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Issue 2.10 | Monday, Dec. 7, 2009 | Pearl Harbor: 68 years ago today.

Elementary students at Charles Towne Montessori, in conjunction with the Ballet Academy of Charleston, put the final touches on a mini-musical version of The Nutcracker Suite. Pictured (l-r) are CTM students Boggio Meadows, Jule Meyer and Ford Gasperson, and the Ballet Academy's Alexandra Wood. The show will be 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the school. Learn more by clicking here.

:: Instruments of Hope helps kids


:: Back off a little, would ya?

:: Send us your thoughts

:: Winter market finds

:: Flu shots, Gibbes, mentors, more


___:: CALENDAR: This week ... and next

___:: REVIEW: Any Minuge

___:: HISTORY: Venus flytrap

___:: QUOTE: The Babe on persistence

___:: SPOTLIGHT: Meet an underwriter


ABOUT US is a new online twice-weekly publication that offers insightful community comment and good news on events. It cuts through the information clutter to offer insight and news on the best of what's happening locally. More | Reader testimonials


Instruments of Hope, new CD help put music in kids' hands
Writer and media consultant
Special to

DEC. 7, 2009 -- For many Charleston-area students, music class begins with an inspection of a battered old instrument well past its prime. Broken pieces are adjusted or reattached, keys and strings are tested, and a hand-me-down trumpet or trombone is warmed up for one more performance. Sadly, it's a ritual that takes place every day in schools that lack the funding or opportunity to replace old and broken instruments; a significant challenge for school bands and the musical education of young people.


With the release of a new CD and a special benefit concert in December, a musician-driven initiative is seeking to change that tune. Instruments of Hope is a nonprofit program dedicated to collecting, repairing and donating musical instruments for students in school music programs who otherwise might have difficulty in obtaining them. Saxophonist Robert Williams and the Worship Arts Department at Seacoast Church in Mount Pleasant created the program.

Currently serving as worship director for Seacoast's Asheville, N.C., campus, Williams works with Martin Chalk and the Worship Arts Department to direct and manage the initiative. A former public school band director and accomplished performer, Williams has experienced the challenges of teaching music to students who did not have access to quality instruments (or to any instruments at all).

"I remember what it was like to teach kids who couldn't really practice or get comfortable with their instrument," Williams says. "It was frustrating to see them struggle and have their creativity held back."

Bill Whitfield and Robert Williams from Instruments of Hope delivered nine new musical instruments to members of the Stall High School band last month. (Photo provided)

Dedicated to providing instruments at no charge, the program has donated saxophones, trumpets, trombones, clarinets and more to classrooms throughout the Charleston and Asheville areas. When funds are raised, Williams and others find used or discount instruments to meet the specific needs of local band directors and teachers. Charleston's Money Man Pawn has helped by selling blocks of multiple instruments at reduced rates. The instruments are then taken to Fred Sheetz at Pecknell Music Company, who repairs and restores them for use.

Once the instruments are obtained and restored, local teachers choose how they will distribute them. They can allow students to have access to an instrument for an entire school year, or an instrument can be given permanently to deserving students who cannot afford to purchase them.

During this Christmas season, Instruments of Hope will receive funds from a benefit concert and the release of a new CD featuring local musicians. The concert will take place at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 13 at Seacoast Church in Mount Pleasant. An ensemble led by Williams will perform jazz versions of favorite Christmas songs and hymns. The group also features artists Jeanne Radekopf, Bill Whitfield, Martin Chalk, Tommy Gill, Wayne Mitchum and more. Tickets can be purchased online at on the Long Point campus page.

  • Click here to see local jazz artists as they record a song for the CD "Christmas Time," which will benefit Instruments of Hope.

A companion CD is also available, with a portion of the proceeds from sales going to purchase instruments. Titled "Christmas Time," the release is a live recording of the Christmas concert featuring hits including "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "O Christmas Tree," "Noel" and more. The CD is available through independent local retailers and online via iTunes.

"If it weren't for Instruments of Hope, we would still be playing on instruments with duct tape and zip ties," says Bria, an R.B Stall High School student. The North Charleston high school received a delivery of nine much-needed instruments in November for the school band.

