Other NJ News

Looking for Love? Try the New Brunswick Jazz Project

Musicians play a New Brunswick Jazz Project event in mid-April at the Hyatt Regency. The nonprofit and its revolving door of high-end musicians have helped a number of serious relationships blossom.

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — Mike Bond was so emotional he could barely say the words.

After playing a set on the piano for the New Brunswick Jazz Project, he calmed down for a few minutes and prepared for the big moment. He started by singing a jazz standard called “A Beautiful Friendship,” a tune he practiced all week, even though it had long been the anthem of his relationship. Then he performed an original indie-folk song he wrote for his girlfriend, Stephanie.

It was time. Mike called Stephanie on stage at New Brunswick’s Hyatt Regency and spoke about her and their future. Fifty or so friends, family members and jazz-heads looked on.

Sign Up for E-News

Stephanie spent the past four days and nights preparing for a class she was about to teach. No sunlight and plenty of stress left her with little desire to leave the house on that night in June 2014. But as Mike gushed, she was glad that she had decided to dress up.

“I only have four more words to ask you,” Mike said after his speech.

“I know what they are!” Stephanie shouted, uncontrollably.

The up-and-coming musician got down on one knee and asked her to marry him. They cried and embraced as the audience cheered. And then they celebrated in the city and with the friends who had nurtured their relationship from the start.

The New Brunswick Jazz Project turns seven years old this week. At least 1,500 musicians have played more than 1,000 shows for the nonprofit founded by three friends. With four shows each week and a revolving door of top-tier acts, Virginia DeBerry, Jimmy Lenihan and Michael Tublin have, by most accounts, succeeded in bringing jazz back to the Hub City.

But they’ve done something else along the way.

In addition to “countless hookups,” quite a few long-term romances have sparked in the dimly lit barrooms and restaurants that have hosted the Jazz Project. Virginia pegs the number at 10. So far, the nonprofit has played a notable role in one proposal, at least three weddings and an untold number of anniversary celebrations.

In fact, the three co-founders each met or got close to their significant others through the Jazz Project.

“It is kind of bizarre,” Virginia told TAPinto New Brunswick. “That people feel that we are a part of their life in that way is remarkable.”

So it was natural for Mike Bond to pop the question while playing a Jazz Project event. He and Stephanie had spent many evenings there, getting to know their neighbors and each other. Furthermore, musicians he met through the group helped to elevate his own career.

“This proposal was how it was meant to happen,” he later said.

Humble Beginnings

The myth that New Brunswick shuts down when Rutgers University lets out always bugged Virginia. What about the professionals who live and work here? But it wasn’t until a local joint canceled its weekly live jazz shows one summer that she decided to prove that notion wrong.

Virginia, Jimmy and Michael were friends from the city’s bar and music scene. They wanted to build a jazz scene in a city that had mostly been without one for years.

“It happened sporadically over the years,” Virginia said, “but nobody had been consistent with it.”

Stephanie and Mike's wedding cake paid tribute to their jazz-fueled proposal.

So the trio solicited help from a Rutgers music professor and in 2010 launched the New Brunswick Jazz Project. They started with bimonthly shows at Makeda, the Ethiopian restaurant on George Street that closed two years ago. The music was from the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s—be-bop, hard bop and straight-ahead jazz styles—and most of the musicians were professionals.

They committed to the project for one year. If it flopped, oh well. That attitude was key, Virginia recalled, because many nights consisted of the band, the bartender and the three friends.

As time went on, the Jazz Project gained institutional support from organizations like New Brunswick City Market, the New Brunswick Cultural Center and Mayor Jim Cahill, Virginia said. Individual donors contributed money. The Jazz Project became a nonprofit and began applying for grant money.

The group also raised its profile. The New York Times wrote a story on the effort, labeling the Hub City a “destination for jazz,” after hearing the buzz from big-name musicians. Those artists also made trips down. And some who got their starts here, like the singer Vanessa Perea—who played with Mike Bond the night he proposed—gained widespread recognition.

Regular attendees and musicians, meanwhile, made friends.

“The welcoming atmosphere was part of this cosmopolitan, sophisticated feeling,” recalled Susan Todd, who began dating Michael, a co-founder, after hanging out at Jazz Project events. “They welcomed new people very warmly and introduced them to others.”

Without a cover charge or a train trip, the shows were more accessible to New Brunswick residents, Virginia said. The music brought people of different classes, races and backgrounds together, regulars said.

“It’s our family,” Michael, who works for the city, said, “and it’s our own community.”

A Lovely Tune

Kristin Sprows never wanted to get married. Never mind to a musician.

