By Jillian Haguisan
To commemorate Oyster Bay’s new Fine and Performing Arts Wing, a Board of Education meeting was held in the band room on September 25th when iconic singer Billy Joel made a surprise guest appearance.
To start the meeting, Principal Sharon Lasher expressed her gratitude to the construction workers and the hard-working musicians and singers who deserved their new rooms. Then, to the surprise and excitement of many, she introduced a special guest to the meeting: Long Island’s own singer and songwriter, Billy Joel.
Mr. Joel kicked off the ceremony by praising the school’s dedication to music, and he gave a short speech about what a privilege it was to have the beautiful, new wing.
Afterwards, the Wind Ensemble, conducted by Mr. Matthew Sisa, played their piece, “Invention in C Minor,” which was composed by Billy Joel himself. Immediately after the piece ended, the composer shouted a proud, “Yeah!”
After the round of applause, the Chamber Singers, led by Mrs. Meagan Dissinger, performed “Oyster Bay,” also written by Billy Joel.
The honor of cutting the ribbon was given to Mr. Joel, and before the meeting officially ended, the Wind Ensemble played another piece, “Billy Joel Medleys,” which was comprised of popular songs by the songwriter such as “Uptown Girl,” “Pressure,” “Only The Good Die Young,” and “Piano Man.”
Some students and community members were lucky enough to snap a picture with Mr. Joel or get an autograph before he had to leave.
The idea of inviting Billy Joel to the ceremony came about in August. Principal Lasher, with the help of Mr. Sisia, sent out an email to Mr. Joel. Later, while going out for lunch, she happened to meet Mr. Joel in person by chance, when she personally discussed the invitation with him. Mr. Joel agreed and gave Ms. Lasher his assistant’s phone number, but not before Ms. Lasher asked to take a picture with the famous singer. Aside from the Board of Education members and high school music teachers, no one knew that the special guest would attend.
After the meeting ended, Billy Joel expressed to Ms. Lasher that he was glad he could attend, and he wished that he had more time to talk to the students.
Since 2016, a brand new FAPA wing was proposed to Oyster Bay High School, but construction didn’t begin until the start of the 2017-18 school year. Every day, construction workers worked tirelessly to build the new wing in time for the beginning of the 2018 school year, and the builders managed to finish the wing during the summer of 2018.
The workers insisted that they would finish before the start of the 2018 school year. However, many were doubtful, especially since construction started a year later than planned. “It was hard to believe,” Mr. Michael Gianetta, teacher of the 7th and 8th grade band, admitted. “We couldn’t believe how far they had gotten, but at the same time we couldn’t believe that they would be ready for the school year. It was impressive that they managed to stick with that timeline.”
The new music wing includes a larger chorus and band room; band students even have their own individual lockers to store their instruments.
The Art Department also benefits from the new wing. A new sculpture room, located next to the band room, has been built, and new 3D printers have been provided for art students and teachers.
“It’s a wonderful resource for students who participate in the arts,” Muskan Kumar, a sophomore and member of the OBHS Mixed Chorus, commented. “It’s really nice, and I’m glad we have it.”
It’s evident that the OBEN-CSD greatly appreciates its Fine and Performing Arts Department, and students are extremely grateful for the new wing and the exciting visit from Billy Joel. The FAPA Wing will bring new opportunities for a myriad of students at OBHS for years to come.