16 People to Watch in 2016
The list is out! Here are the 16 people we’ll be watching in 2016. From entrepreneurs to artists to musicians to those working to make Central Massachusetts a better place, everyone on this list brings something to the table. We can’t wait to see what they do in 2016!
Musician • joynerlucas.com
When people think of the Worcester rap scene, chances are Joyner Lucas is at the forefront of their minds. The 27-year-old Dead Silence Records artist is responsible for hits such as “Ross Capicchioni,” which tells the tale of a young kid who was shot and left for dead in a bad part of Detroit. Lucas’ music video for the song went viral and now has more than 800,000 views on YouTube.
Lucas was born and raised in Worcester, where he was influenced by artists like Busta Rhymes, Eminem, Jay Z and Nas. “Trying to stick out is hard; everyone is a rapper now. What are you gonna do to be the next up?” Lucas said of the battle he and other artists face in remaining relevant.
With the release of his album, Along Came Joyner, came a new wave of success. Lucas recalled his favorite live experience as opening up for Tech N9ne in Maine. On the day of the album’s release, he held a secret album release party in Worcester and was glad to have all of his friends from his high school days around.
There will be no lack of new content from Joyner Lucas in 2016. In the grind to rise to prominence, Lucas plans on releasing his new EP, Hollywood. After that, be on the lookout for a new album later on in the year.
Artist • instagram.com/rinnaxo
Sharinna Travieso, 24, of Worcester, possesses something many other artists only aspire to have – a unique style. She describes her paintings as “a mix between urban art and graffiti with a modern twist.”
As a child, Travieso had an affinity for drawing. It became a skill that would fade away from her daily life, only to come back stronger than ever later in her life. “What inspired me the most was love and overcoming heartbreak,” Travieso said of regaining her passion for creating art.
A self-taught artist, Travieso’s work takes influences from modern-day artists such as Sue Tsai and masters from the past like Pablo Picasso. She uses a combination of acrylic paint, watercolors and pencils to portray everything from characterized women to floating jellyfish in dream-like settings.
Travieso’s work has been on exhibit at art galleries across New York City and is now coming back to her hometown of Worcester in 2016 at Nine Dot Gallery. In addition to this, Travieso plans to paint a mural at a location to be determined in downtown Worcester. She also aspires to dive into other artistic mediums and collaborate with photographers and clothing designers.
Cinematographer • doneby.com/curwynhenry
Originally from the island of Saint Vincent, Curwyn Henry, 22, of Worcester, has already logged a lot of hours behind the camera. His signature style can be found in wedding videos, commercials, short films and music videos.
Like anyone who has mastered an artistic craft, Henry began his hobby with the simplest of tools. “To be honest, I started shooting photos from a cell phone. I liked how they came out. My friend in boarding school motivated me to take more pictures,” Henry said.
Henry has shot and directed music videos for many local artists in Worcester and Boston, but one of his greatest pleasures is making wedding videos. “I’m silent and in the background. You will never know I am there,” Henry said of shooting wedding videos. “Watching the couple’s reaction afterward is very cool.”
The future is bright for Henry, as he has many projects planned for 2016. Henry is working with prominent Boston rapper Gio Dee on new music videos. In addition to this, he also aspires to travel more so he can continue work on a “freebie” series of videos that display his artistic view of the world, with videos that focus on everything from daily city life and imagery to topical short films.
Owner, Blackstone Valley Nutrition • facebook.com/blackstonevalleynutrition
For many people, it’s rare to know what their passion in life is at the age of 20, let alone start a business founded on that passion. However, that’s exactly what the owner of Blackstone Valley Nutrition, Matthew Santurri, has done.
Located in Uxbridge, with a secondary location inside of Blackstone Valley Massage and Fitness in Northbridge, Blackstone Valley Nutrition offers protein, pre-workout, heart and joint health supplements in addition to many other sports nutrition and performance products. Santurri likes to tell his customers, “Nutrition is the medicine; supplements are the staple.”
Before Santurri’s vision for the store became a reality in 2015, he went on a transformative journey starting in his freshmen year of high school, when he played football for his hometown of Northbridge. He began lifting weights and became aware of his own diet and nutrition in order to become a better athlete. Santurri became devoted to this training regimen and knew it was his passion to help others accomplish the same things.
“Not many people listen to themselves. I wanted to be my own boss and could really see myself helping and talking to others about lifting and nutrition” Santurri said.
