East Islip’s six schools are justifiably acclaimed for the excellence and vitality of their music programs, a fact attested by the outstanding performances that over 60 of the district’s student-musicians put on display at this year’s Suffolk County Music Educators' Association (SCMEA) concerts at Hauppauge High School on March 11.
“The Suffolk County Music Educators' Association offers All-County opportunities for band, chorus and orchestra,” said East Islip Middle School Orchestra Director Judith A. Fischer. “Selected students across the county, grouped by grade level, met to rehearse with a guest conductor and then performed a concert. Each group at each level performed in separate concerts, having prepared a full concert program of literature.”
The young musicians – whether band, orchestra or chorus – were divided into three grade-level groupings. Division I consisted of sixth-graders from the middle school and fifth-graders from all four elementary schools. The middle school’s seventh- and eighth-graders were in Division II, while the high school musicians were Division III.
“The students were chosen by a SCMEA selection committee based on their NYSSMA solo adjudications and teacher recommendations,” explained Ron Fox, the band director for Connetquot and JFK. “They had afternoon and Saturday rehearsals leading up to the concert.”
East Islip High School students chosen for the Division III SCMEA orchestra were violinists Janine Alto and Carolyn Sidoti, violist Emily Fusco and cellist William Meehan. They performed “Tritch Trasch Polka” by Strauss, “Harry Potter” by Williams, the “Intermezzo” from “Cavalleria Rusticana” by Mascagni and “Bacchanale” from “Samson and Delilah” by Saint-Saens.
The high school’s chorus students who were accepted to play in SCMEA Division III, all sophomores, were tenor Lawrence Burnham and altos Justine Brode, Emily DeMaio and Paige Epstein. They sang "Fa Una Canzone" by Orazio Vecchi, Kirby Shaw’s arrangement of Paul Simon’s "Bridge Over Troubled Water,” "Sing Me to Heaven" by Daniel Gawthrop, "Zion's Walls" by Aaron Copland and "The Sounding Sea" by Eric Barnum.
The Division III high school band selections were flutists Kelly Boyle, Valli Mani and Briana Neefeldt, clarinetists Krista Cook and Kevin Donovan, trumpeter Jennifer Coffin, trombonist Doug Keller and tuba player Maxx Vogelsberg. Pieces they performed included Howard Hanson's "Chorale and Alleluia," Timothy Mahr's "View from the Mountaintop" and Francis McBeth's "Of Sailors and Whales."
Middle school SCMEA band selections were French horn player Jason Burke, trombonist Jack Burke-McGoldrick, clarinetists Antonio Ditta and Harrison Gieraltowski, tuba/sousaphone players Jake MacMorris and Dennis McCann, trumpet/cornet players Evan Mauner and Gabriel Oldshein, tenor saxophonist Zachary Schurman and bass clarinetist Kylie Sorrentino.
For chorus, the middle school students chosen were altos Amanda Carey, Katie Ginty and Sara Rapuzzi, sopranos Emily Fishman, Kathryn Stephens and Megan Tohill, and baritones Paul Demasi and Zachary Halfter.
Middle school orchestra players for SCMEA were violists Sarah Commisso and James Daley, violinists Dominique Degener, Elisa Mingo and Jessica Muroff, cellists Emma Elliott, Nicole Humpf and Karli Pipitone, and double bass player Devin Thelemann.
At Connetquot Elementary, the musicians chosen for SCMEA were flutist Alexa Smith in band, altos Bruno Napolitano, Emily Vazquez and Kathryn O'Neill in chorus, and string bassist Ronald Gomez and violinist Ashley Conigliaro for orchestra.
John F. Kennedy Elementary’s SCMEA selections were trumpeter Joseph Bucci in band, Alexandra Bertolini and Stephanie Milito in chorus, and violists Kylie Goess and Brooke Hommel in orchestra.
For Ruth C. Kinney Elementary, the five SCMEA musicians were trumpeter Max Calarco in band, soprano Sophie Bingham and alto Alexa Sortino in chorus, and violinists Kaylin Cuba and Marcela Gallardo in orchestra.
Timber Point Elementary’s chosen musicians for SCMEA were clarinetists Vincent Guiliano and Cassidy Triolo in band, altos Karina Gallagher and Madison Lane in chorus, and violinist Victoria Keenan in orchestra.
The Division I band of fifth- and sixth-graders performed “Paths of Glory” by Carl Strommen, “Abington Ridge” by Ed Huckeby, “Serengeti Dreams” by Robert W. Smith and “Dances Fantastique” by David Shaffer, while the Division I orchestra played “Fiddles at Shady Gulch” by Mark Williams, Richard Meyer’s arrangement of the finale from Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 5,” Douglas Wagner’s arrangement of themes from “The Planets” by Gustav Holst, and Larry’s Moore’s arrangement of “The Beatles Forever.” The Division I chorus sang Mozart’s “Laudamus Te” and traditional spiritual “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho.”
In Division II, the seventh- and eighth-grade band played “Prairie Songs” by Pierre LaPlante, “Encanto” by Robert W. Smith, “Ghost Fleet” by Robert Sheldon (a piece based on popular video game "Halo”) and “Maxium Concert March” by David Shaffer. The Division II orchestra performed several works, including “Hungarian Dances” by Brahms and themes from Dvorak’s “Symphony No. 8.” Seventh- and eighth-grade chorus students in Division II sang “We Are the World” by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, “Add a Riff” by Sol Berkowitz, the folk song “Michael Finnigan,” Handel’s “Hallelujah, Amen,” Greg Gilpin’s “Ha Shalom” and “Can You Hear” by Jim Papouslis.
“The festival was a wonderful experience for the students,” said Lynda Maniscalco, band director at RCK and Timber Point. “The Division I band students especially enjoyed performing ‘Serengeti Dreams,’ a piece inspired by a wildlife refuge in eastern Africa. All of the young musicians played beautifully.”