The 2021 Recipients
Lexi Ann is a graduate of North Salem High School and plans to attend Belmont University’s Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business to pursue a major in songwriting. Sharing her excitement about joining a community of songwriters, Lexi said of her journey in music so far: “I know that I’ve just scratched the surface, waiting to unlock so much potential lyric power underneath.” She looks forward to honing her craft and incorporating her vocals, guitar, ukulele, piano, and saxophone into a colorful portfolio of original songs. One teacher lauded Lexi’s ability to harness music to get through difficult times, sharing: “We all have known and worked with special students, but every once in a while one comes along who is simply extraordinary… Lexi is such a student.”
Jacob Krauss is a graduate of Somers High School and plans to attend either Georgia Tech or Ohio State University in the fall. He is a guitarist and singer who has expanded his talents to other instruments and became deeply involved in producing music through collaborations. After signing up for a music theory class at Somers High School, Jacob became involved with his school’s jazz ensemble, concert and chamber choir. He calls himself a music nerd and formed a band with three other friends who held their first live performance just before the Covid-19 pandemic shut down live music. Going the virtual route to continue his passion, he organized Quarantine Collab, a YouTube cover series, in which he enlisted other local talent to provide a bright spot in his community. One of his music teachers says Jacob has become one of her most advanced students and has inspired her to be an even better teacher.
Richard (“Jake”) Leis is a graduate of Pleasantville High School and plans to pursue jazz studies and performance at the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music with the goal of becoming a lifelong performer and educator. Jake is a baritone saxophone performer who has excelled in the WCSMA All-County Jazz Big Band, the Pleasantville High School Honors Jazz Band, and the Lagond Music School. Jake’s introduction to jazz, Latin, and funk music helped him grow and inspired him to prioritize music in his daily routines. On Jake’s proclivity for music, one teacher shared: “Jake is one of those people who doesn’t want to be a musician, he has to be a musician.”
Julia Levin is a graduate of the Masters School and plans to attend the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California in the fall. She is a guitarist who thrives on playing live music and collaborating with other musicians, though she is also an accomplished solo artist. Her honors include winning the Fender X Splice Loop Contest, being a featured artist on Norman’s Rare Guitars’ YouTube channel, and presenting a 2019 TedX talk on the lack of respect for female guitarists. Julia received numerous honors while attending the Lagond Music School. Nikke Slight, the General Manager of VERO Music, says Julia’s potential for greatness is undeniable. Julia’s goal is to tour, perform, and collaborate with other artists while working behind the scenes supporting others in the music business.
Taylor Setterstrom is a graduate of Somers High School and plans to attend SUNY New Paltz in the fall. Taylor’s primary musical interest is drums but she also plays guitar. She says she is generally shy and introverted, and that music enabled her to make many friends that she would have never made otherwise. Since she auditioned for the house band at School of Rock in Bedford, she became a key team player in developing new techniques and skills which she has put to use in community events and fundraisers for good causes. One of her music teachers says Taylor’s commitment to excellence in music came about through hard work and talent. Last year, Taylor was a winning finalist in her age group in the international competition “Hit Like a Girl” for female drummers. She says she may pursue music therapy so she can give back to the community while pursuing her passion for work in music.
Noah Crosby Solomon is a graduate of Pleasantville High School and plans to pursue performance and music production at Berklee School of Music (and later, a master’s degree in music education). A guitarist, Noah has excelled in settings such as the Lagond Music School, the Pleasantville High School Honors Jazz Band, and the Westchester All-County Jazz Band. One teacher spoke of Noah’s tendency to dedicate his lunch or free periods to talking about music and jazz in the band room. Another teacher said Noah is “a musical truth-seeker, a strong critical thinker, who has humility.”
Mia Williams is a graduate of Westlake High School and plans to pursue jazz and contemporary music with a concentration in voice at either the Berklee School of Music or The New School. Mia is president and soloist in her high school’s select jazz choir, a leading performer in Westlake Players, and the lead singer of West Lake Rock Band. One teacher called Mia “one of the top vocalists and most talented musicians I have had the pleasure of teaching in my 34-year career.” Another teacher compared Mia’s growth with that of established Broadway vocalists.
The 2020 Recipients
The 2020 recipients were selected among a field of highly competitive applicants. They are Izaak Baer-Sanft of Ossining High School, Tara Curran of John Jay High School, Michael DiVestea of The Harvey School, Leila Hudson of Yorktown High School, Serena Jade Miller of Rye High School, and Daniel Zitomer also from John Jay.
