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Port Washington high school, elementary students score with original song
For two months, music teacher Elizabeth Riordan rehearsed a song with the fifth-grade chorus at Guggenheim Elementary School in Port Washington. Two miles away, Schreiber High School choir director John Spiezio was teaching the same song to his students.
“I would sing one of the lines from the high school part and . . . play the piano accompaniment,” said Riordan, 30, of the process she used to teach her 90 fifth graders their part.
The two groups finally came together Tuesday to perform for a packed auditorium at Schreiber High School.
“When we put it all together, it was just a dream come true,” Riordan said. “The pure sound of the children's voices and the mature and college-level sound of the high school chorus was a beautiful mix.”
The audience, which consisted mostly of fourth and fifth graders bused from four different Port Washington elementary schools, witnessed the world premiere of “Lullaby Of The Iroquois,” an original composition piece written by Miggy Torres, a sophomore at Ithaca College.
Earlier this year, Spiezio, a 1988 graduate of Ithaca, reached out to Dana Wilson, a professor at the college’s School of Music, to commission the piece. He plans to continue collaborating with Ithaca music majors going forward. When Spiezio introduced the song to his mixed choir, which includes students from ninth through 12th grades, he said they were excited and inspired.
“They’re working with a composer whose not some old, dead guy from a foreign land, but a contemporary of their own, someone who is only two years older than them,” said Spiezio.
Torres, a Connecticut resident, couldn’t witness the debut of his song Tuesday, but he’s expected to attend Guggenheim’s spring concert on May 30, when the two groups will perform the piece again.
They’ll also sing the song Wednesday during the second night of Schreiber’s spring concert series, which features several vocal, band and orchestra groups from the high school. The fourth and fifth graders at Tuesday morning’s assembly also got a sneak peek of these performances too.
“We do all we can here in Port Washington to encourage our younger students to keep with the music program for all the many benefits that it provides,” said Sheri Suzzan, the district’s director of creative arts. “Bringing the students up to see the concert is just another way we continue to bridge the gap between our oldest musicians and our youngest musicians.”
Having taught many of the high school students when they were in elementary school, Riordan was impressed to see their growth.
“It was a really good example for the elementary kids to see where they can go in their music career,” she added.
Spiezio hopes the showcase will motivate Port Washington’s younger students to continue studying music throughout their time in the school district and beyond graduation.
“We get to be creative, emotional human beings because of the study and experience in arts education,” he said. “This piece was just ink on a page and we brought it to life.”