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Sea Cliff students make sweet music for spring concert

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A song nearly three years in the making will soon be heard for the first time in the halls of Sea Cliff Elementary School, and it was inspired by the school’s motto: “Build a better world.” Its lyrics were written by Sea Cliff fifth-graders, and its music was written by the composer Carl Strommen.

The school’s official anthem, “We Are the Heroes,” will debut at the annual spring concert on May 15, which will be open to the community. The commissioned piece brought together the school’s band, chorus and orchestra as a way of getting the children to collaborate, and think about what it means to be a student at Sea Cliff School.

Band director Jodie Larson said that she and her colleagues — music teacher Ashley Hasset-Bordes and orchestra director Kevin Haas — were intrigued by the idea of giving students the chance to work with a well-known composer and write a song about their school.

“The students were really excited to have the opportunity to play such a big role in the writing process,” Larson said. “They knew that this song would outlive their time at Sea Cliff School, and that it would be something that they could always look back on.”

Larson contacted Strommen, of Glen Head, to ask if he would compose the song’s musical accompaniment. She said that having someone of his caliber write music for the district he lives in “seemed like a perfect fit.” “We wanted to teach [the students] about the compositional process, but we also wanted them to be collaborators with each other and Mr. Strommen,” Larson said. “This project required the students to approach music in a new and innovative way.”

Strommen earned a degree in English literature from Long Island University and a master’s in music from the City College of New York. He studied orchestration under Manny Albam, a famed jazz composer, and Rayburn Wright, who taught jazz studies and contemporary media at the Eastman School of Music. He also studied composition under Stefan Wolpe, a German-born composer. His publishers include Warner Bros., Belwin, Barnhouse and Kendor, and his compositions and arrangements are performed worldwide. Strommen is also an adjunct graduate professor of orchestration, arranging and composition at LIU Post.

He visited Sea Cliff School in 2018 to discuss his career as a composer, and suggested that the students write the anthem’s lyrics to best capture the school’s motto. After his visit, the current fifth-graders — who were then fourth-graders — worked with Sea Cliff parent and poet Matthew Curiale to brainstorm ideas about “building a better world.” Once a general idea was chosen, Strommen began to write the music.

Principal Dr. Chris Zublionis said the song is about “building a better self and building a better world. I think the title is a perfect representation for everything we hope for at Sea Cliff School: that we can all use our superpowers to build a better world.”

Larson recalled the extraordinary energy in the room when more than 120 students from Sea Cliff’s band, chorus and orchestra rehearsed the anthem for the first time. Having the “students come together to perform a piece written specifically for them and their school was really incredible to see,” she said, “especially since they had a hand in its creation.”

Strommen encouraged the community to come out and witness a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Sea Cliff’s students. “I attended the first combined rehearsal last week, and everything is coming together nicely,” he said. “The kids work hard at what they do and should be recognized.”

Zublionis added, “Our music faculty and performers are world-class, and the anthem’s first performance is the beginning of an important tradition.”

“We Are The Heroes” will be published by Carl Fischer Music, based in Manhattan.