"It's a gift to see young people get excited about music," says musician and Instruments of Hope supporter Bill Whitfield. "All they ask is a chance to play and we're thrilled to be able to give it to them."

Donated instruments can be dropped off at Seacoast Church, 750 Long Point Road in Mount Pleasant. To learn more about how to receive instruments for your class or learn more, contact Robert Williams at To learn more about Instruments of Hope, go to

Back off a little, would ya?

By ANDY BRACK, publisher

DEC. 7, 2009 -- So what is it with you folks who can't get enough of tailgating?


Seems like just about everybody these days must think that the only way they can exist on the road is to be only one car length away whether it's on Savannah Highway, the Cooper River Bridge or while zipping down the Interstate (slightly) above the posted limit.

Don't you realize that if you're that close to the back end of another car that you will be toast if the car in front has to hit the brakes unexpectedly?

Wake up. Slow down. Back off a bit. Don't prove to the world that South Carolina has the world's worst drivers.

Geez. I feel like an old guy writing that. But with changes in driving habits over the last 25 years - more congestion, people talking on cell phones and (God forbid) people texting on the road - it seems more dangerous than ever on the road.

Maybe it is. Six years ago, South Carolina had 7,274 traffic collisions in which the primary cause was following too closely. In those, 2,946 were injured and four people died, according to the S.C. Department of Public Safety. In 2007, there were 8,476 tailgating collisions in which 2,842 people were injured. No people died.

So in just five years, collisions caused by following too closely went up almost 17 percent.

Charleston Police Lt. Chip Searson said local officers are more strictly enforcing traffic laws to make the roads safer. They're writing more tickets and stopping more vehicles. And traffic stops aren't just left to the 21-member police traffic enforcement division, he said. Most patrol officers write tickets these days, which creates an environment in which drivers tend to be more cautious … and safe.

Just look at some numbers. In 2005, for example, Charleston police had 25 traffic checkpoints - those stops in which police block off an area and check people's licenses to find possible violations. Already this year, they've had 288 traffic checks, said Searson.

Another metric: Charleston police made about 125 driving under the influence arrests four years ago. In 2008, they cited 662 people for the offense.

The attention to making our streets safer for driving seems to be working. In 2007, there were 5,539 traffic collisions in Charleston. Last year, the number went down to 5,159 collisions -- an 8 percent drop.

"Traffic is a very serious quality of life issue for many people - just as much as somebody breaking into someone's house," Searson said, adding that traffic officers work to try to control driver behavior. "The only way I know to do that is to give somebody a ticket" if they're breaking the law.

So back to tailgaters. What do you do if somebody seems to want to drive through your trunk?

Searson advises that you should slow down and pull to the right to let them get past you, if you can do so safely.

Let's all have a good -- and safe -- holiday season by slowing down a little and paying attention to traffic safety.

Andy Brack is publisher of You can reach him by email here.

Got a comment? Send it.

Have a comment or want to vent? If you have something to say about leadership in South Carolina, the state of baseball today, good barbecue or something about your community's government, drop us a line to: Please send no more than 200 words and include contact information (phone number, hometown) so we can get in touch with you.

Charleston RiverDogs

The public spiritedness of our underwriters allows us to bring CharlestonCurrents to you at no cost. This issue's featured underwriter is the Charleston RiverDogs. The Lowcountry’s leader in sports entertainment, Charleston RiverDogs baseball is an attractive, affordable medium for your group or business. The RiverDogs develop the next major league stars for the 26-time World Champion New York Yankees at one of the finest ballparks in Minor League Baseball -- Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park. Three short words sum up the every day approach taken by the Charleston RiverDogs front office. The brainchild of club President Mike Veeck, the nine-letter phrase “Fun Is Good” is meant to be a guideline and daily reminder of how employees should approach their jobs and in turn capture the imagination of the fans to turn them into repeat customers. Call them today at (843) 723-7241 or visit online at:

Trident Health System offering free H1N1 flu vaccines

Trident Health System will offer free H1N1 flu shots this week to those ages 13 and over. Shots will be given in the cafeteria classroom at the Summerville Medical Center from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 7; and in the cafeteria at Trident Medical Center from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 8 and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 10; and in the MCMC classroom at Moncks Corner Medical Center from 9 a.m. to noon Dec. 11.

