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September 22, 2004

Quintet's performance a resounding success

From: Newsday, NY - Sep 22, 2004

LI Philharmonic ensemble's visit opens up world of music to children


September 22, 2004

Music did not play a part inC.J. Artinian's life until Tuesday when he met the Long Island Philharmonic Brass Quintet.

Although his teachers aren't sure what the live music sounded like to the 6-year-old, who could not hear until after he received his cochlear implant two months ago, they can be certain of one thing -- it was good.

"I like the music," said C.J. of Glen Cove, whose entire family is deaf. "I never heard the music," he said when asked about life before the implant. Even his observation about the melodic discovery would have been impossible until recently: "It was loud."

Eighteen other students from Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf also experienced the quintet's ensembles. As the music played, some students placed their hands on the floor to feel vibrations, others bobbed their heads and a few clapped.

Of the group, eight had cochlear implants, a mechanism that sends sound through a receiver, bypasses the ear and arrives directly at the auditory nerve and the brain. Others wore hearing aids and a few had no device at all, yet all participated in the musical experience.

"Music is something not offered to deaf children because they've never been able to benefit from it," said Fran Bogdanoff, the school's assistant superintendent. "Now with better hearing aids and cochlear implants, they have a much broader ability to hear and take advantage of these sounds."

During the half-hour presentation at the school, the children experienced music through several senses. They felt large and small cymbals for various vibrations.

They giggled and buzzed their lips together, after a prompt from the quintet's trombone player.

They watched in amazement as blue tissue paper covering the tuba's bell puffed out with each sound. Aaron Kelly, 7, placed his ear so close to the tuba that its unexpected bellow forced him to jump back.

For the second-, third- and fourth-graders, nothing was more rewarding than putting a song they had been learning for nearly three days to music. Smiles emerged on several faces as the quintet started the refrain to "This Old Man."

Loud and soft voices rose above the music: "This old man, he played one, he played knick-knack on my thumb." The children slapped their laps and clapped on beat.

"This makes it very real," said second-grade teacher Maureen Guarnieri. "It brings it out of a book and TV show and helps them put pieces together."

Both the orchestra and the school plan to begin fund-raising next month, hoping to develop a yearlong music program for the students. Neil Birnbaum, the orchestra's executive director, estimated the program could cost about $100,000.

It didn't take long for the children to show their approval of the program.

As Guarnieri accompanied her students back to their classroom, loud shouts and hums filled the air.

"Is she crying?" asked one concerned teacher who rushed to the hall to see what happened.

"No, she's playing her trumpet," Guarnieri explained.

Copyright © 2004, Newsday, Inc.