Herricks celebrates 75 years of outstanding music

Elementary school children performed at the 75th anniversary of the Herricks Music Department. (Photo courtesy of Herricks Public Schools)

The Herricks community came together on Nov. 3 to honor the 75th anniversary of the Herricks Music Department, thanks to the collaborative efforts of the Herricks Public Schools and Music Boosters. More than 1,100 guests and upwards of 350 student musicians filed into Herricks High School for an evening gala that featured performances by students in kindergarten through grade 12.

As one of the largest-attended districtwide events in Herricks history, the anniversary celebration was split into two rooms and concert presentations in order to accommodate the audience. Throughout the evening, remarks were shared from Director of Music and Performing Arts Anissa Arnold, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Fino Celano, Class of 1966 graduate Dr. Michael Fishkin, Herricks High School Principal Joan Keegan and High School Director of Bands Scott Stickley, who served as Master of Ceremonies. Tri-M students helped set up and break down, served food and facilitated performance transitions, and STAC teacher Luke DeLalio and his students managed the sound system.

The Searingtown School third-grade, Center Street School kindergarten and Denton Avenue School first-grade groups represented the elementary level performers. From Herricks Middle School, the Wind Ensemble, Chamber Orchestra and Chamber Choir took the spotlight, while Herricks High School showcased its Chamber Choir, Jazz Choir, Wind Ensemble, Blue Jazz Band, Chamber Orchestra and Jazz Combo. They performed pieces from various cultures and genres, ranging from “Navajo Happy Song” to “Somos El Barco,” from “Three Ayres from Glouester” to “One Call Away.”

“It was a powerful and magical night in which the community came together to celebrate music,” Ms. Arnold, who developed the idea for the celebration and teamed up with Music Boosters to make it a reality, said. “The evening was inspiring and really said what Herricks is all about.”

Current and former music teachers and musicians gathered with other members of the community who helped shape Herricks music over the years. Many Music Department alumni with bright success stories provided reflections on “What Herricks Music Means to Me,” which were shared in the evening’s program booklet.

“Through Herricks music, I developed organizational and leadership skills, learned to believe in myself, learned that I was capable of anything I put my mind to, and made lasting friendships,” Class of 2005 graduate Susan Askinazy said. “Nearly every major skill and accomplishment in my life thus far seems somehow to trace back to Herricks Music – even those that do not seem to involve music at all.”

“I consider the musical and personal development I gained with the Herricks Music Department to be paramount to the career I have as a professional musician and educator,” Joslyn Thomas, a 2014 graduate who went on to graduate from Westminster Choir College with a Bachelors of Music in Music Education, said.

Another alumnus, 1995 graduate Russell Brown, credited his Herricks teachers for shaping him into who he is today. “They taught me time management, event organization, people skills and general management techniques,” he said. “I truly believe that if it was not for the support of all my Herricks teachers along the way, I would not have become successful in my endeavors as a musician, firefighter and fire officer.” Brown still performs in pit orchestras and tours with renowned musicians.

The foundations of the Music Department were set when the district was established in 1813, and it officially took form in 1943 with a districtwide expansion. The band and string programs flourished under the guidance of William Dwyer and Belle Lewis, respectively, and Ray Anderson and Fran Zogaib joined the leadership team in the 1960s as orchestra and chorus directors. The first district music director, Kay North and more recently, John McNeur, played integral roles in making the program one of excellence. Now, overseen by Ms. Arnold, performing ensembles continually receive national, regional, state and local recognitions.

“Congratulations on reaching this wonderful milestone of seventy-five years of excellence,” Celano said. “Music emotes a variety of emotions. Thank you for bringing joy and happiness into our lives over all these years.”

“We appreciate the work ethic behind your long hours of practice, the tenacity of scheduled rehearsals, and the love and passion for music that motivates and fuels the entire department and has led you down the road of success,” Board of Education President Juleigh Chin said. “Continue to chase the dream and strive for greatness.”

Share this Article