Dreams become reality for local teen band

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Third Attempt front of van
Pictured (l-r) are WHS seniors Scot Hook, Aaron Penn and Trevor McNamara, members of Third Attempt, on their West Coast tour. Photo by Carol Hook.
When I last met up with Scot Hook, Trevor McNamara and Aaron Penn, they were fresh-faced sophomores, just entering WHS.

The trio had formed a band, Third Attempt, and was beginning to play at local teen venues like the Redmond Firehouse.

They were writing and recording their own music and trying to develop a following for their special brand of pop punk.

The boys had stars in their eyes, dreaming of going on tour one day and maybe, just maybe, making it big.

Flash forward two years. The teens, now seniors, have become consummate performers, who released their first album and completed a West Coast tour this past summer.

“We had been thinking about doing this ever since we started playing music together back in eighth grade,” says McNamara, “and it all came about because we just decided that we could do it. We were ready and there wasn’t any reason why we couldn’t or shouldn’t do it. We planned it all on our own and used our own money to cover the costs.”

To line up the venues, the guys made phone calls and sent out numerous emails, not only to all-ages concert venues, but to cafes and restaurants with acoustic open mike opportunities.

Third Attempt in van
On the top bunk is Aaron Penn.To his left is Trevor McNamara. And on the bottom bunk to the right is Scot Hook Photo by Kristin Penn
They ended up playing in a variety of places, including the world famous Whiskey a Go-Go in L.A., a definite highlight of the tour.

In a 2006 Chevy Express van, equipped with built-in bunk beds and a cot, the teens made their way down the coast, hitting clubs in Vancouver, Portland, Sacramento, San Francisco, L.A. and San Diego.

Though no one paid them to play, they made some money through donations and the sales of their merchandise, which went to cover some of their costs.

The rest came from after- school jobs and their own personal bank accounts.

“The point of the tour was obviously not to make money,” says Hook. “It was really all about getting our name out there and picking up some fans along the way.” He adds, “I think we accomplished that based on the feedback we got. People came up to us after our shows and told us they liked our music, and then they posted their comments on Facebook later. We had four offers to come back and play again.”

To keep costs down, the band, in addition to sleeping in their van, parked in Walmart lots overnight and ate on the cheap.

“The van was actually comfortable,” comments Hook, “but it sometimes got too hot and stuffy at night.”

As for the Walmart parking lots, Penn adds, “Anyone can park their vehicles out back for free and no one bothers you. We didn’t have any problems, and of course, it was convenient to go in and get what we needed from the store.”

The experience was not only valuable to the boys in regards to promoting Third Attempt, but it also proved to be enlightening to them on a few levels.

“Just the fact that our parents let us do this was cool,” comments McNamara. “I know now that they trust me and it shows me that we can do something pretty big like this even though we’re only17.”

Hook adds, “I think we learned a lot about ourselves, being away from our parents and having to rely on ourselves for everything. It gave us more confidence.”

Penn notes that being on tour with your best friends is really special and it’s an opportunity to learn about each other in a different context.

“I thought I knew everything about these guys, but I was wrong,” he says. “We got along well, but we didn’t always see eye-to-eye with each other. We had some healthy debates at times!”

All three young men express a passion for making music and would love to keep at it, with the hopes that it could become a fulltime career for them.

For McNamara, who plans to pursue music education in college, music is an outlet and form of self-expression. As a guitarist and vocalist, as well as songwriter, he feels he has talent and it is important to him to be able to share his gifts with others.

Penn enjoys being on stage and he feeds off of the audience’s energy.

“I’m happiest when I’m playing the drums,” he comments. “I get such an adrenaline rush from performing live and doing it with my two friends. We have a great connection.”

Writing music is Hook’s forte, though he also plays bass. He gets into the words, which he uses to tell a story. And it constantly amazes him that people want to listen to what he writes.

“It’s just so cool,” he adds. Hook explains that in the early days of the band, the lyrics were all about the boys’ personal experiences. Now, they’re more experimental.

