2004-06-04 / Columnists

Notes from the High C’s

Rockaway Music and Arts Council
Sharon Gabriel
By Shirley Golub &

Rockaway Music and Arts Council


SONYA ROBINSONSONYA ROBINSON

By Shirley Golub &

Sharon Gabriel

Both Shirley and I have contributed to the "High C’s" column this week because we want to tell you about a wonderful program that the Rockaway Music & Arts Council has brought to many of our local public school. It is called the Music Memory program and was introduced to New York City elementary school children by the Riverside Symphony in 1999. The program was created to foster a lifelong love for fine music in young people. Since it’s inception, the program has reached nearly 10,000 third through sixth graders representing 65 schools in all five boroughs. Each year, Music Memory’s innovative classroom learning program offers a fresh selection of 16 works representing a wide range of musical periods and styles, including orchestral, keyboard, choral, vocal, operatic and jazz compositions. Pieces of music are recorded for both school and home study and are carefully created to make both the composer and music accessible to young listeners. Each spring, participating schools select five teams to compete in the Citywide Finals at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center.

This spring, P.S. 183, right here in Rockaway was selected to be one of the participating schools. Under the astute direction of Martin Penzer, the children went on to win two gold medals in the competition. What follows is Shirley Golub’s wonderful recollection of what took place at the Fifth Annual Citywide Finals on Monday, May 10, at Lincoln Center.

As we waited for the doors of Alice Tully Hall to open, we watched the many school buses arrive, park and stand by as the chattering youngsters and their teachers made their entrances. There was so much energy in the air, so much eagerness and excitement. Still, they lined up when told and waited patiently at the entrance.

Once inside this legendary music hall, they quietly took their places that were sectioned off according to school and class. The time had come for the testing of their musical knowledge. Enthusiastically, the students applauded their fellow contestants, the teachers, judges, conductor, orchestra and soloists. The exuberance affected all of us. The students remained quiet during performances, questions and summations; then burst into cheers and applause for the winners.

They had proven how important the Music Memory school program is. They had all the right answers, showed so much musical intelligence and readily recognized the compositions, composers, full titles, keys, movements and arias. They recognized parts of oratorios as well as the blues and musical shows. What a fabulous job the teachers had done during the school year!

The students proudly walked off with prizes, ribbons, plaques, framed acknowledgments, hugs and handshakes. RMAC ladies were bursting with pride when our local team headed by Martin Penzer walked off with "the gold" again.

To quote Penzer: "This music appreciation program links all areas of the curriculum: history, geography, language skills, art and math. As a result of this program, the students will gain years of enjoyment and leadership skills. During the bus ride going home, our students were singing themes from Tchaikovsky, Copeland and Puccini."

Rockaway Music and Arts Council is so proud to be part of this excellent program. We congratulate the children of our community and the leadership of their devoted teachers.

Now, this is Sharon speaking again, I would like to tell you about a special young lady who participated in the program last year and because of her enthusiasm and interest in music, she now attends a special music program at the Julliard School at Lincoln Center every Saturday.

Sonya Robinson is a charming 11-year old who lives in Arverne with her parents. Sonya started to become interested in music in the third grade and with the help of Mr. Penzer, she began playing the baritone horn. However, she also like the piano and her family enrolled her in a school on Woodhaven Boulevard where she was way ahead of her classmates in her piano class. In addition, Sonya was in the music class at school and was picked to be in the Music Memory class for the competition. Sonya became so involved that she even listened to her CD’s whenever she was in the family car. Because of her enthusiasm for music, Mr. Penzer chose her to be the captain of a team going to Lincoln Center last year. Needless to say, P.S. 183 won last year as well.

Because of Sonya’s interest in music, she applied to the Music Advancement Program at the Julliard School. This special program trains Native-American, Latino-American and African-American children develop an understanding of the beauty and discipline associated with the art of music. After applying, Sonya received a letter that she has been accepted and so each week she travels to the school where she learns theory, creative expression, attends a performance workshop and all other parts of the piano curriculum. Being a part of this program, Sonya has a much better chance of being accepted at Julliard when she finishes school.

At present, Sonya attends the sixth grade at Mark Twain and when the time comes, she said she would like to apply to the High School of Performing Arts. I don’t for one-minute doubt that she will make it.

After speaking with Sonya and her mother Joan for some time, Sonya sat down at the piano in her family’s living room and began to play the first movement from Mozart’s Sonata #16.

Her fingers just flew across the keys and I sat in amazement. This young lady who has only been playing for about three years could read all the notes and was explaining them to me; why there were certain breaks, why the music was written in a certain way, and I was just amazed.

In addition to Mozart, she played the theme from the film "Love Story" and an additional piece of classical music. I so envied this child as I had always wanted to play the piano but because of one thing or another when I was a child, I never had the opportunity. Watching Sonya was a thrill.

Here is a picture of Sonya at the piano in her living room, hat and all to look so professional.

If you would like to meet Sonya, please come to the RMAC Fall Festival on September 11 and 12 at Riis Park. In addition to her music, Sonya loves animal, and made a special request when I visited her home; could she please work with the animal farm again this year. Naturally, the answer was yes.

Of course, in the event she doesn’t follow the music trail, Sonya thinks she might work with animals when she grows up.

Many people speak about how Rockaway could improve and I would just like to say, here is one young lady who is going to make a difference.

As a reminder, we hope to see you at the Rockaway Theatre Company gala on Saturday evening, June 5, for a performance of NUNSENSE and the wonderful after-theater party to follow.


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