The 39th Annual District Music Festival sponsored by the Sewanhaka Central High School District will be held at New Hyde Park Memorial High School on Thursday, Feb. 3 at 8 p.m. This much-anticipated event features the most talented young musicians from each of the district's five schools. These students, selected by audition, will perform as members of a district orchestra, band and choir under the direction of three noted guest conductors. Each of these musicians brings a prestigious background to Sewanhaka's Festival.
Peter Katcher will conduct the orchestra. Katcher is orchestra director in the Massapequa Public Schools and serves on the board of the Nassau Music Educators Association (NMEA) and the Long Island String Festival Association (LISFA). He has performed as principal cellist with the Allegro Chamber Ensemble in London and Paris, and as principal cellist with numerous regional orchestras, including performances at Carnegie Hall.
The band will be conducted by Randy Knudsen, director of bands for Manhasset High School, which includes directing ensembles for percussion, jazz as well as the Competitive Marching Band. As percussionist, Knudsen has performed with a variety of musical groups sponsored by Canon, Royal Caribbean Cruises and the National Women's Tennis Association, and has appeared on stage at Carnegie Hall.
Alexander Dashnaw will conduct the chorus. He is currently director of Choral Activities at the CW Post campus of Long Island University. In addition to conducting a wide variety of choral groups and workshops, he is artistic director for several music festivals, including the Tilles Choral Festival, the Manhattan, Chicago, Pacific and Atlantic Choral Festivals, the Jubilee in Washington and the Strathclyde in Scotland. Among his many credits, Dashnaw has conducted the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and Manhattan Chorale in concerts at the Kennedy Center and at Carnegie Hall.
This year the festival is dedicated to Robert Burgess. Burgess has lived in Elmont for more than 60 years and served his community for 36 years as a member of the Elmont Board of Education, where he was elected president four times. He also represented Elmont on the Sewanhaka Central High School District Board of Education for 15 years. During this time, Burgess received honors as a lifetime member of PTA, presented by the Elmont Interschool Council of PTA, and was named Public Educator of the Year by the Hofstra University Chapter of Phi Delta Kappa. During World War II he served as Major in the Army, followed by an additional 26 years in the Reserves.
Before retiring, he was corporate financial officer of a $14 billion corporation. He and his wife Helen live in Stewart Manor. They have three children and five grandchildren. According to Martin Cernese, president of the Sewanhaka Board of Education, Burgess is being honored for a lifetime of service that has inspired others to improve their community. Dr. George Goldstein, superintendent of schools, added, "He represents the best in the American spirit."
Robert Evans, District Music Festival chairperson, announced that over 300 students from all five Sewanhaka District high schools will participate in the 2000 District Festival. The concert will take place at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 3 at New Hyde Park Memorial High School. Tickets are available through the music departments of all the district high schools or at the door for $6.