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Art & Music Department

Robert J. Wottawa II, Ed.D.

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Secretary Carol Bartlett 631-224-2143




JFK Fifth-Grader Takes Up His Tuba for SCMEA Festival

Ryan Hilbert, a fifth-grader at JFK, participated in the 37th annual SCMEA Day of Tuba and Euphonium, held on Nov. 3 at Central Islip High School. Hilbert took part in rehearsals and clinics during the festival, and performed a concert with a massed ensemble comprised of more than 300 tuba and euphonium players including elementary, middle and high school students, teachers and guest artists.

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Orgera Takes Art on the Road(show)

Michael Orgera, a sixth-grader at the middle school, represented the district in Albany last month as part of a special New York State PTA Reflections Art Roadshow. A total of 60 works of art were chosen for this special additional honor of distinction – besides being local, regional and state winners – out of more than 1,100 pieces submitted for the 2016-2017 PTA Reflections contest that were chosen for a special additional honor of distinction.

Orgera, a highly awarded participant in PTA Reflections, is a two-time Suffolk Region Award of Excellence winner as well as a New York State Winner of Excellence, New York State Winner of Merit and 2016 National Reflections Winner.

His artwork was on display in the rotunda of the New York State Department of Education Building until Nov. 2, when it traveled to Niagara Falls for display at the 2017 New York State PTA Convention. He was also honored by the Board of Education at a recent board meeting.

HS Musicians Honored with Ensemble Selections

Continuing a long tradition of musical excellence, 18 high school students were chosen to participate in the annual New York State Council of Administrators of Music Education All-County concert, held on Nov. 17 at Hauppauge High School. NYSCAME’s All-County program showcases the best junior and senior musicians in Suffolk County to perform in bands, choruses and orchestras.

Jake Acocella (bass), Jenna Anderson (alto), Connor Barnes (tenor), Alexandra Bertolini (soprano), Gabriella Commisso (alto), Sara Rapuzzi (alto) and Kyle Westgate-Addessi  (bass) were selected for the All-County Mixed Chorus; Claudia Banville (soprano), Sarah Bloom (soprano), Madison Lane (alto), Katelyn Spina (alto) and Victoria Tiernan (alto) were selected for the All-County Treble Chorus; Victoria Keenan (violin), Kathryn O’Neill (double bass) and Alexandra Stewart (flute) were selected for the All-County Orchestra; and Alexander Cabrera (baritone saxophone), Max Calarco (trumpet/cornet) and Cassidy Triolo (clarinet) were selected for the All-County Band.

Additionally, seven East Islip student-musicians were recognized for All-State honors this year by the New York State School Music Association and will perform at the annual All-State Music Conference in Rochester, NY from Nov. 30 to Dec. 3.

Evan Mauner (trumpet) will perform with the All-State Instrumental Jazz Ensemble, Stewart will perform with the All-State Symphonic Band, O’Neill will perform with the All-State Symphonic Orchestra, Bloom    and Rapuzzi will perform with the All-State Treble Chorus, and Anderson and Commisso will perform with the All-State Mixed Chorus.    

“These achievements are due to the students’ hard work, dedication and perseverance, as well as the support provided by our teachers through our performing music programs,” said Dr. Robert J. Wottawa II, the district’s director of art and music.


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Alexis Barber Wins Art Contest

High school sophomore Alexis Barber participated in the Art League of Long Island’s Summer Portfolio Development program this past summer. Students in the program were challenged to create a cover for Anton Media Group’s Back to School special section cover for their August issue. Barber’s entry– a first-person drawing of a looseleaf notebook with several doodles, sketches and block lettering logo, titled “Notebook”  – was selected as the winner.

Barber, who previously won third place in an exhibit at the Long Island Children’s Museum when she was in the eighth grade, is currently taking two honors art classes at the high school.

Sawtelle Tops Traffic Safety Contest

Kathryn Sawtelle, a second-grader at Connetquot, won first place in the annual AAA Traffic Safety Poster Contest for her poster “Don’t Be a Fuddy Duddy, Have a Street Buddy.” After a rigorous judging process, Sawtelle’s poster was chosen out of more than 600 entries in the grade K-2 Pedestrian and Child Passenger Safety category.

