By REBECCA ISENHART
NISKAYUNA HIGH SCHOOL — Summer recess is quickly approaching, but Niskayuna High School freshman Lauren Gabriel doesn’t want to stop studying in at least one subject: Music.
“I love lessons. I look forward to them every single week,” said Gabriel as she waited for her turn to audition for a scholarship from Niskayuna Friends of Music. She hoped the award would help her develop her vocal talents all summer long.
Gabriel was one of about 50 students to audition throughout the weekend for one of 26 scholarships worth about $125 each. Every student candidate performed a vocal or instrumental solo for a panel of two adjudicators, recruited from school districts outside Niskayuna to ensure fair evaluations.
Matt Cremisio, director of K-12 music education for the Niskayuna schools, said the awards are enough to significantly defray the cost of summer music study. “Camps are anywhere from $200 to a couple thousand dollars depending on the scope of the camp,” said Cremisio. “For private lessons, $125 will probably get a students a nice three or four lessons.”
The audition process decided who would win a scholarship, but Denise Murphy McGraw, chairwoman of Niskayuna Friends of Music Scholarship Committee, says the experience in itself is valuable for all.
“Even for a student who doesn’t want to pursue a career in music, being able to walk into a room in front of strangers and present their best self is very, very important,” said McGraw, who is also a Niskayuna town councilwoman.
High school choral director Christina Pizzino-Catalano said students’ summer studies make her job easier in September, too. “It’s really a pleasure to be able to see the students have the inspiration to go on to do something in the summer so that they continue working,” she said. “They don’t have to come back in September and start fresh; they’re continuing to pursue what they enjoy doing.”
Gabriel said for her, making music is a must. “It’s literally in my mind 24/7,” she said. “I was brought up singing radio tunes and it’s always stayed with me.”
After a successful vocal performance, which she began preparing for in January, Gabriel was awarded one of the scholarships. She hopes to attend a camp at Crane School of Music this summer.