Billy Joel and his foundation pledge $1.5 million donation to Long Island High School for the Arts

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OWhen Long Island High School for the Arts was in danger of closing six years ago, it was the Piano Man himself who helped — donating $1 million from the Billy Joel Foundation.

Joel, the Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter, and his foundation recently pledged an additional $1.5 million to the program. Syosset Specialty School trains future performers and those working behind the scenes in the arts as part of Nassau County BOCES.

When the plans are finalized, funding from Joel’s foundation will be disbursed over several years and used for projects mutually agreed upon by the foundation and Nassau BOCES, school officials said.

The artist and his foundation “have worked with us to develop the program and with ideas to improve it,” said Bob Dillon, Nassau BOCES District Superintendent.

What there is to know

Long Island High School for the Arts was in danger to close six years ago and then received a $1 million gift from the Billy Joel Foundation.

Joel, the Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter a Hicksville native recently pledged an additional $1.5 million to the program.

The specialized school of Syosset trains future interpreters and those who work behind the scenes in the arts as part of Nassau County BOCES.

Joel, who grew up in Hicksville, is a longtime advocate for the school of the arts and a general supporter of music education, often crediting Hicksville High School’s music program with helping him. to launch his successful career.

Long Island High School for the Arts, founded in 1973, has seen an increase in enrollment in recent years and is on track to enroll about 300 students next fall, one of its largest classes ever. About 200 are currently registered.

“We are incredibly proud of LIHSA’s momentum and its positive impact on the next generation of Long Island artists,” Joel and his wife, Alexis, said in a statement. “The vision of Nassau BOCES and the LIHSA team to develop a creative solution [Career and Technical Education] the school program has inspired us to continue our support….”

The school, starting next fall, will launch a multimedia journalism program and move its game design, audio and video production, and digital filmmaking programs from the Barry Career & Technical Education Center in Westbury to the site. of Syosset. That is likely to push enrollment to around 300 students, BOCES said.

In 2016, when it threatened to close, the school had 138 students.

“Transformation is the result of the leadership of the [arts school] building,” Dillon said. “They’ve increased the curriculum — it’s very rigorous, and it’s the perfect launch pad for young kids who really want to pursue the arts.”

The school, the only one of its kind on Long Island, maintains working relationships with numerous companies and professional organizations, including the American Ballet Theater, Roundabout Theater Co., and DreamWorks Recording Studio. Graduates went on to work on Broadway and in nationally recognized arts organizations.

Daniella Gomez, 17, a junior at East Meadow High School who has a background in competitive dance, is studying ballet under Stephen Campanella, one of American Ballet Theater’s resident instructors. Gomez wants to become a dance teacher.

“Having professional staff has been great for me,” Gomez said, adding that she learned several different dance styles. “I’m very grateful.”

About two years ago, the school gained approval from the state Department of Education to offer vocational and technical education programs. Becoming a technical school – similar to schools that offer training in trades such as plumbing or carpentry – means that districts that do not have a technical program cannot refuse a student’s request to attend the school. Arts.

Previously, the arts school was listed as a gifted and talented school, giving districts discretion to send students. Students can take several technical pathways at school, including performing arts, visual and media arts, and production and management arts.

The school primarily serves juniors and seniors, although it may accept younger students. Students usually attend school for two years, but may stay longer. They spend half the day in the classroom taking lessons in a variety of subjects, from dance to special effects makeup. Students must audition or submit a portfolio of work to be accepted.

The base tuition that districts pay to send students to school is $15,382 per student, but discounts are available for districts that send more than one student.

Currently, parents still need permission from the school district for their children to apply to participate in a BOCES program. Nassau BOCES officials support proposed state legislation that would give parents the right to directly enroll their children in BOCES vocational and technical education programs, if they are admitted. Dillon said this will lead to greater enrollment growth.

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