Izaak Baer-Sanft, a graduate of Ossining High School, plans to attend Berklee College of Music in the fall. On music’s role in his future Baer-Sanft puts it simply: “Music is how my brain works”. He says his ultimate goal is to be able to have a career composing, arranging, collaborating, recording, releasing, and performing his own music. His band director called Baer-Sanft one of the most artistic students he’s had the pleasure of teaching. Another teacher said she has rarely seen a student so joyfully committed to his craft and how he showcases his work. In his recordings he has collaborated with other instrumental performers as well as making multi layered recordings entirely on his own.
Tara Curran, a graduate from John Jay High School, plans to attend the University of New Haven. She is a vocalist and songwriter and says she has been devoting her energy to singing since she was 5 years old. Curran says a turbulent family life as a young child caused her to seek refuge in muaic and introduced her to the blues. One of her music teachers called Curran a hard working, self-disciplined student whose kindness provided motivation to others. She performed as lead singer for The Justin Veatch Fund All Stars at Paramount Hudson Valley in 2016 and has since fronted the bands Gilbert and Tara Jade and Company, is a two time winner of the Ridgefield Bandjam, performed at Pleasantville Music Festival, and was a first place winner at the Berklee High School Jazz Festival.
Michael DiVestea, a graduate from The Harvey School, plans to attend Syracuse University’s Bandier Music Business Program. DiVestea plays piano, keyboards, and drums. He envisions becoming a successful music producer or entertainment attorney. Since 2018 he has produced music using Apple’s Logic Pro X. The result has been a music album released on several platforms including Spotify and iTunes. He has performed at the Towne Crier Cafe, Daryl’s House, and participated in the Ridgefield Playhouse Battle of the Bands. DiVestea’s piano teacher said hel has demonstrated a natural ability for creating music by employing the drive and determination that earned him the rank of Eagle Scout.
Leila Hudson, a graduate from Yorktown HIgh School, plans to attend Princeton University. She is a harpist and has been playing since she was eight years old. For the past two years Hudson has been the harpist for the prestigious New York Youth Symphony and a featured performer on NPR’s From the Top broadcast. She was also the harpist for the National Youth Orchestra for two years in a row. Michael Repper, music director of the New York Youth Symphony, called Hudson one of the most special young talents in our country. She credits her musicianship to perseverance to overcome obstacles, conquer fear, and take risks.
Serena Jade Miller, a graduate from Rye High School, plans to attend Berklee School of Music. Miller says writing music, singing, and playing guitar has been a passion since she was a young girl. She believes music gives people better access to their emotions and can be a healing force. Charlie Lagond, one of her music teachers, says Miller has grown musically through the development of deeper ensemble skills in jazz and improvisation. At Berklee she plans to major in songwriting. Miller has regularly performed in venues such as Rockwood Music Hall and is a 2020 National Young Arts Foundation Merit winner. She says in these politically polarized times she hopes her music can help bring people together.
Daniel Zitomer, a graduate from John Jay High School, plans to attend Northwestern University in the fall with a double major of jazz performance and physics. He’s been playing drums for 12 years but also plays guitar and writes music. In addition to John Jay he attended Lagond Music School. At John Jay he performed with the elite jazz band and represented his school at All County and Area All State festivals. He also formed two bands outside school. Zitomer was awarded the Judge’s Choice Award for drum-set performance in Jazz at the Berklee College of Music High School Jazz Festival.
Graduating high school seniors from seven high schools were honored Friday, June 7th before a full house at Yorktown’s Town Hall when The Justin Veatch Fund presented each of them with a $1,000 music scholarship. NY State Senator Pete Harckham (NY District 40) also honored the recipients with a special proclamation. Mark Barden of Sandy Hook Promise delivered the keynote talk and his 17 year old daughter Natalie performed a moving version of the Tim McGraw song, “Humble and Kind” as her father accompanied her on guitar.
The 2019 recipients are Kathryn Czerwinski of Peekskill High School, Francis Fedora of Croton-Harmon HIgh School, Edward Fiscella of North Salem High School, Scott Murdock of John F. Kennedy Catholic High School, Michael Sottile of Mahopac High School, Stephanie Tateiwa of Harrison High School and Kian Tortorello-Allen of Fox Lane High School.
