Arts and Entertainment

History of The Arts at Blind Brook

Over the 51 years Blind Brook has had its doors open, the arts program at the school has seen many different instructors and gone through many different students. To gather the true history of Blind Brook Arts, I spoke to two different teachers who have been a major part of the program for a decent amount of time. Additionally, I was able to speak to an alumnus of Blind Brook who played and continues to play a huge part in the theater program. 

  The first teacher I spoke to was Mr. Whitman, the current middle school band instructor. He first came to Blind Brook in the spring of 2002, as construction of the current auditorium and middle school wing was underway. At the time, Howard Levy was teaching band, and Gabe DeAngelo was teaching chorus. Before Mr. Levy and Mr. DeAngelo, the iconic George Trautwein and Gary Cialfi ran the department. Currently, Mrs. Dakers, Mrs. Lazere, Miss Treacy, and Miss Ceresoli are all more recent influences in building the theater program at Blind Brook. His initial impression of the institution was that it was small. The high school band never convened in full; instead, they were divided into several groups, each with a different instrument arranged according to schedule, and the class sizes and building sizes were reduced. Only a few times before the concert did Mr. Levy get to see the entire band together, but he worked incredibly hard to keep his students interested. The band and chorus shared the stage, which was in the LGI at the time. The new band room’s floor was once the LGI’s previous stage, and it still contains traces of the original “office,” where the pit bands for the musicals were frequently positioned. It is hard to believe that the LGI served as the school’s theater, but Mr. Trautwein and Mr. DeAngelo both put on wonderful productions in that space. “When I began teaching here in September, the school looked much different. The new auditorium was completed (though the balcony required some modifications), and the bands were now able to meet collectively in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade, as well as in high school. The same was true for the chorus.  “Slowly, we were able to build a larger and larger program as Mr. DiMiceli and Mr. Mariconda sent more and more dedicated and excited students up to the new middle school,” said Mr. Whitman. Mrs. Lazere eventually arrived to take charge of the choral program, and the music department had begun to establish the Select Ensembles, which are still in operation today. These bands are still expanding and have garnered recognition from numerous festivals. Further, Mr. Lotze was able to establish a digital music program and a two-tiered band program where all students meet every day. Mr. Lotze arrived in 2019, right before the COVID pandemic struck. After Mrs. Lazere moved to Scarsdale, Ms. Cerasoli assumed leadership and has seen her chorus members succeed in numerous school plays. The Select Chorus in the middle school is now composed of around fifty students, and the high school chorus numbers grow every year. 

The second teacher that I was able to gain information from was Christina Colangelo. After speaking to her, I was able to learn more about the history of theater at Blind Brook. Toward the end of Mr. DeAngelo’s time, the theater department had stalled, but Ms. Colangelo took charge in 2007 and gave it a comprehensive makeover. She has worked hard to give theater students an enjoyable, welcoming, worthwhile, and professional experience. I discovered that since its founding in 1973, Blind Brook High School has participated in musical shows. These have included reviews as well as big Broadway-style shows. Blind Brook High School puts on two full-length productions a year: a play and a musical. The play is often held in the fall, while the musical is typically held in the spring. Blind Brook has been nominated for numerous theater awards throughout the years, and it takes great pride in the accolades and honors it has garnered. Ms. Colangelo said, “But for me, the biggest reward is seeing alumni from our theater program and their parents return to performances as audience members.” These productions have been a very valuable asset to the Blind Brook schools and their community. Together with her sister Julie Colangelo and brother-in-law Zach Dore, Ms. Colangelo has earned a name for herself as a top music director in Westchester, making Blind Brook’s musicals a must-see every year!

In addition, I spoke to Hope Klein, a past student who was involved in the arts, and a now-parent who has a student involved in the arts. She said that many individuals come to our school for the arts, and many very gifted and successful people go through it. The arts or the school receive large numbers of visitors. It’s not always possible to have enough money, and one of the main reasons we received as many nominations as we did this year was to demonstrate to the school district that we deserved the opportunity to grow; nonetheless, many gifted individuals have come through and established themselves at Blind Brook in the arts. She believes that in general, theater programs around the country do not receive the funding they deserve. I then asked her to describe her experiences as a student in the arts at Blind Brook. “So I started at Blind Brook knowing that I wanted to do acting, and the theater program was something that just helped support me, as I knew that it was something that I could do.” In addition, she spoke more about George Troutwein and his contribution to the school district. He is now honored, with his tag being the name that was given to the theater. She said, “George Troutwein was our choral director and our theater director. He was a very talented musician. He had a great understanding of music, especially choral music. And so, he was just always trying to make us better, teach us more, and open our eyes up to everything outside this little, tiny world of Port Chester.” One of her favorite aspects of the theater program is that the LGI still resembles what she remembers; the platforms, the stairs, and the doors that she used to bounce her voice up against the back of are still the same. It is nice that we have a real theater. She said, “Year after year, you get to see how the kids grow, get confidence, and build friendships and connections.” 

The arts provide a powerful avenue for children to express themselves freely, without fear of judgment. Within the arts, students can explore a wide range of roles, ensuring that each student can find a niche in which they can thrive and take genuine interest. The program at Blind Brook has been influenced by many factors, all of which have contributed and drawn attention to its current success.