Testimonial #38: LindaAnn Loschiavo, Journalist, Dramatist, and a long time magazine columnist

How has your life been indelibly touched by a teacher who utilized the arts for whatever reason and acknowledge how they were instrumental in breaking the mold to allow you to become who you are today?

I had the best “teachers” . . . every talented performer I admired in a Broadway show taught me to pursue excellence and that you had to be able to tell a good story that would capture the audience’s attention.

My first full-length play came about when I was 10 years old.

I wrote my first one-act play (for 5 actresses), typed each script myself on a manual typewriter, developed the costumes with one of my aunts, and I had devised a simple “unit set”: 1 rocking chair. My 50-minute play was produced in Brooklyn, NY and it ran for close to 18 months.

My most recent play ran 1 hour, 40 minutes, had a simple set (1 stool, 2 chairs, and a small table), and a cast of eight. This play ran in Manhattan on West 46th Street from August 17th, 2013 – – November 24th, 2013. I have entered this play into the NYC Fringe Festival.

I doubt that I would have become a writer without so much exposure to the arts since I was an infant in a New York City crib listening to “La Boheme” while sucking on a pacifier.

Testimonial #37: Edwina Issa, BBO Jordan

How has your life been indelibly touched by a teacher who utilized the arts for whatever reason and acknowledge how they were instrumental in breaking the mold to allow you to become who you are today?

The availability of artistic opportunity is a key to igniting a life long passion. I think an artistic education is key to this as well winning my first talent show at five using a fire from within my spirit was so aided in the coming years by gifted teachers, the one that gave me the key to the theatre to put on my own plays, the one who taught me to use stage make up, the one who had been to RADA and read everything in role and transported me…. The youth theatre workers who trusted me to dabble.

The rep players who rented out our basement for a season and left the smell of the greasepaint, all created exposure to the arts in other forms. SO to inspirational teachers who exposed us all to plays and musicals or let us work in role or even did music and movement with us. We should offer thanks They took us to big cities on theatre trips and to the local theatres all of these lovers of arts set us on our way. If we got no further than putting plays on the lawn or in local halls it was a journey that would create a lifelong thirst and one that is never quenched.

Now years later having moved and living in a society where arts is for those that do not do that well at school and where any arts in the syllabus is cut to put in computing, I see the sadness of those who miss out an arts education and it is my mission to set that fire within them alight.

Testimonial #36: Yvette Heyliger, Playwright/Individual Artist/Teaching Artist

How has your life been indelibly touched by a teacher who utilized the arts for whatever reason and acknowledge how they were instrumental in breaking the mold to allow you to become who you are today?

When I was growing up, I had the benefit of a holistic education–one that included instrumental and vocal music (where we learned the National Anthem and other songs as well as how to play them on instruments given to us in class), visual arts and electives, like “drama club” or “orchestra.” We even had prayer (or a moment of silence) and recited the Pledge of Allegiance daily. These activities planted seeds of patriotism in my heart that have stayed with me and shaped my character. (Yes, I have been known to tear up at the singing of The Star Spangled Banner!)

I attended a newly-formed performing arts high school, Duke Ellington School of the Arts. Circumstances resulting from decisions made by a very conservative school board in reaction to the activities and functioning of the arts school necessitated that I become an activist. As president of both the junior and senior class, I fought for the artistic freedoms and philosophies my school championed which were unheard of at any other school in the District of Columbia at that time (to my knowledge).

As I reflect on my career as a student, I can say that the early marriage of arts, activism and love of country within my youthful heart continued into adulthood, resulting in life-long fidelity as a citizen artist.

Testimonial #35: Alice Christy, Voice Building/Piano/Speech & Acting Teacher

This true story is an example of how art education and passion for your dreams can lead to overcoming personal challenges and create a productive happy life.

How has your life been indelibly touched by a teacher who utilized the arts for whatever reason and acknowledge how they were instrumental in breaking the mold to allow you to become who you are today?

My daughter and I were literally kept in school by their respective art programs. The dance program at Cardoza High School, in Bayside, NY, was instrumental in keeping my daughter interested in “hitting the books”. She was very well known in the school because of her involvement in the school’s dance recitals and musicals. Today, she teaches dance at the Huntington Y on Long Island.

