South Orangetown Central School District

Composer Penny Rodriguez and TZHS Chorale Director Russell Wagoner

Tappan Zee High School’s Choral Director Russell Wagoner, DMA, has spent the last several months working with pianist, composer and recording artist Penny Rodriguez to develop an original piece, which will premiere at the TZHS Winter Concert on Tuesday, December 19.

“I contacted Penny back in the spring to see if she would be willing to work with us. Our students have performed a variety of her original pieces for their NYSSMA (New York State School Music Association) solos so I thought it would be such a great opportunity for us to work together. I came up with the theme for our music selections, which is light, and Penny and I have spent the last few months writing, tweaking and finalizing the piece,” said Wagoner. The original piece, “The Bowl of Light,” is inspired by an ancient story from Hawaii. “When selecting the songs for our concerts and performances, I always want to make sure the students get to learn about the world and different cultures,” explained Wagoner.

While Rodriguez has composed many songs and has recorded 11 albums, this is her first time writing a piece for a high school chorale group. “It has been so amazing to work with Russell and the members of the Concert Choir and Chorale. I’ve never done anything like this before so I was a little nervous but it has been so fun. I have truly had the most beautiful experience working with these students. They have been so kind and gracious,” said Rodriguez. As she was preparing to visit TZHS last week for rehearsals, she found out that the piece will be published and other groups will have the opportunity to perform the song beginning in 2025. “The song is going to have a life after us which is super exciting,” noted Wagoner. Rodriguez added, “I had no idea it would carry on so I was very excited to be able to announce that to the students when I met with them last week. It’s very hard to get things published these days so we’re very happy!”

To tie in with the theme of light, Wagoner worked with TZHS Art Team Leader Donna Grasso to create an art installation with his music students. Grasso worked with students to create glass mosaics that will be illuminated in the lobby outside of the auditorium for concert-goers to view before the winter concert begins. There will also be a special “light show” to accompany the choral portion of the concert that is designed by TZHS Alumnus Erik Herskowitz.

To see all of the TZHS musicians and vocalists perform and to see the premiere of “The Bowl of Light,” be sure to attend the TZHS Winter Concert on December 19 at 7:00PM in the TZHS Auditorium!