Porter, other greats theme of Schrader’s CWC performance


Deborah Trefts
Staff writer

From music’s Golden Age in the 1910s through most of the 1960s – until the advent of Beatlemania and rock ‘n’ roll – a number of musicians created influential and enduring songs and jazz compositions that became known as American standards.

These individual standards — created for Broadway, musical theater, Hollywood movie-musicals and Tin Pan Alley — formed the canon of the Great American Songbook. These classics have endured through a myriad of recordings by rock and pop singers, from Ringo Starr to Lady Gaga. 

“In a time before tech – before internet and streaming media – the music and words had to tell the whole story,” said Chautauquan and singer Brad Schrader. “These songs are timeless because they don’t just tell the story – they sell the story to your heart.”

Schrader will perform selections from five Golden Age composers during a special ticketed event titled “Cocktails and Cole Porter” at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday at the Chautauqua Women’s Club House. 

“I have paired a menu of cocktails with great songs from the American Songbook, to bring back a classic nightclub show overlooking the lake from the CWC,” said Schrader, a retired engineer who studied hydrodynamics and systems analysis at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and earned his master of business administration at Harvard University. 

Growing up in Cleveland and Sao Paulo, Brazil, he listened to, and occasionally sang with, his mother. She often played and sang classic tunes when she traveled around the world with the United Service Organizations, including those by Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Johnny Mercer and Richard Rodgers. 

“They’ll be setting the CWC up with smaller tables and chairs for a more intimate feeling,” Schrader said. “I find that works well. It becomes a nice haven for a little while. Especially for the younger generation, who may not have grown up with these songs.” 

Schrader will be accompanied by pianist, vocalist, and composer Nick Nasibyan, who hails from Erie, Pennsylvania. 

“He’s a real talent,” said Schrader, who first met Nasibyan on a Sunday morning when Nasibyan was playing the piano in the lobby of the Athenaeum Hotel. Nasibyan has frequently played at 2 Ames and at Splash, a restaurant in Bemus Point. 

While Schrader has sung at the Athenaeum and at private parties, this will be his first time singing at the Women’s Club. An avid sailor, he has performed annually with the Chautauqua Yacht Club Quartet for 15 years, writing more than 40 sailing-themed parodies. 

Upon his retirement five years ago, Shrader began singing in clubs. Since he lives in New Jersey, he has primarily performed the songbook tunes in private clubs and at events along the New York City/New Jersey corridor. For 25 years, he has sung a cappella close harmony in both solo and choral roles with the Orpheus Club of Philadelphia. 

Albert Oerhla, a lawyer and pianist whose band has opened for Wynton Marsalis, often accompanies Schrader in Philadelphia. The late Joe Claffy – a Chester County lawyer, pianist and singer who played at the Palace of Versailles in France, the White House, and social gatherings in New York – also backed him. 

“We create a nightclub vibe: a little quieter and more intimate, a little slower, a little more thoughtful and connected,” Schrader said about his performances. “I imagine Porter, dressed impeccably, standing at the grand old Astor Bar with a cocktail chatting with Dorothy Parker, Ernest Hemmingway or F. Scott Fitzgerald – weaving graceful stories with clever vocabulary and repartee.”

For his CWC appearance, Schrader plans to perform selections from Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer.

“I want to spend the night exploring the connection between love and music and cocktails,” he said. “They give you courage to ask for that date and help drown your sorrows when it doesn’t work out. At the end of the evening, I hope you’ll ask that special someone out on a date, especially if that someone is your wife or husband.”


The author Deborah Trefts

Deborah Trefts is a policy scientist with extensive United States, Canadian and additional international experience in conservation. She focuses on the resolution of ocean and freshwater-related challenges and the art and science of deciphering and developing public policy at all levels from global to local.