Bluefin Technology connects with customers, Worcester

A downtown startup is putting its expertise through its paces, right down to the family dog. Indeed, its most recent product is receiving wide acclaim. Art Simas hooks up with the IoT innovators for a closer look.

Pete Levesque on living the dream and a musician’s harsh reality

Art Simas jams with the city resident and former WPS teacher as he prepares to release his new album, “Wander.”

Bluefin Technology connects with customers, Worcester

When a company decides to “do the right thing” and stay with it, good things can happen after all.

For founding partners Jay Cahill and Michael Po, the entrepreneurial escapades of Bluefin Technology Partners eventually landed them in downtown Worcester in 2013. The company has 12 employees in a recently renovated building which was the former home of the Telegram & Gazette.

After several forays spanning eight years as a team with ventures in the States, Cahill and Po built a mobile application in the social media space for Instagram in Shanghai during the late 2000s that was solely for the Chinese market.

Because they had established their business before the Chinese government crackdown on social media, they were grandfathered in and allowed to pursue their business.

“We had millions of customers on the platform and we eventually sold the company to SINA Corp. of China, which has a Weibo platform that hosts their own social media content of its users,” Po explained.

After the sale Bluefin struck out as a consulting organization.

“A lot of people were tapping us for our … experience in developing large-scale applications for consumers that can handle millions of customers on the back end,” Cahill said. “That was what our pedigree had been, and we connected with Josh (Croke) and brought in a lot of the user experience design and a back end piece with our mobile experience.”

As the team was working within these parameters, the IoT (Internet of Things) market emerged as the next wave. So that’s when they established residence in Worcester.

Pete Levesque on living the dream and a musician’s harsh reality

Making music for a living can be a fine thing — except for the part about making a living.

So why do so many people choose it as a career?

For Pete Levesque, it is a lifelong commitment to constantly tune a noble craft … of practicing, learning, and sticking with it … of showing your skills to the world on large and small stages. But it requires facing truths about yourself and doing what needs to be done for your family.

His career choice started on the infamous “Choose Your Instrument Day” when he was in fourth grade in Pennsylvania.

“I chose the saxophone because it was nice and shiny and it looked good. I wasn’t interested in the trumpet. That looked like it was going to be too hard to learn, and the sax was definitely cooler-looking than a clarinet.”

His father’s Smithsonian Jazz Record Collection was his first inspiration. But it was the innovative sounds and playing speed of Ornette Coleman, the father of the free jazz movement of the 1960s, that converted him to an apostle of the instrument.

“I’d listen to him play tunes that had some really fast rhythm changes to it … I remember just laughing at the thought that someone could play that fast. That’s when I decided what I was going to do with my life. I was going to try to play like that,” Levesque said.

Ashley Jordan’s path to music stardom winds through Worcester

Many musical influences, lots of talent and her own take on “country” make Ashley Jordan one-of-a-kind as a singer and songwriter. Venue by venue — many of those along Park Avenue and in the Canal District — song by song, she’s working hard and enjoying it all. Find out about a hometown musical up-and-comer before it’s too late to jump on the bandwagon.

Local Business Spotlight: More than a century of sweet sounds at Union Music

“I started working [here] when I was 9 years old (1955), which was about the same time that my grandfather gave me a guitar. … And I still play classical guitar,” said Carl Kamp, owner and president of this three-generation family business. Trusted for instrument purchases, repairs, lessons and expertise, Union Music’s rambling old store on Southbridge Street echos with notes of history as it keeps today’s musicians supplied and inspired. Which makes it an apt entry in our Survivor Series, highlighting Worcester businesses standing the test of time.

Ukulele players string together a community at Union Music

“I couldn’t have the club meet in a bar or a hotel. But I knew that Union Music has a performance space that can hold 50 performers. So I approached Carl and he thought it was a great idea,” said Rich Luefstedt, who considers himself more of a facilitator than leader of the Ukulele Club, which he started with five or six people per month six years ago. That figure has now grown to 20 to 30 per month at Union Music. Art Simas tiptoes through the tulips to tell this timeless tale.

Ashley Jordan’s path to music stardom winds through Worcester

HARVARD — The musical journey for Ashley Jordan began when she was a toddler. She listened to her grandfather play country, folk and bluegrass tunes on guitar when he would entertain the family with his performances. He also recorded himself on various equipment, hoping to save those encores for future generations.

When Ashley was 6, though, he died.

“I didn’t have a direct connection to him being so young, but I grew up loving that kind of music,” she said.

“My dad grew up listening to Jewel, James Taylor, Alison Krauss and many others, so I had those songs in my head and enjoyed listening to them,” she said. “But then I took off and started playing guitar and writing lyrics,  and it transformed into a country direction. So, yes, my family had a big influence and they’ve always been so supportive of me and my music.”

Ashley Jordan of Harvard, an up-and-coming singer on the national stage, has honed her craft in Worcester.

Courtesy Ashley Jordan

Ashley Jordan of Harvard, an up-and-coming singer on the national stage, has honed her craft in Worcester.

It was some time, though, before young Ashley’s family realized it had a new hobby to support.

“My parents didn’t even know that I was a singer until I signed up to do a talent show in high school. And they asked me, ‘What are you going to do for the talent show, Ashley?’

“At that time I was too shy to sing in public and I kept that secret to myself – until the talent show,” she said. “My parents were shocked to find out that I really could sing well.”

Once Ashley learned guitar and gained confidence in her playing, she started to perform on the streets of Boston and Harvard Square in Cambridge, with her parents not far from the impromptu sidewalk concerts.


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Local Business Spotlight: More than a century of sweet sounds at Union Music

You cannot deny it. There is something special about walking into a store and being greeted by absolute professionals in their business. So it is with Union Music. And it starts at the top, with the president and owner of this 116-year-old family enterprise.

Caring is the operative word in this world – caring about the instrument and your connection to it, the audience (even if it is one), and of helping others find their rhythm, which may be accompanied by a rash of blues, for those who make a living in music.

Carl Kamp, owner and president of this three-generation family business, recounted the history of Union Music, beginning with his grandfather.

Carl Kamp, owner and legacy at Union Music, a business in the city for more than 100 years.

Art Simas / For Worcester Sun

Carl Kamp, owner and legacy at Union Music, a business in the city for more than 100 years.

“Originally my grandfather, Samuel Cashner, who emigrated from Russia, started a pawnshop and music business on lower Front Street in 1900 (where the Peoples Bank is today, before the construction of the taller buildings).

“My father, Leon Kamp, started working for him and married my grandfather’s daughter … and a few years later, I came along in 1946.

Ukulele players string together a community at Union Music

About 10 years ago, Rich Leufstedt discovered a passion: the ukulele.

Originally a bass guitarist who, in his younger days and before family commitments, played with bands in this area, Leufstedt decided to put down the bass and pick up the ukulele.

“There are already all kinds of great guitarists out there,” he said. “So, instead of dedicating myself to be a better guitarist, I discovered no one played the ukulele. That was 10 years and 30 ukuleles ago.”

He may have been onto something in 2006.

Ukulele Club at Union Music

Courtesy Rich Leufstedt / Union Music

Ukulele Club at Union Music

“Ukuleles are much more popular today than 10 years ago. Back then one could go on eBay and find some bargains. And I found several vintage 1950s ukuleles … for one-third of the price of what they go for now,” he said.


Local Business Spotlight: Union Music, a century of sweet sounds


But the four-stringed instrument, known mostly for its Hawaiian-tinged sound, has entered yet another renaissance of interest and performance – and this time it may be here for a while.