The funeral for Farmingdale High School band director Gina Pelletiere was held at Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church Thursday, with hundreds in attendance. NewsdayTV's Steve Langford reports. Credit: Newsday/Kendall Rodriguez; Photo Credit: Constance Byer-Tyre, Ferrari Family, Maggie Tittler

Gina Pellettiere dreamed for years of leading a high school marching band and lending her extraordinary musical acumen and larger-than-life personality to a generation of teenage performers.

But as a middle school band teacher in Huntington, opportunities to advance to the next level were limited.

So in 2006 when Pellettiere learned that Farmingdale High School was opening its band director search to middle school educators, she returned home from Europe, polished her resume and delivered it in person — just hours before the school's self-imposed deadline, recalled Rita Padden, the school's former fine arts director.

But when Pellettiere arrived at the school that Friday afternoon, she found the doors locked. Determined not to let opportunity slip by, Pellettiere crawled through a small open window and asked a startled custodian if he could deliver her resume to Padden's office before the deadline expired.

That unique brand of ingenuity and passion earned Pellettiere not only a job as director of the marching band and wind ensemble but the admiration of a legion of students, parents, colleagues and community members who turned out Thursday to say their final goodbyes to a woman whose undeniable spirit made music come alive.

"Gina's enthusiasm and talent were infectious, to the point that she had an impact not just on students, but on teachers, administrators, and the whole school," Padden said during Pellettiere's standing-room-only funeral Mass in Massapequa Park. "Gina came to an already successful music program and enhanced it. She brought new ideas to the high school and it was contagious."

Pellettiere, 43, of Massapequa, and Beatrice Ferrari, 77, of Farmingdale, a retired social studies teacher, were killed one week ago when a charter bus carrying 40 members of the Farmingdale High School marching band and two other adults crashed down a 50-foot embankment on Interstate 84 in Orange County on their way to a band camp in Pennsylvania.

Dozens of students were injured in the crash and four remained hospitalized, officials said.

An estimated 1,000 mourners lined every row and filled every pew at Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church, with an overflow crowd forced to stand against rear walls or to listen from outside. 

Many arrived early — the high school closed so that students and staff could attend — and wore green, Farmingdale's color, on their ties or lapels. Others donned Farmingdale Marching Band jackets as they walked past the dozens of green ribbons that marked the walkway into the church. Photos of Pellettiere sat at the front of the church as a choir sang a processional hymn. 

Some of Pellettiere's former students sang and played spiritual hymns for an audience that wept visibly throughout the 90-minute service.

After the service, Pellettiere's coffin was carried outside and blessed with holy water. A bagpiper played “Amazing Grace” and “Danny Boy,” as family members gathered to watch the coffin as it was driven away by a Nassau County police motorcade.

Msgr. Jim Lisante noted that the crowd, gathered in Pellettiere's home parish, was bigger than he's seen on Christmas or Easter, a sign of the oversized impact she'd had on so many lives.

"Gina was here to leave the world better than she found it," said Lisante, who baptized Pellettiere's 2-year-old son, Joseph, who she raised alone. "Did Gina know she would live 43 years? Of course not, but she packed a lot into those years."

The pastor noted that based on the crowd gathered to honor Pellettiere — and the parents who raised the bubbly band director — Joseph would never be lacking for love.

"If you can raise Gina to be this incredible person, Joseph will have no problems at all," Lisante said, speaking directly to Pellettiere's parents as the crowd erupted in a standing ovation for them.

Ferrari's daughter, Angela Ferrari-Aldieri, said the community would rally around Joseph, helping provide the toddler with care, financial support and memories of a mother taken too soon.

"Gina had an energy and zest and she loved those students and wanted them to love music," Ferrari-Aldieri said Thursday, one day after more than 500 mourners attended her mother's funeral in Farmingdale. "She wanted them to play and perform to the best that they could. And she took them to the heights of their high school academic careers."

Before she became "Ms. P" to generations of students, Pellettiere grew up in Hicksville and served as drum major in the high school marching band, where she played some 20 instruments but excelled at trumpet, friends and former colleagues said. She later earned her bachelor's degree in music education, and her master's in wind conducting from Hofstra University. 

Under her leadership, Farmingdale’s elite Level VI Wind Ensemble performed at the NYSSMA Large Organization festival  and Rockefeller Center at Christmastime.

Pellettiere was well respected among her peers, serving as chairperson of the Nassau All-County Division 5 Symphonic Band and guest conductor for both Nassau and Suffolk All-County Festivals.

"She created artistry seldom seen in high school," Padden said. " … Gina wasn't just a good teacher. She was a great teacher. You hear from parents all the time: Ms. P was the reason my son loved trumpet or band."

But the teacher known for greeting her students with an emphatic "Dude!" was more than just a distinguished band leader.

Pellettiere was an advanced skier who regularly traversed ultra-challenging Black Diamond slopes, while on the golf course she regularly impressed playing partners with her powerful drives.

And then there were the thoughtful touches. When co-workers would retire, Pellettiere organized colleagues to relay 10 things they'd miss about the departing staffer.

Ernestine Byer-Tyre's daughter was in the marching band for four years before graduating last year.

She recalled Pellettiere as a "wonderful person" who nurtured not only her daughter's love of the flute but provided her with emotional support during times of need.

"She will truly, truly be missed," said Byer-Tyre of Farmingdale.

Gale Bayen, a retired Farmingdale High School teacher, summed up the feelings of the heartbroken crowd: "It's hard to imagine this world without her." 

Gina Pellettiere dreamed for years of leading a high school marching band and lending her extraordinary musical acumen and larger-than-life personality to a generation of teenage performers.