The poster contest, part of art teacher Christina Spera-Bartlett’s curriculum for second-grade classes at Connetquot, helped to promote and raise awareness of traffic safety as well as introduce the topic of how to create an effective poster using art techniques.

“All of the students worked very hard for many weeks on their poster entries and should feel very proud of their effort,” said Spera-Bartlett. “Kathryn’s design and message stood out to the judges and therefore kept moving up in the judging process, landing her in first place.”

A special luncheon was held to honor poster and video contest winners for various grade levels. As a first-place winner, Sawtelle received a plaque and a $300 check, presented by John Corlett, AAA New York’s director of traffic safety.



Students Create Haring-Inspired Mural

High School student-artists in teacher Daniel Figliozzi’s drawing classes recently created a large-scale sharpie drawing mural inspired by influential 1980s artist Keith Haring.

The mural, located on a high school wall between the cafeteria and the music wing, features a famous quote from Haring – “Whatever you want to do, the only secret is to believe in it and satisfy yourself. Don’t do it for anyone else” – surrounded by student doodles and designs. Many of these designs were technically inspired by the intricate line work of Renaissance artists Francesco Bartolozzi and Albrecht Durer, as well as the cluttered and condensed work of contemporary artist Kath Fidler.

The students filled the mural with multiple memes, cartoon characters and numerous images of “SpongeBob Squarepants” character Squidward Tentacles. In a manner reminiscent of Where’s Waldo, Squidward is located in the mural multiple times, hiding and peeking out in places, challenging viewers to see how many they can find.

“My students enjoyed doing the mural, as they got to draw whatever they wanted,” said Figliozzi. “The work is expressive, dense and fun and really did come together; unifying with line work and ranges of dark and light values. The two central large figures in the work were inspired by Haring’s iconic figures. Each figure’s head is opening up, releasing the designs to signify endless possibility, relating to the quote from Haring.”







Hillman Honored for Photography

Recent high school graduate Sarah Hillman was honored at the Town of Islip’s 2017 Student Achievement Awards for her work in fine arts. Hillman’s exceptional photographs have been displayed at numerous exhibits including the town’s Festival of the Arts, Colors of Long Island in Stony Brook, and the 2017 Long Island Media Arts Show at Five Towns College’s Performing Arts Center in Dix Hills. She has been recognized for her work in the school’s yearbook and “Broadcaster” newspaper, and won two consecutive PTA Reflections Awards of Excellence.

Hillman will attend Cazenovia College in upstate New York this fall on scholarship, where she plans to major in photography.


HS Photographers Chosen at LIU Post

Outstanding work by 10 high school photography students was recently chosen for LIU Post’s 14th annual 12x12 High School Art Exhibition. The selected students were senior Max McGibney (for “Nightmare”); juniors Alexa Benitez (“Somber Contemplation”), Keala Sanders (“Negative-Creep”) and Nina Senn (“Morgue”); and sophomores John Camlet (“Behind Blue Eyes”), Jenna Donnelly (“Reflections”), Tyler Franklin (“Earths Tears”), Jake Kenney (“Juniors”), Chris Palmer (“Strike 3”) and Gia Piazza (“Creepy Night”). Their work was displayed at the Art League Students Gallery at LIU Post’s B. Davis Schartz Memorial Library in Brookville.

"The students chosen for this exhibit have demonstrated an strong interest in their photography and I am so proud of them for getting to exhibit their work in a professional gallery,” said teacher Heather Toomey. “I am happy that LIU Post gives high school students this opportunity.” 

“I plan on continuing photography next year and this was a good experience to have for college,” said Donnelly.

A Successful Spring Concert Series

East Islip closed out another school year of growing musical skill and diligent practice with a terrific May series of spring concerts representing musicians from the high school, middle school, and John F. Kennedy and Ruth C. Kinney elementary schools.