She was single when she moved to New Brunswick and eager to take on life by herself. She went to movies and restaurants alone. And around May 2010, she attended her first solo New Brunswick Jazz Project night.

Enchanted by the vibe and the music, she kept coming. Soon enough, she befriended the three co-founders and her fellow patrons.

In early 2011, she was sitting at the bar in Makeda when a guy with an upright bass hopped on stage. She had always liked the bass—she played an electric one in high school—and there was something about this particular bassist.

When he came to the bar for a glass of water, Kristin asked him for his number. Maybe they could get a martini at Clydz after the show. The man, Tom DiCarlo, obliged but didn’t call or text.

Kristin and Tom

They kept running into each other at Jazz Project events over the next few months. She chatted him up. Nothing happened.

Eventually, at a Memorial Day barbecue thrown by some jazz-heads, she falsely told Tom that she was about to move to Union City, where he lived. He agreed to soon go apartment-hunting with her.

“The apartments were like a dream. There was no way I could ever afford them,” Kristin recalled. “By the end of the night, I’m sweating, red in the face and nervous. And I ask him out on an official date.”

Another Jazz Project couple was born.

Within three months, Kristin knew Tom was the one. He knew in six. They tied the knot last September.

“I don’t know if I would have been able to see him again after that first night if it were anywhere other than the Jazz Project,” she said. “I will never be able to thank them for what they’ve done.”


Not one but three men awaited Amelia Spaulding on her wedding day in 2012 at Kirkpatrick Chapel. Her husband-to-be, Greg Savad, was hanging out with Jimmy Lenihan and Michael Tublin, two co-founders of the New Brunswick Jazz Project.

They wore fake mustaches, an ode to Greg and his facial hair. They had all become close friends while Amelia and Greg were dating. It was no surprise, she said, considering how much time they spent together listening to jazz.

When it came time to share their vows, Greg delivered his in the form of a haiku. He mentioned how they hit a Jazz Project show on their first date. He also name-dropped Lee Hogans, a trumpeter and regular in the city’s jazz scene.

Michael Tublin, Virginia DeBerry and Jimmy Lenihan.

“We’re sitting in Kirkpatrick Chapel, hearing the Jazz Project being mentioned,” Virginia recalled. “It was amazing.”

What’s more amazing is how the love has spread.

Jimmy took his girlfriend to a Jazz Project event on their first date three years ago. They now live together and attend shows every week.

Michael met his girlfriend, a stranger who lived near him but now lives with him, at jazz night.

Virginia got to know her guy, a musician, after he played a few gigs in New Brunswick. They got serious about a year later. “This is the thing,” she said. “This is the thing.”

Yet none of the founders planned for so much romance to blossom on the scene. They attribute it to the sense of community they built. Indeed, that point gains credence from how they’ve mourned their dead, like a former municipal court judge, Ronald Wright, a Jazz Project regular whom the group named an award after.

But there’s also something about the music and the atmosphere that captures starry-eyed couples, they said.

Amelia recalled her first date with Greg as the best she ever had. After eating sushi and watching a Rutgers men’s basketball game, they shuffled over to Makeda. She wore heels and sipped a gin and tonic. People nearby bopped their heads as the musicians grooved.

“There really is something magical, cool and sexy to say that your romance started and continues through something like that,” she said. “Jazz is just a special style of music.”

Maybe it’s that simple.

The New Brunswick Jazz Project hosts shows four nights a week in the Hub City. It also accepts donations. For more information, check out its Facebook page or website.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Happy St. Patrick's Day from TAPinto.net

March 17, 2018

TAPinto.net is a network of more than 70 franchised online local newspapers in New Jersey and New York with more than 7M readers during the last year. We provide original local news reporting 24/7 for the communities we serve, as well as a full-service events calendar, real estate listings, business directory, classifieds, and much, much more. Readers can receive FREE enews at ...

Bloomfield Rec Department To Hold Sendoff for Mac's Latest Journey

BLOOMFIELD, NJ-- Mac-Adley Hypolite, Jr., better known around town as 'Mac', is at it again. In his eternal search for a trail, path, road or highway to travel with his omnipresent bike, Mac is once again traveling from Bloomfield to Florida to raise money for Children's Specialized Hospital.  Although he's made the 1000 plus mile trip before, ...

Upcoming Events


Sun, March 18, 2:00 PM

Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts, Maplewood

Maplewood Strollers Present John Patrick ...

Arts & Entertainment


Mon, March 19, 7:00 PM

Hospital Auditorium, Glen Ridge

Tour of the Birthing Center

Health & Wellness


Tue, March 20, 7:00 PM

Montclair Public Library, Montclair

Martin Luther King, Newark, and the Cool Spring ...

