May 3, 2023

By Anne Levin

For the third time since 2020, Rider University’s bond rating has been downgraded by Moody’s Investor Service, citing the University’s $111 million in outstanding debt as of the end of fiscal year 2022.

“The downgrade of Rider University’s issuer rating to B2 from Ba3 is driven by the University’s ongoing multi-year deep deficit of operations, and rapidly deteriorating unrestricted liquidity, at just 22 monthly days cash on hand for fiscal 2022,” reads the April 5 report from Moody’s.

The action means the University still has a non-investment grade. Asked for comment, Rider’s Associate Vice President for University Marketing and Communications Kristine Brown said in an email on Monday that the announcement “reflects the reality that institutions like Rider University have been facing for years, such as challenging demographics and heightened competition. These financial concerns were only exacerbated by the pandemic, which unexpectedly drained our financial resources, bringing the situation to a critical point.” more

By Stuart Mitchner

The human face is a terrible place,
Choose your own examples….

—Keith Reid, from “Your Own Choice”

I picked up Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore at the Princeton Public Library after dropping off his novel Norwegian Wood. Around 30 pages into Kafka, the 15-year-old runaway who chooses to call himself Kafka Tamura talks about how he’s lived in libraries ever since he was a kid: “Think about it — a little kid who doesn’t want to go home doesn’t have many places he can go. Coffee shops and movie theaters are off-limits. That leaves only libraries, and they’re perfect — no entrance fee, nobody getting all hot and bothered if a kid comes in. You just sit down and read whatever you want.” Eventually  he moves on from children’s books to the general stacks. And when he needs a break from reading, he goes to the library collection of CDs which is how he got to know about “Duke Ellington, the Beatles, and Led Zeppelin.”

Sounds like a typically welcoming library, not unlike Princeton’s “community living room,” just as Tamura sounds like an interesting kid who might well grow up to be Haruki Murakami — except maybe for the name he’s chosen to go by when he’s on the road. The obvious assumption is that he’s named himself after the novelist Franz Kafka, which immediately puts a somewhat surreal spin on his typical-kidness. Only when the novel is moving toward one of its variety of endings does he tell Miss Saeki, the beautiful 50-something head librarian at the Komora Memorial Library in Takamatsu, that he gave himself the name because “kafka” means “crow” in Czech, and his alter ego is a boy named Crow. In fact, the title of the first chapter is “A Boy Named Crow.”

At this point, I should admit that my wife loved — I mean really loved — Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Until, that is, an ending she thinks he couldn’t find his way out of, trapped in the wonderland of his creation. In Patti Smith’s memoir M Train, she’s so enthralled by the book that she doesn’t wish to “exit its atmosphere.” Among features she mentions is the search for a lost cat, and as readers like my wife and I who both love M Train know, Smith ends up searching for her copy of Murakami’s book.  more

By Nancy Plum

The Emerson String Quartet has been a frequent performer on the Princeton University Concerts series over the past decades. In this final season in the Emerson’s storied history, the Quartet returned to Richardson Auditorium last week for a program of Shostakovich and Mendelssohn, as well as a world premiere. However, the Emerson did not return alone; joining them in the second half of the program was the young and vibrant Calidore String Quartet, whose 10 years of performing has propelled the ensemble to the forefront of the performance arena. Although Thursday night’s concert belonged mostly to the Emerson Quartet, the addition of the Calidore players enabled a performance of a hidden gem of Mendelssohn chamber music.

For her 2002 string quartet, composer and Princeton native Sarah Kirkland Snider drew inspiration from the recordings of the Emerson String Quartet, and she has been well acquainted with their sound for quite some time. Drink the Wild Ayre, which received its world premiere by the Emerson Quartet in Thursday night’s concert, was also inspired by the Ralph Waldo Emerson’s descriptions of natural beauty, and one line of poetry in particular. From its opening measures played by Emerson first violinist Eugene Drucker, Snider’s work was an appealing piece with driving rhythms propelling thematic material forward. Violinists Drucker and Philip Setzer, violist Lawrence Dutton, and cellist Paul Watkins were often playing in similar registers, creating an unusually well-blended instrumental palette. Drucker and Setzer frequently paralleled each other in melodic material, while Watkins provided a rich cello line, especially in the upper register of the instrument. more

“BLUES FOR AN ALABAMA SKY”: McCarter Theatre Center will present “Blues for an Alabama Sky.” Written by Pearl Cleage, and directed by Associate Artistic Director Nicole A. Watson (above), the play will run May 6-28 at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre. (Photo courtesy of McCarter Theatre)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

McCarter will present Blues for an Alabama Sky. Written by Pearl Cleage, the 1995 drama depicts a circle of friends living in a Depression-era apartment building amid the Harlem Renaissance. Performances start May 6.

