All-National Pair of Magical Musicians

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High school seniors Kevin Jacobsen and Michael Stevens were named All-National musicians, and were chosen to participate in the National Association for Music Education’s All-National Symphony Orchestra concert, held on Nov. 13 in Dallas, Texas.

Both exceptional students spent four days rehearsing from morning to night in preparation for their concert, and attended workshops to help enhance their musical ambitions and knowledge. They prepared challenging music under the baton of Dr. William LaRue Jones, a world-renowned conductor.

The NAfME All-National Honors Ensembles include a concert band, symphony orchestra, mixed chorus and jazz ensemble.  Jacobsen and Stevens qualified for their state-level honor ensemble program and competed against top students for a spot in these national ensembles. They were two of just 13 students from New York State selected for All-National Symphony Orchestra. Statewide, Jacobsen was one of only two trumpet players accepted, while Stevens was one of only two French horn players. 

“The East Islip music department is extremely proud of Kevin and Michael for representing the district on the national level,” said Dr. Robert J. Wottawa II, the district’s director of art, ENL, music and world languages.

Both East Islip student-musicians previously attended All-State in their junior year, played this year with the New York State Council of Administrators of Music Education’s All-County Symphony Orchestra, and are members of East Islip’s Tri-M Music Honor Society. Both travel into New York City every Sunday to participate in the New York Youth Symphony. They were recognized by the district’s Board of Education at a recent meeting.

Jacobsen has racked up many accomplishments as a trumpet player, having immersed himself in music. He began playing trumpet in the third grade, and by the fourth grade, had participated in the New York State School Music Association. He has since been chosen for Suffolk County Music Educators Association recognition each year. Jacobsen is very active in East Islip’s music program, playing in the school’s honors wind ensemble, honors symphony, honors choir and jazz ensemble, as well as in the pit orchestra for school musicals. This past summer, he was selected to attend the prestigious Boston University Tanglewood Institute. He has played with the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra for three years and the Nassau/Suffolk Band for the past three years. 

“All-National was a life-changing experience, because it was amazing to hear other students from different states who all have the same passion for music I have,” said Jacobsen.

Stevens, who plays piano as well as French horn, began playing piano in kindergarten and horn in first grade.  He has been participating in NYSSMA since kindergarten, including 24 NYSSMA festivals. He is likewise active in the school’s music program, participating in East Islip’s school’s honors wind ensemble, honors symphony, honors choir, jazz ensemble and pit orchestra. For the past two summers, Stevens has traveled through China and Europe with the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America. He also attended the Boston University Tanglewood Institute as well as other summer music programs, played with the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra for seven years, and attends the Juilliard Pre-College Saturday program. 

“There is something magical about having musicians from around the country and variety of backgrounds unify to create music together,” said Stevens. “Despite the diverse cultures, what the orchestra was able to produce was quite amazing.”