iSchool Band Performs In China

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From left: Dylan Morrissey (from Manhasset), Reid Sherman, Christian Hill, Oscar Cellura (from Manhasset)
From left: Dylan Morrissey (from Manhasset), Reid Sherman, Christian Hill, Oscar Cellura (from Manhasset)

The iSchool of Music & Art, located in Port Washington, as well as Syosset and Rockville Centre, created an all-star band to tour China in the spring. Several Port students were chosen to be part of the eight-person band—Reid Sherman, a 10th-grade student at Schreiber High School, Christian Hill, an 11th grader at Schreiber who plays the piano and keyboard, and Noah Schissel, a 6th grader at Weber who plays guitar and sings. Prior to the trip, the band practiced once a week. They performed songs by artists such as Chuck Berry, Deep Purple, The Beatles, Billy Joel and more to Chinese audiences.

“The trip to China was incredible,” Hill said.

While in China, the band performed seven shows in nine days, mostly in Beijing. They even performed an impromptu acoustic set at the Great Wall which the locals and tourists enjoyed. Like a true band on tour, they traveled on a tour bus and were asked for autographs by Chinese fans.

“We are just normal American teenagers, yet when we were there, we were complete rock stars,” Hill said. “Everybody treated us amazingly and it was the most fun I’ve ever had in only 10 days.”

Hill has been playing classical music on the piano since he was six and a student at iSchool since it opened in 2005. “I was thrilled when they asked me to be part of the rock band.”

In front of a billboard advertising the band, iSchool band members with Ken Benshish and Yi Qian, owners of The iSchool of Music & Art, and some of the tour group’s Chinese hosts
In front of a billboard advertising the band, iSchool band members with Ken Benshish and Yi Qian, owners of The iSchool of Music & Art, and some of the tour group’s Chinese hosts

“The best part of the China trip was the experience of performing in another country in front of large groups of people, and signing autographs after each performance,” said Schissel. “It really felt like we were rock stars. Even when we were sightseeing, kids would scream and run to us and ask to take pictures with us.”

Schissel has taken piano and voice lessons at iSchool for the past six years. In the past two years, he expanded his musical abilities into guitar and percussion.

“My favorite part of the trip to China was the excitement of going to a country with a distinctly different culture compared to the U.S.,” Sherman said. “The fact that we were performing there allowed us to really get to know the people.”

Sightseeing was a big part of the trip. The group visited temples, the 798 Art Zone and Tiananmen Square. They toured schools and took a Chinese writing class and a kung fu class. They attended a Beijing school concert, and one evening had dinner at a local family’s house and experienced authentic Chinese food. The band found the locals warm and welcoming and bonded during the extraordinary trip.

Julie Schissel, Noah Schissel’s mother and a chaperone, said, “It was a truly amazing experience for everyone involved.”

“The iSchool was very innovative and fabulous to make this experience happen,” said Dana Brodsky, Sherman’s mother, who also attended the trip.

Sherman is an accomplished and passionate guitarist. “He is a great young man who is doing great things,” said Cecilia Escamilla, social worker at Weber Middle School and founder of the College Pioneers Mentoring Program for students who will be the first in their family to attend college.

Reid Sherman playing the harmonica with Gabrielle Sklar and Dennis Valent while performing “Johnny B. Goode” in China
Reid Sherman playing the harmonica with Gabrielle Sklar and Dennis Valent while performing “Johnny B. Goode” in China

Sherman has been an iSchool student since he was six years old. “They were the first people to really introduce me to music,” he said. He immediately wanted to learn to play guitar, but many people advised him against it due to immature manual dexterity. “I refused to listen to the people who discouraged me,” Sherman said. “iSchool encouraged and fostered a love of music and a strong foundation in the basics.”

He began playing guitar at the age of five and is a left-handed guitarist, like Jimi Hendrix. “I am interested in many different types of music, but the music I primarily play is either rock, blues or jazz,” Sherman said. He taught himself how to play the harmonica, which he sometimes incorporates into his performances, and he also plays the mandolin, banjo, piano and trumpet. Sometimes he busks at Strawberry Fields in Central Park; however, most of his performances have been at local community events in Manhasset and Port Washington as a member of the iSchool band.

At Weber, Sherman created Musical Fridays. “Every other Friday during lunch our students had the opportunity to show their talents,” said Escamilla. Students played instruments, sang or showed off any artistic talent. “The creation of this program may sound like a simple action, but it was not,” she added.

Reid Sherman signs autograph for fan
Reid Sherman signs autograph for fan

Sherman said, “I wanted the students to appreciate and understand all types of music and I wanted to give other musicians and vocalists a chance to perform.”

Musical Fridays ended when Sherman graduated from Weber, that is, until another enthusiastic student can take up the reins.

This past summer, Sherman attended the Manhattan School of Music summer program. He performed in a Latin jazz band, a guitar ensemble and a jazz band and took courses in music theory, composition and improvisation. Sherman looks forward to advancing his musical knowledge by attending the program again next summer. In the meantime, he continues to participate in the Schreiber jazz ensemble and become an even better musician.

In January 2016, look for a solo by Hill, and Sherman and Schissel in a four-person iSchool guitar ensemble performance at Carnegie Hall. For more information about The iSchool of Music & Art, located at 14 Vanderventer Ave., Suite L4, visit www.ischoolmusicart.com/home/port-washington.

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