For Daniel Zitomer, a musician and John Jay senior, music doesn’t exist without physics. Every time he plays the drums, he thinks about how the sound travels and creates a tone, not only as a musician but as a scientist. It is this combination of music and science, coupled with his fierce sense of exploration, that defines Daniel and drives both his academic and personal paths.
Daniel was born in Mount Kisco and raised in Goldens Bridge, where he attended Increase Miller Elementary and John Jay Middle School. The grandson of an aerospace engineer, Daniel grew up in an environment where science was always present and where he was encouraged to ask questions. When it came to music, Daniel credits his older brother and older sister for inspiring him. As Daniel started to explore music, he learned how to play both the drums and guitar and picked up singing, as well. But his brother, who was very STEM-focused, showed Daniel that music and science can be the perfect combination.
When Daniel arrived at John Jay High School, he quickly found his footing in the music program. In his freshman year, he joined the Treblemakers, a co-ed a cappella group, an organization that has a unique connection to his family: Daniel’s brother co-founded the group and his sister was a leader of the organization during her time at John Jay. Currently, in his senior year, Daniel is continuing his family’s legacy by serving in a leadership role, helping to steer the group.
Daniel’s involvement in the Treblemakers has been a powerful source of inspiration for him not only as a musician but as a student at John Jay. In addition to the Treblemakers, Daniel is a member of the John Jay Jazz Ensemble and was among those who attended the 51st Annual Berklee Jazz Festival last year. Under the direction of Steven Morse, the now-retired John Jay music teacher, the group took first place. It was the intense preparation for this festival that made the most significant impression on Daniel.
“The nuance of the preparation that we did was incredible, as was the direction by Morse,” Daniel said.
In addition to his work with the Treblemakers and jazz ensemble, Daniel performs in the pit orchestra for the school’s musicals and has taken many of the music technology courses offered at John Jay. As with much of Daniel’s work, there is always a collaboration between music and science. James Panzer, a John Jay physics teacher and director of the spring musicals, said of Daniel, “I had the chance to witness not only Dan’s mastery of physics but also his expertise on the drums. He played the drums in the pit orchestra for the last two musicals very well. When he would simply warm up for a performance, it was obvious to everyone within earshot that we were listening to a superb drummer with a great sense of rhythm and improvisation. He really is quite remarkable in both science and music.”
Beyond music, Daniel has also excelled and thrived in John Jay’s STEM program. Due to his love of science, Daniel was immediately drawn to physics, especially the concepts involving sound.
“Daniel is an extremely passionate and energetic student,” said Daniel Longhurst, another John Jay physics teacher. “He loves learning physics and really focuses on the details to gain the clearest picture possible. It’s common for Daniel to take a problem we’ve done and extend it a bit, asking questions like, ‘What would happen if we changed….?’ Daniel loves working in groups and has the ability to focus his peers and enable productive collaboration.”
This year, Daniel’s physics studies will take him beyond the classroom when he participates in the Science Olympiad, a competition that covers various scientific disciplines such as earth science, biology, chemistry, physics and engineering. For this year’s competition, he will be creating several instruments out of various materials.
In addition to his musical and scientific pursuits, Daniel takes on many leadership roles within the John Jay community. He is a member of Campus Congress and serves as a Peer Group Leader, mentoring John Jay freshman transition to high school. This year, Daniel joined Mock Trial, a club where students reenact past or fictional court cases in preparation to compete with other schools. In addition to his various clubs and groups, he is a member of both Tri-M, the music honor society, and the National Honor Society.
With such rigorous academic, extracurricular and performance schedules, most people would find time management to be a near-impossible task. At the height of the John Jay performance season, the commitment for all his activities can be an additional 30 hours a week above and beyond the time required for his daily classes and homework. However, Daniel has found a way to make it all work successfully.
Outside of school, Daniel can be found enriching his musical passion and giving back to his community. In support of his musical education, Daniel has attended the Lagond Music School, a nonprofit music institution founded by Charlie Lagond, for the last three years. It has been his experience at Lagond which has had the most impact on turning Daniel into the musician he is now.
On Sundays, Daniel can be found at Lagond from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., where he takes classes on theory, performance, sight-reading and keyboarding under the direction of Jerad Lippi, who described Daniel as a “very talented and dedicated student” with “a great attitude.”
“This year especially, Daniel has kicked into overdrive and taken his musicianship to the next level,” Lippi said. “He has shown remarkable determination and is clearly on a mission to become the best drummer he can be.”
In his community, Daniel is a member of the National Federation of Temple Youth, North East, for which he serves as a song leader for services. Daniel also serves as a mentor to younger children at the Cottage School in Pleasantville. In addition to his volunteer work, he plays gigs with various bands around New York City and gives drum lessons.
This past summer, Daniel attended the Berklee College of Music for a five-week performance-intensive on a scholarship as a result of placing at the 51st Annual Berklee High School Jazz Festival last school year. While at the Berklee College of Music, he enjoyed engaging in his musical study almost 24 hours a day, surrounded by like-minded musicians, which he said was “truly an inspirational experience.”
Looking toward the future, Daniel is in the midst of the college application process. As he prepares for the next chapter in his life, it will be the friendships he has made and the close knit-community Daniel has forged that he will miss most. For Daniel, the sense of community at John Jay has not only allowed him the ability to create strong friendships but has been an excellent foundation for collaboration as well.
In college, Daniel plans to major in both physics and music, with a focus on jazz. With his strong and varied interests, he will be using his time in college to discover where his future truly lies. As of now, Daniel foresees going to graduate school for either physics or music.
Daniel is the son of Karyn Gallant Zitomer and Jack Zitomer. Karyn is an executive coach based in New York City and Westchester. Jack is a financial adviser and certified financial planner.