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Harrison High Named Semifinalist For Grammy School Award

The Harrison High School Marching Band enjoys its trip to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Harrison High School Marching Band
The Harrison High School Marching Band plays in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Harrison High School Marching Band

HARRISON, N.Y. — The Harrison High School Performing Arts Department has been named a 2013 Grammy Signature School Award semifinalist, which could lead to a grant of $1,000 to $10,000 for the music program.

“I can’t tell you how thrilling it is – we’re all excited about it,” said marching band director Fred Pasqua. “Naturally, parents and students and school officials are honored, and we’re thrilled. It’s always nice to be recognized. We knew from our concerts and the various activities that we had developed an outstanding program in the arts.”

Harrison High School was one of 20,000 public high schools throughout the country to apply for the award, and now only 129 remain, communications officer Monica Miles said in a statement. One of 15 New York State schools nominated, Harrison has the further distinction of being the only one selected from Westchester, Rockland, Putnam and Dutchess counties, Miles said.

Everyone worked together “toward a common goal” to get this far, Pasqua said, which he called the “ultimate team experience.”

“As music educators, we try to give the students the best experience in the musical arts that we can,” he said. “We have a lot of support. ... It’s a combined team effort. You can’t do this without support from your superintendent, the parents – you need all kinds of support on all levels.”

The National Academy of Recording Arts and Science, responsible for the Grammy Awards, came up with the high school program in 1998, Miles said.

“The Grammy Signature Schools program was created by the Grammy Foundation to recognize top U.S. public high schools that are making an outstanding commitment to music education during the academic school year,” Miles said.

Students who participate in band and other arts programs separate themselves from others when applying to college because of the program's success, Harrison band co-director Charlie Briem said. A University of Michigan admissions officer told him that being involved in the arts “absolutely correlates incredibly with success in college.”

The award-winning Harrison High School marching band, chorus, orchestra, dance and theater programs have traveled to many parades and festivals. The marching band’s performance at the 50th anniversary of the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor was a highlight of last year, Miles said. The chorus and orchestra will  participate in Boston’s Heritage Festival in the spring, she said.

Pasqua, who has been the Harrison High band director since 1990, said he was brought in to shape up a program that “had faltered a bit.”

“I had no idea it would get to this level,” he said. “Things just mushroomed, and the program grew. And as the program grew, the support and the enthusiasm from the school, the community grew, and things just happened. Here we are today.”

Finalists for the Grammy Signature Schools award will be announced in mid-March.

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