“I’m writing about things I’ve never experienced before like surviving a disaster, for example,” he comments. “The songs have ‘show,’ not ‘tell’ lyrics.”

McNamara concurs and notes that the writing is getting better and continuing to improve with time.

All three young men agree that they had the time of their lives on tour and that it was hard to come back to Woodinville. They got a taste of being on the road and it hooked them.

“We met a lot of cool people, who found our music relevant,” says Hook, “and that really boosted our confidence and gave us the push to continue to move forward.” He adds, “We never expected it to get to this point, but now that it has, we want to see how far it will go.”

With graduation on the horizon, the members of Third Attempt don’t know what the future will bring.

“We’re all applying to colleges,” adds McNamara, “and we have other plans, but we’ll just have to see what happens in the meantime.”

Penn says, “It’s undecided right now, but that’s okay. What’s great is that we can choose our own adventures.”

Local designer’s re-fashioned gowns to be featured

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Ruby RoomFor many underprivileged young women, The Ruby Room in Seattle is a godsend.

The nonprofit organization, which opened its doors in 2002, was founded on the belief that everyone should be able to attend their high school events, regardless of their ability to pay.

Throughout the year, volunteers collect donated dresses and accessories and then make them available in the spring to high school girls who are unable to purchase their own dance attire.

This is the tenth anniversary for the Seattle chapter of the organization, which has helped thousands of teens make prom memories.

Last year, it gave away 450 gowns and staffers anticipate another busy season this year.

To sustain itself, The Ruby Room holds an annual major fundraiser in October. It’s a fashion show and benefit auction where local designers create one-of-a-kind gowns from unwearable donations.

The dresses are then auctioned off live at the event.

Among the six designers for this year’s show is Tina Witherspoon of glam.spoon.

This is the second year the Mill Creek woman has participated in the event.

“I was approached last year, as they were looking for new designers and somehow found out about me,” says Witherspoon. “I immediately said ‘yes’ because I love giving back to the community. The charitable component is very important to me and I feel honored to be invited to do it again this year.”

The local woman has been a designer for six years. She specializes in making dresses and skirts out of recycled materials and describes her work as “bohemian romantic” in style.

Witherspoon has never really had any formal training in the field of fashion and design.

“My mom taught me home economics/creative arts when I was a young girl,” she explains. “She taught me how to sew and she introduced me to thrift stores. I remember getting one of my prom dresses from a thrift store because we just didn’t have a lot of money back then to buy one of those expensive new formals. I learned that thrift stores were full of wonderful treasures.”

After working in the theater and music industry for a number of years, Witherspoon began designing clothes, first for herself and then for others.

“I’ve always been a bit of a clotheshorse,” she admits. “I realized I had lots of dresses in my closet that I didn’t wear so I started going through everything. Some I gave away, but then others I refashioned using different pieces from various dresses.”

Eventually, Witherspoon sold some of her creations at a crafts fair, which initially surprised her as she didn’t think people would want to buy them.

Her business took off and soon her dresses were being sold in various boutiques around Seattle.

Today, they are only available exclusively at the Frock Shop.

“Designing clothes has become another creative endeavor for me,” comments Witherspoon. “I enjoy the artistic process and seeing how everything evolves.”

The local woman doesn’t sketch or plan her designs in advance. She has ideas in her head and gets inspiration from materials.

“I’m a bit different when it comes to my methods,” she says, “because I’m just not a planner. But, it’s the way it works for me.”

For the upcoming Ruby Room fashion show, Witherspoon will have six gowns on display. Though each will be unique in style and length, all will share the same color scheme — blue and silver.

Those who are familiar with Witherspoon’s work will immediately recognize her gowns because her signature style is very evident.

“I incorporate hand-pleated ruffles in my dresses,” she explains. People who’ve seen my stuff before will be able to spot them right away.”

Last year, Witherspoon’s six pieces went for a total of $1,500, with one of the gowns raising $350 alone.

“It was so exciting,” she says. “It felt like I was on a game show. And it was wonderful that the dresses raised that much money. It made me feel good that I was able to help The Ruby Room. It’s a very worthwhile organization.”

