After graduating from Michigan, I needed a job. And I also wanted to get my American citizenship. So I accepted a teaching position at what I thought was a quaint New England small-town school, the Greenwich Country Day School in Greenwich, CT. I had no idea that this school’s students were from some of the most affluent families in America. I was blown away by the amount of wealth in this little Connecticut town. But I took advantage of my posh surroundings and got the Headmaster of the school to sponsor my citizenship.
I made many friends during three enjoyable years at Greenwich Country Day. I still run into my students every so often, especially on Facebook. It’s always a little disconcerting to hear those words “Hey Mr. Winkler!”
Student Teaching in Ann Arbor, MI – 1981
The Greenwich Country Day School Chorus
Here is a recording of a Christmas concert at Greenwich Country Day in 1983. At the time, there were not many Jews in Greenwich CT. So, naturally, I stuck a Hanukkah song into the program. I don’t think most of the parents knew what to think of it. Bottom-line, the kids seemed to like it. But it was daring for Greenwich in the early eighties.
A Gifted Student
There are very few boys who, at the age of12. might be deemed a good singer. Well, Stephen Whitmore was not a just good singer, he was exceptional. A boy soprano who, to this day, I have not heard the equal. It was an honor to have been his teacher, and in this video, he sings a vocalise by Gabriel Faure. To make this a challenge for Stephen, I arranged it so that he had to hit many high notes which would be treacherous even for Joan Sutherland. An example is the high F above high C at the 3:27 mark. This piece requires a nearly 3-octave range, and with Stephen’s natural technique and breathing, he makes it look like child’s play.
Opening scene from “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” The last musical I directed at Greenwich Country Day School.
The Greenwich Musical Theater Group
I formed “The Greenwich Theater Group” in the summer of 1985 for kids. In the picture to the right are some of my students and Kathi Moss who was one of the leads in the Broadway musical “Nine” (her character sings “Be Italian”).
Being congratulated by headmaster at last choral concert performed by the Middle School of The Greenwich Country Day School.
“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” performed by the Upper School of The Greenwich Country Day School.
I never thought I would ever work in a corporate environment, so a side trip into corporate America was the furthest thing from my mind. But a parent of one of my Greenwich Country Day students owned a production company in New York City and offered me an opportunity to try my abilities in the creative department. I accepted and slowly worked my way up from creative assistant to associate creative director. But after a time, I became frustrated with the slow pace of my career advancement. So I applied for the position of Creative Director at another company…
At Cortez/Seidner, I not only flourished as a lead Creative Director but also was able to achieve a level of compensation that allowed me a comfortable lifestyle.
The video above is from the launch of the pharmaceutical named Vantin, developed by The Upjohn Company. The total audience was nearly four thousand sales reps. We motivated and trained them so that they would be ready to detail this product to physicians all across the country. This video (which is 27 years old – so please excuse the quality) is a highlight reel of the entire event. Everything here was created, built and executed from scratch by Cortez/Seidner. The launch won a gold medal at the New York Film and TV Awards.
Picture taken at the “1988 New York Film and TV Awards” in New York City on a cold wintry night. I won a gold award for the creative direction of a live production for IBM’s Circle of Excellence Achievers. The piece featured my voice teacher Louis Quilico his wife, Lena and their son (also a world-renowned singer) Gino Quilico. I chose them as they were real examples of achieving excellence in their lives. Above is the complete audio of this media piece, written by Trebbe Johnson (next to me in the photo), and performed live by the Quilico family.
This picture was taken at the “1992 New York Film and TV Awards” in New York City. While working at Cortez/Seidner Inc, I won a gold award as creative director for the product launch of Valtrex from The Upjohn Company. I would have preferred to have been at home that night instead of here wearing a tuxedo. Want to see what I look like when I force a smile? This is it!
Eventually, Cortez/Seidner was acquired by…
The Caribiner Group
I worked freelance for a time after the Cortez/Seidner acquisition but eventually wound up at the Caribiner Group as VP of Creative. It was a public company and my impression was that the organization was much more interested in its stock price than in the creative quality of its products. As luck would have it, Caribiner was bought out by, who would have thought…
Me in Hawaii after winning a performance award for the company I worked for in 2000. To my left is Ray Simon, Senior Vice President of Caribiner International. To my right is Josh McCall President of The Jack Morton Company, the company that bought out Caribiner International.
Jack Morton, Part Deux
Jack Morton, the place I originally left because they wouldn’t make me a Creative Director. When I returned it was as Senior Vice-President, Creative Director! What a sweet, sweet way to close the circle. Eventually, though, I got disillusioned by the ethics of the enterprise and just plain tired of the corporate world in general. I’d spent a significant 15 years of my life there but left me wanting in terms of personal satisfaction. So I decided to end this chapter of my life and say goodbye to corporate America.
DETOUR: Side Trip Into Corporate AmericaMark Winkler2021-05-27T15:52:41-05:00
In January 2014 I was on a fun-filled and interesting trip to beautiful London England. While there, a good friend, Busby Wilder, asked me to play the part of a cello player in a creative and very sexy photo shoot. So, how is a photo shoot of a cello player sexy?
