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Composing The Score For Arts And Music

Regent Tilles heralds Garden City

as model for arts/music curriculum

It’s no secret that the Garden City Union Free School District and Garden City High School are ranked among the best in the country. Ninety-nine percent of the Class of 2012 students are attending college and graduating with a Regents Diploma, with 81 percent of those graduates earning diplomas with Advanced Designation. While many factors can be attributed to these impressive statistics, the strongly held belief that a strong arts and music program is a crucial element of this success according to residents.

Look no further than the recent ribbon cutting celebrating the completion of the $10.5 million expansion and renovations of Garden City High School. The money was a chunk of the $36.5 million school investment bond and energy performance resolution passed by taxpayers in 2009. According to the school administration, a weak economy, low interest rates and a limited number of plan modifications had the estimated expenditure of the project drop to $33.9 million as of December 2012, resulting in the district saving an estimated $2.6 million. As far as New York State Education Department Regents Member Roger Tilles is concerned, it’s money well spent.

“Most districts on Long Island and certainly in the cities, are cutting the arts out at the same time Garden City is increasing their program. It’s an amazing phenomenon and it would only add to and enhance what Garden City has,” Tilles explained. “Schools on Long Island generally speaking have been pretty good on the arts. Not as good as Garden City.”

Along with Tilles a number of local dignitaries attended the recent ribbon cutting at the high school including Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City), Assemblyman Ed Ra (R-Franklin Square), Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray and Garden City Mayor Don Brudie. As the assembled guests were given tours of the new music wing that were designed and built by BBS Architects, Landscape Architects and Engineers.

New individual rooms were built for the chorus, band and orchestra, with each featuring custom-designed Kinetics Noise Control fabric-wrapped acoustic ceiling panels, which were custom designed for each room to provide the appropriate sound quality and range for each discipline. There is also an additional lesson room with recording equipment in it, not unlike the other three that are also equipped with a sound and recording system. Senator Hannon was particularly impressed.

I’m pleased to help celebrate the completion and expansion of the high school,” he said. “As the parent of twin daughters who are alumnae of Garden City High School, I know firsthand of the excellence of the Garden City schools, and these improvements will only serve to enhance the experience of all who attend. Not only will these improvements provide a richer learning and cultural environment, they will be economically and environmentally beneficial as well.”

This dedication to music and the arts is an example that would be well followed by other districts according to Tilles. In his opinion, the arts foster students in using other parts of their brain in a number of other non-arts subjects including English, math and science. And with the emphasis on standardized testing on both the federal and state levels, the New York State Regent argued the support of music and arts would have an effect on test scores.

“For the sake of those tests that the state and the government demand we give to kids in grades three through eight that I abhor, the arts would improve their scores,” Tilles pointed out. “Yet, schools are cutting [the arts] out to put in a second period of English or a second period of math. My example is that if a pill doesn’t work, two pills aren’t going to work. You want to change the prescription and that’s where the arts come in.”

The one person that is probably the most excited about these renovations is Dr. Nina Prosso, the director of the music and art curriculum for the Garden City Public School District. And while she was thrilled over the new storage areas and ramps that make for an easier manner of maneuvering young musicians and their instruments, especially during spring and fall musical productions, Dr. Prosso was equally awed by the resiliency of her students.

“The [old] rooms had no specific acoustics or opportunities for recording and these students made All State, All Eastern and All National scholar honor winners. These are phenomenal students and many of them go on to become professional musicians or to play on Broadway,” she exclaimed. “We have very, very talented students. I can’t even begin to describe what those rooms were like and now they have this. God knows how far they’ll go now with this.”