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Baker Students Perform at Carnegie Hall

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E.M. Baker School fourth-graders Alston Leung and Ian Loo were members of a quartet that performed at the recent Concert Festival Grand Prix Winners Recital, held at Carnegie Hall. The group played the “William Tell Overture,” by Gioachino Rossini. Both Alston and Ian played the violin in the quartet. The young musicians were selected for this honor based on audio auditions that were judged by a panel of music professionals. At Baker, where Anne Fogarty is the instrumental music teacher, Alston and Ian play violin in the Advanced Orchestra. In the school Band, Alston plays the flute, and Ian plays the clarinet. Concert Festival, a private organization based in Sea Cliff, is now in its eighth year of offering unique opportunities for talented young musicians to participate in various concerts that are held in such prestigious music venues as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center.

Robotics Team Takes Awards at Regional

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The South High School Robotics Team 2638, known as “Rebellion,” was the winner of two prestigious awards at the recent Finger Lakes Regional FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition, held at the Rochester Institute of Technology. For the first time ever, the team won the Gracious Professionalism Award which celebrates a team’s outstanding demonstration of FIRST Core Values, such as continuous congenial professionalism and working together both on and off the playing field. The award is sponsored by Johnson & Johnson. The team also received the Industrial Safety Award. This achievement celebrates the team that progresses beyond safety fundamentals by using innovative ways to eliminate or protect against hazards. The award is sponsored by Underwriters Laboratories. Robotics faculty advisors are John Motchkavitz (business/technology department head) and Matthew Corrigan (business/technology teacher).

High School Musicians Offer a Special Bus Tour

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Each year, for the past 26, North High School music students, under the direction of Joseph Rutkowski, instrumental music teacher, have performed for elementary students from Baker, Kennedy, and Saddle Rock Schools in a concert that Mr. Rutkowski endearingly calls a “Bus Tour.” This year was no different. In a style reminiscent of Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts (televised from 1958–72), Mr. Rutkowski eagerly engages the young students in a music experience that offers them a glimpse into what the high school music program would offer them in the years ahead. He not only talks about the pieces the high school musicians will perform, explaining mature and complex concepts to the young audience, but he playfully quizzes them on musical terms and composers. And the youngsters invariably have the correct answers! Since Baker, Kennedy, and Saddle Rock are the feeder schools for North Middle and North High Schools, the concert has special relevance not only for the elementary students—for them to aspire to the high school music program in the future—but also for the high school students, as a way for them to give back to their former elementary schools by playing for the young students. Some high school students commented on the importance of the Bus Tour concert. One said, “As elementary students, we looked forward to the high school band and orchestra students coming to our school every year.” Another said, “As high school students, we look forward to this concert every year. Why do you think so many of us get up early on a day off, dress in formal attire, and go play a concert!” (The Bus Tour is typically held in January during Regents Week when there are no high school classes.) Mr. Rutkowski added his own sentiments about the Bus Tour: “It’s a thrill for me to see the excitement displayed by the elementary students when they see their older siblings or neighbors in formal attire performing like professional musicians. The concert is a culmination of the work that our musicians do in rehearsal and in their solitude of practicing. This is a very special part of being a musician.” And commenting on the importance of music education, he said, “Most students who study music will not pursue music as a vocation or career, but they will apply the skills and passion they learned from music to enhance their success in their chosen fields or profession.” Volunteers from the Music Parent Boosters chaperone at the Bus Tour concert, giving the high school students breakfast before they perform and assisting during the concert with any problems that might arise. In the early years of the Bus Tour, North High students performed three concerts, one each at Baker, Kennedy, and Saddle Rock Schools. In recent years, the concert has been held only at Saddle Rock, with Baker and Kennedy students traveling there for the performance.

Ensuring Responsible Teen Driving

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South High School eleventh-grade health-class students recently participated in an important and exciting safety program--Impact Teen Drivers--presented by Northwell Health Trauma Programs. Northwell offered this pilot program to teens to raise their awareness about the dangers associated with distracted driving, and to give them the how-to skills to become a responsible driver and passenger. A team made up of Jillian Savino, MS, CHES (Certified Health Education Specialist); Catherine Dunckley, CHES; and Dr. Jeanne Choi Rosen of the Northwell Health Trauma Programs from Cohen’s Children’s and North Shore University Hospital offered a two-session program to the students. During the first session, they spoke about the dangers of distracted driving to drivers, passengers, and pedestrians, and what can be done to become a responsible driver and passenger. In the second session, they guided students in the use of driving simulators that helped them make smart choices to avoid distracted driving. At a separate session, the Northwell professional team met with eleventh- and twelfth-grade Peer Leaders to help them develop a program about being responsible passengers that the Leaders then presented to ninth-grade health classes. Jane Callaghan, South High health department head, said, “We are very excited about our partnership with Northwell Health. As distracted driving becomes more of an issue, these programs enhance our Health Education curriculum and promote the overall health and well-being of our students.” Impact Teen Drivers, the nationally recognized program that is part of Northwell’s community outreach work as a trauma center, is offered through a non-profit organization of the same name, founded in 2007. It calls teenage distracted driving a “100 percent preventable crisis.” The organization was begun through the efforts of officials from the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, California Casualty (an insurance company), and the California Teachers Association.

Music Teachers Excel

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Three South Middle School teachers have made achievements of note. They are Mark Boschen, sixth-grade band director; Alan Schwartz, music department head and orchestra/senior band director; and Shelley Willcox, vocal music teacher. Mr. Boschen received a special honor in January when he was named the guest conductor for the Hamptons Music Educators Association’s 2017 Middle School Honor Band. In a masterful concert, Mr. Boschen led some of the most advanced middle school musicians from the South Fork of Long Island. In a similar capacity, Mr. Schwartz had the honor of being named a guest conductor of the Division 2 Suffolk County Music Educators Association’s All-County Orchestra, in early March. At the event, he conducted some of the top seventh- and eighth-grade musicians in western Suffolk County. Ms. Willcox has established herself as one of the most respected and requested docents at the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona, Queens. In addition to writing curriculum for the Armstrong Museum, she has given countless tours of the home and has become a true Louis Armstrong expert. Famous musicians of all styles and dignitaries from around the world have requested Ms. Willcox for private tours of the jazz legend’s home. The Louis Armstrong House Museum is a National Historic Landmark and a New York City landmark.