Volume 2, Number 2 | August 2020
Note from the Executive Director
Leslie smiles as she sits on a wicker chair. She wears a white blouse.

I am happy to shout from the mountaintops that we are among the fortunate not-for-profits who are still operating.  FMDG Music School (‘The Fil’) is like the ‘little engine that could’. When challenges arise, we explore the silver linings.  When COVID-19 roared into NYC, we transitioned smoothly to remote teaching. When latency difficulties with online platforms for singing and playing together arose, we met with our ensembles to share information on how to create virtual performances by our master in-house teachers/audio engineers.  When isolation issues became prevalent in house-bound people, we reached out to remain in contact with each other—weekly!

I believe that it is fair to say that “The Fil” has hit a new stride with virtual classes and online teaching.  Online teaching will never substitute for in-person music lessons, ensemble rehearsals and performances, but we have discovered that some classes, like those we offered this summer, work very well virtually and offer us the ability to reach more students nationwide.

I look forward to sending updates and progress reports to all of you, our constituents, as we travel through these unprecedented times.  Thank you for helping us succeed in our remarkable journey.  — Leslie

Summer school was a buzz with activity and joy in learning!  In addition to our regular teaching of individual lessons, our team expanded the curriculum to include a wonderfully rich assortment of specialized courses.  

But don’t take our word for it:

“…my admiration to all your faculty and staff for the wonderful work that all do enriching the lives of your talented students.”  -- Robert Osborne, Operatic Artist

“It was such a pleasure talking to your insightful and curious students. And equally fun to reminisce about how great  Noye's Fludde  was. Every time I work with you all, I just want to do more of it. So here's to the next collaboration indeed.” –  Sarah Meyers, Metropolitan Opera Stage Director

"I am delighted to work with the FMDG students this summer session. It is a season of idea-sharing, lively good humor and collegiality, and positive musicianship. I am particularly impressed with the flexibility of the participants, who are embracing new technologies with grace and aplomb! These are musicians all on their way to great things."  --  Lisa Johnson, Director Emeritus of FMDG Music School

“Working with FMDG students outside of their individual lessons is opening their eyes to so many other aspects of music, art, and being an artist! They rise to the challenge every week by keeping an open mind, soaking up fresh information, and applying it- a true pleasure for any teacher or mentor to see.” -  Michelle Trovato, vocal artist and FMDG Music School faculty member

  • While we were all disappointed to have to cancel our “The Fil at the Met” concert in April, we teamed up with our partners at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and added to our shared experiences.  Rebecca McGinnis, Senior Managing Educator, Accessibility and FMDG Music School faculty member Juan Pablo Horcasitas co-taught a course entitled “Impressionism through Art and Music”.  Oh, the pleasures of sustaining this valued partnership!

  • We were fortunate to apply for and receive a Payroll Protection Program loan/grant on May 1.  We are grateful for the assistance of Alex Bahary, VP of Nonprofits for JP Morgan Chase Bank, who helped usher us through that process to success.  All of our teachers and staff were able to remain employed through the academic year and those who chose to participate in our special summer offerings worked through August 1!

  • The Filomen M. D’Agostino Greenberg Music School has received approval from the US Patent and Trademark Office for our official name and its two nicknames, FMDG Music School and The Fil. 

  • We continue to solidify our base of administrative operations.  We have recently hired a part-time bookkeeper, an accounting firm for tax preparation/audit, and have added two wonderful members to our Board of Directors.  

Meet Christy Bihm, Treasurer, and Mario Pinho, Chair of our Investment Committee!  

Christy Bihm  recently appointed as Treasurer for the Board of Directors, is a long time supporter of the Music School. As a Managing Director at Deloitte & Touche LLP with 23 years of experience, Christy holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from the University of Colorado, Boulder and is a Certified Public Accountant and a member of the American institute of Certified Public Accountants. Christy lives in Stamford, Connecticut with her husband, Charlie and their two Labradors, Betty and Maggie.

Mario Pinho  is a finance veteran with more than 20 years of experience in financial experience in financial services, digital marketing and e-commerce. As CFO of Rakuten Americas, he is responsible for developing, implementing, and integrating financial strategies for the US region.  Mario has held executive financial positions at Rakuten Marketing, American Express, KPMG and PwC.  Mario lives in NYC and in Provincetown, MA with his husband, Matt, and their chocolate lab mix Gunnar.
Comprehensive Music Program for Young People Alumni Association

More than twenty years ago Dr. Dalia Sakas began talking about a children’s music program on Saturdays. She asked, “How can we ever grow the Music School without having young people to pass through our doors?”  Eighteen years later, the Music School is certainly seeing the wonderful results of launching young people into their respective futures.    Our students have remained in touch or in active participation with FMDG Music School.  They have become wonderful ambassadors and continue to enjoy making music together in various settings.  