I was always interested in singing and throughout my school years was involved with the school choirs. At Hollywood High School, in LA, I was the Drill Captain for the marching unit, that “strutted its stuff” at all the football games, and marched in the Santa Claus Lane parade down Sunset Boulevard during the Christmas holidays. I was a member of the choirs, and participated in all the school musicals as well as attending choir competitions. All this kept me in school and out of trouble. I continued this path at Marymount College and UCLA working with the internationally renowned choral director, Roger Wagner and became a member of MU PHI EPSILON, the music honorary society.

Because of our love and participation in the art programs in our schools, my daughter and I have been “paying it forward” to the people in our communities through our teaching and performing. Wouldn’t change a thing!

Art is the core of our souls and should be a standard part of all children’s education. I am constantly reminded, by my students, how our diminished educational budgets have let our students down. Frances McGarry’s message and presentation will encourage the future inclusion of arts programs in schools once again. Thank you, Fran, our students deserve such programs and I totally support you in your work. Just let me know how I can help.


Testimonial #34: Elizabeth Sophia Strauss, Production Assistant for Transport Group Theatre Company on Almost, Maine

How has your life been indelibly touched by a teacher who utilized the arts for whatever reason and acknowledge how they were instrumental in breaking the mold to allow you to become who you are today?

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to play the trumpet. I even remember in second grade writing a short story called “The Little Trumpet.” Then when I was in third grade, the Music Director for my Elementary School, Mark Abbonizio, came to music class one day and did the yearly Instrument Petting Zoo. I was so excited to see an older student show off trumpet skills. It made me feel even cooler that a girl was showcasing the trumpet that day. We had to choose additional instruments to pursue if our first choice was not available. Fortunately, after listing trumpet as my first choice, Mr. Abbonizio approached me in the hallway and told me he would love to have at least one girl in the trumpet section next year. I was filled with such joy and enthusiasm that I could not contain myself when the beginning of the school came around and my mother took me to get my first trumpet. It was there, at the music store in East Setauket, that I knew the trumpet would be something very special in my life. It was not until eleventh grade when the Director of the Wind Ensemble at my High School, Christine Creighton, mentioned pit orchestra to me that I finally joined my high school’s annual musical. While I was in high school I was in the pit orchestra for A 60’s Revue and The Boy Friend. Being involved in those shows brought me such joy, and never before had I been around people whose passion for musical theater was as great as mine.

Trumpet was my avenue to the performing arts. Without the guidance of educators like Mr. Abbonizio and Ms. Creighton, I would not have been able to work with people such as Jeffrey Sanzel at Theatre Three or Jenny Gersten and Stephen M. Kaus at the Williamstown Theatre Festival.

I have now worked on my first New York play post-grad with Director Evan Cabnet and award-winning playwright Donald Margulies at Primary Stages. My next Off-Broadway project will be on the Stage Management Team for Transport Group’s Almost, Maine, working alongside the playwright himself John Cariani and Director Jack Cummings III.

Every theater professional I encounter now is a teacher to me as well. But I will always consider the teachers who first set me on the path to theater as the ones who utilized the arts to allow me to become who I am today.

How are the arts re-igniting your community and sparking innovation and creativity in your local schools?

I have been lucky enough to grow up in a community that greatly values the arts. Fortunately, it has not been a matter of reigniting, as there has been a long-standing commitment to the arts here in Port Jefferson. In elementary school, there were several opportunities for the students to work alongside Mary Seidman and Karen De Mauro as part of the Port Jefferson School District’s Artists-in-Residence program. Additionally, my high school has always has been host to the Amy Tyler School of Dance annual production of The Nutcracker. The dance company features artists from around the world, so that the community has the opportunity to see a top-notch performance without having to leave Port Jefferson. The Music Department in my school district has done a lot of innovative programming as well.

Not only does Port Jefferson have an Arts Council – which is a platform for music, theater, visual art, and dance – Port Jefferson is also home to the Long Island Music Hall of Fame. Despite growing up in a small town, I have had the good fortune to be exposed to a full range of the performing arts, which left a profound influence on me.

One of the best performance venues on Long Island is right here in Port Jefferson, Theatre Three, which is considered: “Broadway on Main Street”. I have seen everything from their annual A Christmas Carol to The Sound of Music. In fact, my first internship in theater was on Theatre Three’s Production of The Who’s: Tommy as their Assistant Stage Manager.