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School’s closed, but concerts carry on for Sea Cliff teacher

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Shortly after school closed because of the coronavirus in mid-March, the Sea Cliff Elementary School band director, Jodie Larson, heard a trumpet outside her Sea Cliff home. The song was one she teaches, and she hurried onto her porch to see its source.

There she found one of her students, Marco Camps, leaning out the passenger’s-side window of his mother’s car, playing his trumpet while his mom held his sheet music. Larson, 62, smiled and recorded the drive-by serenade on her phone.

She posted the video of Marco’s performance on social media, and it received more attention than she expected. Within days, current and former students were driving by her home to play for her, which, she said, brought her immense joy.

“This has really brightened my days,” Larson said. “I’m in my house alone, so this has been a connection to see the students who live in town. I get to have students come by, and they’re still motivated to play, and it’s inspiring me and inspiring them . . . I love it.”

Wes Petersen, a fifth-grade drummer in the SCE band, came by next. He set up a snare drum on the street and played part of a piece that he was to perform at the New York State School Music Association festival, which was canceled because of the coronavirus.

Weslater returned with a drum set on his father’s pickup truck and his sister, Ava, now a North Shore Middle School student, brought her electric bass. The two staged a short rock concert for Larson, which was fun and meaningful, Wes said.

“It’s really nice to play for her because she always smiles after, and she always looks out for us,” he said. “She’s a really good music teacher, so I like to see her smile, even though there’s stuff going on.”

Wes’s mother, Denise, said the students’ desire to play for Larson shows how much she means to them. SCE’s concerts are incredible, she said, and it means a great deal to the students to be able to show their appreciation for her.

Todd Borom and his fourth-grade son, Cody, visited Larson with their trumpets after she sent them an email invitation. After playing “Amazing Grace” and James Brown’s “Cold Sweat,” Cody said he felt good knowing he had made his teacher happy. Todd, a trumpet player since childhood, said it meant the world to him to share the experience with his son.

“It’s great to be able to share this with not only Jodie,” he said, “but also the community because it brings people joy and it lets them see the young kids do something that makes us all smile, in spite of all that’s going on.”

Larson, who has lived in Sea Cliff for 26 years and taught at SCE since 2002, said she appreciates hearing students play instruments of all sorts. Although the flute is her main instrument, she also plays clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, trombone and percussion, all of which she teaches at a professional level.