and two more were all who had survived.
A boy of six, and motherless, his father did implore
The I.N.S. to send him back to Cuba's sunny shores,
But his family in Miami said the boy should stay with them,
Thinking only of themselves, not of him.
But Disney and doo-dads don't spell "Daddy."
E.T. even knew the call of home.
Dorothy had everything, but still clicked her heels
To forsake "The Emerald City'' and choose the Kansas fields.
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.
So, if you folks in Miami care about that little boy,
Butt out, and leave Elian alone
Critics call LNG plant unsafe and unsuitable
Robert Varley, Register Staff 09/22/2005
BRANFORD — A public hearing on a proposed liquefied natural gas plant in Long Island Sound had all the flavor of a political protest Wednesday night at Branford High School.
About 250 people turned out to voice their concerns. The $700 million Broadwater Energy plant would be 10 stories tall, four football fields long and 180 feet wide, and float in New York waters about 10 miles south of Branford Harbor.
Critics of the proposal say it's unsafe and unsuitable for the Sound. Broadwater Energy, a partnership formed by the TransCanada Corp. and Shell U.S. Gas and Power, says it will help provide much-needed energy in the region.
The public hearing was held by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The proposal is in the preliminary stage of a multiple-year review process.
Before the meeting, a crowd rallied in front of the school.
Natasha Proctor, 8, of Orange, dressed in a blue crab costume, was among the crowd protesting the proposed liquefied natural gas plant in Long Island Sound at a hearing at Branford High School Wednesday. Jeff Holt / Register galleries
In addition to speakers protesting the project, Clinton's Tom Callinan sang "Our Water, Not Broadwater."
"And what if something goes awry with Broadwater in our water?" he sang as the generally upbeat tune took an ominous turn. "How many innocent souls will die with Broadwater in our water?"
Natasha Proctor, 8, of Orange, who came with her father and others from the New Haven Yacht Club, danced in a blue crab costume.
"I haven't felt this kind of spirit since the late '60s and Vietnam," said state Sen. J. Edward Meyer, D-Guilford.
The New York-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment produced 50,000 signatures opposed to the Broadwater plant.
"I don't get why we have to entertain every crazy proposal that comes along," said CCE executive director Adrienne Esposito.
She said Broadwater was not a public need, but corporate greed.
John Hritcko Jr., a Broadwater regional project director, said the project was driven by necessity.
"They don't want the visual of the facility, but all you have to look at is the energy prices in Connecticut," he said, saying 25 percent of the gas would be pegged for the state.
He said the size of the project made sense because of the need for volume.
"LNGs are large-scale projects. They're difficult to design and justify on a small scale," he said.
He said they've worked to ensure the project will be safe from any terrorist threats.
"It's too difficult to hit and it will not provide a spectacular event," he said, referring to any casualties in a terrorist raid.
Much of the comment period before the panel was taken up by politicians.
"I'm not a knee-jerk, energy industry demonizer," said Branford Representative Town Meeting member Lonnie Reed, D-5. But she said it was wrong to "test drive" the LNG plant in the Sound.
She said she worries about potential collisions, diesel fuel spills and "catastrophic mooring failure."
While earlier fears about the safety of Broadwater were linked to a terrorist attack, the shock of Hurricane Katrina pushed natural disasters to the forefront.
"It could make the Sound look like the Gulf," said Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. "I'm haunted by the hulks of platforms on (the Gulf of Mexico) shore that were supposed to be impregnable."
Blumenthal quoted a Coast Guard report that called the Sound "fragile and stressed."
"We ought to keep in mind what doctors have as their professional motto: First do no harm," he said.
Meyer pushed the Katrina connection further. He said the federal government had not proven its mettle in responding to that crisis.
"I ask you to make your responsibility in this hearing the avoidance of risk, not the management of risk," he said.
He told the panel that a University of Connecticut marine biologist said ecology would be ruined for a generation by a major accident.
By JUDY BENSON
Published on 11/20/2005
With its bouncing beat and bluesy melody, it's the kind of song that might replay in your head after only one hearing.
“And it's...our water, not...Broad-water.”
Even John Hritcko Jr., senior vice president of the company behind the controversial plan to park a liquefied natural gas barge in Long Island Sound, admits the song has a catchy quality.
“If it weren't for the fact that it's against the Broadwater project,” he said, “I'd probably be singing it, too.”
