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We’re Going Country/Bluegrass

Tuesday March 8, 2011

By Larry Johnson

    Once again Shari Charron, Bill Van Zyverden, and Chuck Miller are creating a musical production and this time the country/bluegrass gala will be held on March 25th & 26th at 8:00 p.m. at the Vergennes Opera House. A few of the previous shows put on by Shari, Bill and Chuck, as many will remember, include “Middlebury Does Motown,” “The History of Rock and Roll,” “Middlebury Rocks!,” and “Middlebury Does Woodstock.”

    However, “We’re Going Country/Bluegrass” has a special genesis and it began last November when Heidi Tchida Ballantine sang “The Highwayman,” one of Robert L. Maheu’s favorite songs at his memorial service. You see, Bob, at the age of 35 had, like so many other young people, finally lost his battle with alcoholism. The poignancy of the song and the somberness of the moment inspired Shari, his mother, and Bill his step-father, to come up with the idea for a musical that would resonate with Bob’s love for this particular musical genre. But Bill and Shari wanted very much for the country/bluegrass special to have another dimension, to raise funds that would help other people who were struggling with alcoholism. “We wanted to help support a non-profit that viewed alcoholism as a disease and not a crime,” Shari told me. “Bob was a super-sensitive person who struggled with the world. None of the conventional treatments really worked for him.”

    Enter Peg Calder, President of the Foundation for Alcoholism Research (FAR). Peg’s foundation is dedicated to raising funds for organizations that are focused on research in alcoholism as a disease. The foundation’s mission, as Peg told me, is to raise and disburse funds that will be used in the following areas: “causes, identification, detection, prevention, control, treatment and cure of/for alcoholism.” In other words, FAR is determined to view alcoholism not only as a societal problem but as a serious disease that effects a great number of people in our society. In fact, alcoholism strikes one in twelve Americans and their families.

    “We feel that the dedicated counselors, doctors and probation officers need better methods of helping those with this devastating disease,” Peg told me. The Foundation for Alcoholism Research (FAR), headquartered in Bridport, Vermont, was initially organized in 2008, as a non-profit, in response by a number of people who were trying desperately to help a young woman whose life was in turmoil due to her addiction to alcohol. The members of the group, spread across a half dozen states, realized that they needed new tools in order to be effective. Discovering that no such organization existed, they decided to start their own, and in July of 2009 FAR “awarded its first grant to Professor Kim Cronise in the Neuroscience Department at Middlebury College who is doing research on the tolerance aspects of alcoholism.” For more information about FAR go to .

    As serious as the funding for FAR is, “We’re Goin’ Country/Bluegrass” is anything but serious. It will be, if Shari’s and Bill’s past efforts are any indication, a terrific musical success, with more than a dozen musicians and vocalists participating. For instance, Chuck Miller will man the keyboard, Kevin Boyea, mandolin, Michael Boise, bass, Travis Grant, guitar, Bill Van Zyverden on drums, Elizabeth Cram on fiddle, and Brian Hobbs on harmonica will corner the instrumentals. Singers are Heidi Tchita Ballentine, Johnny Jeyy, Liz Cleveland, Don Arnold, Sarah Stone, Hopa Rosalli, Josh Gallagher, along with some of the band members.

    For those of you who love country and bluegrass as much as I do, and who would like to have a good time as well as help support a good cause, “We’re Goin’ Country/Bluegrass” promises to be a night to remember. Tickets at the door can be purchased for $18.00 or in advance for $15.00. For ticket purchases or more information you can call 802-877-6737 or go on line at


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