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Living Like a Horn

Living Like a Horn

By Joshua Melchione

Josh Melchione

The horn curves, twists and bends. So do the sounds that I produce when I play the instrument, my companion since the age of eight. My life encompasses the qualities of the horn. Even when I am not playing, I do not walk a straight line. I am curving, twisting and bending through each chapter of my life. Like the horn, I am versatile. The sound of the horn is directed in the mouthpiece and grows steadily as it reaches the bell, producing diverse melodies. In the same way, my interests are focused but dispersed, ranging from music to skating to physics.

Five months ago, I performed on a stage that felt like Broadway as one of 21 backup singers for Patti LuPone, a graduate of my school who has performed in many Broadway musicals, including Evita. Although I was not performing with my horn, I channeled the spirit of my instrument. The excitement of singing on stage reminded me of playing “Concerto No. 1 in E♭ Major” on my horn. Like the piece, I aimed to be expressive and dynamic when performing with Patti.

At 16, I was inspired to begin figure skating after watching a competition on television. Initially, lessons were difficult, but I continued drawing on my experience from the horn, one of the most difficult brass instruments.

I am clearly the oldest in my figure skating classes, but this does not bother me. I push ahead, looking back, around, and forward so as not to crash. When I fall, I pause and think about what I need to do to get better, then I move on and try again. I am always making adjustments because those who become complacent don’t improve. My time playing the horn imparts these same lessons. In a way, skating is much like the song “Vocalise” by Sergei Rachmaninoff, with its long sustained tones, connected by flowing, faster rhythms.

In figure skating, every move is constructed from distinct different parts. Finer movements combine to form jumps and spins. Alone, each part appears simple. However, after trying the full move a couple of times, I always realize the importance of the smaller pieces–the curves that are often forgotten in the constant movement of life.

There is also a song for physics. “Romance” by C. Saint-Saȅns is elegant and flowing. The piece itself is symmetrical and each note is connected to the last. Have you ever witnessed something so amazing that you couldn’t wait to share it? That’s my relationship with physics, highlighted by the rhythm of “Romance.” There is always a fascinating application or demonstration to discover, just waiting around the corner. A physics problem is a puzzle with a certain amount of known information and a goal, relying on problem solving and knowledge to find a solution. Each small success creates excitement and brings me closer to solving the puzzle.

What do physics, instruments, flags, and kickline all have in common? At first thought, not much. However, they are all part of my experience with the Northport Tiger Marching Band. Many sets rely on straight lines or smooth curves, which are not effective if people aren’t in their spots. In moving between spots, good timing is needed to ensure that people don’t bump into each other. People need to be in step with the music and everyone else.

When I am marching, I am moving, playing, and entertaining all with the horn in my hand. I appear both delicate and confident, just as the horn’s role can change very rapidly. From producing off-beats in the background to performing a solo on center stage, I am often adapting to the situation at hand. Music, skating, and physics all involve fast thinking, requiring a quick reaction to the situation at hand. Because of my interests, I have become versatile, hoping to apply this strength to my future studies and career.
Joshua Melchione, a freshman in the Honors Program at Northeastern University, is a graduate of Northport High School.

Never Too Fast For Sister Speedy

by McKenzie Hayes

They call her “Sister Speedy.” She stands four feet eleven, dressed in a white habit, black cowl, sheer skin tone stockings, and black Reebok sneakers. The frigid air in her science lab prevents us from falling asleep and her heavy tapping on the smart board keeps us attentive. Her real name is Sister Eileen and her message is always stern and straight to the point: “Girls, I’m really tired of telling everyone to be quiet, if you don’t learn anything this year in my classroom, it is fine with me but what you will learn is respect.”

My nose picked up a wretched smell of nail polish one day in Sister Eileen’s chemistry class.  I looked to my left and Kelly was painting her nails. She felt my stare and passed me a smile.  Soon her nail salon secret was out and the whole class was sharing short, subtle giggles. Minutes later, the smiles subsided and turned into shocked faces.  I was the last to notice the pale look on Kelly’s  face as if she saw a ghost. A puddle of black nail polish seeped into the cracks of tile. We knew we would never hear the end of this if Sister found out.

I slumped down in my chair,  gave Kelly a disappointed look, raised my hand and asked to go to the bathroom. I knew if I didn’t do it, no one would. I ran to the bathroom and gathered as many paper towels as I could fit in my bra, pockets, and blazer and returned to class and passed them to Stephanie, who passed them to Kaela, who passed them to Kelly. We couldn’t keep a secret from Sister Speedy who saw the passing and the puddle. She launched into a long speech about our school being a learning environment, not a nail salon. Ending her speech, she changed tactics: Putting her hand on her hip and walking back to the smart board, she said, “Now what would be a good way to clean up nail polish?” Kelly, being the guilty one, raised her hand and said “Alcohol solution” with a smile. We all laughed. Sister Speedy even cracked a smile.

I met her in ninth grade.  She was also a teacher at Aquinas when my mother attended the school 30 years ago. Her way of teaching changed my life as a learner. In middle school, I was the girl who never had that push to achieve or take risks. I came to high school with that attitude. If I didn’t get something right the first time, I would give up. I might start my math homework and not even look at the notes on the problems and live with just getting the wrong answer. Yeah, that was me. A hunch controlled me with the message that I would never become anything. I would certainly not be a lawyer like my mother.  I would never make her proud or better yet, make myself proud.

When I carried the negative attitude about myself into Sister Eileen’s biology class in 9th grade, she wouldn’t accept it. Her message was clear: “Listen, apply yourself, and study, and you will do well.”  She inspired me to want to learn. Suddenly I skipped movie dates and parties with my friends and stayed home making crossword puzzles online with biology terms.  I started constantly going to Staples to buy note cards and glittery pens to make it seem fun. I think the cashier grew tired of seeing me.

Suddenly, I was tired of being that girl who just passed. I no longer could look down at my paper and shrug  at a 66 or hear my mother say: “At least you tried.” That’s not what I needed to hear.  My performance wasn’t good enough. I am now a senior who loves learning. I walk into school with a smile on my face (even when I have a triple period class of math.) Sister Speedy also influenced me to help other people by watching her full dedication to putting others’ needs before her own. It has opened my eyes in seeing that I too also enjoy helping people.

When my mother saw this interest my sophomore year, she encouraged me to work at an event called the East Harlem Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner. On the day before Thanksgiving, this annual event receives donations of food from restaurants to feed the homeless. I distributed flyers to people on the street, organized a group of my friends to join the effort, and also served dinner. I still remember the excitement when I first put on the hair net and plastic gloves. I watched the place fill saw the smiles on the faces of people who were so happy to get a meal  the day before Thanksgiving. It wasn’t just any meal either; there was a live band with tables full of different foods, desserts, and balloons. It looked like the exquisite dinners in a Harry Potter movie.

Sister Eileen helped me believe in myself enough to aspire to help others to respect themselves. In some small way, this happens at the East Harlem Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner. Sister Eileen also taught me that good lessons are always around us. They come as easily as the formation of a puddle of nail polish on the tile of a classroom floor.

McKenzie Hayes, a graduate of the Aquinas High School in the Bronx,  just finished her freshman at Northeastern University.