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Area Students Included in MPAC Music Students of the Month


PARSIPPANY — Students from schools in Parsippany, Florham Park, Chester, Jefferson Township, Morristown, Whippany, Mt. Arlington, and Madison have been named as Mayo Performing Arts Center’s January 2022 Music Students of the Month – Outstanding Percussionists.

The students will receive a certificate for their honor from MPAC and will be featured on the Music Student of the Month page on the MPAC website.

Students were nominated by their teachers and were chosen by the Theatre’s Education Department based on their commitment to and excellence in the performing arts. The Theatre will honor a group of students every month throughout the season and invites area teachers to nominate students for this honor.

The 2021-2022 Music Student of the Month program is supported by The Walter F. and Alice Gorham Foundation, Inc.

Kendra Brooks

Grade 8, Ridgedale Middle School; Florham Park; Nominated by Michael Leone

Kendra is currently an 8th-grade percussionist at Ridgedale Middle School. She has been with us since sixth grade. March 2020, during her sixth-grade year, we closed our school building and went fully virtual. Our instrumental music program was fully virtual through the remainder of her sixth-grade year and her entire seventh-grade year. Despite these obvious and enormous challenges, Kendra has shown diligence and respect for her craft well beyond her years. She is a strong and reliable leader in our 7th/8th Grade Band and always strives to help others succeed, as well as lead by example. Our instrumental music program is very successfully beginning its climb back from more than an entire fully virtual school year, and Kendra Brooks is one of the reasons for that success.

Calyb Craig

Grade 8, Black River Middle School; Chester; Nominated by Dr. Kenneth Piascik

Calyb Craig is the definition of a well-rounded, dedicated, and talented musician. A “Complete” Percussionist!  Mr. Craig joined our music department in the sixth grade and has continued to develop our program above and beyond.  His energy, positive attitude, helpfulness, leadership, and passion inspire us all. Not only is Mr. Craig in the full band, but he also participates in our Honors Percussion Ensemble, “Encore” Jazz Ensemble, Theory Program, and is a top member of our “Music Level System.” Where there is music at Black River, you will find Mr. Craig close by.  One of the great parts of being a teacher is listening to my students talk about their passions in life.  This has given me the chance to experience some amazing people and achievements. Mr. Craig cares deeply about our world, other people’s feelings, and improving everyone’s quality of life. He extends this kindness to our community and the members of the band respect and considers him to be a great leader.  Calyb Craig is without a doubt an “Outstanding Percussionist”, and I am very proud to be part of his musical journey.

Michael Dalessio

Grade 12, Jefferson Township High School; Oak Ridge; Nominated by Dan Gugger

Michael Dalessio is among the top percussion students I have worked with within my career.  He has all the traits of someone who can enter a successful career in performance. He is a fantastic reader and player of battery percussion and drum kit.  He recently made the rounds on social media playing quints upside down in our marching band. Mike is consistently accepted in external ensembles like County, Area, and Region Band. He is a section leader in every area of our music program and sets a great example for his peers. I highly recommend Mike Dalessio for Outstanding Percussionist!

Dean Dooley

Grade 9, Delbarton School; Morristown; Nominated by Andrew Lyman

Sean is a fantastic person and a highly skilled percussionist at a young age. At the start of the year, all students auditioned for seating in our music ensembles, and Sean became the principal percussionist in our High School Band. Throughout the past few months, Sean has been extremely reliable, trustworthy, and helpful. He works hard to learn his music as soon as possible and lends a helping hand to the other percussionists in his section. Sean is very confident in his playing and always strives to help make the other musicians around him better. He is a true leader and it is a pleasure to have him in our ensemble.