New roommates — Angel, a recently fired blues singer; and Guy, a promising costume designer with Paris in his sights — live across the hall from Delia, a social worker “who sparks a relationship with the hardworking doctor Sam,” states McCarter’s website, summarizing the plot. “Their lives are upturned when Southern newcomer Leland arrives and falls hard for Angel, who is torn between a stable life in New York City and an exhilarating overseas adventure with Guy. Angel chooses her path, but the decision leads to devastating consequences that shift the trajectory of everyone’s futures and long-held dreams.” more

CELLO AND MORE: Katrina Marie Kormanski, one of the performers at the May 7 concert, took this photo of her cello, which she calls “Luigi.”

A quintet of three cellos, piano, and clarinet will perform music of Bach, Shostakovich, Joplin, and other composers on Sunday, May 7 at the 1867 Sanctuary, 101 Scotch Road, Ewing. The concert is part of the Capital Philharmonic of New Jersey’s chamber music series.

Cellists are Katrina Marie Kormanski, Elina Lang, and Tomasz Rzeczychi. John Kormanski plays clarinet, and Don Tenenblatt is the pianist. more

DIRECT FROM CURTIS: Violist Roberto Diaz, president and CEO of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, is the soloist in a program of the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Rossen Milanov. (Photo by Charles Grove)

At concerts on Saturday, May 13 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, May 14 at 4 p.m., the Princeton Symphony Orchestra (PSO) takes audience members to Paris and on a tour of Italy through George Gershwin’s An American in Paris and Hector Berlioz’s Harold in Italy, featuring renowned violist Roberto Díaz as soloist. Edward T. Cone Music Director Rossen Milanov conducts the program which includes Westminster Choir College alumna Julia Perry’s Study for Orchestra. The concert takes place at Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall, on the campus Princeton University. more

SHARING THE BILL: Mara Levine, left, and the folk-rock trio Gathering Time, collaborate at a concert on May 19 at Christ Congregation Church.

Mara Levine and Gathering Time will perform an evening of socially conscious folk song and harmony arrangements on Friday, May 19 at 8 p.m. at Christ Congregation Church, 50 Walnut Lane. The concert is presented by the Princeton Folk Music Society.

The performance is almost a double feature, because Levine and Gathering Time have independent acts. But they frequently collaborate. Gathering Time supports Levine on her sets, reproducing the intricate harmony arrangements of her recordings in detail, and also presenting their own vocal harmonies, guitar playing, and percussion. more

COMEDY NIGHT: Sherri Shepherd, left, and Kym Whitley bring the humor of their podcast “Two Funny Mamas” to New Brunswick on May 19.

“Two Funny Mamas Live” featuring Sherri Shepherd and Kym Whitley comes to the State Theatre New Jersey on Friday, May 19 at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $39-$59.

Shepherd and Whitley deliver a night of comedy based on their podcast Two Funny Mamas, which speaks to culture, sisterhood, moms, and working women everywhere. Nothing is off limits when these two get together to talk about life, love, motherhood, singleness, relationships, dating, pop culture, sex (or the lack thereof), and everything in between.  more

“REFLECTION ON MIRROR LAKE”: Paintings by Hopewell-based artist Nicky Belletier are featured in “The Darkest Hour is Just Before Dawn,” on view through May 27 the Lambertville Free Public Library.

The Lambertville Free Public Library, 6 Lilly Street, Lambertville, now features landscape paintings by Hopewell-based artist Nicky Belletier in “The Darkest Hour is Just Before Dawn.” The exhibition is on view through May 27.

For Belletier, the start of the COVID-19 pandemic was a time of uncertainty and fear, but also presented time to devote to artistic expression. With even local parks closed, she revisited photos and memories of past travels to beautiful places as far flung as Rio de Janeiro and as close as the county park down the street. Remembering the sense of peace she felt in the presence of the natural beauty of those places was a comfort, and there was a wealth of inspiration to draw on for paintings that felt long overdue to be created. more

PRINCETON ART BAZAAR: The Arts Council will hold its Princeton Art Bazaar on Saturday, May 6, featuring more than 80 vendors, hands-on art making, and a Triumph Brewing Co Beer Garden. The rain date is May 7.

