Validating their creative work

Three Hewlett High School students named scholar artists


The three Hewlett High School seniors named Long Island Arts Alliance scholar-artists for this school year take pleasure in the melding of their academic and artistic pursuits.

“This award not only commends us for scholarship but also for artwork and that’s important to me,” said Casey Last, a Hewlett resident, who along with her classmates, Ben Weiss and Sarah Lamsifer were three of 20 Long Island students who were awarded this honor.

The students, under teacher supervision, compiled a portfolio of their work. For Last it was drawings and paintings, for Weiss, who also lives in Hewlett, and Lamsifer, a Valley Stream resident, it was DVDs of performances. Weiss plays the piano and clarinet and his package included a montage of musical theater and contemporary compositions. Lamsifer did monologues from two plays: As Phoebe from Shakespeare’s “As You Like it” and Emily from Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town.”

“I was really happy I received it for academics as well as art as we work so hard to excel in both,” Lamsifer said.

Teachers nominate students toward the end of their junior years. Student nominees must be a graduating senior during the following academic year, have an unweighted grade point average of 90 or higher, submit a performance recording or portfolio of their work and an essay. The applications are submitted by a district administrator. Final selections are made by panels of artists and arts educators.

“All that work pays off in the end,” said Weiss, who for the majority of his life has performed as a solo artist and as a duo with his older sister, Julie, at several local venues from nursing homes to churches, and for audiences in England and Germany.

Though her family “is not an arts family,” she said, Lamsifer’s mother signed her daughter up for voice lessons after she showed an enthusiasm for the songs in the movie “My Fair Lady,” as a fourth-grader.

Artistic since childhood, Last said, “I’ve always worked in the arts, always had that interest and it helped me express my creativity that was shaped by my love of the arts.”

All three students gave credit to Hewlett’s educators for the support they received from District Art Chair Jessica Bayer, art teachers Karen Cunningham and Nick Lacetera, District Director of Music Kevin Bayen and teacher Anthony Santanastao and Dawn DeMaio, a theater teacher, who is the director of the Hewlett Theater Company.

The scholar-artists received a dinner for with their parents, nominating teacher and district arts administrator at the Usdan Center for Creative and Performing Arts in Wheatley Heights on Sept. 20. The students are eligible for scholar-artist scholarships to several Long Island colleges and there will a reception at the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of C.W. Post at the end of the school year, where the students will receive their award and a check for $250.

Plans for that $250 are already being made as the college-bound students are thinking about the most typical of teenage wants: a car. With needs such as college textbooks coming in at a close second.

Having three students selected as scholar-artists is a great reflection of the standards set by the district, Bayer said. “I think it’s a validation of the high quality of the arts program and speaks to the fact that Hewlett-Woodmere has great credibility in this area,” said Bayer, who added that Hewlett High has had at least one finalist or semifinalist since the contest’s inception. This scholar-artist class is the program’s fifth. The Arts Alliance was founded in 2007.