But as a middle school band teacher in Huntington, opportunities to advance to the next level were limited.

So in 2006 when Pellettiere learned that Farmingdale High School was opening its band director search to middle school educators, she returned home from Europe, polished her resume and delivered it in person — just hours before the school's self-imposed deadline, recalled Rita Padden, the school's former fine arts director.

But when Pellettiere arrived at the school that Friday afternoon, she found the doors locked. Determined not to let opportunity slip by, Pellettiere crawled through a small open window and asked a startled custodian if he could deliver her resume to Padden's office before the deadline expired.

That unique brand of ingenuity and passion earned Pellettiere not only a job as director of the marching band and wind ensemble but the admiration of a legion of students, parents, colleagues and community members who turned out Thursday to say their final goodbyes to a woman whose undeniable spirit made music come alive.

"Gina's enthusiasm and talent were infectious, to the point that she had an impact not just on students, but on teachers, administrators, and the whole school," Padden said during Pellettiere's standing-room-only funeral Mass in Massapequa Park. "Gina came to an already successful music program and enhanced it. She brought new ideas to the high school and it was contagious."

Pellettiere, 43, of Massapequa, and Beatrice Ferrari, 77, of Farmingdale, a retired social studies teacher, were killed one week ago when a charter bus carrying 40 members of the Farmingdale High School marching band and two other adults crashed down a 50-foot embankment on Interstate 84 in Orange County on their way to a band camp in Pennsylvania.

Dozens of students were injured in the crash and four remained hospitalized, officials said.

An estimated 1,000 mourners lined every row and filled every pew at Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church, with an overflow crowd forced to stand against rear walls or to listen from outside. 

Many arrived early — the high school closed so that students and staff could attend — and wore green, Farmingdale's color, on their ties or lapels. Others donned Farmingdale Marching Band jackets as they walked past the dozens of green ribbons that marked the walkway into the church. Photos of Pellettiere sat at the front of the church as a choir sang a processional hymn. 

Some of Pellettiere's former students sang and played spiritual hymns for an audience that wept visibly throughout the 90-minute service.

After the service, Pellettiere's coffin was carried outside and blessed with holy water. A bagpiper played “Amazing Grace” and “Danny Boy,” as family members gathered to watch the coffin as it was driven away by a Nassau County police motorcade.

Msgr. Jim Lisante noted that the crowd, gathered in Pellettiere's home parish, was bigger than he's seen on Christmas or Easter, a sign of the oversized impact she'd had on so many lives.

"Gina was here to leave the world better than she found it," said Lisante, who baptized Pellettiere's 2-year-old son, Joseph, who she raised alone. "Did Gina know she would live 43 years? Of course not, but she packed a lot into those years."

The pastor noted that based on the crowd gathered to honor Pellettiere — and the parents who raised the bubbly band director — Joseph would never be lacking for love.

"If you can raise Gina to be this incredible person, Joseph will have no problems at all," Lisante said, speaking directly to Pellettiere's parents as the crowd erupted in a standing ovation for them.

Ferrari's daughter, Angela Ferrari-Aldieri, said the community would rally around Joseph, helping provide the toddler with care, financial support and memories of a mother taken too soon.

"Gina had an energy and zest and she loved those students and wanted them to love music," Ferrari-Aldieri said Thursday, one day after more than 500 mourners attended her mother's funeral in Farmingdale. "She wanted them to play and perform to the best that they could. And she took them to the heights of their high school academic careers."

Before she became "Ms. P" to generations of students, Pellettiere grew up in Hicksville and served as drum major in the high school marching band, where she played some 20 instruments but excelled at trumpet, friends and former colleagues said. She later earned her bachelor's degree in music education, and her master's in wind conducting from Hofstra University. 

Under her leadership, Farmingdale’s elite Level VI Wind Ensemble performed at the NYSSMA Large Organization festival  and Rockefeller Center at Christmastime.

Pellettiere was well respected among her peers, serving as chairperson of the Nassau All-County Division 5 Symphonic Band and guest conductor for both Nassau and Suffolk All-County Festivals.

"She created artistry seldom seen in high school," Padden said. " … Gina wasn't just a good teacher. She was a great teacher. You hear from parents all the time: Ms. P was the reason my son loved trumpet or band."

But the teacher known for greeting her students with an emphatic "Dude!" was more than just a distinguished band leader.

Pellettiere was an advanced skier who regularly traversed ultra-challenging Black Diamond slopes, while on the golf course she regularly impressed playing partners with her powerful drives.

And then there were the thoughtful touches. When co-workers would retire, Pellettiere organized colleagues to relay 10 things they'd miss about the departing staffer.

Ernestine Byer-Tyre's daughter was in the marching band for four years before graduating last year.

She recalled Pellettiere as a "wonderful person" who nurtured not only her daughter's love of the flute but provided her with emotional support during times of need.

"She will truly, truly be missed," said Byer-Tyre of Farmingdale.

Gale Bayen, a retired Farmingdale High School teacher, summed up the feelings of the heartbroken crowd: "It's hard to imagine this world without her." 

Ref shortage... Katie Lee Biegel debuts new wine... What's up on LI Credit: Newsday

Updated 47 minutes ago Home elevation program... Suffolk vehicle auction... Ref shortage... Katie Lee Biegel debuts new wine.

Ref shortage... Katie Lee Biegel debuts new wine... What's up on LI Credit: Newsday

Updated 47 minutes ago Home elevation program... Suffolk vehicle auction... Ref shortage... Katie Lee Biegel debuts new wine.

Latest videos

SUBSCRIBE

Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months

ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME