I went to see a performance of Robert Wuhl’s “Hit-Lit” at the Queens Theatre in Flushing Meadows Park last weekend. The Queens Theatre is located under the New York State Pavilion which was part of the 1964 World’s Fair.
I had my first job right there in the World’s Fair serving thousands of Italian ices (“get yer ice cold Italian icez!”) all summer long. I think I made $1.50 an hour but that didn’t matter much since I had to give all my paychecks to my father.
Robert Wuhl’s play was about the use of feminine magic as seen in Karis Danish and Markita Prescott to help transform a would-be writer into a great one. On the way home I mused about Williston Park magic.
Where are our muses and where is our beauty? Is there any real magic to be found Williston Park amongst all the strip malls, suburban housing, stop signs and traffic?
Well do not lose hope. I discovered some right here in the County of Nassau. Travel north on Willis Avenue for about three quarters of a mile and look to your left. You will see a beautiful two-story white building with blue awnings. The number is 1125 Willis. Granted you are in Albertson but it is close enough.
And if you are brave and go inside you will find LISMA (Long Island School of Music and Arts) which is filled with magic created by a true living dynamo that goes by the name of Min Sun Kim. Not only is this woman a statuesque beauty but she’s a graduate of Julliard. She started LISMA back in 1992 right her in Williston Park and then moved up the street a little to Albertson.
And what she has created is very something special. I was literally shocked by what I saw there. I sat with Patricia Schust who is executive director of LISMA as she described for me the many programs they now have for developing artists and performers.
Firstly there is the Long Island Conservatory of Music which consists of 35 international stars of classical music. The class consists of Russians, Japanese, Koreans, Bulgarians, Italians and Chinese. But that program is only one of many. They also have the Long Island Conservatory for pre-college musicians, a learning center geared toward SAT, ACT, and SAT II testing.
They have a dance program, an art program, a fencing program, an ESL program, a summer academic camp and an Intel Science Program. There students are Intel winners (Celline Kim) and Intel Science Runner-ups (Jan Gong.) Many of their students go on to Ivy League colleges including Harvard, Yale and Princeton.
When I got my tour I got the sense that this was a place of excellence, hard work and high achievement. Patrice told me that part of their ethos was to give back to the community. They have programs like the Nassau County Youth Orchestra which plays at local and corporate events and is sponsored by the school.
With all this talent and all this charity one begins to wonder who is paying for all of it. Well things like the LISMA Foundation International Competition which is a costly affair offering large prizes and is sponsored by Samsung, the Korea Times and Americana Manhasset to name just a few. I will email my friend CS Choi who was head of Samsung North America to thank him. And I thought he was only kind to me. They are also supported by Ed Mangano and the office of the Nassau County Executive.
Toward the end of the interview I asked to get one photo of a student hard at work. I was expecting to photograph some cute little 13-year -ld girl grinding away at a violin but instead I was introduced to Mark Demidovich , a handsome young Russian who looks like Mikhail Baryshnikov. He is an international competition winner and in his second year at the school.
He takes his seat at the piano and starts to play some beautiful piano concerto as I photograph him. I think to myself this is real magic, an artist in his youth knowing his craft so well and being able to master an instrument so completely.
LISMA is a place of magic right here in our own backyard. So thank you Ms. Kim, Ms. Schust, thank you Mark Demidovich and all those other young ones working so hard to bring beauty into our world.