In 2016, Santurri plans to have a “re-grand opening” of Blackstone Valley Nutrition in July to bring in a variety of new product vendors. In the near future, he also aspires to open his own gym.
Owner, Central Mass Sign Guys • cmsignguys.com
Jon Farnsworth, 34, has an extensive background in the world of graphic design, promotional work and, most notably, creating signs. As the owner of Central Mass Sign Guys in Millbury, Farnsworth works with local businesses on their physical branding and outside appearance.
After winning the Boston Globe Scholastic Art Award at 13 and studying graphic design at Assabet Valley Technical High School, Farnsworth knew that a career in art was for him. Before starting Central Mass Sign Guys, he worked mostly as a designer for various companies in the sign-making industry.
In 2009, Farnsworth went on hiatus from designing signs and opened a bar on Main Street while doing promotional work for clubs and bars. After a couple years, he realized that his true passion was where he originally made a living – making signs. Farnsworth saved enough money to buy the manufacturing technology required for producing signs and opened up Central Mass Sign Guys.
“The biggest problem at first was pricing jobs out. I never knew what went into it because I was in the graphic design end my whole career” Farnsworth said. It wouldn’t take long to figure out, however, and Central Mass Sign Guys has done work for many local businesses in Worcester, including Pure Juz, Compass Tavern and Varsity Sports Bar.
The Sign Guys have been working on signs for The Hangover Pub and The Spot, both of which open at the beginning of 2016.
DJ/Producer • oceanictradewinds.com
Electronic dance music has seen a surge in popularity over recent years, and 17-year-old DJ/producer Josh Bernstein, of Shrewsbury, can oftentimes be heard starting off the night right at some of the biggest EDM events around.
“I’ve always had a love for music. In eighth grade, I developed a strong love for dance music, and in freshmen year, I got my first mixing board,” Bernstein said of his desire to share the music he connects with the most. His main DJ influences have been artists such as Chain Smokers and Martin Garrix, who is a young talent in the industry, much like Bernstein.
Being a DJ and a high school student with a heavy work load at St. John’s High School in Shrewsbury hasn’t been the easiest, but according to Bernstein, friends, teachers and administrators have been understanding of his career and support him. School hasn’t been the only factor Bernstein has to overcome being a successful DJ; many clubs and venues have a 21-plus policy that can hinder a young performance artist.
Despite all this, Bernstein has played at venues from Worcester to Los Angeles. This past year, he performed at Life in Color, one of Worcester’s largest EDM events hosted at the DCU Center.
Bernstein plans on releasing more music and playing at many more shows in 2016. He is also deciding on which college to attend and potentially moving to the West Coast to study music business.
Singer • lishventura.com
Lish Ventura, 19, is the front woman for the band Sweet Sacrifice. Ventura’s unique sound is gaining the attention of many notable people in the music industry.
Growing up in Leominster, Ventura cites Kelly Clarkson and Amy Lee, of Evanescence, as the main musical influences throughout her life. On her greatest struggle thus far in her music career, Ventura said, “In high school, people get jealous of a music career. It’s something people want but don’t know what it takes. It’s made me stronger as an artist and a person.”
Ventura goes to her producer’s studio every Wednesday and picks a cover song to learn for the day. It only takes her about two hours to learn, but in total, she’s in the studio for about five to six hours perfecting her work.
Even with all the time Ventura puts in, she humbly admits she gets a little nervous before performing at a show, although you could never tell. Her first time headlining a show was at The Eagles Club in her hometown, which Ventura recalls as her favorite live experience.
Ventura has recently signed with Crush Media Studios, owned by Platinum Award-winning Sonny Lake, and is working with multi-Platinum Award-winning writer Clif Magness, who has worked with artists Avril Lavigne and Kelly Clarkson. Ventura is also expecting to go on tour in March of 2016.
Project Manager, Office of the Worcester City Manager • nhuthanhgroup.com
When talking to Hung Nguyen, 26, of Worcester, one senses he truly cares about his community’s well-being. So much so that not only is he the project manager in Worcester’s Office of the City Manager, but he is also the executive president of the Nhu Thanh Youth Group.
It was Nguyen’s active leadership role in the Vietnamese community that led to his hiring at Worcester’s Office of Economic Development two years ago, where he strategically planned the revitalization of distressed neighborhoods. Since then, he has moved on to the role of project manager at the Office of the City Manager, where he budgets the resources that are used to repair the infrastructure of the city. He also deals directly with the public’s complaints and queries.