Scholarships began in 2009
The Justin Veatch Fund Music Scholarships honor the legacy of Justin Veatch, a Yorktown High School senior who died from an accidental drug overdose in 2008. The 2019 awards bring to 42 the number of $1,000 scholarships awarded by The Fund since it began the award in 2009. “This year we had twenty applications for six planned awards,” says Jeffrey Veatch, President of The Fund and Justin’s father. “Our scholarship awards committee had a tie in voting for the sixth recipient, so we decided we would award a seventh this year.” One of the awards is dedicated to the memory of former Yorktown Supervisor Al Capellini. Five of the awards were sponsored by the Yorktown Small Business Association, Tricy Cushner & family, Alan & Ellen Marzelli, Graham Keenan & family and the law offices of Joseph J. Tock. Each sponsor was presented with a framed photo of the metronome award that includes their names on the inscription.
Kathryn Czerwinski is a Peekskill High School graduate and has been accepted to attend Berklee College in Boston in the fall. Kathryn’s focus is as a vocalist but she also performs on guitar, violin, piano and drums. Kathryn’s talent might have been seen as quite unlikely as a young child because she was born 75% deaf in both ears. Kathryn said she began studying music in 5th grade with the encouragement of her dad. She says there was something about music that gave her joy and she has taken advantage of that in writing and performing music. She has been involved in the Peekskill HIgh jazz ensemble and a mainstay in the highly regarded A cappella group The City Singers.
Francis Fedora is a Croton-Harmon High School graduate and will attend Yale University this fall. Francis is a cellist whose Bach performances and personal compositions profoundly impressed the scholarship committee. Francis will pursue physics and math at Yale, but plans to audition for the symphony orchestra and continue his music education at every opportunity. In describing Francis, his Greenwood Music Camp teacher spoke of “the goodness of his heart and willingness to put others before himself” in recounting Francis’ actions in the wake of a community member's death. That same teacher went on to call Francis “the glue that holds our community together.”
Eddie Fiscella is a North Salem High School graduate and will study at Berklee College of Music in the fall. Eddie says he is pursuing a career in music and is expanding his education for a number of options like performing, composing, songwriting and film scoring. One of his music teachers of seven years says Eddie’s humble personality, talent and collaborative disposition gives him a musical maturity rare for his age. His work as a keyboard artist earned first place in three bandjam competitions, winning the NYSSMA electronic composition competition two years in a row, and performing with the Westchester All County Jazz Ensemble.
Scott Murdock is a John F. Kennedy Catholic High School graduate and will attend Stevens Institute of Technology in the fall. Scott specializes in drums and percussion but also plays guitar and bass. His keen interest in the artistic and technical aspects of music puts him in the music producer’s realm. Scott sees his future role in music as anything from the sound guy in a theatre to a Grammy nominated record producer. He’s performed multiple years as co-principal percussionist in youth symphony performances at Lincoln Center and achieved a near perfect score in the NYSSMA All-State Jazz Drum kit category.
Michael Sottile is a Mahopac High School graduate and will attend Pace University. He specializes in piano but also plays bass and sings. Michael’s musical journey has taken a slightly different route than many. Michael started by performing the compositions of artists he admired like The Beatles, The Doors, Billy Joel and Elton John. As he perfected his versions of these songs he began to perform them in public at open mics and in other venues. Michael says in college he will continue his piano studies and hopes to develop his improvisational skills in jazz.
Stephanie Tateiwa is a Harrison High School graduate and will attend the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY this fall. There, she will pursue jazz saxophone performance and music education. She aspires to become a Broadway pit musician. In the wake of an earthquake in Japan eight years ago, Stephanie and her family moved to New York, where she struggled to learn English and fit in with her new peers. After being introduced to the saxophone she says she felt she gained her voice through music. Stephanie has since become proficient on piano, clarinet, flute and oboe. Stephanie has a long list of awards and honors as a musician, including serving as the lead alto sax for the Lincoln Center Youth Orchestra.
Kian Tortorello-Allen is a Fox Lane High School graduate and plans to be a flute performance major at Purchase College in the fall. He is a product of the prestigious Hoff Barthelson honors program and has been heavily involved in advanced programs like the Greater Westchester Youth Symphony. Kian says he struggled with bullying in his early teens. His goal is to perform in musical theatre pits, teach, and to use his talent to help LGBT kids and others in communities of color succeed. He says one day he hopes to create a non profit organization to further those goals.
