Since 2009, The Justin Veatch Fund has awarded twenty two $1,000 scholarships to graduating high school seniors pursuing further music education. Six scholarships were awarded in 2016 to students from Byram Hills, Carmel, Somers and Yorktown High Schools. Students from all schools in a 25 mile radius of Yorktown are eligible. This June, another round of scholarships will be awarded at a program that will include a keynote talk from an inspirational musician.
Annual Scholarships Began in 2009
The Justin Veatch Fund honors the legacy of Yorktown High School senior Justin Veatch who died from an accidental drug overdose in 2008 and has awarded 22 scholarships to musically talented graduates since 2009. “We had planned to award four scholarships this year,” says Jeffrey Veatch, Justin’s father. “But we had so many qualified applicants this year we found a private donor to underwrite an additional one and matched it ourselves for another to bring the total to six.”
Abby Ferri, graduating from Yorktown High School, specializes in the flute. She led the flute section in her school’s wind ensemble, was first chair in the Westchester Honor Band and ran the Yorktown flute choir. “Abby is the most passionately devoted band student I have worked with in my 14 year career,” says Yorktown Band Director Emily Kluga. “She is an inspiration to her peers and myself and will be an asset to any competitive college music program.” Ferry will be attending Ithaca College in the fall.
Kayla Paige Fuhst is a graduate of Carmel High School. In addition to her vocal and acting abilities Kayla composes songs and performs on the piano. She performed as part of The Justin Veatch Fund All Stars opening concerts for Bernie Williams and his All Star Band and most recently the Best of the Eagles at Paramount Hudson Valley. Fuhst has also excelled in chorus as well as acting in musicals, recently starring as Dorothy in Carmel High School’s staging of Wizard of Oz. She plans to study music education and vocal performance at Providence College in the fall.
Zerena Lupo took only three years to graduate from Yorktown High School and is well known to The Fund participating in open mics, summer music workshops and was part of The Justin Veatch Fund All Stars. As a singer/songwriter performing primarily on guitar Zerena has written dozens of songs, recorded in Nashville, and performed at New York’s Bitter End and the Apollo Theater as well as monthly benefits at The Fieldhome in Yorktown. Lupo plans to study music with a business major at Manhattan College.
Erica Melhorn is a graduate of Somers High School and plans to study acting and music at Marymount College in Manhattan in the fall. “Every year Erica brings the house down with her performances in our spring musicals,” says Ann Ferraro, Director of Choral Music & Musical Theater at Somers. “She possesses a wide vocal range and is equally capable of singing in the classical style as well as the Broadway style.” She is an original member and leader of the Somers Dance Team and has received high praise for her dedication which includes mentoring other students.
Yorktown graduate Matthew Montaruli has excelled on the cello in NYSSMA and Westchester’s Area All State Orchestra as well as the county youth orchestra. “He is an extremely talented, intelligent, gifted cellist and musician,” says Yorktown Orchestra Director Nancy Torrente. “He has also been a leader, mentor and volunteer giving his time and talents at events sponsored by the Yorktown Teen Center, the high school and Board of Education meetings.” Montaruli plans to study math and music at Binghamton University in the fall.
Ari Perakis, graduating from Byram Hills High School, plans to study music composition at Purchase College. He has excelled as a vocalist touring for several years as a School of Rock All Star. “Ari achieved this honor several years in a row based on his pure vocal ability, stage presence and overall positive personality,” said School of Rock General Manager & Music Director Craig Sasson. “These honors afforded Ari the opportunity to play amazing shows such as Lollapalooza (in Chicago) and Gathering of the Vibes (in Connecticut). Perakis’s goal is to become a career musician.
2016 Program Keynote Delivered by Charlie Lagond
The Justin Veatch Fund’s Mission
The Justin Veatch Fund is a 501(c)3 organization and recognized New York State charity. In addition to the scholarships The Fund creates music programs for teens and sponsors annual concerts that afford talented teens the opportunity to open for a well known headline act. Jeffrey Veatch, Justin’s father, also appears in schools and communities delivering a multi-media talk titled “A Message from Justin” which tells Justin’s story and addresses the issue of substance abuse among youth. Justin’s story is also told in the independent documentary Whispering Spirits which has been provided free of charge to at least 150 community coalitions in 36 states. The documentary is available for community programs or school classrooms with a discussion guide authored by Student Assistance Services Inc. in Tarrytown, New York. Those wishing to view the film or obtain a copy can do so at www.whispering-spirits.com.