Tom Callinan, a folk singer from Clinton who was named the first official Connecticut State Troubadour in 1991, wrote the song last spring, after talking about the Broadwater plan with some environmental activists at an Earth Day event.
“It just popped right out of me,” he said. “How can you not write a song about something so absurd?”
In September, Callinan recorded the song with his guitar, a bassist and a clarinetist accompanying his vocals. He donated the rights to it to the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, which has posted it on its Web site.
Later that month, he played the song for a large audience as his testimony at a public hearing on the Broadwater proposal. The hearing, at Branford High School, had been called by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which will decide whether to grant the required permits for the project.
At a pre-hearing rally, Callinan accommodated five or six requests to play the song.
“It's staggering how many people are against this,” he said. “Energy is a necessity, but fossil fuels are a dead end. This is all just corporate greed and the environment be damned.”
For Callinan, writing songs about environmental issues and, in particular, Long Island Sound, is nothing new. He grew up in East Haven, not far from the Sound, and hasn't moved far from its shores. He said he's eager to use his songwriting for protecting the estuary.
As for the battle against the LNG project, he said he's confident public opposition has created a formidable obstacle for Broadwater.
State Troubadour Tom Callinan has written a protest song against the LNG proposal that has become an anthem for environmentalists opposed to the project.
Our Water, Not Broadwater
By Tom Callinan
What do we see looking 'cross The Sound?
We see Our water, Not Broadwater!
When we're sailing 'round, no matter where we're bound,
We're seeing Our water, Not Broadwater!
Refrain: If you want to save the Sound for your sons and your daughters,
You've got to stand up and say No to Broadwater!
The Sound is called ‘The Urban Sea'
And it's Our Water, Not Broadwater!
With a web of life and ecology.
It's Our water, not Broadwater!
Bridge: The Sound's got troubles all its own,
Without ever becoming an industrial zone,
We don't want a floating bomb, filled with LNG
Added to our homeland insecurity.
And what if something should go awry,
With Broadwater in Our water?
How many innocent souls will die
From Broadwater in Our water?
Tomorrow's children deserve to see
Our water, Not Broadwater!
So let's make 'em a gift from you and me
Of Our water, Not Broadwater!
•Beachgoers watch as protesters walk Sunday along Hole In The Wall Beach in Niantic calling for the closure of Millstone Power Station. The nuclear-power complex is visible across the water in Waterford.
•DJ Middleton of Clinton, left, along with banner bearers Darryl Baker of Clinton and Nancy Burton, director of the Connecticut Coalition Against Millstone, march down Main Street in Niantic on Sunday.
Day Staff Photographer
e-mail: Tim Martin
phone: (860) 701-4384
'I feel nuclear energy could be an important part of a national energy plan. It should be evaluated on facts.' Stephen Packard of Guilford, who accepted protesters' challenge to drink “contaminated” goat's milk
Millstone Foes Storm The Beach
By Jenna Cho
Published on 7/3/2006
East Lyme — In an attempt to make a point, Nancy Burton, director of the Connecticut Coalition Against Millstone, squeezed a few drops of milk from a reluctant goat named Katie into a drinking glass Sunday afternoon.
Burton then asked anyone is they wanted to drink the milk. It was in jest, considering the coalition had brought its pet goat Katie to the rally, to emphasize that tests on milk of the region's goats have shown high levels of the radioactive isotope strontium 90, which can cause cancer in large amounts. The coalition, which tests Katie's milk for toxic radiation, charges that the high levels of strontium 90 is coming from Millstone Power Station in Waterford.
Nobody was supposed to actually drink the milk at Sunday's rally. But then, Stephen Packard of Guilford stepped forward and said he would do it. It was not part of the plan. Burton stalled, then declined to let Packard drink the milk.
“I think we'll save this for scientific testing,” she said.
Packard said afterward that he had come to the rally because he felt a lot of what the coalition was advertising was based on “junk science.”
“I feel nuclear energy could be an important part of a national energy plan,” said Packard, a computer repairman who said he was unaffiliated with Millstone or any state agency. “It should be evaluated on facts.”
The milking came as the coalition Connecticut chapter of the Sierra Club held a rally opposing Millstone Power Station and its alleged radioactive contamination of the region at Liberty Park in Niantic. The rally drew about 20 people.
The coalition is urging the power station to convert its cooling system, which the coalition says regularly dumps radioactive waste into Long Island Sound, into a closed cooling system.
