Online Exclusives

The Chemists of Swing

By Tom Branna, Editorial Director | January 9, 2012

They've all got daytime jobs, but they're doing all right. The Chem-Tones help the Society of Cosmetic Chemists celebrate the holiday season in style with a performance during the SCC Annual Meeting.


Every year, a talented group of cosmetic chemists gets out from behind the bench and up on to the stage to entertain their colleagues at the Society of Cosmetic Chemists’ Annual Meeting. Once again, last month, The Chem-Tones brought their act to New York City, the New York Hilton to be precise, to entertain SCC members with a selection of jazz and pop tunes.

Chem-Tones members include industry consultant and ex-Estée Lauder employee and band co-founder Peter Kaufmann (trumpet and assorted horns), band co-founder and TRI-K Industries’ Ben Blinder (trumpet and flugelhorn), Kobo Products’ Ed Bartholomey (keyboards), Ajinomoto North America’s Jayson Goodner (guitar), Coty’s Dr. Les Smith (drums), Ashland Specialty Ingredients’ John Bozza (tenor saxophone), Essential Ingredients’ Kris Maynard (harmonica) and Chris Gerlach (guitar), as well as Gretchen Vitamvas (vocalist) and Tim Brown (bass). Bozza, Maynard and Gerlach were unable to join the group for the 2011 annual meeting performance. Over the years, the band has also featured the late Henry Maso on harmonica and the late Mel Hoyt on percussion.

For Kaufmann, The Chem-Tones underscore the parallels between work and music.

The Chem-Tones who performed at the SCC Annual meeting included (l-r): Ed Bartholomey, Les Smith, Tim Brown, Ben Blinder, Gretchen Vitamvas, Jayson Goodner and Peter Kaufmann.
“It’s great to get together with people, and express ourselves,” explained Kaufmann. “Jazz is a great form of teamwork in that you have to listen to each other and play what you hear. It’s like what a cosmetic chemist has to do when he or she is working with other parts of R&D or marketing.”

The Chem-Tones are the brainchild of Kaufmann who, back in 2005, worked closely with the late SCC executive director Theresa Cesario to form the group. The band made its first appearance at the 2005 Annual Meeting and, aside from missing a meeting in 2009, has become a staple at the year-end event. Kaufmann’s wife, Arlene, is credited with coming up with the band’s name. Initially, the band limited its playlist to jazz standards. But over the years, The Chem-Tones have incorporated songs from The Beatles, Chicago and others.

For example, during last month’s annual meeting, The Chem-Tones played a variety of jazz standards and pop tunes including “Blue Monk,” “People Get Ready,” “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “Blue Christmas.”

“Our goals are simple—to make music and have fun,” explained Blinder.


Limited Engagements

Although the band has become a fixture at the Annual Meeting, The Chem-Tones would be happy to get out more often if geography and work schedules allow. After all, band members hail from Long Island, NY, New Jersey, Maryland and Georgia.

“We are too spread out; we can’t get together often enough to practice,” conceded Blinder. “Besides, most of us are still working our day jobs and work has to take priority over any performance.”

Still, for the cosmetic chemist who can successfully and artistically blend work and play, The Chem-Tones are always looking to expand.

“We’re always open to anybody who would like to join us,” asserted Blinder.
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