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Celebrity chef, high school student share experience, love of music in New York City songwriting contest



tom colicchio

The first “My NYC Songwriting Contest” for the city’s teenagers was so successful the Mayor’s Office of Media And Entertainment is again calling for entries.

New Jersey’s own Tom Colicchio is one of the most famous chefs in America, so you may be surprised to find him on stage playing guitar and singing “This Land is Your Land” at City Winery.

“Always a music fan, going back to my first concert was Led Zeppelin in Madison Square Garden,” the Elizabeth native said.

Colicchio wanted to be a rock star before he learned to cook, and when fame came in his chosen profession, he got serious about his first love by taking guitar lessons after he turned 40.

“To play every morning, and I play right before I go to bed,” Colicchio said. “And if I’m actually playing for an hour, that’s that one hour when I’m not thinking about anything else.”

He is one of the judges of the “My NYC Songwriting Contest,” staged by an organization called “Guitar Mash,” along with The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. It’s open to teenagers in all five boroughs.

High school sophomore Chloe Hennessee was last year’s winner, and she joined Colicchio in his restaurant called “Craft.”

“I’ve been writing songs since I was 7-years-old,” Hennessee said. “And it’s always been something I loved to do, because I can take a step back and take a look at how I’m feeling about something specific or a specific moment. And so it helps me to sort of understand everything that’s happening in my life.”

Colicchio said it’s been special to reach out to the younger generation.

“It’s really cool when older generations help out younger generations with this sort of thing, and becoming confident in yourself and in your songwriting,” Hennessee said.

The two generations share a common bond, united by their love of music.

Teenagers have until October 15 to submit their original tunes inspired by New York City to the “My NYC Songwriting Contest.” For more information, visit


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9-year-old genius to graduate university




Laurent Simons

(CNN) – A child prodigy from Belgium is on course to gain a bachelor’s degree at the tender age of 9.

Laurent Simons is studying electrical engineering at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TUE) — a tough course even for students of an average graduate age.

Described by staff as “simply extraordinary,” Laurent is on course to finish his degree in December.

He then plans to embark on a PhD program in electrical engineering while also studying for a medicine degree, his father told CNN.

His parents, Lydia and Alexander Simons, said they thought Laurent’s grandparents were exaggerating when they said he had a gift, but his teachers soon concurred.

“They noticed something very special about Laurent,” said Lydia.

Laurent was given test after test as teachers tried to work out the extent of his talents. “They told us he is like a sponge,” said Alexander.

While Laurent comes from a family of doctors, his parents have so far not received any explanation as to why their child prodigy is capable of learning so quickly.

But Lydia has her own theory.

“I ate a lot of fish during the pregnancy,” she joked.

The TUE has allowed Laurent to complete his course faster than other students.

“That is not unusual,” said Sjoerd Hulshof, education director of the TUE bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, in a statement.

“Special students that have good reasons for doing so can arrange an adjusted schedule. In much the same way we help students who participate in top sport.”

Hulshof said Laurent is “simply extraordinary” and praised the youngster.

“Laurent is the fastest student we have ever had here,” he said. “Not only is he hyper intelligent but also a very sympathetic boy.”

Laurent told CNN his favorite subject is electrical engineering and he’s also “going to study a bit of medicine.”

His progress has not gone unnoticed and he is already being sought out by prestigious universities around the world, although Laurent’s family wouldn’t be drawn on naming which of them he is considering for his PhD.

“The absorption of information is no problem for Laurent,” said his father.

“I think the focus will be on research and applying the knowledge to discover new things.”

While Laurent is evidently able to learn faster than most, his parents are being careful to let him enjoy himself too.

“We don’t want him to get too serious. He does whatever he likes,” said Alexander. “We need to find a balance between being a child and his talents.”

Laurent said he enjoys playing with his dog Sammy and playing on his phone, like many young people.

However, unlike most 9-year-olds, he has already worked out what he wants to do with his life: develop artificial organs.

In the meantime, Laurent has to finish his bachelor’s degree and choose which academic institution will play host to the next stage in his remarkable journey.

Before that, he plans on taking a vacation to Japan for an undoubtedly well-deserved break.

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New award to honor arts and activism named after Lena Horne




Lena Horne

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Gang members slam BMW into rival and his 8-year-old son in Harlem




Gang members slam BMW into rival and his 8-year-old son in Harlem

Two gangbangers aimed their BMW like a missile at a father and his 8-year-old son on a Harlem sidewalk in a horrifying incident captured by video distributed by police Thursday.

The BMW — driven by a man police believe is a member of the Gorilla Stone Bloods Gang — was zeroed in on the father, a rival gang member, said cops.

Around 3:45 p.m. Nov. 6, the boy and his father were walking on W. 112th St. by Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. when the BMW jumped the sidewalk and slammed into them both, said cops.

Father and son were both knocked through a gate.

The BMW driver then backed up — and its driver and passenger, also believed to be a gang member, jumped out of the car and ran toward the father and the son.

One of the attackers slashed the father, identified by sources as 32-year-old Brian McIntosh, who’s served prison time for robbery and bail jumping.

McIntosh and his son went to Harlem Hospital. Miraculously, the boy escaped serious harm.

McIntosh was so adamant about refusing to help police catch his attackers that the young boy’s mother had to file a police report alleging he was the victim of a crime, police sources said.

Cops released video of the attack, and ask anyone with information about the suspects to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS.


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