The latest project Nguyen is managing involves the restoration of the World War II monument in the Worcester Common. He has been working with veteran outreach organizations to create a time capsule containing letters from surviving World War II veterans. The time capsule is to be buried June 6, on the anniversary of D-Day, to be opened in 400 years.
“After work, I run a great Vietnamese youth organization,” Nguyen said of Nhu Thanh. His mission moving forward with the youth group is to spread cultural awareness in his community through events such as cultural dances and academic fundraisers.
Owner, Pure Juz • purejuz.com
Dante Comparetto, 32, of Worcester, is a man who will not rest until he knows that his community is a better place than it was when he woke up that morning. As both the owner of local juice bar Pure Juz and the director of youth development at Stand Up for Kids Worcester, he never takes a break from serving the community.
Pure Juz is a socially responsible juice bar that offers a variety of fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies and cleanses. Comparetto purchases his produce from local farms, so money can be recycled back into the local economy.
After a long day of work at Pure Juz, Comparetto ends his day by bringing food to and spending time with the youth at Stand Up for Kids.
“As a young kid, I made a lot of bad decisions. I was homeless, so after losing friends and experiencing crime and addiction, I wanted to get out of it,” Comparetto said. He has even taken to offering temporary employment to some of the youth at Stand Up for Kids because he has credited getting a job and building a strong work ethic with improving his life.
In 2016, Comparetto will be making plans to run for a spot on the Worcester Public School Committee, as well as continuing the operation behind the juice bar. He also hopes to raise $10,000 at the annual dinner for Stand Up for Kids and find ways that Pure Juz can help schools.
News/Sports Anchor • chartertv3.com
If you’re paying attention to the local news or catching up on the scores of last night’s games on your drive to work, chances are you have heard the voice of 28-year-old Tim McKone, of Worcester.
McKone is a jack-of-all-trades in local media. A news anchor at Charter TV 3 and sports anchor on 98.5 The Sports Hub, McKone is usually working seven days a week. According to McKone, however, it hardly ever feels like work.
“I’m blessed to have been around everyone at Charter TV 3 and The Sports Hub who have helped me along the way and made me better in what I do,” McKone said.
Sports have always been a staple in McKone’s life. Growing up and playing sports for Bancroft High School gave him his passion, which he later turned into a full-time career. After two years of announcing the sports headlines on 98.5, McKone got the opportunity to fill in as an anchor with his own show on the radio station, citing it as one of his favorite professional experiences.
In 2016, McKone plans to improve upon his craft and keep up to date with the increasingly busy news cycle.
Independent Game Developer • jacobpeltola.me
Jacob Peltola, 21, studied graphic design at the Center for Technical Education of Leominster High School but wasn’t sure where he would take his set of skills. It wasn’t until representatives of Becker College visited Peltola’s high school and talked about the college’s game design program that he realized his true calling was a career in video game development.
Since attending Becker College, Peltola has done big things as a beginner in the industry of game development. Peltola specializes in audio programming and 3D art design and contributed his skills to Preserve! a game where answering trivia questions about Worcester helps the player maintain the virtual historical buildings of the city.
However, Peltola is talented in all aspects of game development, and it shows in his independent projects such as Looticrous, a game in which he designed, programmed and marketed himself. Looticrous is a local multiplayer game in which players battle it out in a competition to collect the most coins.
“Evoking an emotion through something interactive and establishing a feel to a game is the most difficult part. A Call of Duty-type game would be easy to make, but that’s not what I want to do,” Peltola said.
Peltola plans on graduating from Becker College in the spring of 2016 and hopes to land a job at a game development company. In the meantime, he will continue working on his independent projects.
Librarian and Artist • jackiepenny.com
Jaclyn Penny, a 33-year-old image rights and design librarian at the American Antiquarian Society of Worcester, has a love for the city. Her goal is to pass that admiration along to her children with the help of her own artistic vision, depicted in watercolor paintings of Worcester’s many historical sites.
“Before the twins were born, I hadn’t picked up a paintbrush since college,” Penny said. “I wanted to help them visualize their world.” As a result, her children became very observant and interested in daily life.
While working on the illustrations for her book Goodnight Worcester, she was usually holding one of her three children. Despite that, she said the hardest part of the artistic process was getting the kids to not touch the glass on the delicate framing she used for her work. It is also the children’s feedback on Penny’s work that is her favorite part of creating art.