Vaccine supplies are limited. For more information, please contact 797-FIND (3463).

Gibbes offers free admission, holiday activities on Dec. 12

The Gibbes Museum of Art will offer free admission and holiday-related family activities from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 12 as part of Community Day, which is sponsored by the Junior League of Charleston. Community Days are held quarterly to offer visitors a chance to experience the museum free of charge.

The Celebrations Community Day will include holiday art-making activities for children as well as holiday performances by the Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church Children's Choir, Ashley Hall's Caroline's Carolers and Ashley Hall's Lower School Strings. Beverages will be provided by Rising High Café. Visitors can also take advantage of the time to see the special exhibitions "Brian Rutenberg: Tidesong" and "Daufuskie Island: Photographs by Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe."

The Gibbes Museum of Art, which has been open since 1905, houses more than 10,000 works, principally American with a Charleston or Southern connection, and presents special exhibitions throughout the year. For more information, go to

Chamber's Young Professionals group looking for mentors

The Charleston Young Professionals (CYP), an initiative of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, is looking for experienced business professionals to be mentors in its fourth mentor program, which begins in January. With close to 100 mentee participants so far, the CYP mentor program has helped foster meaningful relationships between members of CYP and business leaders in the region. The year-long program gives mentees the opportunity to learn from business leaders and gain support and guidance, while offering mentors an opportunity to strengthen ties with the young professional community.

In the program, mentors are paired with young professionals who have similar professional interests. Mentors are required to meet once a month with their mentee and to take part in CYP events. To fill out an application, visit The application deadline is Dec. 11. For more information, contact Lindsey Pakkala at 805-3102.

Premiere of film based on Sparks novel to be held at Terrace

The premiere of "Dear John," a film based on a Nicholas Sparks romantic drama about a soldier who falls in love with a conservative college student, will be held in Charleston in January. Portions of "Dear John" were filmed around Charleston in late 2008; an earlier Sparks novel, "The Notebook," was also filmed in the Lowcountry and earned great reviews across the country.

The "Dear John" premiere will take place at the Terrace Hippodrome at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 24, and the movie's stars are expected to attend. Tickets are $250 (a portion is tax-deductible) and include the movie screening and an after-party at the South Carolina Aquarium. Seating is limited to the first 400 guests. Tickets can be purchased online at

A 7-year-old Daniel Island resident named Braeden Reed has a significant role in the film. Braeden, who has autism, works with Carolina Autism, a locally based group that was approached by the movie's producers for help understanding autism for a role in the film. Carolina Autism's executive director, Phil Blevins, referred producers to several boys with autism for auditions, and Reed ultimately won the role.

Carolina Autism is a 501-c(3) nonprofit organization that provides early intervention services to children with autism and housing for adults with autism. For more information, visit or call 573-1905.

Novel challenges readers to ask, 'What is my legacy?'

"Any Minute" is a novel by well-known Christian author Joyce Meyers and is co-authored by Deborah Bedford. Sarah Harper, the main character in the book, does whatever it takes to get ahead, even at the expense of those around her. A tragic accident gives Sarah a chance to see things on the "other side" and provides her the opportunity to view how her actions impact others. Through this story, Meyers and Bedford encourage the reader to take a look at the impact their lives have today. It leaves the reader to ask, "What kind of influence am I having? What is my legacy?"

-- Tina Arnoldi, Mount Pleasant, SC

HAVE A REVIEW? If you have a review of a book, movie, restaurant or local arts endeavor, please send no more than 150 words to editor Ann Thrash. Make sure to include your name and full contact information.

Venus flytrap

Often described as the most unusual plant on earth, the Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula Ellis) is a terrestrial insectivorous (bug-eating) plant native to a small section of South Carolina and North Carolina within an approximately one-hundred-mile radius of Wilmington, North Carolina.