Collectively, we have set up an official CMPYP Alumni Association because our graduates have cited FMDG Music School, its faculty and various social, musical, and goal-oriented aspects of CMPYP, as a primary force in fostering confidence and a motivator for further studies and job prospects.
Milica Milic smiling
An international student with deep connections to New York City and to the FMDG Music School,  Milica Milic  is a fascinating subject in this issue. The interview explores Milica's connection to her home country of Montenegro, her studies in the United States as a high schooler and undergraduate, and today as a Hunter College (CUNY) graduate student. Milica and her good friend, Lily Mordaunt, converse about how she stumbled upon the FMDG Music School, the blossoming group of teens who connected with each other through the Comprehensive Music Program for Young People, and how Milica has felt throughout the pandemic and navigating the treacherous waters of ICE relating to foreign students. A powerful example of life having no boundaries! Please read the interview  here ."
Interview and article by Lily Mordaunt. Lily   is one of our multi-talented students, currently pursuing her degree in creative writing, working as an editorial intern all while writing her blog Mending Misconceptions .
Yerko at piano
Originally from Chile,  Yerko Difonis  has always known that he wanted to pursue music professionally.  Obtaining proper music instruction and pursuing music professionally has not always been easy, and couldn’t be fully obtained in his native country. His journey ended up leading him to the United States, settling in New Jersey.   
Piano lessons at the Filomen M. D'Agostino Greenberg Music School with Dalia Sakas, learning braille music with John Sanfilippo, and SONAR with Yo Kano became the center of Yerko’s musical life.  A few years later, despite having to leave the United States, Yerko was able to stay in contact with FMDG teachers. For but one example, Dalia mailed Yerko braille music as there are no braille music catalogs in Chile. As the FMDG Music School has played such a crucial role in Yerko’s growth as a musician, it is unsurprising to hear him say that his entire music education is due to the FMDG Music School.  He states that it is "very important in my life" and “I really appreciate everything the Music School has done for me, even after I left”.
Please read the full interview  here   regarding Yerko and his plans to return to the US and continue pursuing music instruction at the Mason Gross School of Music at Rutgers University this fall!  

Interview and article by Emely Recinos.   Emely is   a spring 2020 NYU graduate in International Studies, an ardent advocate for Disabilities Rights, and pursuing graduate studies in law. 

Vanderlei Pereira,  drummer extraordinaire, alum and faculty, is making quite the splash with his new CD release,  ‘Vision for Rhythm.’   The CD is getting a lot of airtime across the United States and his native Brazil and was named June 2020  Downbeat  Editor’s Pick.  For more information about Vanderlei and to purchase his CD, visit www.vanderleipereira.com .

Disability Unite Festival on Sunday, July 26, 2020
Commemorating 30 years of the Americans with Disability Act!  Disability Unite brought people together from communities all around the world! The message was loud and clear: People with Disabilities are proud, we’re loud and we’ll work together to make ourselves known.

The Disability Unite Festival was a four-hour live streaming event full of music, dance, discussion, live gaming, and much more.   Catch FMDG Music School’s performance highlights video from 2 hr. 28 min. mark !!

PBS American Portraits,  the   crowdsourced storytelling project, spent the week of July 26th recognizing the 30th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. We were invited to participate in this project by sending in our performance highlights video and reaching out to some of our students to share their experience as a musician at the FMDG Music School.
Matthew Herrera singing and gesturing with one hand
Photo by Leslie Jones

Matthew Herrera (age 12) keeps racking up performance opportunities even during the pandemic.  Recently Matthew submitted a video singing ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ and was selected to take part in a grand virtual performance for the opening of Major League Baseball! 
Matthew Whitaker at the piano
Photo by Ben Asen

Matthew Whitaker completed his freshman year at The Juilliard School—virtually of course.  He continues to perform via livestreaming in various outdoors venues. His segment on  60 Minutes  was just rebroadcast on Sunday, July 26 to continued acclaim.
We continue to follow their musical trajectories!
Philanthropy and You
The FMDG Music School students, staff, faculty and Board of Directors thank you for your support.  We know that nonprofits and other personal needs are competing for dollars during this international pandemic and the subsequent economic hardships that families around the world are suffering.  

The FMDG Music School has a strong need for financial support during these times.  Doing our part, we have submitted a record number of grant applications in 2020 and hope that our applications will be received with successful results.  

If possible, please help us expand our goals and outreach by making a contribution.  Please visit our website,  https://www.fmdgmusicschool.org/donate , or mail a check to the School’s official address.  We thank you for helping us in our quest to thrive!

Checks may be made payable to:
The Filomen M. D’Agostino Greenberg Music School (FMDG Music School)
2130 Broadway, Suite 1904
New York, NY  10023