Fundraiser for Long Island High School For the Arts
The Seymour Weiner Theater at Nassau BOCES Long Island High School For the Arts (LIHSA) in Syosset is going to be star-studded on Nov. 6.
Broadway stars will be performing alongside students as part of a fundraiser for LIHSA, which is called Broadway Supports LIHSA.
The cast of Broadway Supports LIHSA has not been announced yet, but the performer’s credits so far do include Back To The Future, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations; Hamilton; Into the Woods; The King and I; The Lion King; Miss Saigon; Les Miserables; School of Rock; Motown The Musical; Ragtime and New York, New York.
The fundraiser is being co-produced by Jerome Vivona, a Broadway veteran and current artistic director of the American Theater Dance Workshop in New Hyde Park, and Stephen DeAngelis, a renowned casting director of the Broadway revival of The Rise and Fall of Little Voice and producer of more than 200 concerts in New York City and across the United States.
Vivona said he created the fundraiser while his daughter was attending LIHSA.
“There was a chance the school might close, and I wanted to bring attention to the school and its mission and I was excited to bring my community, the Broadway community, to support the school and raise some money and awareness and we did that,” Vivona said. “We generated much interest for the school and then Billy Joel got involved.”
According to a press release from Nassau BOCES, Billy Joel has strongly supported LIHSA, donating millions since 2016. In fact, the building that houses music and theatre programs was renamed the “Rosalind Joel Conservatory for Music and Theatre,” after Joel’s mother, Rosalind Nyman Joel.
“I believe a lot of people are excited about the arts, people are excited about supporting the school,” Vivona said.
In its fourth year, Vivona said that each event has been different.
“The most exciting part about it is that we’ve introduced the kids, the students, to the performers,” Vivona said.
DeAngelis said one of the highlights of this show to him is not just the concert, but the opportunity for the students to spend time with the Broadway performers, asking their questions and getting inspired.
Hicksville High School Student Alexandra LaPlaca said it has been a great privilege to be selected during the audition process and to be a part of this process.
“You’re learning from the best of the best,” Alexandra said. “These are Broadway choreographers and everything you could dream of and hope for, especially as a performing art student and as someone who is privileged to go to such a school as this one…”
Alexandra said she’s been working really hard with her fellow performers ahead of the Nov. 6 show. The work includes learning harmonies in the songs and going home to listen to the songs on repeat.
“We work very fast, which was very impressive,” Alexandra said. “It was an eye opener being in a professional setting how things move quickly and you learn quickly. But when you’re with people who have the same mindset as you, you realize that you can get a lot done in just a few hours, in an hour alone. We learned the dance we are performing, the LIHSA students and I, in an hour and a half. It is really thrilling and cool to realize that we have the ability, because of these teachers, to work as they do in the professional field. Which is just beautiful.”
This year the students will be more involved with the show than ever before, Vivona said.
“Kids who graduated from LIHSA still talk about this event,” Vivona said. “The families are very excited we gave their children this opportunity to be involved.”
In addition to the students in the theatre and dance departments, students from BOCES Barry Tech in New Cassel are also involved with the show. These students will be doing hair and makeup backstage before the show.
“We’re including as many kids as we can behind the scenes and on the stage as we can just to give everyone an opportunity to learn something and get some experience performing or working with performers,” Vivona said. “It’s a great event. It encompasses the entire school, administration, the PTA, everything. It’s a lot of fun.”
This show is a way to expand each student’s community, DeAngelis said, giving them access to people who were once in their shoes, with the same dreams.
“Many performers who have joined us have attended performing arts high schools,” DeAngelis said. “So they understand exactly what these kids are going through, the questions they have.”
And when asked the importance of supporting an art school like LIHSA, DeAngelis said: “The only thing that got the country through COVID was the arts. It was everything the actors and musicians and dancers and directors and cinematographers created during COVID. What would we all have done if we weren’t able to watch Hamilton on pay-per-view? Think of all the things that existed that were sort of in the can and were there and were able to lift everyone’s spirits at the time. The arts is very important and people who look at it the other way look at it only in the situation of can they personally monetize it. But its value is much more than monetary. That’s what separates us.”
And by supporting LIHSA, you’re supporting the future of the arts, and new voices and a new view.
“This is important to the professional performers too,” DeAngelis said. “It’s so important that they’re taking Monday nights, their only night off on their Broadway show, after they’ve done a five-show weekend… That speaks a lot to their commitment to growing the future.”
Alexandra said that art education in school is often overlooked.
“A lot of the funds go into something else, but people don’t realize the impact the arts can have,” Alexandra said. “It can be any kind of art, performing, fine arts, anything to do with being creative. It can change the person as they grow up, having that creative outlet. And it’s such a good opportunity to be here.”
Vivona added that the Broadway community is a very special community in terms of rallying support for the arts and giving back.
“It’s such an amazing, warm, embracing community,” Vivona said. “I’m very fortunate to be a part of it most of my adult life. And each of these actors comes to the stage with different experiences. Those who had school training when they were younger remember vividly what that was about and are excited to be a part of this. Those who didn’t have it embrace the thought of ‘what would my life be like if I did have this. I’m so excited to be a part of this for these kids.’ So the feedback from the artists that have been a part of this has been nothing short of phenomenal.”
To purchase a ticket for Broadway Supports LIHSA, or to learn more, visit www.longislandhighschoolforthearts.org/gettickets.