The Arts Council of Princeton (ACP) will present the Princeton Art Bazaar, a day-long celebration of creativity held in downtown Princeton on Saturday, May 6. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 80-plus vendors will line Paul Robeson Place off Witherspoon Street to sell their wares, ranging from ceramics, jewelry, wood, original paintings, printmaking, glass, photography, florals, and more.  more

A wide selection of styles of original art comes to Princeton this month to support a worthy cause — helping families in need in Mercer County. HomeFront’s ArtJam 2023 pop-up gallery will feature both the work of undiscovered artists who have been impacted by poverty and homelessness and professional artists.

The art event celebrates creativity and community, while proceeds benefit HomeFront and ArtSpace, HomeFront’s therapeutic art program for those experiencing homelessness. HomeFront is a nationally- recognized program that supports Mercer County’s families that experience or are at risk of homelessness by providing wraparound services including safe secure housing, life skills, support for children and basic necessities.  more

This painted on fabric and embroidered work is part of “Art in the Ballroom: Hanneke de Neve,” on view at the Present Day Club, 72 Stockton Street, May 5 through June 16. An opening reception is on May 5 from 5-8 p.m. The gallery is open on Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; call ahead at (609) 924-1014.

“KATAYUN K. KAPADIA”: This photo on fabric banner by Erica Lee is featured in“Local Voices: Memories, Stories, and Portraits,”one of two new exhibitions on view at Grounds For Sculpture in Hamilton through January 7. (Photo by Bruce M. White)

This spring, a Grounds For Sculpture (GFS) exhibition presents a multi-faceted portrait of the Indian diasporic community in New Jersey, through first-person narratives, images, and objects. “Local Voices: Memories, Stories, and Portraits” is created in partnership with 15 community members and led by artist, teacher, and journalist Madhusmita “Madhu” Bora. It is one of two concurrent exhibitions that inaugurate the new Perspectives series at GFS and explore the role of creating person-centered exhibitions, ensuring individual and communal agency in the art of storytelling.  more

FAMILY TRADITION: “We are set apart by our long history and experience, and we are a real family business. I am the third generation to be part of it, and my son Michael is the fourth.” Sarah Conte, owner of Perna’s Florist, Plant & Garden Center, is shown with her son and colleague Michael Conte in the entrance to the garden center amid a display of May flowers.

By Jean Stratton

“I may be an old man, but I am a young gardener.”

These words were written in his later years by Thomas Jefferson to a friend. Always ready to learn more, he knew that gardening could be wonderfully rewarding, and also remarkably challenging.

When planting a garden, whether it is a casual or serious undertaking, relying on the most reliable and experienced helpers to guide the process is a priority.

Perna’s Florist, Plant & Garden Center is such a resource. Located at 189 Washington Road in West Windsor since 1976, the longtime family business dates back even further. George Mazur, grandfather of Perna’s current owner Sarah Conte, opened Mazur’s Nursery in 1931. more

PUMPED UP: Abby Meyers screams for joy during a game this past winter for the University of Maryland women’s basketball team. Meyers, a former Princeton standout who was the Ivy League Player of the Year in 2022 in her senior season for the Tigers, helped Maryland advance to the NCAA Elite 8. In early April, Meyers was selected by the Dallas Wings in the first round of the 2023 WNBA Draft as the 11th overall pick. The Wings started training camp last Sunday. (Photo provided courtesy of Maryland Athletics)

By Justin Feil

When Abby Meyers heard her name called as the 11th pick of the 2023 WNBA Draft on April 10, it brought joyous screams from the family, close friends, high school coach, and his wife that had gathered at the basketball star’s family home in Potomac, Md.

They hadn’t anticipated her selection so early as Meyers was the final first-round pick of the Dallas Wings.

“We didn’t know what to say,” said Meyers. “It was like a star-struck moment. I was grateful for that number to be picked and for me to hear my name. My expectations were far exceeded. That’s kind of the story of this year. I have certain expectations. I set the bar low and always exceed them. I’m very happy with how it all went.”