The programs of the six concerts, all held at the high school’s Rydzeski Hall, included classical compositions by Bach, Dvorak, Haydn, Holst, Mozart, Stravinsky and Vivaldi; traditional and folk tunes from various traditions; pop songs like “From a Distance” and “Happy”; and dramatic pieces from films and musicals such as “Hairspray,” “Les Miserables,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Jurassic Park” and “Moana.”

“Our spring concert series was a brilliant success,” said Dr. Robert J. Wottawa II, the district’s director of art and music. “Our children’s hard work and dedication is a reflection of their teachers’ passion for their teaching craft, performance level, and high expectations.”




Seventh-Graders Perform Cello Demo

In a special demonstration performance, middle school orchestra teacher Judith Fischer and three of her seventh-grade students – cellists Wendle Huang, Mia Mendozza and Gabrielle Olds – played an unusual cello duet at the April 6 Board of Education meeting.

The three student-musicians performed the baroque “Lully gavotte”, while Fischer played the Marin Marais composition’s piano part on her cello. Teacher and students then shared various techniques with the audience, explaining how those techniques apply to their music.

All three students, described by Fischer as “wonderful, talented and dedicated,” will perform the piece at the NYSSYMA Solo Festival this month.

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12 Win Best in Show at LI Media Arts

Twelve talented students from the high school were awarded “Best in Show” at the 2017 Long Island Media Arts Show, recognizing their creativity and hard work in the fields of video as well as visual arts such as photography. The competition was held on March 31 at Five Towns College’s Performing Arts Center in Dix Hills.

“The Media Arts Show really stepped up its production values this year,” said teacher James Connell. “There were several interactive experiences that the students who attended could engage with. We had students taking film classes, as well as students joining live television and radio broadcasts throughout the day.”

Best in Show winners from Connell’s video production classes were writer/directors Steven Murello and Kaela Sanders. Murello won for “Old Soul,” a film about a young man making a connection to his grandfather's past; it starred Eddie Sallie and Brook Helmsorig. Sanders earned her prize for “Handsprings,” a music video film inspired by current punk rock music; it starred Kathryn Bingham and Kyle Bishop.

“As always, our students represented their craft well,” said Connell. “Coming home with two video Best in Show awards was great, and the other videos submitted by seniors Tom Murphy and Kara Tejada were also very well received by the judges and audiences at the show. I am extremely proud of the hard work and extra effort my students put in each year, helping East Islip High School shine at this event,” said Connell.

Participating visual arts students came from Joy Taylor's and Heather Toomey's photography classes, Jen Geduldig's electronic illustration classes, Liz Gibbons' 2D design classes and Dan Figliozzi's AP drawing classes.

Best in Show visual arts winners included Sanders as well as Alexa Benitez, Defne Duyku, Sarah Hillman, Destiny Kohlhepp, Stone Locke, Tristan Makinen, Kara Tejada, Zoe Stengel, Damian Vargas and Sam Zimmer.

“We had a record number of students attend as well as receive Best in Show awards this year, and even the judges noticed how East Islip had a powerful presence at this year’s show,” said Toomey. “I am proud of all the students that participated, as it is not easy to take criticism from professionals, and they all took advice and criticism with poise and professionalism.”

“This was a very good opportunity get feedback from professionals to improve my work,” said Amanda Seegers.

“It was a lot of fun to look at artwork from other students across Long Island to get inspiration,” added Chris Palmer.

“I was nervous at first, presenting my photographs, but in the end, the evaluator feedback was really helpful,” said Sarah Renner, from Joy Taylor’s class.

“This was my first year attending, and I was nervous about putting myself in such a vulnerable position with my artwork,” said Kendra Canavan. “It was a little overwhelming, but I made friends and was asking more evaluators to look at my work by the end of the day. I was proud to be a part of this event.”



Freshman Gomez Wins Huntington Fine Arts Scholarship

David Gomez, a high school freshman studying drawing under teacher Daniel Figliozzi, attended a scholarship competition in March at Huntington Fine Arts, and won second place, proudly walking away with a $500 scholarship to attend advanced art classes at the prestigious Greenlawn art school. HFA’s scholarship competition provides freshmen, sophomore and junior students on Long Island with the opportunity to draw the live figure.