CJ Guarente

Grade 8, Mountain View Middle School; Florham Park; Nominated by Michael Leone

I am nominating CJ Guarente for Music Student of the Month because he is a great example of a music student and learner, and just a wonderful young man with qualities that the world needs more of. CJ is motivated to learn. He takes ownership of his musical growth. He doesn’t wait for instruction to come to him; he identifies what he needs to improve on and reaches out to ask for help. CJ is self-disciplined and very consistent; he always showed up for virtual lessons during the pandemic, on time, and well prepared. He takes instruction well and applies all that is taught to him. He has taken on the challenge to become a well-rounded percussionist learning not only snare drum, but mallet instruments, drum set, and every other percussion instrument as well. Slow and steady, little by little has shown that small gains made consistently add up to amazing progress. This year CJ is participating in the All-District Honors Band and is auditioning for Regions Band. He also pursues high-level private instruction. CJ is a fine musician, but more important than that, a fine young man with a wonderful attitude, a kind heart, and an unflappable positive attitude that will take him far in life.  If only adults could be as self-composed as CJ is at such a young age. The world needs more people like CJ and it is for this reason that I nominate him for Music Student of the Month.

CJ Guarente

Grade 8, Mountain View Middle School; Florham Park; Nominated by Joseph Stella

Darian is an eighth-grade percussionist who has shown tremendous growth in concert band during the past two years making him one of our top players. In addition to building on his musical skills, he has really improved his attitude toward music.  This year, he has also taken on the challenge of being the drum set player in our school’s jazz band.  He would be a fitting recipient of the Outstanding Percussionist recognition.

Gerard Palmieri

Grade 7, Mount Arlington Public School; Mount Arlington; Nominated by Dr. Michael Aberback

Gerard Palmieri is an exceptional percussionist and band member. He has been a dedicated and enthusiastic member of my band program for the past four years. He currently plays in our school Concert Band and Percussion Ensemble. In order to participate in these ensembles, Gerard attends before-school morning rehearsals three times a week. He is never late for rehearsal, has not had a single unexcused absence this year, and he always arrived prepared and excited to play. Gerard is a well-rounded percussionist. He is an excellent drum set player as well as a talented mallet player. He has a very solid sense of tempo, a good ear, and strong technique. Gerard is hard-working, good-natured, and well-liked by his peers. He is a pleasure to work with the band. I think he would greatly enjoy as well as benefit from seeing the Stomp show at MPAC as we are currently working on a Stomp-style piece for garbage cans in a percussion ensemble. It is without hesitation that I nominate Gerard Palmieri for the Music Student of the Month Outstanding Percussionist award

Jimmy Scholz

Grade 12, Whippany Park High School; Whippany; Nominated by Carl Sabatino

Jimmy has shown continued growth from his time as a freshman until now. His passion for percussion as well as his drive to improve make him a fine student musician worthy of this honor. As a leader, he is determined to leave the percussion section better than he found it. He has both the patience to work with the younger students and the technique to teach the older ones. He is always the first person at every one of our rehearsals and is among the last to leave. He does everything that needs to be done so that the members of his section have the best chance to succeed. I highly recommend Jimmy Scholz.

Meredith Weiner

Grade 12, Madison High School; Madison; Nominated by Russ Batch

Meredith is one of the best percussion students I have had in 26 years of teaching. Not only does she take her own craft seriously, and rise to the occasion for all forms of percussion playing, but she takes her relationship with the other students in the section seriously as well. Meredith can often be seen helping those that need extra assistance with rhythms, or techniques. Students seek her out with questions about music or how to maintain instruments. Meredith, in addition to being our leader in Marching Band, Jazz Band, Wind Ensemble, Percussion Ensemble, is also involved in an entire host of outside-of-school percussion activities that allow her to grow her skill and knowledge of the instruments.

Mayo Performing Arts Center, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, presents a wide range of programs that entertain, enrich, and educate the diverse population of the region and enhance the economic vitality of Northern New Jersey. The 2021-2022 season is made possible, in part, by a grant from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as support received from the F.M. Kirby Foundation, The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation and numerous corporations, foundations, and individuals. Mayo Performing Arts Center was named 2016 Outstanding Historic Theatre by the League of Historic American Theatre and is ranked in the top 50 mid-sized performing arts centers by Pollstar Magazine.

Frank Cahill
Frank Cahill
Publisher of Parsippany Focus since 1989 and Morris Focus since January 1, 2019, both covering a wide range of events. Mr. Cahill serves as the Executive Board Member of the Parsippany Area Chamber of Commerce, Lt. Governor of Division 9 Kiwanis Club of NJ, and Chairman of the Parsippany-Troy Hills Economic Development Advisory Board. Owner of the Morris now app serving small business in Morris County.

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