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Students from Rock and Roll University in Hauppauge rock Mets game
Waiting in Section 109 of Citi Field Tuesday evening, 17-year-old Sydney Schizzano admitted that she was pretty nervous. She and 13 other students from Rock and Roll University in Hauppauge were about to join a list that included Dave Matthews Band and Sir Paul McCartney.
“It’s the waiting that’s the worst part,” said Schizzano, of Smithtown.
Not only was the group about to perform an 8-minute concert before the start of the New York Mets game versus the Washington Nationals, but Schizzano, one of the oldest in the group, had also been tapped to sing the national anthem.
Schizzano has been singing since she was 6. Her first gig was providing vocals for her uncle’s cable TV show, “Kid Fitness,” and she’s performed at numerous showcases and events with Rock and Roll University during the past two years.
“This venue is definitely the most exciting and threatening at the same time,” she said.
Meanwhile, the group’s youngest member, Brandon Niederauer, 10, of Dix Hills, kept cool by eating ice cream out of a bowl shaped like a Mets baseball cap as he waited. Although Niederauer, who goes by the nickname “Taz,” only started playing guitar a few years ago, Bill Mignoli, Rock and Roll University’s music director, said he is a natural talent. The fifth grader has already performed at the House of Blues in New Orleans and with members of the Allman Brothers Band.
Although the school, which opened in the summer of 2011, has more than 200 students of various ages and experience levels, Mignoli said the group selected to perform Tuesday is “the absolute best of the best.”
The opportunity to play at Citi Field came after Mignoli, 52, of Hicksville, received a call from a group ticket sales rep for the Mets. Mignoli said he told the rep he’d consider a group tickets package for his students and their families only if the school could perform on the field. Weeks later, he said he was surprised to learn his proposal was actually accepted.
“Many of the things I have done in my life that have turned out to be successful have been on a lark and this was one of those things,” he said.
With both teams in their respective dugouts and a few thousand people in the stands, the group performed four songs — Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” and “I Wish,” and Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” -- on the field minutes before the game. Their sound included electric guitars, keyboards, drums, saxophones and a trombone.
Then, after Schizzano sang the anthem, the band reunited on the Pepsi Porch that overlooks the outfield, where they played throughout the duration of the game for family, friends, fellow students and Mets fans.
“We got out there and killed it,” said guitarist Anthony Sexton, 17, of Lake Grove, who is both a student and instructor at the school. “We rehearsed for months, so all that hard work paid off.”
Niederauer described the experience as “awesome” and “once in a lifetime.”
“It was just really fun,” he said. “What kids get to perform at Citi Field?”