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May 7, 2019 5:06 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

East Hampton School District Earns Recognition For Music Program

The East Hampton High School junior and senior band.   KYRIL BROMLEY
May 7, 2019 12:41 PM

Troy Grindle, the music department coordinator and an orchestra teacher at the East Hampton School District, was finishing a group lesson for a handful of violinists on a recent Monday morning at East Hampton High School when the bell rang and the students took off to their sixth-period classes. He saw them off with a smile, and a violin in his hand.

“We want to get everyone involved in some type of music making,” Mr. Grindle said in an interview that followed in his classroom, and the goal is to offer something suited to every single student.

At the moment, 254 of the 905 students at the high school are involved in some way with the music department, a participation rate of 28 percent, continuing a trend of high involvement—218 students, or 63 percent, at the middle school level, and 544, or 100 percent, at the John Marshall Elementary School.

This spring, for the fourth consecutive year, the East Hampton School District’s music education program was recognized as one of the best communities for music education by the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation. The recognition is bestowed upon districts that demonstrate outstanding achievement in efforts to provide music access and education to all students, Mr. Grindle explained.

Since the music department has been growing each year, the high school currently offers two bands, instructed by Christopher Mandato, two choruses, under Dylan Greene, and one orchestra conducted by Mr. Grindle. After school, high school students have the opportunity to jam in Jazz Band or perform in the Far East Fiddle Club, the chamber ensemble, and/or one or more of three select vocal ensembles—Belle Voci, Manly Men and Camerata.

There also is a “very active” Tri-M Music Honor Society, which is a national organization focusing on community service through music. This year, Tri-M students have been offering private lessons after school to fourth- and fifth-graders in East Hampton.

Mr. Grindle said in the past few years, students have been more enthusiastic than usual about music, performing and the arts. Such was the case this year with the high school’s spring musical, “Les Misérables,” which incorporated musicians, singers, actors, lighting technicians, costume designers, stagehands and more.

Mr. Grindle, who conducted the pit orchestra for the production, said that the high school students were making art happen at such a level that “you could swear you were on a professional Broadway stage.”

For the first time in East Hampton High School history, the cast and crew petitioned administrators to not only hold shows over one weekend, as is the custom, but also to let them perform for the entire student body to enjoy on a school day.

“You could feel it in the room that something really incredible was happening,” Mr. Grindle said. “That’s the kind of community we have in terms of the performing arts.”

Charles Goldsmith, a violist in Mr. Grindle’s orchestra, as well as a member of the Far East Fiddle Club, said he’s been playing since the second grade, and that Mr. Grindle and the other music teachers care about each individual student.

“There’s a lot of diversity in the sense that you can do anything you want in the music program,” he said on a recent Thursday morning before orchestra class. “You have a lot of choices.”

“You’re not just learning how to play an instrument; you’re learning to have patience and stay determined,” said Carolina Bernal, a violinist.

Reghan Anderson, who had a leading role in “Les Miserables,” said she has a friendship connection with all of the music teachers. In addition to already being a member of Camerata and Bella Voci, she plans to join orchestra next year as a senior, and to help her achieve that goal, Mr. Grindle has been giving her cello lessons during her lunch period.

“They all offer lessons during lunchtime, they go to all of our festivals—they’re very involved. It’s a nice support system,” Reghan said of the music faculty.

At the middle school level, students can join band with Jonathan Howe, orchestra with Stephen Shaughnessy or chorus, with Melanie Freyre, in addition to an after-school vocal group, The Bonettes.

This year, John Marshall, with the elementary music instructor, Gregory Butler, has introduced a music curriculum for the new prekindergarten class, as well as a world percussion curriculum for the entire school. There is classroom music from Pre-K through fifth grade, in addition to band, orchestra and chorus for grades four and five.

Naomi Blowe, now a senior at the high school, has been playing the clarinet since she was in third grade in East Hampton.

“I want to keep playing for as long as I can,” she said recently as she stood in Mr. Mandato’s band room with Malia Guebl, another clarinet player, before class began. “It’s been a great four years here playing music.”

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