The 2019 program keynote by Mark Barden of Sandy Hook Promise, who was joined by his daughter Natalie in performing Humble & Kind.
The 2018 Recipients
Six graduating seniors from six high schools were awarded 2018 Justin Veatch Fund music scholarships on June 6th. This year’s recipients are Chloe Collins of Calvert Academy, Justin Giacchetto of North Salem HIgh School, Justin Hahn of Peekskill High School, Noah Mattison of Harrison High School, Alicia McMillan of The Ursuline School, and Chris Paraggio of Carmel High School.
The $1,000 awards along with personally inscribed metronomes were presented at an awards program at John C. Hart Memorial Library in Shrub Oak. Singer/songwriter Sloan Wainwright delivered an inspiring keynote, encouraging the recipients to apply their talents with patience and persistence for life-long pleasures and rewards.
Chloe Collins, graduating from Calvert Academy, plans to attend Belmont University in Nashville to further her education and songwriting skills. She also plans to take advantage of the Nashville music scene to perform in as many venues as she is able. Chloe says she was born to write. “I have spent many days in high school with a songbook on my left and a textbook on my right. I believe the act of creating something from a blank sheet of paper is the closest I will ever get to making magic.” Writing is only half of the equation for Collins who is also a dedicated musician who loves to perform and has volunteered her time and talent for many charitable events.
Justin Giacchetto, graduating from North Salem High School, plans to attend the University of Miami Frost School of Music. Giacchetto’s musical abilities have become well known for his lead guitar performances for the Westchester band Gilbert which won first place in the Ridgefield Bandjam Competition twice and performed on the main stage at the Pleasantville Music Festival. But Giacchetto is also versatile in his music styles performing on different instruments in the North Salem High School and All Westchester Jazz Bands. Giacchetto’s self stated goal is to fuse different genres of music to create new sounds.
Justin Hahn, graduating from Peekskill High School, plans to study music and sound recording at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. For Hahn, music has been an outgrowth of his upbringing, following in his father’s footsteps performing on the trombone. Hahn has played lead trombone for the Westchester Youth All Stars, Daisy Jopling’s “Awakening” Orchestra and the Westchester Honors Youth Ensemble. He also has played an integral role in Peekskill HIgh School’s City Singers A cappella ensemble.
Noahn Mattison, graduating from Harrison High School, plans to attend Purchase College. Mattison’s focus is jazz performance on the trumpet. Since 2017 he has been a member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Youth Combo Band and has won the Essentially Ellington Regional Festival solo award three years in a row. “I am really grateful to be chosen to receive this scholarship,” says Mattison. “I want my music to be meaningful and something that will help people, just like The (Justin Veatch) Fund.” As a member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center youth program Mattison has regularly toured with mentors like Kenny Rampton and Wynton Marsalis.
Alicia McMillan, graduating from The Ursuline School, plans to pursue either a songwriting degree from Berklee School of Music or a studio composition degree from Purchase College. McMillan is a singer/songwriter who performs on piano and guitar and has a number of original recordings to her credit. She is also the first Justin Veatch Fund Scholarship recipient to be mentored by a previous recipient--Melissa Frabotta who was The Fund’s second scholarship winner in 2011.
Christopher Paraggio, graduating from Carmel High School, plans to attend New York University’s School of the Arts Clive Davis Institute. Paraggio is a classically trained cellist occupying first chair in the Carmel High School Orchestra but says his primary focus now is creating, recording and performing original alternative/experimental rock music. Paraggio lists a number of instruments that he plays including piano, electric bass, drums, mandolin and even theremin. He is also developing first-hand experience in business having helped to create and grow an online company that specializes in anti-chafe swimwear for boys and men. “I am honored to have been selected for The Justin Veatch Fund Scholarship,” says Paraggio. “It is truly a privilege to participate in Justin’s legacy in this way.”
Scholarships Began in 2009
The scholarships honor the legacy of Justin Veatch, a Yorktown High School senior who died from an accidental drug overdose in 2008. The 2018 awards bring to 35 the number of scholarships awarded by The Fund since it began the prize in 2009. “We started out with one scholarship to a Yorktown High School graduate,” says Jeffrey Veatch, Justin’s father and president of The Fund. “This year we had 26 applicants from 17 area high schools. These are highly talented and focused young people and picking just six was a difficult task,” says Veatch. “We hope to find individual sponsors for some of the awards so we can expand their number in 2019.”
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