2014-06-13 / Columnists

Who’s Who?

Alexander Leicht, Band Director, Teacher, Scholar’s Academy
By Dan Guarino


My name is Alexander Leicht. I am 33 years old. I am a father, husband, music teacher, and musician. I live in East Meadow, Long Island, with my wife, Kristin, my two daughters Chloe, age four, and Ellie, who is 10 months, and my mother-in-law, Sandra.

I’ve lived there for six years since I purchased a house in 2008, after relocating from Franklin Square. I grew up in Plainview, New York with my father, Jan, my mother, Adelaide and my brother, Jonathan.

Were you involved in music and/or education before coming to Scholars’ Academy?

I have been involved with music since I learned how to play the alto saxophone at age 10 in the Plainview-Old Bethpage School District. Shortly after, I played the role of Joseph in a summer camp production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

However, it was my interest in learning popular music on the guitar at age 14 that really piqued my interest in music. I was heavily influenced by the classic and alternative rock of the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.

During my free time outside of school, I learned various covers and began to compose original material. I continued my formal study of instrumental music in school as a band student at Mattlin Middle School and Plainview Old-Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School.

I received my B.A. in Music at Binghamton University from 1998-2002 and my M.S. in Music Education at Long Island University, CW Post Campus from 2002-2004. I student-taught instrumental music in the East Rockaway School District under the tutelage of Tom Schloen and Peter Ceglio.

Then in 2004, I met Assistant Principal of Organization Robert Brevetti at a New York City Department of Education music and arts career fair at Juilliard. After a demonstration lesson, I was hired as a band director at Beach Channel High School. Under the guidance of the then recently retired Barry Domfort and Assistant Principal Robert Comer, I learned how to teach students basic marching techniques. We rehearsed in what is currently the Channel View School for Research parking lot every day. Our hard work culminated with our participation in a parade at Walt Disney World in February 2005. We also performed at various community events and parades.

What other music and education programs are you involved with at the school? Are you involved in any other musical activities outside of school?

I teach a variety of courses and age levels at Scholars’ Academy including 8th Grade Music Technology, 9th and 10th Grade half-year guitar electives, 7th and 8th Grade Band, and High School Band. I work with Ms. Kimberlee Morritt, Mrs. Michele Smyth (Assistant Principal) and Mrs. Leslie Kohn for music event planning and the ordering of supplies.

With the support of Principal Brian O’ Connell’s technology initiatives, I have created an engaging 8th Grade Music Technology web-accessible curriculum which incorporates music literacy, music notation, composition (using both notation software and recording software), piano study, music appreciation of classical, jazz, and popular music, and the music industry. I also help my colleagues develop websites for their courses.

Scholars’ Academy also offers semiprivate instrumental lessons afterschool with professional musicians from the Queens Symphony Orchestra. This was made possible by Councilman Eric Ulrich, who secured a CASA grant for afterschool instruction. I teach semi-private saxophone lessons as a result of this grant and my colleague Kimberlee Morritt teaches clarinet lessons.

Outside of school, I compose and I perform covers and original music as a solo artist around Long Island and New York City. My genre is alternative/indie/ singer-songwriter and I am a bass-baritone singer comparable to vocalists such as Dave Gahan from Depeche Mode, Matt Behringer of The National, and Michael Stipe from R.E.M.

This summer, I will perform at the Long Island Acoustic Festival on June 28th at Katie’s in Smithtown from 1 to 5 p.m. and at the Bellmore Bean Cafe on August 2nd from 8 to 11 p.m. I have many original, self-produced compositions available online for streaming and download.

On Facebook I am at ‘Alexleichtmusic.’ Online you can find me at www.soundcloud.com/alexander-leicht, www.reverbnation.com/alexleicht and alexleicht. bandcamp.com.

How long do you intend to stay in this position at Scholars’?

When I began looking for employment in music education, I found Long Island was an extremely tough job market to break into. It was difficult to even get an interview. Most positions are leavereplacements or part-time. If you are fortunate enough to find a full-time position, it can be difficult to obtain tenure. Therefore, I decided to look for employment in New York City.

I’ve taught music in Rockaway for 10 years and specifically at Scholars’ Academy for six years and I have no regrets about working in the city and I have no plans to leave. I intend to stay at Scholars’ Academy for a long time. I have a supportive administration, supportive parents, and a hard-working student body that appreciates their opportunity to study music. I hope to teach music and encourage the importance of musicmaking in Rockaway for another 20 years or so.

What is the most important issue facing Rockaway?

The most important issue facing the Rockaways is still the recovery effort from Hurricane Sandy. I have colleagues who are still securing permits to build new construction on their properties where their homes were destroyed. The community still needs continued support from federal, state, and city agencies. In addition, the closing of Peninsula Hospital was also a devastating loss for the community.

What is the best thing about living/ working in Rockaway?

The best thing about working in Rockaway is its community of appreciative and humble residents.

I like the small beach town atmosphere, and, as a motorist, you cannot beat the abundant parking relative to the rest of the city.

Biggest complaint?

State and city agencies continuously seem to neglect Rockaway. We need to demand accountability for New York State to fix the crumbling foundation, damaged road surface, flooding, and the congestion on NY-878, especially near Bay Boulevard.

The boardwalk should be restored in all locations. The closure of Rockaway Freeway in the 60’s and 70’s was poor planning and has created monumental traffic jams on Beach Channel Drive and Rockaway Beach Boulevard.

The construction project along Beach Channel Drive near the Cross Bay Bridge has compounded this problem. Lights should be better timed so that people on Beach Channel Drive have longer greens and people coming out of Beach 84th and 90th Streets have shorter greens.

But most importantly, every resident should be back in their houses, and Peninsula Hospital should be reopened.

Besides that, the excessive testing that is taking place in every single school in New York State at this unprecedented time in our educational history negatively impacts music, art, technology, and physical education programs in terms of instructional time. New York State seems mainly focused on assessment, data, teacher evaluation, and test scores. We all know music education is important for children, and the higher SAT scores of students that participate in ensembles should cause (the people running the educational system) to reconsider their seemingly exclusive emphasis on core subjects.

What advice do you have for people would like to become involved in music, either in school or in general, and/or education in the Rockaways?

Adults who want to be involved in music can attend and perform at Rockaway Arts Alliance, or watch performances at Thai Rock, Aviator at Floyd Bennett Field, and the other venues on the west end of the peninsula. For a musician, these are great places to perform at during the summer for the influx of summer crowds filled with young people that appreciate indie-rock folk, and electronica.

Also, residents can take advantage of the proximity to Brooklyn College and the classical productions regularly performed there. And I encourage as many students as possible to take advantage of the music programs offered at Scholars’ Academy, including the partnership with Queens Symphony, at the Channel View School for Research, under the direction of Gerald Brazel, or the modern band program at The Waterside School. Students and parents can also network in order to find private music instructors on the peninsula to learn from, in order to minimize travel. If students are willing to travel, they can take advantage of the free summer arts institute and/or Boroughwide/All-City music programs provided by the New York City Department of Education as well as the Juilliard MAP program. The opportunity to perform at NYSSMA festivals is always available for students as well as the opportunity for students to perform with religious organizations and community pipe bands as well. Students and parents also can take advantage of our proximity to the world-class Brooklyn and Manhattan music scenes

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