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Former student, teacher team up for CD release

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East Rockaway High School graduate Tommy Barone always wanted to sing -- that is, when he wasn’t playing football. His dream of putting together holiday music with his mentor, along with some new and some old friends, will come to fruition Dec. 3 when they will celebrate the release of their first CD “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” with selections from the CD, in the Hays Theatre at Molloy College from 3 to 5 p.m.

“Music has always been a big part of my life,” said Barone, now 32. “But this is very special because this project is dedicated to my father. He loved my singing, and he really wanted me to do this…so this is my opportunity. And to do it with my friend and mentor, Dan Ezell, makes it such a blessing.” Barone’s father, Ignacio (Eddie) Barone, died in 2013.

A few years ago, Barone approached Ezell, his former music teacher who had since retired from the East Rockaway School District, with the idea to put together a musical compilation. “I presented it to Dan, and he ran with it.”

The two met in 1999 at East Rockaway Jr./Sr. High School when Barone was an 8th-grader. It was Ezell’s first year teacher music in the district. “We got Tommy involved in music back then, asking him to be a part of a barbershop quartet, and now we’ve come full circle,” said Ezell. “Most of the ensemble are former students of mine. It’s been such a thrill producing this CD…I miss working in music every day.” Living in Queens, he said it wasn’t easy finding a suitable recording studio on Long Island until he came upon Dream Studios in Bellmore, where the CD was produced.

Barone was born on April 1, 1985 in a diabetic coma (his mother had undiagnosed gestational diabetes). But “he fooled us all,”said his mother, Karenlyn Barone, also of East Rockaway.

At the junior high level, he was in the district’s musical productions and played football straight through his senior year. “He was the first Long Island high school student to play varsity football with a physical disability,” said Karenlyn. He also received Newsday’s “Unsung Hero” award. In his senior year at ERHS, he received the New York state Riddell 12th Man Award for being an inspirational player, presented at Syracuse University. He is a Molloy College Class of 2010 graduate, and was a member of the Concert Choir there. He currently works in the East Rockaway School District.

“Tommy’s dad loved music and especially loved Tommy’s voice,” said Karenlyn. “He would play Italian music for him - mostly the classics - and told Tommy how he hoped he would record his voice so he could always have it with him. When he died four years ago, Tommy decided to record the CD.”

It took a year to record, and Ezell brought in some of his most talented former students from East Rockaway. Four of the voices are either current students at Molloy or are employed there. The CD features a variety of solos and duets, with a mixture of styles and original works.

“I wish my father was here to hear it,” said an emotional Barone. “But this is the right time, the right place. He’d be very proud.”