Seven graduating seniors from six high schools were honored June 14th, 2017 at Hart Library in Shrub Oak, NY when The Justin Veatch Fund presented each of them with a $1,000 music scholarship. The awards come with a personally inscribed metronome which has become synonymous with the honor. The 2017 recipients are Cooper Aquilino from Mahopac, Grace Dashnaw from Somers, Emily Fareed from Hendrick Hudson, Ellen Gruber also from Hendrick Hudson, Trevor Legeret from Newtown, CT, Gabrielle Sansone from Lakeland and Victoria Vespucci from Yorktown. Hon. Sal Lagonia, a Yorktown Justice, Fox News aviation consultant, and accomplished musician himself, was the keynote speaker.
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. Veatch’s story is told in schools in hopes of preventing other such tragedies. He was a gifted musician whose original music has been recorded by other artists and enjoyed by a worldwide audience. The June awards brought the total of scholarships awarded in his honor to 29. “We originally began with awards to Yorktown High School students only,” says Jeffrey Veatch, Justin’s father who is president of The Fund. “But this year we had applicants from 11 area high schools and the choice of recipients was very competitive, “ said Veatch.
The 2017 Recipients
Cooper Aquilino is graduating from Mahopac High School and plans to major in music education and film at Hunter College in New York City. He sings, plays piano, ukulele and writes songs but teaching and making people laugh and be happy is his passion. Cooper says he believes music can have a huge impact on a child’s life and has the ability to change a person’s thought process and how they perceive life. An assistant superintendent in his district says Cooper knows the importance of volunteerism and regularly participates in charitable and service-oriented activities as an individual well beyond his years.
Grace Dashnaw is graduating from Somers High School and plans to major in music at Ithaca College in the fall. She is a cellist who also plays piano, sings and composes. Her private cello teacher says she has the capabilities of a much older musician. Dashnaw says she sees herself playing all genres of music–in the pit for a Broadway musical, playing in a symphony orchestra or even studio work or touring with a chamber group.
Emily Fareed is graduating from Hendrick Hudson HIgh School and plans to major in music education with a concentration on voice at the University of Delaware. During her senior year Fareed served as senior choir leader which involved conducting and teaching in the leader’s absence. Her private voice teacher says Fareed possesses the highest level of musicianship and commitment. She appeared recently in a music video produced by Peekskill violinist Daisy Jopling.
Ellen Gruber is graduating from Hendrick Hudson High School and plans to major in performance, recording arts and acoustics at The Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University. In addition to piano and voice, Gruber’s main instruments are the oboe and english horn. Gruber was the only woodwind finalist in the Mannes Prep Concerto Competition and was awarded a spot in a summer program at Interlochen. With a keen interest in acoustics, Gruber wants to dedicate much of her efforts toward creating spaces that optimize the sound of musical performances.
Trevor Legeret is graduating from Connecticut’s Newtown High School and will be attending Pratt Institute where he plans to major in film. Legeret says he hopes to score music for film. He was part of The Justin Veatch Fund’s 2014 concert, opening for and performing with headliner Livingston Taylor. While Legeret plays several instruments his teachers described him as an excellent guitarist and magnetic front-man with an endless creative stream.
Gabrielle Sansone is graduating from Lakeland High School and plans to pursue musical theatre as a performer on Broadway and possibly television and film. Sansone is a vocalist with a long list of on-stage credits, performing in a variety of productions in the greater Westchester community and off Broadway in New York. She has been described by one of her teachers as a standout in every way from musical ability to ease of learning repertoire.
Victoria Vespucci is graduating from Yorktown High School and plans to major in music education at Crane School of Music at SUNY’s Potsdam College. Vespucci says her goal is to become a band teacher and also perform professionally as time permits. Her main instrument is the flute but she is also proficient on the piccolo, saxophone, clarinet and piano. Vespucci’s band director calls her one of the best flutists she has ever worked with.
The Justin Veatch Fund’s Mission
The Justin Veatch Fund is a 501(c)3 corporation and recognized New York State charity. In addition to scholarships The Fund creates music opportunities for teens. Jeffrey Veatch, Justin’s father, has presented the multi-media talk A Message from Justin to more than 35-thousand students with the goal that Justin’s story will inspire them to take better care of themselves and watch out for their friends when it comes to drugs and other substances. Justin’s story is also told in the independent documentary film Whispering Spirits which has been recommended by The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) and sent to its 80 affiliates in 29 states