The plant produces highly modified leaves that act as active trapping mechanisms, snapping shut when small insects crawl across the leaf. The surfaces of the leaves contain nectar glands along the margins that produce a sweet substance to attract insects. Small hairs on the leaf surfaces act as triggering mechanisms. A prey must touch more than one hair or a single hair twice within a twenty-second interval for the trap to close. This adaptation allows the plant to differentiate between a meal and a raindrop or other object dropping on the leaf. Once the trap is triggered, it closes within a half-second, trapping the insect inside. Special glands on the leaf surface "digest" the insect and then the leaf may open again. Each leaf can close approximately three times before dying or becoming inactive.

This unusual plant is found in longleaf pine savannas and on margins of pocosins (shrub bogs), where light is abundant and soils are sandy and acidic. These areas are kept open by frequent low-intensity ground fires that have traditionally burned through the area in intervals from two to seven years. In South Carolina this species is currently found only in Horry and Georgetown counties and is threatened by development, overcollection, and lack of fire. Large populations occur in the Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve and Cartwheel Bay Heritage Preserve, both in Horry County.

-- Excerpted from the entry by Patrick McMillan. To read more about this or 2,000 other entries about South Carolina, check out The South Carolina Encyclopedia by USC Press. (Information used by permission.) To read more about this or 2,000 other entries about South Carolina, check out The South Carolina Encyclopedia by USC Press. (Information used by permission.)


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Winter market finds


Summer's not the only time you can get locally grown produce in the Lowcountry. Here are eight items you'll find fresh from the farm at the Mount Pleasant Holiday Farmers Market and Craft Show, which will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Moultrie Middle School. Thanks to Ashley McKenzie, the town's community development and tourism officer, for sharing the list. For more on the market - including the town's plans to give away trees at the event -- see the calendar below.

  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Collards
  • Spinach
  • Pecans
  • Turnips


On persistence

"It's hard to beat somebody when they don't give up."

-- Babe Ruth, baseball legend (1895 - 1948)


Small-Business Lending: 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. Dec. 9, Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, 2750 Speisseger Drive, Suite 100, North Charleston. The chamber's Charleston Area Business Council will discuss small-business lending and how to obtain financing in today's current lending climate. Cost: $15 chamber members, $30 nonmembers. More info/registration.

Latin American Business Expo: 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 10, 10 Storehouse Row, Noisette, North Charleston. The Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce's Latin American Business Council (LABC) will host a seminar and expo to educate attendees on the economic impact that Latin Americans and their businesses have on our region, and to offer local businesses an opportunity to exhibit to this community. The event will also provide Latin American and traditional business owners with an opportunity to network with industry experts. Cost: $15 chamber members, $30 nonmembers. More info: Email Emily Brown.

Festival of Wreaths: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 10, Palmetto Café, Charleston Place Hotel. Fourth annual festival will feature champagne, hors d'oeuvres, live music from Silver Lining and wreaths from local interior designers being auctioned with all proceeds going to the MUSC Children's Hospital. In addition to the wreaths provided by members of the American Society of Interior Designers, kids from the Youth Center at the Charleston Air Force Base will provide several wreaths as well. Tickets: $10 in advance at the Orient-Express Boutique at Charleston Place or by calling 937-9142; $15 at the door. Guests can get parking-ticket validation for the Charleston Place garage on Hasell Street.

"Beauty, Bliss and Scrooges": 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 10, Omar Shrine Temple, 176 Patriots Point Blvd., Mount Pleasant. Family-oriented event to benefit Windwood Farm features Santa, snow, live performances, the Grinch, Scrooge, shopping from local retailers, carolers, cocktails and more. Tickets: $5; free for kids age 12 and younger. More info: 971-2860.

Kimono Silks Exhibition: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 10, 214 King Street Gallery, 214 King St. Kimono Silks features new works by batik master Mary Edna Fraser. Fraser discovered the vintage narrow silks on a recent Australia trip and has blogged about the experience at A master dyer, Fraser came home with aerial landscapes featuring batiks, monotypes, oils and archival prints. Exhibition on display through Jan. 24; gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. More info: 762-2594 or at

(NEW) CSO's "Messiah": 8 p.m. Dec. 10, Summerall Chapel, The Citadel. Celebrate the season at the Charleston Symphony Orchestra's performance of Handel's "Messiah" under the leadership of conductor Dr. Robert Taylor. Tickets: $15 adults; $5 children. More info: 723-7528 or visit online.

