South Orangetown Central School District

Tappan Zee High School seniors Cassandra Bartels, Palak Oza and Yena Shin have been selected to perform in the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) 2019 All-Eastern Honors Ensembles at The David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, April 4-7! Cassie (soprano) will perform with the All-Eastern Honors Treble Chorus, Palak (viola) will perform with the All-Eastern Honors Orchestra and Yena (piccolo) will perform with the All-Eastern Honors Band.

All three musicians have distinguished themselves as accomplished musicians over the course of their high school careers, earning New York State School Music Association All-State and Area All-State recognition. Cassie, who also plays trombone, was the first TZHS student to earn All-National honors and performed with the NAfME 2018 All-National Honors Mixed Chorus at Walt Disney World in November.

Cassie, Palak and Yena entered the district’s music program in fourth-grade at Cottage Lane Elementary School. “The lessons in the beginning were different from other classes,” Palak recalls. “The way we learned positions was by making a ‘little doggy with buck teeth.’ Mr. Rossi had a picture of (renowned violinist) Jascha Heifetz and told us to hold our violas as high as Jascha. I definitely overdid it and held my viola way too high that first year, it was a great environment and we did a lot of fun stuff.”

Early encouragement made an impact on Yena, as well. “We began playing our instruments through school in fourth grade and Mr. Yassky prompted us to do NYSSMA. I’ve done it every year since then.”

“Music has helped me academically and really given me a focus,” says Cassie, who began playing trombone in fourth-grade and joined the chorus in fifth-grade. “Playing with bands has helped me learn when I should shine and when I should let others shine.”

For the All-Eastern event, Cassie, Palak and Yena will prepare remarkably challenging music with assistance from TZHS Choral Director Dr. Russell Wagoner, Orchestra Director Jon Rossi and Music Department Team Leader William Hughes–to whom they gave special shout-outs–to perform under the leadership of prominent conductors.

All-Eastern Honors Ensembles performers are recommended by state music educators associations in the Eastern Division, which encompasses Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island Vermont and Europe. Musicians selected to perform in all-state festivals are eligible to apply; those who ranked highest statewide for performances at the previous spring’s solo festivals are chosen for All-Eastern Honors Ensembles.

Congratulations, Cassie, Palak and Yena!

Three female musicians holding instruments