Chris Arena believes this could be the year his career as a professional musician breaks. And his 76-year-old grandmother can take some credit.

Arena, who now lives in Philadelphia, will release his self-titled debut record Tuesday to coincide with the recent premiere of “Dark Fall,” a locally filmed surfing documentary that features two of Arena’s tunes.

The album, recorded at Ardent Studio in Memphis, Tenn., where Led Zeppelin and ZZ Top also cut albums, is arranged by Grammy Award-winning producer Craig Street (Nora Jones), and three-time Grammy-winning engineer Tony Maseratti (Jason Mraz).

Throughout the CD, the 25-year-old offers indie rock with pop influences that sounds like a unique mix of Jack Johnson, Coldplay, Bright Eyes and maybe even a little Bob Dylan.

There’s also some power players involved, including pianist Rick Steff (Gin Blossoms) and horn arrangements by the late Willie Mitchell, who is known for his work with Al Green.

But despite Arena’s musical connections, it’s his grandmother, Margate’s Sylvia Luongo — he calls her “Mugga” — that he looks to for honest opinions about his music.

“The album took a long time to make because she is my biggest critic,” said Arena, who released the album independently on iTunes, Amazon and his website (">click here for a link). “She is my soundboard. I ask her what she thinks of a song, and if she ignores me and keeps watching TV, I would go back to work. If she turned off the golf and asked me about a lyric, I knew I was onto something.”

Arena, who is hoping the CD attracts enough attention to catch the noticed of a record label, will try out for “American Idol” next month. In the meantime, he will perform throughout the tri-state area, including a weekly Sunday gig at Ventura’s Greenhouse in Margate.


Short Stories

Four Mays Landing students recently participated in the 18th Annual Elementary Honors Band Concert. Taryn Richardson (trombone), Myra Jackson (flute), Melissa Scott (baritone) and Lindsey Parks (clarinet) were selected on the basis of their musical talent by a panel of judges from the South Jersey Band and Orchestra Directors Association. ... Three Cape May County Technical High School seniors — Cape May Court House’s Brandon Almand, Woodbine’s Dee’Anna Thomas and Woodbine’s Jacqi Reilly — had a sweet surprise after winning their school’s fourth annual Iron Pastry Chef competition. The students, who participated in the school’s baking and pastry program, received a tour of the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa’s kitchen facilities with two chefs, Egg Harbor Township’s Ron Ross, executive chef, and Absecon’s Thaddeus Dubois, former White House executive pastry chef.

Short Stories compiled by Emily Brill

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