Penny plans to update her work in 2016, as some of the locations, such as Higgins Armory, in Goodnight Worcester either no longer exist or no longer serve the same purpose. Penny is also excited about the possibility of presenting a new mother-daughter exhibit, featuring her daughter’s artwork from when she was 2 years old and Penny’s own creations in the same creative space. Her work can be seen on display at the Hanover Theatre.
J. RICKY NEIRAY
Founder, Beacon Aid Foundation • beaconaid.org
J. Ricky Neiray, 29, is a student of sociology at Worcester State University and a native of Liberia. More importantly, he is the founder of Beacon Aid Foundation, an organization based in Worcester and dedicated to assisting in the education of children in Liberia.
Beacon Aid Foundation was founded by Neiray in December of 2014 and launched in June of 2015. “I realized that kids back home struggle when it comes to school. The schools are not well equipped, especially in rural areas further away from the capital of Monrovia,” Neiray said.
For years before Beacon Aid was founded, Neiray and his wife sponsored as many children in Liberia as they could. In 2011, he visited Liberia and realized that he could only sponsor a limited amount of children with the cost of school, which ranged from $150-$200 dollars a year per child.
Neiray and Beacon Aid Foundation’s goal for 2016 is to raise $10,000 at the organization’s first charity event, which will be held April 9 at the Worcester Lodge. The money will be used to completely renovate an elementary school in Liberia.
Director of Media and Public Relations, Blue Hive Strategic Environments • blue-hive.com
Hailing from the small village of Ballynure in Northern Ireland, Amadeus Finlay has come to America to create buzz as the director of media and public relations at Blue Hive Strategic Environments of Worcester.
It is Finlay’s job to be engaged with clients and invest his energy into finding creative marketing solutions based on their specific needs. According to Finlay, no day at work is the same and sometimes he “feels like he’s working in the Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory of marketing.”
Finlay puts a great deal of time and energy into managing social and digital media for clients because he believes a strong marketing wing helps the whole business grow. “If Worcester does well, Blue Hive does well,” Finlay said of his desire to see more local clients prosper in the city.
With the New Year comes more room to grow for Finlay. He plans to continue his emphasis on social media management for his clients and to have another wonderful year spending time with his wife, Meghan, as they establish their family in the small town of Douglas.
Concert Booker • facebook.com/thetrepagencyworc
Jeffrey Balzer, 19, of Worcester, just wants everyone to have a good time. To Balzer, this means booking local concerts that people of all ages can attend.
It started with a love for music in the vein of metal, hardcore, pop punk and alternative rock. “I was going to shows and wanted to know how it all worked,” Balzer said. While attending these shows – and being under the legal drinking age himself – Balzer saw a void that needed to be filled within the local music scene. There simply were not enough events that he and his peers could attend. Balzer knew something had to be done.
Balzer eventually booked and promoted his first show at Club Oasis, with a lineup consisting of local bands. He went on to book touring bands such as Head North, Famous Last Words, Trophy Wives and Storm the Bay.
So far, Balzer has been limited to booking all-ages shows at venues like Club Oasis and the Raven, typically on Sunday nights, which are not always ideal for his target audience, but he has been successful in spite of this. This year, he hopes to book larger shows at The Palladium – and preferably shows on Friday and Saturday nights.
ALEX DUNN, SAM SHEPLER & GABE GERZON
Founders of Skyscope • skyscope.com
Skyscope, a video production company based in Worcester, is the result of three college friends who put together their complementary talents and developed a business based on needs they saw in the technology industry. The Clark University alumni – CEO Sam Shepler, 26; COO Alex Dunn, 26; and Creative Director Gabe Gerzon, 27 – specialize in creating video testimonials for “B2B” (business to business) tech companies.
“We focus on customer testimonials and can get them done within two weeks,” Dunn said of Skyscope’s systematic approach to creating what he calls “customer success stories.” The creative components and individual details of each company’s testimonial are then put into the film in a professional and aesthetically pleasing way.
Shepler, a screen studies major; Dunn, with an MBA in marketing; and Gerzon, a communications major, combine their knowledge with a passionate entrepreneurial spirit. As a result, they’ve created videos for notable tech companies such as Pintrest and CloudLock.
Moving forward into 2016, the guys at Skyscope look to perfect the technical process of creating testimonials and to improve upon their already-high quality of work. With each year since its foundation in 2012, Skyscope has doubled its revenue, and Dunn, Shepler and Gerzon look to do the same this year.
By Samuel Schonning