Composer/Conductor Makes Music with Kennedy Students

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On May 1, orchestra, band and vocal students at Kennedy High School worked with composer/conductor Stephen Melillo ahead of their evening concerts.

One of the most internationally recognized composers for wind band music, Melillo  is known for his techniques in concert music, revolutionizing the video game industry in terms of how they use music, film scores, TV shows, as well as multiple Pulitzer nominations for his music.

“The transformation my students had in a total of less than four hours with Stephen Melillo was absolutely incredible,” said JFK Band Director Walter Avellaneda. “They understood passion and they understood how to play their instrument with beauty and intensity at such an intense level. They played from their hearts in such a way that I have been silent and speechless about it since then.”

“It’s always a meaningful experience when our students have the opportunity to work with professional musicians,” said Cheryl Fontana, the district’s director of the fine & performing arts. “We are so grateful to Mr. Melillo for sharing his knowledge and passion with our young musicians.”

A special highlight of the event is that the music department commissioned a piece by Melillo, honoring Lorraine Poppe, the school’s late former principal. The piece, “to Love & be Loved,” will soon be released worldwide. 

“We were able to send a recording of the work to Ms. Poppe and her family a few weeks ago,” explained Avellaneda. “Her sister said it was the last piece of music that she was listening to as she passed. They were playing it over and over for her; it brought their family much comfort during a difficult time.”

Avellaneda said it was an honor to play for Poppe’s family who attended the evening concert. “Without her vision, the music program would have never flourished,” he added. “And now we are lucky to have the same endless support by Principal Gerard Owenburg who encourages these types of experiences; it is truly fitting that the piece was premiered on National Principal's Day,” he added.