Job Search Workshop: 9 a.m. to noon Dec. 11, Center for Women, 129 Cannon St. Experienced job coaches will offer advice to women on resumes, cover letters, developing a job-hunting strategy, preparing for interviews and dealing with changes and transitions. Cost: $20. More info/registration.

(NEW) Holiday Farmers & Craft Market: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 12, Mount Pleasant Farmers Market, Moultrie Middle School, Coleman Boulevard. Annual holiday market offers locally grown fresh produce, baked goods, hot food, homemade preserves, hand-crafted gifts by more than 100 local artisans, live music, and children's activities. Santa will visit the market, listen to Christmas wishes and hand out candy canes. To honor Arbor Day, the town will give out free trees to the public at the Arbor Day tent. Varieties to be offered this year are red bud, native osmanthus and cherrybark oak.

Pat Conroy Book Signing: 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Dec. 12, Blue Bicycle Books, 420 King St. Conroy will sign copies of his latest novel, "South of Broad". To secure a place in line, customers can get tickets for the signing starting Dec. 11. Tickets are free to customers who purchase a Pat Conroy hardback or have already purchased "South of Broad" from Blue Bicycle Books (please bring your receipt). For a full explanation of the guidelines for the signing or to order a signed copy, go here online or call 722-2666.


(NEW) "Messiah" Sing-A-Long: 6 p.m. Dec. 20, Citadel Square Baptist Church, 328 Meeting St., downtown. Sing along with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra as the musicians perform all the favorite "Messiah" songs. Admission: $15 adults; $5 children. More info: 723-7528 or visit online.


12/23: Christian: Mannie's story
Bender: Polar Plunge prep
Brooks: Homes for Christmas
Doll: Enjoy holidays sans lbs.
Yarian: Instruments of Hope
De Armas: Latin biz expo
Blevins: Autism
Hutchisson: Giving
Barnette: Nutcracker
Franklin: Reverse mortgages
Wutzdorff: Be a principal
Haley: Buying local
McCutcheon: Work gap
Ohl: On carpooling
Wiedman: Women at Gibbes
10/26: Matouchev: Bear markets
Conover: BarCamp buzz
Wilson: Symphony update
Bender: Special Olympics
Baron: Breast Center
Ginn: Growing prosperity
Buffum: Waterkeeping
Personal branding


12/17: Cookbook, shopping
The Pig's wines
Neat shopping
LowCANtry holiday
Hawks vs. doves
Improving turnout
10/29: Celebrating a year
10/22: Good, bad signs
10/15: Bob's new food show
10/8: Robot ice cream
10/5: Costumes, snarks
Must-see TV
9/17: Fall leaves
Cold comfort, more
Being a fan
Good, bad, spineless
Locals on Runway
Cookie contest
Vote on car tags
True confessions
New way of tithing?
Lookout for manatees


12/23: Photographer Meyer
Ain't over on Sanford
Back off a little
Sanford presses on
Now is time for courage
Alliance's good news
SC's hidden gems
Boeing highlights needs
No place for prejudice
Have fun at Halloween
Renovated Gaillard?
10/1: Napa wine trip
9/28: Anti-crime measures
9/21: Caw Caw park
Debris policy
Mystery solved
This and that
SC's treasures
8/17: RIP to old clunker
8/10: Lots to squeeze in
8/3: On flying Delta
7/27: Conspiracy theories
7/20: Protect carriage animals
7/13: Economic thaw here?


12/23: Blackbaud 5
4 on holiday lights
Five about oysters
Winter finds
Free parking
Holiday parades
Home fire stats
Being a tourist here
Growing your business
Electronics recycling
Beyond the lights
Weather watching
5 cooking classes
Best lists of year
Oyster recycling
Howl-o-ween fun
Giving blood
Top ratings
Major league
Book sale
Citadel football

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