For more information about The Ruby Room and its upcoming October 13 “Fashion Faux Pas to Fashion Fabulous” Fashion Show and Benefit Auction:

Award-winning, kiddie language school comes to Woodinville

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Sponge School 007
Sponge School Spanish teacher Macarena Goldenberg with a Just Kids class at The Nest. Staff photo/Deborah Stone
Kids’ brains are amazing things. They’re primed to learn from the moment they enter the world.

Take language acquisition for example. Between 0 and 4 years of age, children focus first on sounds, then syntax and vocabulary.

It’s a natural process, which gives credence to the increasingly popular practice of exposing kids to a second language at the same time they are learning their native tongue.

“It’s never too early for second language learning,” says Jackie Friedman Mighdoll. “In fact, the earlier, the better.”

Mighdoll is the founder of Sponge School, an award-winning world languages program for children.

When the Seattle woman was pregnant with her first son, she read Dr. Lise Eliot’s book, What’s Going on in There?: How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life.

In the process, she discovered the fascinating research on second language acquisition being done by Dr. Patricia Kuhl at the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences.

Having spent a decade working internationally and cross-culturally, Mighdoll knew how important it was to her to raise globally-minded kids.

It became even clearer that starting young was the right time.

Eighteen months later, with the support of local parents and a core group of passionate teachers, she opened Sponge School in the fall of 2005.

It was the first language program of its kind on the West Coast.

Today, the school has centers in Seattle, Bellevue and now Woodinville, at The Nest, a drop-off play and learning center.

The program also runs before- and after-school classes at numerous elementary schools in the Greater Seattle area.

“There are so many benefits to learning a second language when you’re young,” comments Mighdoll. “A child benefits linguistically, academically and culturally when he/she has early exposure to the language. Even small amounts of exposure at the age of six months can change the brain. It keeps the pathways open.”

She adds, “For elementary school students, the research shows that those who have language instruction at this stage are 70 percent more likely to reach proficiency than those who don’t start until they reach high school. And they often have higher standardized test scores, demonstrate more creative thinking, do better in math and possess good communication skills. It also prepares them for learning third and fourth languages, too.”

As for the cultural benefits, Mighdoll remarks that kids who know more than one language understand communication and culture.

They’re exposed to different perspectives and different ways of doing things, such as celebrating holidays or greeting one another.

She explains that younger kids aren’t self-conscious and they don’t typically face the fears of being different that tend to come later once they reach middle school.

She says, “Around puberty, children are very aware of what’s different and they turn away from it. If we reach them before that time, we can help make languages, cultures and the world a part of their lives and raise them to be compassionate global citizens.”

Sponge School offers child and caregiver classes for newborn to 4 years old, Just Kids sessions for the 3 to 5 age group and an elementary program geared toward the K-5 level.

For the wee ones, classes are 55 minutes long and highly interactive. Child and caregiver learn together through play, music and movement.

At the Just Kids stage, where classes are 85 minutes long, participants are ready for independent learning and are mastering their native language.

They naturally apply the skills they are developing to the acquisition of the second language.

The curriculum focuses on practical everyday vocabulary with new, fun units every five weeks that involve games, singing and movement – all conducted in the target language to optimize learning.

The elementary school program has three goals: build communication skills, develop language-learning strategies and broaden students’ understanding of the world.

Sessions include a variety of activities such as games, drama, crafts and songs, which are all done in the target language.

“We focus on day-to-day language,” says Mighdoll. “We want to give the kids practical vocabulary they can use within situations and contexts they understand. This is very important. The language must have meaning they can relate to.”

Currently, Sponge School has classes in Spanish, French, Japanese and Mandarin.

The most popular languages are Spanish and Mandarin.

Parents enroll their kids in the program for a variety of reasons.

Some, according to Mighdoll, have a heritage connection to the language. Others see the economic possibilities that learning a second language can offer.

Then there are those who have had a meaningful experience with a second language and want the same for their children.

As for the school’s teachers, Mighdoll explains that they are a diverse group who come from all over the world.

Many have degrees in language and education and years of teaching experience.

