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2020-21 Long Island Scholar Artists

The goal of the Scholar-Artist program is to honor exceptionally accomplished high school seniors September to June. Selections are made, each spring, from a pool of Long Island students. From these nominees, one monthly award winner from Nassau and one from Suffolk is chosen. To learn more visit:

Olivia Freiberger, Long Island Scholar Artist

Acting on stage for Olivia Freiberger goes back

Acting on stage for Olivia Freiberger goes back to her days as a child. There's nothing more satisfying for the Harborfields High School student than putting a smile on a theatergoer's face.

"Since I was a [little] girl, all I've wanted to do is help others," she says. "To me, theater is a means to achieve that. If I can make them forget their troubles for a while, it means everything to me.

Olivia has been a member of the Harborfields Theater Company and Harborfields Kickline since her freshman year. She tries to "find creative inspiration in everything. I am always looking to find things that make my heart skip a beat, things that motivate me to get up and create."

Long Island Scholar Artist, Olivia Freiberger, On-Stage

Olivia performed in the Town of Oyster Bay

Olivia performed in the Town of Oyster Bay Christmas Show under Lynda Cache, including two Rockette-inspired routines: a kickline number and a version of "The March of the Wooden Soldiers." She also performed with the John W. Engeman Theater's Northport Select Players at Feinstein's 54 Below as a soloist.

Olivia was selected to intern at BAE Systems last September, an aeronautical engineering company, as part of its Women in Technology program. "It is a highly selective program, in which we learned about the inequity in the engineering field and how there is a severe lack of women engineers," she says.

Olivia is pursuing a degree in musical theatre and will continue her journey to become an actress after high school.

Evan Cheng, Long Island Scholar Artist

The violin serves as an escape for Evan

The violin serves as an escape for Evan Cheng. It's a way for him to enjoy the moment. He calls it a "return to the old school in a rapidly modernizing world."

"Much of my creative inspiration stems from wanting to find a corner in my life free from modern stresses," the Syosset High School standout says.

Evan founded the Musical Relief program through the high school, which provides more than 60 free music lessons per week to students in the United States and Asia, with donations going toward various charities. He likes to help others and feels indebted to students that worked to launch the program.


Long Island Scholar Artist, Evan Cheng in-performance

"I teach six violin lessons a week and genuinely enjoy spreading my passion for classical music," he says.

Evan took first place in the Manolov International Music Competition in 2019 and was a First Award Winner in the Grand Prize Virtuoso International Competition this year, among other accolades. He's an accomplished fencer and is a member of the Chamber Music Club, Tri-M National Music Honor Society and the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra.

"When I grow sick of the obscene amounts of homework I'm assigned, all I have to do is go downstairs and my violin is waiting there patiently for me to pick up," he says.

Evan interned at Stony Brook University Hospital's Department of Radiology in 2018 and the Department of Cell Biology in 2019 before working in the Garcia Center for Polymers at Engineered Interfaces in 2020. He plans to study neurobiology but sees music as a part of his future. 



Juliet Marinello, October Long Island Scholar Artist

Ballet for  Juliet Marinello is rooted in

Ballet for Juliet Marinello is rooted in inspiration. The Huntington High School student attended performances of the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center regularly and feels those dance numbers help craft her next moves.

"I have always been inspired by the dancer's artistic expression, the lively music, and the beautiful costumes," says Juliet.

Juliet could be seen as the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Lynch Ballet Company's annual performance of "The Nutcracker" and performed at many nursing homes across Long Island. Juliet also shined in "Romanza" and "Excelsis" for Manhattan's Ballet Academy East. She won merit scholarships at the Houston Ballet, Ballet West and Pacific Northwest Ballet summer intensives over the last two years.

Long Island Scholar Artist, Juliet Marinello, On-Stage

Juliet feels the challenge of ballet has made

Juliet feels the challenge of ballet has made her a stronger person and that there's always room for improvement. She was an American Ballet Theatre National Training Scholar for two years. 

"Ballet has always been a way for me to express myself through movement," says the English, science and social studies national honor society member. "The gift of this art form is bringing pleasure to an audience as they view the grace and emotion conveyed through dance and music."

Juliet sees the arts as a part of her everyday life after high school. "I plan on auditioning for several college dance programs, and I would like to be a dual major in ballet performance and English," she says.

