By Anya Tikka
MONTICELLO The legacy of Eugene D. Nesin lives on in the Theatre for the Performing Arts named after him.
The dedication ceremony took place at the St. John Street Education Center in Monticello last Saturday. Performances by the former and current Monticello school district music program students celebrated the life of Nesin, who passed away last year. His widow, Ellen, accepted the dedication plaque from Monticello CS Board of Education President Susan Purcell while the many speakers from the community and government praised Nesin’s contribution to Monticello culture.
They spoke of Nesin’s dedication to public service and of his personal character in glowing terms.
“He was truly a kind individual,” said Robert Rosengard, past member of the Monticello Central School District Board of Education in his tribute.
“He truly believed every child deserves opportunities,” said Lori Orestano-James, the emcee, a music educator, Monticello HS alumna and currently an administrator in the district.
Other former students, including one of the foremost opera singers in the world, mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, described how the music program gave her hope and helped her to find her future career as an opera singer. “The Arts and Music Department seemed the place to go when you didn’t know where you belong,” she said.
Blythe gave a rousing rendition from Bizet’s “Carmen” to a huge standing ovation.
Many speakers mentioned how Nesin unselfishly served as member of the unpaid position on the Board of Education for 33 years, dedicated to helping the local community and youth.
Nesin’s granddaughter, Jessica Nesin, performed on the piano.
“She plays better than I do,” said Orestano-James, continuing, “and she’s only eight.”
Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther brought a citation for Nesin in recognition of his contribution from the New York State Assembly, and presented it to Ellen Nesin. New York State Senator John Bonacic could not make it personally, but sent a representative Linda Cellini. Orestano-James said she was always received warmly in Albany by Bonacic when she went there on school-related visits.
“This is a community space,” said Orestano-James, going on to say the organization depends on donations.
Performers included the Monticello High School Chamber Singers and Jazz Ensemble, the Early Music Consort, American Virtuoso Resident Artists Kenneth Hamrick, Akiko Hoisoi, and Andrew Trombley, solo artists Steven Wilbur played the guitar, Jared Goldstein sang solo, Judith Pearce played the flute, and Christopher Bradshaw played the piano.
After the dedication refreshments were served on the premises.
Visit www.nesinculturalarts.org for more info, or call 794-6013.