A number of them are parents themselves and have personally experienced the joys and challenges of raising bilingual children.

All have a passion for sharing language and culture with kids and their families.

Macarena Goldenberg, for example, has been teaching Spanish for Sponge School for the past three years.

Her greatest enjoyment comes from the children.

“I love them,” she says. “I love seeing how they respond to the language and how they learn without knowing they’re learning. They pick up the vocabulary quickly. The younger they are, the faster they progress.”

She adds, “We have a lot of fun in class. It’s very high energy. Lots of repetition. Lots of activity.”

Jana Maas, co-owner of The Nest, is thrilled at the enrichment opportunities that Sponge School brings to her facility.

She sees the classes as a wonderful complement to the Kinder Music program that is also in residence.

“It’s great to be able to offer these opportunities to our clients,” she comments. “And what’s nice is that we can help each other.

“ If a parent has two children of different ages and wants one of them to take a Sponge School class, for example, then she can let the other one play at The Nest. Of if she wants to take a class with her little one, then she can let the older one play.”

Mighdoll is equally delighted with the partnership.

“I’ve always loved The Nest,” she says. “We’ve been looking for the opportunity to expand to Woodinville and The Nest is the ideal place for us.

“It’s such a great space – bright, cheery, warm – and there’s a lot of flexibility and benefits for parents with this arrangement. We look forward to becoming part of the community.”

For more information about Sponge School: (206) 227-7138 or

For more information about The Nest: (425) 415-6378 or

Up and coming vocalist touches audiences’ souls with her music

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Mairin Gorman one
Mairin Gorman
Local audiences are beginning to take notice of an exciting young vocalist, who’s a relative newcomer to the music scene.

She’s only 20, but Mairin Gorman is already gaining recognition for her sultry, emotive voice and her distinctively soulful style. What’s even more surprising is that the Woodinville woman has never had any formal training.

“My father really taught me everything,” explains Gorman. “He’s the one who got me into music. He’s been the most important music figure in my life.”

Gorman’s dad, Paul, is a singer, though not professional, who has been with a number of different bands over the years.

He also plays the keyboards and harmonica.

Music is in his DNA (and consequently in Gorman’s, too),  as he comes from a long line of musical performers.

“My dad would ask me to sing with him at his band practices when I was younger,” says Gorman, “and I remember how special that made me feel. I just wanted to keep singing.”

When she was 14, the Woodinville woman started doing karaoke and eventually entered kids’ karaoke contests in the area.

She did well, which gave her the fuel to continue pursuing her passion. Two years later, she courageously auditioned for “American Idol” and “X Factor.”

Though Gorman didn’t make it past the initial round for either show, the experience made her realize that she was nowhere near ready to give up her dream.

“Yes, I was a bit upset afterwards,” she admits, “but I think I also felt more determined. It put fire under me.”

The judges told Gorman that her voice wasn’t strong enough yet — a constructive criticism that she took to heart.

Since then, the young woman has worked consistently on improving her vocal technique and performance style.

“I see such a difference now, as compared to four years ago,” she comments. “My voice has really matured.”

This past summer, Gorman had her first paid gig, performing at the Beach Club Café in Kirkland with guitarist Rick Azim, who she met at her mom’s birthday party.

“My dad hired him to play at the party,” explains Gorman. “I got up and sang a bit and he really liked my voice. We started working together and now we’re an established duo.”

Azim is a veteran performer, teacher, producer and arranger, who has worked with a number of music industry giants including Ray Charles, Linda Hopkins and Joe Williams. He provides a well-crafted musical context for Gorman’s vocals, applying his talents to “marrying the vitality of Mairin’s youthful contemporary style with a classical jazz/R&B musical idiom with great results.”

The pair performs renditions of classics by such iconic artists as Norah Jones, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Alicia Keyes, Etta James, Tracy Chapman, Bonnie Raitt and Gorman’s favorite, Martina McBride.

One of the duo’s steady gigs is at Italianissimo Restaurant in Woodinville.

