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Art & Music Department

Robert J. Wottawa II, Ed.D.

Secretary Carol Bartlett 631-224-2143




Artists Create Mural for Wrestlers

Michael Dondero and Cynthis Stasio, two of teacher Daniel Figliozzi’s senior art students at the high school, volunteered to create a large-scale mural for the school’s wrestling team. The mural, located on the wrestling room doors, was a vision proposed by Athletic Director Stephen Restivo. The students brought the work to fruition using enamel paint.

“Even though I don’t do sports, it was nice to contribute to one of the other departments at our school,” said Dondero.

“I enjoyed doing the mural and contributing to not only the art department, but the school itself and the athletic department,” said Stasio.

Both Dondero and Stasio plan to attend art school this fall.

Seniors Selected for NYSATA

High school seniors Skylure Blatz and Alana Fiederlein were chosen for the New York State Art Teachers Association’s 27th annual Legislative Student Art Exhibition. Their work will be displayed in the Legislative Well in Albany’s Capitol Building from March 27-29.

The flagship event for Youth Art Month, the Legislative Student Art Exhibition is a showcase for the state’s art programs and NYSATA’s largest public display of student artwork in a government building. This year’s exhibit is cosponsored by New York State United Teachers.

The two students, who will attend a NYSATA reception on March 29 alongside parents, teachers and state legislators, are enrolled in teacher Heather Toomey’s independent study photography course.

“I am so proud of Alana and Skylure,” said Toomey. “Both of these wonderful young women have been in my photography class for three years and deserve this honor to exhibit their artwork upstate in Albany.”

“I am excited to have my photography presented at the Legislative Student Art Exhibition,” said Blatz. “I wouldn’t have been able to do this without my photography teacher, Mrs. Toomey.”

Said Fiederlein, “I am so honored to have been part of this exhibition, and thank everyone who helped support my photography.”


HS Photographers Display Their ‘Colors’

Three high school photography students – senior Sarah Hillman and juniors Alexa Benitez and Amanda Seegers – were selected for the 19th annual Colors of Long Island student art exhibit, held at Stony Brook’s Long Island Museum. The three were chosen for their colorful designs pertaining to the theme of the exhibit, which runs from Feb. 24 through April 16.

This annual student art exhibition, sponsored by Astoria Bank, provides an opportunity for K-12 students to show their artwork in a museum setting. A total of 179 schools participated in this year’s exhibition, many of which were new to the Long Island Museum.

“I am so proud of Sarah, Alexa and Amanda for their hard work and dedication to their photography,” said photography teacher Heather Toomey. “I am happy to see them succeed and be acknowledged for their extraordinary photographic skills.”

“I was really grateful to have this opportunity, and excited to see my work displayed in a museum,” said Hillman, who attended a March 5 reception at the museum. She plans to pursue photography in college this fall.

“This was an amazing opportunity,” said Benitez. “This experience is great for my college applications, because I plan to continue photography next year.”


Connetquot Second-Graders Create Pop Art Hearts

Second-graders at Connetquot recently learned about pop artist Jim Dine before creating mixed-media hearts during art classes.

Under the direction of teacher Dana Belfiore-O’Connell, the students were taught how to use oil pastels, paint, crayon and marker. They utilized the pros and cons of each material, such as turning crayons on their side to create texture and using the small tips of the markers to create intricate details not achievable with other materials. They tried various techniques and experimented with using the materials in new and exciting ways.

“The paint was my favorite material to use because you can blend the colors to make new ones,” said second-grader Kate Habel.

Stevens Named LI Scholar-Artist

High school senior Michael Stevens was selected to be one of 20 Long Island Arts Alliance Scholar–Artists for 2016-2017, a prestigious honor that annually recognizes top Long Island seniors who have demonstrated a successful school career in both the arts and academics
The LIAA’s Scholar-Artist Awards program, presented by the New York Community Bank Foundation in cooperation with Newsday, partners with local universities to offer full scholarships to qualified honorees.  

Last September 8, Stevens attended a reception at Half Hollow Hills High School East, introducing the 2016-2017 class of Scholar-Artists were introduced and honored. He was featured as a Scholar-Artist in Newsday during December, and this spring, he will participate in a special presentation of all the Scholar-Artists at the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts.

Stevens has spent every Saturday for the past seven years in both the Manhattan School of Music and The Juilliard School Pre-College programs, studying with members of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. In May 2016, his Juilliard chamber group Noname won an international chamber competition against more than 100 other ensembles from 13 different countries. Additionally, Stevens and East Islip classmate Kevin Jacobsen spend Sundays as the two youngest brass section members of the nation’s premier youth orchestra, the New York Youth Symphony.

Since fifth grade, Stevens has spent his summers participating in rigorous music programs such as Tanglewood and the New York State School of Orchestral Studies. Most recently, he toured China and Europe with the Carnegie Hall National Youth Orchestra of the USA. With the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra, he visited Hungary, the Czech Republic, Austria and Poland; in the latter, he performed a memorial concert on the grounds of the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp.

As a sixth- and eighth-grader, Stevens was the winner of the Northeast Horn Workshop High School Competition and runner-up in both the Juilliard and MSM concerto competitions. He has been a NYSSMA level 6 pianist since third grade and level 6 horn player since fourth grade, with an average score of 99.7, earning him All-State honors on both instruments.

Academically, Stevens has been enrolled in honors and AP classes throughout his secondary years and has been able to maintain a GPA above 102. Throughout his musical and academic years, he has played both club and school soccer, most recently with the East Islip boys varsity soccer team.