Education Law & Justice Other


Wed, March 21, 6:00 PM

Montclair Public Library, Montclair

Understanding Liver Disease

Education Health & Wellness


Wed, March 21, 6:00 PM

Montclair Public Library, Montclair

Financial Seminar

Business & Finance


Wed, March 21, 7:00 PM

Hospital Conference Room 2 (Ground Floor), Glen Ridge

Becoming a Parent

Health & Wellness

Bloomfield Police Blotter February 19 - 25, 2018

March 2, 2018

BLOOMFIELD, NJ - The following police blotter has been issued by Lt. Anthony Sisco of the Bloomfield Police Department.


2/19/18 – Officers dispatched to Modells (224 Bloomfield Ave) on a report of shoplifting. Complainant (Modells employee) observed an Unknown Black Male suspect place (2) “Nike” hooded sweatshirts and batting gloves (total value ...

Man Dies from South Orange House Fire on Sunday

March 18, 2018

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - A man has died from a house fire on Warwick Avenue in South Orange on Sunday afternoon, stated Thomas Fennelly, Essex County Chief Assistant Prosecutor.

The fire, which began about 2 p.m. was contained by about 5 p.m., and required mutual aid from fire departments in neighboring towns, according to firefighters at the scene.

Six-Year-Old Discovered Sleeping Unattended on West Orange School Bus

WEST ORANGE, NJ — When a bus driver employed by the Hunterdon County Educational Service Commission, which performs certain bus runs for the West Orange School District, failed to perform the mandatory inspection of his bus after dropping students off at Redwood Elementary School and returning to the bus depot on Friday morning, the district confirmed that a 6-year-old student had ...

Sparta High School Students Create Donate Life Club

March 18, 2018

SPARTA, NJ – Sparta High School students held their inaugural meeting of the Donate Life Club on Wednesday, March 14. Minutes after the walk out in solidarity with Parkland school shooting victims, thirty students met in a classroom during lunch to hear from the NJ Sharing Network about organ donation.

Many of the students were classmates of Isak Anderson, a boy who passed away suddenly ...

Rutgers Student on Front Lines of Orangutan Conservation, Research

NEW BRUNSWICK - Deep in a tropical forest in Borneo 15 years ago, Rutgers student Didik Prasetyo first encountered a young male orangutan that he named “Jerry.”

The great ape was one of several orangutans that Prasetyo and other researchers followed at the Tuanan Orangutan Research Station in the Mawas Conservation Area in Indonesia. Prasetyo was skeptical when colleagues said ...

Avon Loses Its Last ‘Grand’ Hotel to the Claw of an Excavator

March 18, 2018

AVON-BY-THE-SEA, NJ — In less than two days, an Avon-by-the-Sea landmark that stood for 130 years was reduced to a huge pile of rubble. The Norwood Inn no longer stands on the corner of Norwood and Second Avenues — the last of the stately hotels that once graced the streets of Avon.

As onlookers gathered around the demolition site on March 15 and March 16, an excavator clawed its ...

#Enough Nutley High School Walkout: By Students, for Students

March 16, 2018

To the Editor:

Disgusted by federal inaction, devastated by the Parkland shooting, and determined to see real change, students around the country walked out of class at 10 a.m. on March 14th, one month after the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Students of Nutley High School also protested, in solidarity with students from over 3000 other schools ...

Parkland What...Parkland Where...Parkland Wow!

Thinking of the 17 angels that lost their lives lost one month ago. Thinking of the injured that are still fighting to heal. Thinking of the #MSDSTRONGstudents, teachers and staff that had their innocence taken from them. Thinking of a community that draws strength from each other as we all try to move forward after the tragic events of Feb 14.

Parkland what...... Parkland where.......

Pro Staff Institute announces partnership with Uber Health

NUTLEY, NJ - Pro Staff Institute is proud to announce their participation in Uber Health, a new transportation program designed to provide transportation to patients. Pro Staff Institute is the first physical therapy center in the nation to leverage Uber Health, and joins over other 100 health care organizations in the U.S., including hospitals, clinics, rehab centers and senior care ...

The Negative Effects Of Prolonged Sitting And Workplace Tips From Pro Staff Physical Therapy

In recent years, media outlets have described sitting as the new smoking. This may seem like a stretch, but once you break that statement down it carries some truth. Cigarettes were not thought to be the cause of lung cancer and other serious diseases until the 1950s. Like the cigarette industry in the 1920s, the effects of prolonged sitting throughout the workday has largely been ignored and ...