“This life drawing technique and process is challenging, but essential for further collegiate study in fine arts,” said Figliozzi.

“I was very stressed knowing that I was going to participate in this competition,” said Gomez. “However, when I got there, it turned out to be wonderful place and I really enjoyed it. They also had dogs roaming around the building, which were very motivating. While there, I most enjoyed the instructors, who were kind and helpful.”

An excited Gomez returned to school eager to share his experience.

“After the competition, I was somewhat sure that I had done well because the instructors were very complimentary of my work,” he said. “After learning that I had won the second-place prize, I was happy and proud of myself. I am excited to take the painting class there this spring and summer.”

The win for Gomez was no surprise to his teacher.

“When I saw David’s first drawing this year, I immediately knew he would do well in this competition,” said Figliozzi. “I advised David to go into it with confidence, and to not worry about what other students were doing. He is a tremendous talent and will do wonderful things with his art…and he’s only just begun.”

Classmate and former HFA student Michael Dondero spoke to Gomez before the competition, sure of his chances and advising him to take the painting course there, which he himself enjoyed.

“David has a lot of potential to be one of “the greats” of East Islip,” said Dondero. “As a freshman, he already displays a confident drawing technique and a plethora of imaginative ideas.”

Gomez has always loved art.

“I like art because it allows me to create new ideas and imaginative things,” he said. “I am excited to continue to take art at East Islip, broadening my skills and learning new media.”

Gomez plans on continuing to broaden his practice by taking courses in AP art, electronic illustration and drawing in the coming years at East Islip.



Elaborate "Aida" Wows Audiences

For this year’s spring musical, the high school’s Musical Club presented an elaborate production of "Aida,” wowing audiences over three nights in March at the school's Rydzeski Hall. An intimate, epic and timeless tale of love in ancient Egypt, “Aida” was based on the based on the opera by Giuseppe Verdi. The score by Elton John and Tim Rice won both the Grammy and Tony Award.

Aida was played by Alex Bertolini. Michael Robert Krebs played the conflicted Egyptian captain Radames. The role of the heartbreaking princess Amneris was performed by Victoria Tiernan. Roy Anderson portrayed the evil minister Zoser, father of Radames, who employs sinister techniques to gain the Pharaoh’s throne for his son. Kyle Westgate-Addessi played the wily Nubian slave Mereb, who befriends Aida and assists her captured father, Nubian King Amonasro, portrayed by Alexander O’Neill. Michael Kelly made his East Islip stage debuts as the Pharaoh, while Karina Gallagher portrayed the Nubian slave Nehebka.

The talented ensemble cast also included Jenna Anderson, Fiona Ashe, Emily DaSilva, Karina Gallagher, Mikayla Henderson, Mikaela Naccarato and Sarah Powell as the Palace Women; Jake Acocella, Connor Barnes, Marc Espinosa, Richie Hughes, Michael Kelly, Vincenzo Mediate, Alexander O’Neill, Evan Ostrowski and Kyle Ostrowski as the Ministers and Soldiers; and Shequira Ashley, Kayla Cappe, Emily DaSilva, Beth Hillman, Sarah Hillman, Rachel Kuhlman, Emma Mendolia, Jen Nolet, Judy Orellana, Angelina Parisi, Jenni Profera and Sara Rapuzzi as the Nubian Slaves.

Director and club adviser Brad Frey headed the creative team which included choreography by Samantha Berkowitz and imaginative costumes by Jeanine Ecklund; both joined the Music Club this year along with William Lackner, who handled set design and construction direction. Megan Lombardi served as stage manager, assisted by Michael Dondero, who also headed set design. Joanne Pafundi served as assistant stage crew director, backed by Rebecca Kraemer as costume chief. The master carpenters were Tommaso Rotella and Tim Trapanese. Photography was by Sarah Hillman and make-up by Sabrina Frenino. The dance captains were Mikaela Naccarato and Sarah Powell, and on stage wings were managed by Hunter Engrassia and Allison Epstein. The scenic designer and EIMU organizational chief is Jacqueline Motsiff served as scenic designer and top Music Club organizer, while Dr. Robert J. Wottawa II, the district’s art and music director, handled program design.