“I am so incredibly grateful for the hard work and support from my music teachers in the school district,” said Stevens. “From elementary school onward, they inspire hundreds of students every day.”

Stevens is applying to music conservatories nationwide where he hopes to pursue a career as an orchestral horn player.



Finest 14 Chosen for LISFA

Recognizing them as among Suffolk County’s finest school string orchestra players, 14 young string musicians – fifth-grader Hanna Ross; sixth-grader Keira Tantillo; eighth-graders Mia Lembo, Michelle Mirabella, Noelle Naccarato and Samantha Seibert; freshman Peter Gerace, sophomores Marcela Gallardo, Trevor Garnett and Victoria Keenan; juniors Elisa Mingo and Jessica Muroff; and seniors Samantha Smith and Devin Thelemann – were selected for this year’s Long Island String Festival Association concerts.

The students, hailing from JFK, the middle school and the high school, were chosen by LISFA based on recommendations from their orchestra teachers and their scores at last year’s New York State School Music Association Solo Festival. They were honored at the Feb. 2 Board of Education meeting.

“We are so very proud of our string students and their hard work to achieve this wonderful accomplishment,” said Dr. Robert J. Wottawa II, the director of art and music. “We are forever grateful for the countless hours our teachers spent in preparing our students for these opportunities.”


Photography Students Enjoy Lennon’s Lighting Workshop

The high school’s photography classes recently participated in a hands-on workshop about lighting with a returning visitor, local wedding photographer, John Lennon. The students were given a chance to use Lennon’s professional camera and lighting equipment, enhancing their technical skills.

“It was such a wonderful experience to have Mr. Lennon come back again this year,” said teacher and Photography Club adviser Heather Toomey. “The students and I learned so much from him.”

“It was great to work with Mr. Lennon and to hear his thoughts on the importance of photographic lighting,” added teacher Joy Taylor. “It is always exciting to hear from professionals and have them share their expertise with our students."

“It was an interesting and fun learning experience that introduced us to new techniques and equipment,” said student Alana Fiederlein. 

“I got to learn about things that I wouldn’t have had the chance to, because of his equipment,” said her classmate John Camlet. “I can't wait until he returns next year.”



Passion on Display at Winter Concerts


The district’s hardworking and talented music students displayed the results of their studies at a series of six impressive winter concerts held in December at the high school’s Rydzeski Hall. During the prior months, students from the high school, middle school, and JFK and RCK elementary schools practiced at home and attended numerous rehearsals and lessons, all in preparation for their performances in front of family and friends.

“Our music students demonstrated a high level of musicianship and professionalism in their winter concerts,” said Giovanna Ruggiero, the high school’s orchestra director. “They achieved this through their consistent dedication and passion for music. I am so proud of the hard work each student displayed and I look forward to hearing continued musical growth in upcoming performances.”

JFK Orchestra Director Jaime DeMaria said, “The concert was a huge success and we all can’t wait to see what these spectacular students can do in the spring.”





MS Band Bus Tour Proves a Holiday Highlight

The middle school’s Holiday Ensemble, composed of spirited students from the school’s Tri-M Music Honor Society, traveled around the district by bus on Dec. 22, spreading cheer through music.

Led by director Concetta Stevens, the band tackled a sprightly selection of holiday classics at each stop, which included Connetquot and RCK elementary schools; the district office, where they performed for administrators; and the Early Childhood Center, where they played for students of the  South Shore Preschool for Early Childhood Education. At each site, Stevens also presented a brief history and demonstration of all the band instruments.



Honoring All-State/All-County Musicians

Four high school student-musicians – Kurte Eide, Richard Hughes, Michael Krebs and Evan Mauner – were awarded All-State honors by the New York State School Music Association, and participated in at the NYSSMA Winter Conference at the Eastman Theater in Rochester.

At the All-State concert, held on Dec. 4, Eide (jazz trombone) and Mauner (trumpet) performed with the All-State Instrumental Jazz Ensemble, Hughes (trumpet) played with the All-State Wind Ensemble, and Krebs (bass) sang in the All-State Mixed Chorus.

Additionally, 18 students from East Islip were named All-County musicians, and participated in the New York State Council of Administrators of Music Education’s All-County Festival concerts, held on Nov. 18 at Northport High School..

Zachary Schurman played alto saxophone with the All-County Band under the direction of Dr. James Tapia.

Representing East Islip in the two choral ensembles were Brittney Berke, Kendra Canavan and Sabrina Firneno in the All-County Women’s Chorus and Roy Anderson, Amanda Baranek, Sarah Bloom, Krebs, Vincenzo Mediate and Sara Rapuzzi in the All-County Mixed Chorus. Selections included original compositions by Women’s Chorus Director Joan Szymko as well as a mix of contemporary and classical pieces.

Eight students were instrumentalists in the All-County Orchestra: Eide on trombone, Beth Hillman on oboe, Nicole Humpf on cello, Richie Hughes and Kevin Jacobsen on trumpet, Samantha Smith on violin, Michael Stevens on horn, and Devin Thelemann on double bass. Under the direction of Joshua Gersen, with conducting assistance from retired East Islip orchestra director Susan W. Rydzeski and current East Islip wind ensemble director Christopher Neske, the orchestra performed “Mars and Jupiter” from Holst’s “The Planets” as well as Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture. 

“We are so proud of all our All-State and All-County students for their hard work and dedication to their musicianship,” said Dr. Robert J. Wottawa II, the district’s director of art, ENL, music and world languages. “Our students’ accomplishments are a reflection of our teachers’ support and love of teaching, and we cannot thank them enough.”



Friday, April 28, 2017