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Test of musical memory skills

Teams from PS 236, 193 and 312 in Brooklyn will join 30 other teams from public schools throughout the city to compete in Riverside Symphony’s Music Memory Citywide Finals, May 28, 10:30 a.m., at NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts.

Teachers Nonie Donato (PS 193, 2515 Avenue L), Michael Tornick (PS 236, 6302 Avenue U) and Steven Liotta (PS 312, 7103 Avenue T) have a long history of preparing award-winning students, and last year their champion teams brought home a total of four gold and two silver ribbons.

The students, all third- through sixth-graders, will show off their knowledge of 16 musical selections drawn from the classical repertory, jazz standards and Broadway tunes performed onstage by Riverside Symphony and vocal soloists under the direction of Music Director George Rothman.

Support for the 2008 Music Memory Finals has been provided, in part, by Council Member Lewis A. Fidler of District 46.

Cheered on by their schoolmates, the students will be called upon to identify both composition and composer after hearing a melodic fragment or just a single chord. A panel of judges, including Channel 7 Eyewitness News anchor Bill Ritter, will present ribbons and certificates to all participating teams at the conclusion of the contest.

The program is rooted in the simple proposition that learning classical music matters more than learning about classical music. So, although teachers provide context, with related lessons in history, literature and art, the music itself and the act of listening to it comes first.

By putting music first, Music Memory aims to make fine music an integral part of their lives.

The Music Memory program was introduced by Riverside Symphony to New York City schools in 1999. Since then, the program has grown rapidly through word of mouth in education circles and now serves 7,000 students from 64 schools in all five boroughs. Although Music Memory is taught across the United States, Riverside Symphony is one of only two orchestras to serve as program sponsor.

The symphony provides professional development workshops each year for New York City music teachers that prepare them to implement the Music Memory curriculum.

The 2008 Music Memory Finals are dedicated to the memory of Barbara Eisenstadt of the Rockaway Arts Council and the late Martin Penzer, a devoted music teacher.

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