The pit orchestra, conducted by Frey and assisted by associate conductor and keyboardist Michael Stevens, included drummer Eric Ayala; percussionist Joe Pinz; guitarist Kurt Eide; bassist Joshua Koretz; keyboardist Zachary Schurman; reed players Vincent Harty, Anthony Jinete, Sarah Quinn and Cassidy Triolo; horn player Liam Greene; trumpeter Max Calarco; violinists Sophia Bates, Joe Bauco, Julia DeMaggio, Marcela Gallardo, Victoria Keenan, Kerri Kolensky, Connor Lennon, Caroline Meehan and Katrina Shea; viola players Victoria Goldfader, Elisa Mingo and Isabel O’Neill; and cellists Anthony Cialdella, Emma Elliott, Nicole Humpf and Skylar Pipitone.

“I have been involved with so many fine high school productions, but this one was truly special,” said Frey. “Tim Rice and Elton John teaming up with one of the most passionate love stories ever written is a director’s dream, and I am so proud of the cast and crew for venturing to stage such a popular and difficult musical. They have given me such pride and joy witnessing what they were able to create both on and off the stage, surpassing my wildest expectations. Their talents, resourcefulness, genuineness and spirit are a model for all to follow.”



East Islip’s Superb SCMEA Selections

A total of 67 of East Islip’s superb student-musicians from the elementary and secondary levels were selected to perform in the Suffolk County Music Educators Association’s All-County Concerts this spring.

From the middle school, clarinetists Jack Baranek, Jenna Borelli and Stephen Coleman; trumpeter Robert Graziano; and trombonist Ryan Jacobsen were chosen for the Division I Central Band; while trumpeter Michael Baldino, tuba player Robert Finn, flutists Ella Micalizzi and Oliva Pena, and horn player Damon Swinson II were chosen for the Division III West Band. Vocalists Abbey Lacy and Marisa Triolo were chosen for the Division I Central Chorus, while sopranos Madison LaTronica and Kaitlyn Rice, and baritones Kieran Tohill and Josh Vogel were chosen for the Division III West Chorus. Violinists Kate Alexander, Isabella Fantauzzi and Keira Ann Tantillo; viola players Allison Benowitz, Lauren Holmes, Keira McCaffery, Melissa Mirabelli and Nicholas Wodicka; cellists Nina Gerace, Sebastian Higgins, Nicole Mazza, Amanda Rooney and Brooke Stephens; and bassists Rhiannon Donahue and Brandon Zane were picked for the Division I Central Orchestra; and violinist Lucas Bates, trumpeter Joseph Graziano, bassist Mia Lembo, viola players Michelle Mirabelli,  Noelle Naccarato and Samantha Siebert; and clarinetist Shannon Wodicka were chosen for the Division III West Orchestra.

From JFK, trombonist Jack Wodicka was chosen for the Division I Central Band; vocalists Julia Fink and Samuel Martinez were picked for the Division I Central Chorus; and violinist Hanna Ross was picked for the Division I Central Orchestra.

From RCK, flutist Alyssa Deutsch and clarinetists Andrew Perez, Jada Poindexter and Batuhan Yildiz were chosen for the Division I Central Band; vocalists Ryan Kelpie and Terri Sonnanburg were picked for the Division I Central Chorus; and viola player Kayla McKenna and cellist Ethan Greene were selected for the Division I Central Orchestra.

Representing the high school, trumpeter Christopher Zanone and clarinetists Vincent Guiliano and Cassidy Triolo were chosen for the Division II West Band; tenor Connor Barnes, sopranos Alexandra Bertolini and Victoria Tiernan, bass Christopher Molinari, and altos Madison Lane and Katelyn Spina were picked for the Division II West Chorus; and violinists Emily Alexander, Marcela Gallardo and Victoria Keenan; trumpeter Max Calarco. cellists Trevor Garnett, bassist Peter Gerace, horn player Liam Greene and flutist Alexandra Stewart were selected for the Division II West Orchestra.



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.”



Saturday, December 16, 2017