Maplewood’s own brand of TED Talks is on the way

MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Eleven speakers are set to take the stage at the Burgdorff Center in Maplewood on Saturday, Feb. 29, for the first-ever TEDxMaplewood event, a spinoff of the famed online TED Talks. The independently organized event’s 100 tickets are already sold out, but each 18-minute talk will be recorded for posterity and can be watched online, just like a regular TED Talk.

“A bunch of us got together this summer and said, ‘We have so much depth in the South Orange–Maplewood community, we should try to get a TED event,’” Jasmine Wy-Mun Chay, one of the event’s organizers, said in a phone interview with the News-Record on Jan. 23. “What excited us is it’s a collaborative community effort.”

The event is independently organized, but the name is licensed from TED Conferences. Each speaker has just under 20 minutes to talk about any topic, and Chay said that most of Maplewood’s speakers either currently live in or have ties to either South Orange or Maplewood. Anthony Mazzocchi, a member of the Board of Education and the associate director and professor of trombone at the John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University, said he will use about 10 of his 18 minutes to play with a trombone choir.

“In 18 minutes, about 10 minutes is playing,” Mazzocchi said in a phone interview with the News-Record on Jan. 24. “In between, I’ll talk about how we’re all working together.”

Mazzocchi and seven other trombonists will play together, something he said doesn’t happen often.

“A trombone spends so much time in an orchestra or a pit, and we don’t spend time together unless it’s for fun, which no one has time for,” he said. “So this is unique. There’s no one who goes to a TED Talk and sees that.”

Chay said when looking for speakers, the organizers wanted storytellers.

“What we were looking for was their story,” she said. “It kind of runs the gamut. Then we help them work with a coach on their speech.”

One hundred people in the audience is not even close to the number of people who live in both towns, but the more than 40,000 residents of South Orange and Maplewood will be able to watch the talks even after they have happened. Chay said it’s possible that Words Bookstore in Maplewood, a sponsor of the event, might host screenings of the talks at the store.

“You get 100 tickets at first to see if you can do it,” she said. “And then you can put it on the internet and everyone can watch it. Next year we’ll be able to do a bigger audience.”

Organizers from the SOMA Film Festival are lending a hand to record the talks, loaning their video and sound equipment to TEDxMaplewood.

Erin Loos Cutraro is one of the other speakers at the event and is going to be talking about women running for office in the current political climate. Cutraro is the founder and CEO of She Should Run, a nonprofit organization that supports women running for public office.

“I’m talking about how we can and should be talking about the women in politics,” Cutraro said in a phone interview with the News-Record on Jan. 25. “Our primary target is women who are not yet running. We’ve seen pretty explosive growth in women who were looking for ways to get things done, and now many women feel like the stakes are too high not to be involved.”

Mazzocchi will use the time when he’s not playing to explain how eight trombone players who usually play very different styles can work together to produce music an audience would want to hear.

“Eight trombones playing at the same time can actually sound bad if you don’t work at it,” he said. “I’ll be pointing out some important things that will make people think about that.”

Mazzocchi said that a lot of the themes he’ll be talking about and the music he’ll be playing apply to life outside of music.

“What you need to do to make a music ensemble sound great is not different to making anything else great,” he said. “Sometimes you need to know when to step away to make it great. That’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of leadership. That also goes into anything else.”

Cutraro is hoping to inspire women to run for office, but also wants to make residents more aware of local politics.

“In a lot of places, people know very little about what’s happening at the local level,” she said. “We’re busy and overwhelmed by national news. There’s not someone who has the perfect answer, but making changes at that level is often something women are already doing. But without the example, it’s hard to imagine yourself in the same position.”

Cutraro echoed Chay in saying the amount of talent in Maplewood and South Orange makes it the perfect place for an event like this.

“I’ve lived in Maplewood for five years and I’m blown away by the talent,” she said. “I’m kind of surprised it hasn’t happened before. This is one piece of a very large pie and there’s a lot of ways to see a topic, so I’m excited.”