October Long Island Scholar Artist, Ariane Lee

Ideas come to  Ariane Lee based on

Ideas come to Ariane Lee based on real events and other artists. The Syosset High School All-County Artist loves to study "artists with unique styles" and gets inspired to draw new pieces that have a sense of realism and offer a commentary on "what's now."

Ariane hopes those that see her work interpret them as a call to action, "since most of my works have something to do with social or political issues." Drawing is also a way for her to connect with others.

"For me, art has always been a form of communication," she says. "When I was younger, I used to do things like draw portraits and fold paper arts for family members. It was a way for me to tell them I loved them."

The work of Scholar Artist, Ariane Lee

Ariane holds the title of the school's Model

Ariane holds the title of the school's Model Congress president, National Honor Society secretary and a Forensics Speech and Debate member, among other posts. She won the Scholastic Gold Key this year, the Silver Key in 2017 and 2020, was named a Celebrating High Merit Award Artist in 2019.

Ariane is still deciding on a career path but knows art will play a part in her future. She plans to major in political science with a pre-med track.

 "Lately, I have been heavily considering cosmetic dermatology," she says. "There's definitely an artistic/aesthetic aspect to the job, but it still allows me to explore my interest in science."

Alexandra Donach, September Long Island Scholar Artist

The stage for  Alexandra Donach is a

The stage for Alexandra Donach is a second home. No moment is too big or small for the Syosset High School thespian.

"My art means everything to me," says Alexandra, the Syosset High School Adelettes president. "Musical theatre is my entire life, it has shaped me into the person I am today, and it motivates me to be the best I can be as both a person and as an artist."

As supporting lead and dance captain in the Syosset Theatre Arts production of "Godspell," "The Little Mermaid," "Mamma Mia!" among other plays, Alexandra hones her skills by observing "very carefully the way an actor behaves." She was inducted into the International Thespian Society in 2019.

Alexandra sang with the Adelettes at the local Christmas Tree Lighting for the last two years and regularly performed at the Northport VA during the holidays. Notably, she served as a featured soloist with the Syosset High School Chamber Singers at St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Long Island Scholar Artist, Alexandra Donach, on-stage

Credit: Walter Donach

"I find creative inspiration from watching other actors work, whether that be watching a performance on Broadway, or watching a TV show or movie," she says.

Alexandra is on track to graduate with thespian honors and plans to pursue a degree in musical theatre, with a goal of performing on Broadway. 

"I am currently in the process of submitting prescreens, auditioning, and applying to a multitude of musical theatre programs," says Alexandra. "Some of the top schools on my list are Baldwin Wallace, University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Pace University and Boston Conservatory."

Gianna Tantillo, September Long Island Scholar Artist

Photography and dance define  Gianna Tantillo and

Photography and dance define Gianna Tantillo and her imagination. The Half Hollow East High School standout's determination is indicative of her success.

"My creative inspiration comes when I am not thinking about what to photograph or ideas for a new shoot," Gianna says. "Ideas pop in my head when I least expect it and it instantly becomes my goal to bring my ideas to life in a photograph."

Gianna's talents extend beyond the lens. She and the high school dance team won the Golden Ticket Award, an exclusive invitation to the Starpower World Championships. Gianna also helped coordinate Students Rebuild at Half Hollow Hills, a challenge encouraging students to submit artwork in exchange for donations to global causes.

Gianna's eye for photography looks beneath the surface of a given subject. The Dixette Kickline Team captain is "constantly looking for different combinations of models, props, and shoot locations that can express whatever meaning I am looking to convey."

The work of Gianna Tantillo

Her talents were featured at the high school's

Her talents were featured at the high school's end of the year art show, the Half Hollow Hills Art Show, before winning the Distinguished Youth Award three years in a row. 

"Being a portrait focused photographer, I would be nowhere without my friends who are constantly willing and excited to follow my, sometimes, crazy instructions behind the lens to make my ideas come to life," she says.

Gianna, a Student Government and National Honor Society class president, is considering medical school and will continue to pursue her love of the arts. "I am still exploring college options, but I plan to major in the sciences and since art is a way of life for me, I will be exploring photography and dance as a minor," says Gianna.

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