“We’re there performing in the bar most every Saturday night,” adds Gorman. “I love it! It’s so much fun and the audience is great. Everybody’s been so positive in their feedback.”

The young woman used to get nervous singing in front of a crowd, but not anymore.

She gets enormous satisfaction from being able to touch people’s souls with her voice and delights in any and all opportunities to perform.

“Singing is such a wonderful avenue of expression for me,” she says. “It gives me so much and I know it will always be a special part of my life.”

Though she is currently taking classes at Cascadia Community College, Gorman is devoting as much time as possible to advancing her musical career.

She emphasizes that she wants to see where this path will lead her to in the future, adding, “I want to go with this as far as it will take me.”

Local dancers take the stage in PNB’s ‘Cinderella’

  • Written by Deborah Stone

Riley Hoopes
Riley Hoopes. Courtesy photo.
Pacific Northwest Ballet kicks off its 40th anniversary season with Kent Stowell’s “Cinderella.”

This delightfully charming production with its strong dancing and visually stunning costumes and set design dazzles the senses.

It’s family-friendly entertainment at its best and for a select group of talented young dancers, it’s an opportunity to share the stage with professionals at the top of their game.

Among the children appearing in “Cinderella” are two local Woodinville girls, Riley Hoopes and Rose Hayden.

Riley, a fifth grader at East Ridge Elementary, began dancing when she was three.

She currently takes classes at both Woodinville Dance Academy in Woodinville and at PNB’s Bellevue school, where she is in Level 3 of the program.

“I love to dance and to move to the beat of the music,” says Riley. “It makes me feel good to dance. And I like being on stage, especially dancing with the professionals. My favorite PNB dancer is Maria Chapman. She is so good!”

Last year, Riley appeared in PNB’s “Nutcracker,” so she is not a stranger to the big stage. She gets excited, not nervous, before performances. “I tell myself to just pretend that I’m in practice and that makes the nervousness go away,” she adds.

Rose Haydn. Courtesy photo.
In “Cinderella,” the young girl will perform the role of Memory Child within a flashback scene that Cinderella has of playing in the fields as a child.

She has been rehearsing almost every day for the past month to prepare for the four performances she will be in out of a total of eight shows. Riley wants to continue dancing in the hopes that one day she can become a professional ballerina.

“It’s my dream,” she says. “But, I know it won’t be easy.”

The most challenging aspect of this art form for the youngster is the sheer amount of things she must be aware of when she’s dancing. “For example, you have to make sure you’re pointing your toe and holding your arm a certain way,” she explains. “There are so many things going on at the same time and you have to think about all of them.”

When Riley isn’t dancing, she can often be found running a race, either with her school’s cross-country team or with family members for a 5K event.

Bear Creek sixth grader Rose Hayden started dancing when she was five.

She took a class and remembers dancing a duet with her father. She was hooked from the beginning and soon became a PNB student.

Now, she is in Level 4 of the program. “Dance allows me to really work on my expression and strength,” comments Rose. “It’s so pleasant for me to move around and it makes me feel very free.” She adds, “I also like the challenge of doing complicated steps and seeing how I improve.”

This is the local girl’s second time performing in PNB’s “Cinderella.” She has also been in the company’s production of “Nutcracker” three years running. This time around, she will perform the role Good Fairy Attendant in “Cinderella.”

Though she has been on the big stage several times, Rose admits that she still gets a bit nervous before making her entrance.

She worries that she will forget the steps. “But then once I enter, I focus on the dance and I’m not nervous anymore,” she says. “And there’s instant memory with the steps.”

Rose enjoys dancing with her friends and she is always thrilled to be sharing the stage with professionals. Her favorite PNB dancers are Carla Körbes and Seth Orza. Like Riley, Rose also wants to be a professional ballerina and plans to continue her dance training in the years to come. Balancing life, though, gets tricky.

“It’s challenging because I have to commit to school and to ballet, so I am very busy,” she says. “I don’t have much free time. But, this is what I want to do and I need to work hard.”

PNB’s “Cinderella” runs from September 21 – 30 at MaCaw Hall in Seattle.
For ticket information: (206) 441-2424 or