A closed cooling system would recycle the water instead of drawing it from and discharging it into the Sound. The coalition also wants the power station closed.
Liberty Park, at the corner of Main Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, was covered in signs that read “Capture the wind! Close Millstone!” and “Swim here at your own risk!” Identical stuffed-animal ducks had signs that read, “I am a sitting duck for Millstone terrorism.”
The coalition also displayed signs that it wants the town of East Lyme to post in beaches, warning swimmers of possible exposure to radioactive waste.
“Swim at your own risk: Your government is not protecting you,” it read.
Burton spoke about the dangers of radioactive waste coming from Millstone. She said the power station regularly dumps chemicals and radioactive waste into Long Island Sound and that residents exposed to the waste are developing cancer and other illnesses.
Cynthia Besade, whose late father Joseph H. Besade helped start the coalition with Burton 11 years ago, spoke passionately about family and friends who have contracted grave diseases that she said were associated with Millstone pollution.
“I've watched this community be poisoned,” she said.
Besade said her father passed away three years ago of lung cancer. He worked as a pipefitter at Millstone for 20 years and lived two miles away from the power station, she said.
Pete Hyde, the spokesman for Dominion, the owner of Millstone, said the coalition's claims about radioactive pollution were “not entirely true.”
“What we discharge, small amounts, (are) well within federal limits,” Hyde said. “The federal government sets limits on what we can discharge into the Sound. We do discharge minute amounts of chemicals and some radioactive materials, but a minute amount.”
He also disputed the coalition's belief that Millstone was causing illnesses in the area's residents. Hyde said that the strontium 90 found in goats' milk is a result of atomic weapons testing from the 1970s and 80s.
“There are a lot of studies that have proven that nuclear plants do not have an impact on the local population,” he said.
John Calandrelli, state director of the Connecticut Sierra Club, said the club wants to eliminate nuclear power and replace it with clean energy.
“It's doable,” Calandrelli said before his rally speech. “Not only technically, but financially. It's just the political will.”
The rally lasted two and a half hours and ended with a march down to Niantic's Hole-in-the-Wall beach, led by Clinton resident DJ Middleton on the snare drum. Middleton, who is in a metal band, said Burton asked him to play at the rally after seeing him drumming on a counter at a Dunkin' Donuts shop.
Scott Curtiss of Southington was bicycling by the rally on Sunday and stopped to listen. He said he fished in Niantic, and while he felt Millstone does contribute to “killing off a lot of fish,” he wanted to know how much of what the coalition was saying was true.
“There's two sides to every story,” Curtiss said.
Clinton resident Tom Callinan, who was the state's first “official state troubadour,” sang anti-Millstone songs on his banjo, guitar and bodhran (a drum) in the park's gazebo. He said he has been writing environmental songs since the '70s and wrote his latest song at 1:30 a.m. Sunday.
“We gotta mothball Millstone/It's the only choice to make/'Cause our lives are all at stake/I remember 9/11 and what solidarity can do/I don't want a Millstone meltdown/Do you?” sang Callinan.
Beachgoers enjoying the warm weather watched the rally proceed down to the edge of the water, where rally participants posed for a group photo with Millstone in the background. The rally, silent save for the constant beat of the snare drum, then continued to the far end of the beach and back. It exited with little fanfare save for a few grumbles from beachgoers.
“It's just rude,” said a man eating a bag of Cheetos.
"Thanks so much for the wonderful program in Lebanon yesterday. Very early this morning my husband, Bill, and I took our niece and nephew for a long hike in the woods. Bill pointed out a fallen tree in the shape of a rifle. The kids said, "Yeah, that's cool!" and then Marc belted out, "For the rifle, for the rifle, in our hands will prove no trifle!" And Sam did the clap! We sang that and "Washington and Rochambeau" throughout the rest of the hike. It was one of those very cool museum-educator type moments: "They LEARNED something!"
We had a great talk about the soldiers and the war and what Paul Revere's ride was really like - and I should also mention that last night at dinner they tried to play some spoons! So - thanks! You were terrific!"
-Sally Whipple, Director Lebanon, CT Historical Society
[WebNote: The quote below is from an assistant principal in Farmington, CT regarding Tom's "Brother Against Brother" Civil War program.]
"Tom, The students at West Woods are still raving about your “informance” on Wednesday. Thank you for the extra effort that you made in staying to talk with them during their lunch periods. Your presentation was informative, thoughtful, and engaging. The students were able to make connections with the information that they already have, as well as use the formation that you gave to them to apply to their future learning. They are still trying to play the spoons ….. teachers, too! Many teachers are asking if there is an address to send things to you that the students have written. Can you please forward an address to me that I can pass along to them? If you prefer, I can collect everything and send everything out to you through me, if you prefer to not have your address floating out and about. Thank you, again for a fabulous opportunity for the students at West Woods Upper Elementary School. Looking forward to seeing you for another fabulous informance." - Anne-Marie Sladewski, Assistant Principal, West Woods Upper Elementary School, 50 Judson Lane, Farmington, CT 06032
[WebNote: The quote below pertains to two performances for diverse groups of high school students from four separate communities in the EASTCONN Region. They had been bused-in to the University of Connecticut, and there were 120 students per performance.]
"I wanted to let you know how much everyone enjoyed your performance. Some of the teachers remarked that you were "great" and definitely kept the students engaged. I was only able to watch part of the program, but what I did see was entertaining and educational. I wanted to thank you for being there on time, setting up and putting on such a great performance!! I will recommend you to colleagues for the future. Thank you." -Cindy C. Curry, Staff Development Specialist, EASTCONN, 322 Main Street, Willimantic, CT 06226
"We enjoyed having you so much at our banquet. Everyone had such a great time listening to your music and your jokes. My sons came home and couldn't wait to play the spoons! Remind me to really thank you for that some day!...Thanks again for a wonderful time." -Kathy Sabo, Cub Scout Pack 36, Wallingford, CT
"I have gradually been receiving comments from grandparents about the holiday party and there is one in particular I wanted to share with you: 'we all enjoyed the party, the food and especially the music and singing. It was a new experience for the children to be able to use different musical instruments to make beautiful music. It was enjoyed by all.' Many thanks again for creating a special experience for the group members." - Barbara Abraham, Coordinator of Elderly Programs for the Community Consultation Board, Inc. , New Haven, CT
“A friend of mine (who is actually an angel, I'm convinced) works in the ER [of a local hospital]. He was telling me about a patient he had recently who was not very cooperative, belligerent and down right nasty. This person apparently makes regular visits to the ER. This one particular night she needed a ride home…[my friend] offered to drive her home when his shift was done. When he got in the car he decided a little music might calm this woman down. He had two tapes...one was something I never heard and the other was Tom Callinan. The woman said put that one on! She never heard of Tom before and she loved it! It calmed her right down! [They] had a pleasant ride home...in peace and harmony! Nice work!!! Peace” -Mike Kachuba, Connecticut's 5th "Official State Troubadour”
"My mother has AZ and even though she is really foggy in many ways, she knew every single word to all the songs in your medleys... And when you sang the Maple Syrup Song, she turned to me with the loveliest expression and said, "Do you remember those times we went sugaring?" -Jane Torrey
Regarding "Cheney Hall" on Tom's "Connecticut Grown" album:
"My kids now point out every "mansard roof with ornate fenestration" as we drive by one!!!" - Kate Dunn Scott, Portland, CT
“Callinan is an expert at getting the audience to take part in the performance.” - Diane M. Hovenesian, THE EVENING GAZETTE, Worcester, Mass.
"Tom Callinan has a red beard, a leprechaun smile and, when he plays his penny whistle, a special way of driving little kids into ecstasy." - Joe Crankshaw, THE MIAMI HERALD
"Tom Callinan sings odes ... that reach out to the emotions." - Andi Rierden, THE NEW YORK TIMES
“He can sing silly songs for kindergarten class and sea chanteys for junior high students in the morning, "Gay 90s" songs for seniors at retirement homes in the afternoon and folk songs at a club in the evening.” - Bill Nagler, THE MIDDLETOWN PRESS, Middletown, CT
“Tom Callinan is a charismatic performer, whose musical ability and inventive compositions have fashioned his recognition as a celebrated Connecticut troubadour." - John Ostrout, Executive Director, Connecticut Commission on the Arts
"Those of us who have been treated to his music consider Tom Callinan one of Connecticut's chief musical assets: balladeer, composer, performer on a score of instruments. ... We are all lucky that such a talent has embraced our state; long may he sing, strum, toot, and drum." - Stephen B. Heintz, Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Economic Development