Because the role of the cello was performed by a stunning nude woman (the delightful Ariel Anderssen). As you can see, she played her part quite well in this twist on a classic Man Ray photograph. And, while I enjoyed Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London, I must admit my favorite memory of England was this play moment I will never forget.
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Renovating an apartment is not a little moment. When I moved into my current apartment in 2000, I hated the furniture that I already owned. It just didn’t fit in my new place. But for the next 8 years, I lived with it.
Finally, a friend of mine tricked me into renovating. His approach was devilishly sneaky. He offered a few suggestions on how to improve my bedroom. And, by the following week, he had moving trucks picking up all the furniture I owned. That same day, it all had been donated to thrift stores. He then embarked on a renovation that took 5 years to complete! After all, isn’t that what friends do?
Many headaches, lawsuits, overages, and panic attacks later, I can honestly say I love my apartment.
The video above gives you a “Before and After” look at my apartment.
A few final words of advice about renovating:
Never renovate if you think it will be only a few months out of your life.
Be prepared for a divorce if you are married.
Be prepared to be brought to your knees financially.
I will tell you that, the next time I move, it will be horizontally and not vertically.
The Home of Mark Winkler in 1 Minute
For those who don’t want to watch an 8-minute video, here is a 1 minute condensed version that just shows the highlights of my renovated apartment.
Renovating an Apartment is not a “Little Moment”Mark Winkler2021-03-21T11:48:47-05:00
One of the greatest things that New York City has to offer is Broadway. I’ve seen many great productions while living here in New York City and yet, every time I go, I’m always amazed at how incredibly talented these Broadway performers are. They go on for nine performances a week and must thrill their audiences, every single time, without faltering.
Springsteen on Broadway
I’m always asked what my favorite Broadway productions are. Well, “Springsteen on Broadway,” is definitely one of the top 2 on my list. Bruce Springsteen, alone onstage with no other musicians, tells his life story and sings 25 songs flawlessly. Two and a half hours without intermission! At the age of 69!! His stories were riveting, spiritual and deeply moving. And the music? Well, you already know about his music. I happen to see it with my soulmate from Kenora Nikki (whom I mentioned in “Friendly Moments”). The evening was magical.
Hamilton on Broadway
However, nothing can come close to my number one choice of my favorite production ever… “Hamilton.” Composer and lead actor Lin Manual Miranda is the Shakespeare of our time. He is brilliant. The musical was flawless from beginning to end and to this day, I can’t get his melodies out of my mind. The pictures below were taken on the night of his final Broadway performance as Hamilton.
Below is just a smattering of Broadway shows that I have attended while living in the greatest city in the world.
Common Ground Co-operative is a Toronto-based charity whose mission is to empower adults with developmental disabilities to lead meaningful lives. I came to know this wonderful organization because my adult niece, Rita, has Down Syndrome. A disorder that might have spelled a very bleak future for her. Thankfully, Common Ground has developed a structured program where adults like her work in a business. In fact, are part owners of the business and enjoy the title of partner. So Rita is now a part owner of a coffee shop in Toronto called The Coffee Shed. Thanks to Common Ground, Rita and hundreds of others like her, have found purpose and happiness as active contributors to their community. And, that’s why I work as hard as I can to help raise money for this charity.
Opening the Door to Make a Difference
When I learned that Common Ground was having difficulty in winning government grants and in need of funding support, I knew I had to help. I had previously dabbled in repairing computers. The people whose computers I repaired were constantly looking for ways to compensate me for my time. And, while I was grateful for their occasional gifts, they were really unnecessary since computers are my passion and I did the work as much for my own gratification as for their benefit.
But, what if my clients’ desire to compensate me could be channeled into something more than just sending me theater tickets or restaurant gift cards? What if I told them that they could pay me back by making donations to Common Ground? Whenever, and in whatever amount, they desired.
Well, I did just that. And the results exceeded my most optimistic expectations. Not only did Common Ground benefit but I learned a very valuable lesson: by opening the door, by giving people the opportunity to contribute and make a difference, wonderful things happen.
A Rare and Beautiful Moment
In late 2014, I experienced a rare and beautiful moment that left me filled with pride yet truly humbled. Common Ground had instituted an award to be presented yearly to the individual partner who has most embodied outstanding performance and achievement. And so, on a cold November day in Toronto, I had the honor to present “The Mark Winkler Achievement Award” to its first recipient. Having the award named for me made very, very grateful. It was one of those special moments I wish my parents were alive to see. I would have loved to have shared it with them.
The Mark Winkler Achievement Award
2015 Mark Winkler Achievement Award Winner, Paul.
2016 Mark Winkler Achievement Award Winner, Alexandria.
2017 Mark Winkler Achievement Award Winner, Julie.
2018 Mark Winkler Achievement Award Winner, Nazia.
2019 Mark Winkler Achievement Award Winner, Amy.
2020 Mark Winkler Achievement Award Winner, Rita.
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The Common Ground Co-operativeMark Winkler2021-03-21T11:44:46-05:00