Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Paul Moravec has seen his pieces performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center. Now, he can add Penn Station to that list.
When commuters pass by the video monitor located near the elevators at the station’s 34th Street entrance, they can watch a recording of the world premiere of Moravec’s latest work, “Change at Jamaica,” performed by student musicians from Garden City High School.
Moravec, a 16-year professor at Adelphi University in Garden City, penned the 10-minute instrumental piece for a consortium of eight high schools in Nassau County including Garden City, Baldwin, Farmingdale, Herricks, North Shore, Oceanside, Oyster Bay and Wantagh.
Since Garden City High School’s spring concert was scheduled first, the 55 students in its wind ensemble had the honor of debuting the composition on April 25 to an audience that included Moravec and Long Island Rail Road President Helena Williams.
“They were terrific,” said Moravec, 55, of Glen Cove. “It’s a challenging piece and they met the challenge and really exceeded my expectations.”
When commissioned by the schools to write an original composition, Moravec said he chose the Long Island Rail Road, particularly the transfer at Jamaica, because it’s something that many of the 500-plus students involved in this project have experienced.
Long Island Rail Road officials were so pleased with the performance that they presented Moravec with the plaque on the night of the concert, and three weeks later, they started playing the video in Penn Station.
“We are thrilled that a piece of music honors the Long Island Rail Road, its customers and the hustle and bustle at Jamaica … and we wanted to share it with our customers,” said Joe Calderone, vice president of customer service for the LIRR.
The video is part of a loop that runs continuously throughout the day. There’s no set date on when it will stop playing, but Calderone said it would be up for a while.
“It’s one of the busiest transit hubs in the world,” said Anthony Isenberg, 18, of Garden City, a senior who plays clarinet in the wind ensemble. “It’s kind of unbelievable that at such a young age so many people are listening to me and the group play something so unique.”
Isenberg credited his band director, James McCrann, for helping him and his fellow students tackle such a fun but complicated piece.
McCrann learned about the video featuring his students from a recent Garden City High School graduate who texted him a photo of it while passing through Penn Station.
“Very often our student musicians get overlooked, but what they do on so many levels is so complicated and demanding, and takes so much effort on their part,” said McCrann. “The fact they were able to achieve recognition on a stage of this enormity makes me so proud and I’m happy for them.”
After the recording stops running in Penn Station, Isenberg said it will continue to play in his head every time he rides the Long Island Rail Road, particularly when he’s “waiting at Jamaica for a train that’s delayed.”