After graduating from Princeton University in 2022 where she was named the Ivy League Player of the Year in her final season for the Tiger women’s hoops team, Meyers, a 6’0 guard, played this past year for University of Maryland as a graduate student and averaged 14.3 points per game while shooting almost 39 percent from 3-point range to earn second-team All-Big Ten honors. In her final season at Princeton, she had averaged 17.9 points per game to amass the program’s highest single season scoring total of 538 points. more

GETTING DEFENSIVE: Princeton University women’s lacrosse senior defender Shannon Berry guards the crease in a game earlier this season. Last Sunday, Berry and her classmates enjoyed a special Senior Day, helping Princeton defeat Harvard 17-13 in the regular season finale. The Tigers, now 7-8 overall and 4-3 Ivy League, are next in action when they compete in the Ivy postseason tournament in Philadelphia, which will determine the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tourney. The third-seeded Tigers will face second-seeded Yale on May 5 in the semis with the victor advancing to the final on May 7. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

The constant rain and occasional downpours that soaked the Class of 1952 Stadium last Sunday afternoon didn’t dampen the spirits of the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team as it hosted Harvard in the regular season finale.

“I think we really embraced the rain, everyone was so excited to come out here,” said drenched senior defender Shannon Berry, clutching the bouquet of flowers she received in the Senior Day ceremony. “There were a ton of emotions definitely running through. It was our last game on ’52, it was a bittersweet moment.”

Overcoming a 6-4 second quarter deficit, Princeton pulled out a sweet 17-13 win over the Crimson. more

SERVING NOTICE: Princeton High boys’ tennis junior star Melvin Huang follows through on a serve last week at the Mercer County Tournament. Huang took the title at second singles, helping PHS roll to the team title. It marked the first county crown for the program since 2003. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

It was a shot that exemplified the skill and verve displayed by the Princeton High boys’ tennis team last week at the Mercer County Tournament.

Playing in the second singles final last Wednesday at the Mercer County Park tennis complex, junior star Melvin Huang chased down a shot from Joshua Chu of Princeton Day School in the first set and flipped it between his legs over his foe for a winner.

Huang went on to win the match in straight sets, providing one of many highlights as PHS rolled to the title, winning the program’s first MCT crown since 2003. more

CROWNING MOMENT: Members of the Princeton High boys’ golf team are all smiles as they won the Mercer County Tournament last week at the Mercer Oaks West course. The squad tied Allentown at 299 through 18 holes and then won the title after carding the lowest score on the first hole in a 10-man playoff. It marked the program’s first MCT crown since 2007. Pictured, from left, are Walter Gumbinger, Brooks Cahill-Sanidas, Wes Yonish, Peter Eaton, Benji Tarter, and head coach Pat Noone.

By Bill Alden

For Pat Noone, it had the feel of a movie scene when his Princeton High boys’ golf team faced Allentown in a 10-man playoff after the foes had tied for first at the Mercer County Tournament last week at the Mercer Oaks West course.

“It was cool because you had 200 people standing around watching, it looked like something out of the Legend of Bagger Vance,” said PHS head coach Noone, whose squad and the Redbirds both had a score of 299 at the end of the 18-hole competition. “It was a great atmosphere.”

The Tigers came through in the playoff, winning the first hole by one stroke as they carded three pars and a bogey while the Redbirds had two pars and two bogeys. more

CREASE CONTROL: Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse goalie Jake Harrison and the PDS defense stifle a foe in recent action. Last Monday, the Panther backline stood tall as second-seeded PDS defeated fourth-seeded Gill St. Bernard’s 9-6 in the Prep B state final. It marked the first Prep B crown for PDS since 2017. The Panthers, now 8-4, play at Hun on May 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

After edging Gill St. Bernard’s 8-7 in a regular season contest on April 11, the Princeton Day School boys’ lacrosse team found itself trailing the Knights 4-2 at halftime last Monday when the foes met for a rematch in the Prep B state final.

PHS senior defender Ace Ewanchyna, though, was not concerned about fourth-seeded Gill turning the tables on the second-seeded Panthers.

“It was the first half, the coaches were saying there was a long way to go, a whole new game,” said Ewanchyna. “We were doing some preventable things, like letting guys cut backside, stuff like that. On offense we were just a little bit slow; we made some errors like dropping passes, stuff like that. We just had to clean some things up and play our game.” more

DAZZLING DEBUT: Princeton Day School boys’ tennis player Heyang Li smacks a forehand last week at the Mercer County Tournament. Sophomore star Li made a memorable debut at the MCT, upsetting defending county and state champion Jonathan Gu of Princeton High in the final to win the title at first singles. Li’s heroics helped PDS finish third in the team standings at the event. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Heyang Li opted not to play for the Princeton Day School boys’ tennis team last spring as a freshman so he could focus on USTA tournaments.

Coming into 2023, Li took some advice to heart and decided to join the PDS squad.

“One of my private coaches, Glenn Michibata, helped convince me to play high school tennis because he thought it was really fun,” said Li. “It is really fun playing with all of these guys.”

Last week, Li had a lot of fun as he won the first singles title at the Mercer County Tournament, upsetting defending county and state champion Jonathan Gu of Princeton High 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in the final. more

KAT QUICK: Hun School softball player Kat Xiong makes contact in recent action. Senior center fielder Xiong has been starring with her bat and glove as Hun has gotten off to a 12-0 start. In upcoming action, the Raiders play at Robbinsville High on May 4 and at the Blair Academy on May 6 before hosting the Peddie School on May 9. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Kat Xiong got off to a rough start as the Hun School softball team hosted South Hunterdon last Thursday.

Senior star center fielder Xiong uncharacteristically struck out looking as she batted second in the bottom of the first inning.

Displaying her poise, Xiong didn’t let that disappointing at-bat get her down.

“I just cleared my head and forgot about it,” said Xiong. “It was just a fluke, it was next one.” more

ALL IN: Stuart County Day School lacrosse player Allison Lee heads upfield in a 2022 game. Sophomore star midfielder Lee has sparked the Stuart attack this spring, tallying 61 goals through 11 games to rank in the top 10 in goals in New Jersey. The Tartans, who lost 16-13 to Pennington last Monday in moving to 2-9, host Steinert on May 6 and then start play in the Mercer County Tournament on May 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Allison Lee is piling up some impressive stats this spring for the Stuart County Day School lacrosse team.

Talented sophomore midfielder Lee tallied 51 goals through Stuart’s first nine games, the seventh most goals in the state.

But Lee will tell you that her prolific scoring is the product of a group effort rather than any individual brilliance on her part.

“I could not have done it without this team, they have always been supporting me and have been with me every step of the way,” said Lee, after scoring four goals in an 11-8 loss to Steinert last Wednesday evening under the lights at Hamilton Veterans Park.  more

April 26, 2023

Morven Museum and Garden was among the many sites celebrating Earth Day on April 22. Sustainable Princeton, the municipality of Princeton, and the Johnson Park Elementary School Green Team helped to lead a family-friendly day of workshops and activities promoting sustainable living. (Photo by Weronika A. Plohn)

PHS WALKOUT: About 100 Princeton High School students walked out of school early on Friday and marched down Moore Street to the Valley Road administration building in protest against last month’s dismissal of PHS Principal Frank Chmiel.  Chmiel and his lawyers are planning their next steps, considering whether to request an appeal hearing with the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education.

By Donald Gilpin

Lawyers for Frank Chmiel, who was removed last month as Princeton High School (PHS) principal, have confirmed that they have received from the Princeton Public Schools  (PPS) superintendent the statement of reasons for Chmiel’s nonrenewal.

Chmiel and his lawyers will now decide on their next step — whether to request a Donaldson hearing before the PPS Board of Education (BOE) to appeal the decision and whether that hearing would be public or private.

“We are reviewing the document and determining our next steps,” Chmiel’s lawyer David Schroth wrote in an email on Monday. “Until we have fully evaluated the statement of reasons I can’t say what our next steps will be.” more

By Donald Gilpin

With the June 6 primary less than six weeks away, nominations for Princeton Council, State Senate and General Assembly for the 16th legislative district, Mercer County Executive, and Mercer County Sheriff are all uncontested.

Incumbents David Cohen and Leticia Fraga have filed to run for the Democratic nomination to reclaim their positions on Princeton Council. No Republican candidates have filed to run for Council nomination.

In the primary for State Senate for the 16th district, incumbent Andrew Zwicker is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination, and Michael Pappas is unopposed for the Republican nomination. Zwicker defeated Pappas in the 2021 general election for state senator. more