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BROOKLYN BUZZ: Hometown boys rock Ridge

So many children of the ‘60s and ‘70s harbored dreams ofbecoming rock stars, but time and real life usually got in the way,putting them on safer, more realistic paths to being accountants,businesspeople, doctors and teachers.

But for three Bay Ridge boys who first met during grammar school atOur Lady of Angels, growing up didn’t mean having to choose betweenliving a real life and living their dream: they just didboth.

Paul Cassone, Matt D’Emic and John Lepore have made careers andreputations as community fixtures: Cassone as the executivedirector at the Guild for Exceptional Children, D’Emic as theActing Supreme Court Justice of Kings County, and Lepore as a TVstage/facilities manager. In their spare time, though, they playgigs throughout their native Brooklyn, rocking out to Eagles,Beatles, doo-wop and other classic rock and roll music.

We’ve been playing together for 35 years, said Cassone of theorigins of their collaboration. Back then, seeing the Beatles onThe Ed Sullivan Show was kind of a life-changing thing. You heardthese incredible sounds, you saw the fuss that was being made, andas you listened to the rest of the songs, you heard this joyfulnoise that they were making and it was kind of exciting.

Their band, Whippoorwill, reunited a few years ago at familyparties, thought [they] sounded good and, with the support oftheir families, decided to make a go of it.

Ever since I was a little girl, he used to teach us how to singand play guitar. It’s great; I invite my friends to watch himperform, said D’Emic’s daughter, Kate, 27. [Being a judge andplaying guitar] are his two passions. When you picture a judge, youdon’t picture rock and roll. He taught himself how to play guitar,piano and bass. This is who he is.

We’re three-dimensional human beings [and] we’re having fun withthis, said Cassone. My kids are happy that I’m actually recordingthe music. I think they were surprised that their 57-year-oldfather could still rock, particularly since he has trouble walking.But that doesn’t stop me.

At recent performances at the Greenhouse Café and a golf benefitfor Xaverian High School, audiences have shown clearly that theyagree. Cheers, clapping and pleas for an encore echoed after everysong announced as the last. At the Greenhouse Café on June 23,judicial clerks of all ages sang along while Community Board 10Chairperson Joanne Seminara even joined the trio to sing ATeenager in Love.

These guys are civil servants and all they want to do is playmusic and be with their friends, said Bay Ridge resident CathieGearity, who came with her husband Ray to watch their long-timefriends perform. As a child of classic rock, Ray noted that thecrowd in Bay Ridge really appreciates this kind of music [because]so many of us grew up with [it] and they bring it backsweetly.

The feeling of camaraderie is mutual, said Lepore. I love theseguys dearly. They put a smile on my face. We play a lot ofnostalgic music, but it doesn’t feel nostalgic. It keeps us young.It’s always fun, but knowing the people with us brings it toanother level.

What does the future hold for the trio, now that they’veestablished themselves in both worlds?

For Lepore, next up will be a 24-track anthology of original music,dedicated to his wife Arleen, who made him take his musicseriously. D’Emic and Cassone, meanwhile, will continue to combinepublic service with community entertainment.

It’s a gift to be able to entertain people and make them happy fora little while, D’Emic explained. Cassone then added that, We’llkeep performing as long as we have it in us, as long as people arewilling to have us perform.

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