Ridgefield High School sophomore Robert Castle hopes the interconnected media of books and music can rally residents to help support those less privileged — specifically, children who are eager to learn, but don’t have books to read.
Mr. Castle is hosting the Musicians Give Back concert Friday, Jan. 3, at Jesse Lee’s Carriage House from 7 to 8:30 p.m. to raise books for the Waterbury Boys and Girls Club.
The event, which will feature more than a dozen local high school musicians playing classical and jazz solos, is Mr. Castle’s final project before he can become an Eagle Scout, a rank that requires 21 merit badges as well as multiple service projects.
“A lot of boys in my troop are building something — bridges, tables or something like that — and are helping certain people with those types of projects,” he said. “I wanted to do something that could have an effect on a big group of people — something that could directly impact an entire community.
“A lot of these kids can’t afford books or don’t have access to a library.”
He’s been collecting books for the entire month of December and, as a result, his basement is loaded with more than 1,500 volumes that will go to kids between first and eighth grade.
Mr. Castle said the Ridgefield elementary schools, especially Scotland, were “more than generous” in their donations.
The concert will be the final part of the collection process, as most of the donation drive is already done.
“I want to wait until after the concert to sort through everything I’ve received,” he added. “Then I will drive them to the club sometime in January.”
When distribution is complete, Mr. Castle will fulfill a goal he’s been working toward since he first became a Boy Scout in the first grade.
“I’ve been a Life Scout for the last two and a half year and before that I was star scout,” he said. “I’ve stuck with it all this time and finally get to become an Eagle Scout now.”
He joins an exclusive fraternity that includes astronaut Neil Armstrong, former president Gerald Ford and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The journey isn’t one that is lost on his family.
Mr. Castle’s grandfather was a Boy Scout back when the organization was in its infancy and, in turn, Mr. Castle’s father and his brothers joined the scouts when they were boys.
His mother and sister have been involved in the Girl Scouts in Ridgefield, too.
The Castle family lived in Japan when Robert was eight through 10, but his commitment never wavered.
“I was granted an extension by the Boy Scouts of America,” he said. “That was a really cool experience, being all the way over there and still being a part of the scouts.”
He’s lived in Ridgefield since then and has risen through the rank to become the senior patrol leader of Troop 43.
“The senior patrol leader is most high up and works directly with the adults to organize and manage service events, and other types of community-based events,” he said.
Donating so much time to the scouts hasn’t denied him other opportunities though.
Mr. Castle is a part of the sophomore class council at the high school, as well as the Euro Challenge team that competes with other schools in the area.
He’s also managed enough time to learn a pair of instruments — the clarinet and the bassoon — as a member of the RHS band.
“I wanted to challenge myself,” he explains about taking up the woodwind instrument that belongs to the same musical family as the oboe. “A family friend was a teacher and they actually had one up at school so I learned to play on that one for about ten months and then bought my own.”
These opportunities aside from his work with the scouts has helped him build friendships with other students and, most notably, other musicians.
Included in the list of the performers are: Patrick Francis, Katarina Von Kuhn, Shaina Mahoney, Kyle Duke, Will Barth, Brandon Ye, Olivia Basile, Jacob Litt, Keillor Mose, Ryan Konopka, Emily Kerr, Max Issokson, Nicolas Moss, Brendan Donelly, Alexandra Digiacomo and Keny Rapp.
“Most of the acts who will be performing at the concert I know through band,” he said. “Others I just know from class, church or the scouts — or somewhere else.”
It’s hard to keep track when you’re doing so much at such a young age. However, Mr. Castle doesn’t let all his extracurricular work keep away from his day job as a student.
He settled on hosting the concert after the holidays because he knew there’d be a lot of competition.
“Everyone’s so busy in December, I knew it wouldn’t be worth trying to put on then,” he said. “Jan. 3rd is perfect because it’s before all the January craziness with kids going back and starting school again.”
Although the concert is the first big community service project he’s undertaken, Mr. Castle’s not nervous for the event or his performance in it.
In fact, he’s already looking beyond next Friday with hopes that the show will become a tradition in town for young performers and those looking to donate toward a good cause.
“I would like to do it again if its successful enough,” he said.
And based on the number of books in his basement, it’s a tune Mr. Castle should be getting used to playing.
Anyone interested in donating books, email Mr. Castle at