Bloomfield Bengals Athletic Update February 19, 2018

Indoor track competed at the Group IV Championships and two athletes advanced to the Meet of Champions. Kaela Edwards broke her own school record in the 55-meter hurdles finishing second. La’Shan White finished an impressive 5th in the 400-meter run outrunning his number 10 seed.  

 Wrestling competed at the District 9 Championship. Two Bengals advanced to the Region ...

Bloomfield Bengals Athletic Update February 12, 2018

 Boys Basketball faced Barringer in a round of 16 match up in the ECT and won by a decisive score of 67-40. Junior Mike Ramos joined the 1000 point club for his career with a 29 point effort.

 Bowling added Essex County Championships for both the Boys and Girls to their already impressive resumes. The Boys County title is their first since the 2002-03 season while the Girls ...

The Jaffe Briefing - March 16, 2018


ON THE RAILS - Another commuting mess this morning, as the antiquated Portal Bridge got stuck in the "up" position at 4:22 a.m.  That caused a bunch of rush hour trains to be cancelled between Newark and Manhattan for four hours or so.  Both NJTransit and Amtrak riders were completely screwed. You may recall the proposed Gateway ...

Ten Ways to Be Productive on a Snow Day

March 7, 2018

Another Nor’Easter has smacked us in the face today.  After so many of us lost power for what seemed to be an eternity, it’s a good time to make up for lost productivity and work on the famous Stephen Covey Quadrant 2 Activities.  What are they you may ask?  Those are the activities that are Important, yet not urgent (well some of them can be).  In other ...

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (Random House, 1965)


In Cold Blood is, quite simply, the grand-daddy of true crime writing, dubbed by Capote, himself, as the first non-fiction novel (although Norman Mailer argued the point when he published The Executioner's Song in 1979.) The conditions under which I read In Cold Blood for the first time were pretty weird, which was another ...

Ian Hockley Visits New Jersey to Introduce Program to Empower Youth

This week I am taking a departure from book reviewing to share an important program that has been introduced to New Jersey this week by Mr. Ian Hockley, founder of the Dylan's Wings of Change Foundation. On December 14, 2012, Hockley's five year old son, an autistic child named Dylan, was gunned down in his classroom in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Dylan, a shy and adorable ...

Lilli DeJong by Janet Benton

Lilli De Jong by Janet Benton (Doubleday, 2017)


“It's said that every woman's painful labor is God's punishment. Eve ate an apple, and God pours wrath on every mother. So the Bible tells it.” (p.320)

The story of Eve and the serpent in the Garden of Eden, which is the Biblical explanation for the extreme pains of childbirth, casts women in the role of ...

4th Wall Announces Auditions for FUN HOME

March 16, 2018

4th Wall Theatre, a non-union NJ theatre company, will hold open auditions for all roles in the final production of its 2017-18 season, FUN HOME, with music by Jeanine Tesori, book and lyrics by Lisa Kron, and based on the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel. 4th Wall’s production will be directed by Kate Swan with music direction by Markus Grae-Hauck. The show will be presented at ...

Junior League of Montclair-Newark, Inc 50/50 Raffle

MONTCLAIR, NJ - The Junior League of Montclair-Newark, Inc. (JLMN) has provided support and service to women and children in Bloomfield, The Caldwells, Cedar Grove, Essex Fells, Glen Ridge, Irvington, Montclair, Newark and Verona for more than 95 years.

Our trained, enthusiastic members are committed to promoting volunteerism, developing the potential of women, and improving the community ...

Junior Summer Workshops To Be Held at Lord Stirling Stables

BASKING RIDGE, N.J. — Somerset County Park Commission Lord Stirling Stable has announced the dates for the Junior Summer Workshops, which are themed five-day programs focusing on riding and horse care. The Stable is located at 256 South Maple Avenue in Basking Ridge.

Junior riders may enroll in Summer Workshops beginning Saturday, March 17, 2018 at ...

Zone 2 USHJA Championships To Be Held in NJ and Pa.

LEXINGTON, Ky. — The United States Hunter Jumper Association announced the dates for 2018 Zone Horse of the Year, Stirrup Cup and Equitation championships, which provide members with an exciting opportunity to earn Championship Points toward zone year-end HOTY and Stirrup Cup awards. 

The championships are open to all zone competitors who meet the minimum requirements, except the ...


- Mar 14, 2018
Past Deputy Grand Marshall of St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Merchant Marine veteran James J.
Read more
- Feb 28, 2018
John Genitempo, The “Silver Fox”, of Nutley, passed away on Wednesday February 28, 2018 ...
Read more