Arts & Entertainment

Watchung Hills Regional HS Inducts Students into Music Honor Society

Alyssa Rosenblum, Isis Zhang, Jillian Carbone, speaker Angelika Nair, advisor Angela DiIorio Bird ,Andrew Morrison, Justin Panzarino, and Jordon Reynolds Credits: Denis J. Kelly

WARREN TWP. – Twenty-six students at Watchung Hills Regional High School were inducted into the Tri-M Music Honor Society on Thursday, Oct. 22, in the Performing Arts Center at the school.

It was the first such induction to the Music Honor Society at the school, according to choral music teacher and Watchung Hills Honor Society chapter advisor, Angela DiIorio Bird.

The Tri-M Music Honor Society has added 470 new chapters in the past two years to raise the total number of chapters to 1,700, including 24 international chapters in 15 countries. There are now some 67,080 members of the society.

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The society is a program of the National Association of Music Education (NAfME). According to the NAfME Web site,, “The Tri-Music Honor Society is the international music honor society for middle/junior high school and high school students. It is designed to recognize students for their academic and musical achievements, reward them for the accomplishments and service activities, and to inspire other students to excel at music and leadership.” Tri-M offers chapters and members webinars, chapter resources, service project and fundraising ideas, awards, scholarships and merchandise.

The students who were inducted for vocal performance are: Nikhil Bhat, Krishti Bhaumik, Jillian Carbone, Allison Horvath, William Johnson, David Kalwicz, Sarah Kelly, Hannah Melillo, Veronica Mu, Jack Pacetti, Jordon Reynolds, Julia Sluyter and Amelia Stapperfenne.

The students who were inducted for instrumental performance are: Chris Barry, Ryan Branco, Owen Di Donna, Stella Hung, Andrew Morrison, Ethan Marmolejos, Laura Osborne, Justin Panzarino, John Ray, Emilie Ricciardi, Alyssa Rosenblum, Simon Yang and Isis Zhang.

The students named as officers of the Watching Hills chapter are: President-Vocal, Jillian Carbone; President-Instrumental, Andrew Morrison; Vice President Jordon Reynolds; Secretary, Alyssa Rosenblum; Treasurer, Justin Panzarino; and Isis Zhang, historian.

“I am looking forward to working with this newly formed honor society,” said DiIorio. “I hope this is the first year of many with such talented and dedicated musicians. This is the first time the instrumental and vocal students have been brought together and made into a collaborative unit. We plan on doing as much community service as possible this school year. Kids want to share their passion of music with others. I am here to support that.”

Guest Speaker

Guest speaker for the induction ceremony was Angelika Nair, an Austrian-American mezzo-soprano opera singer and voice professor, who has been described as having a “very warm and unique mezzo timbre.” She “infuses her roles with aching beauty and a mesmerizing focus,” according to critics.

In addition to performing internationally, including as a soloist in a number of leading Opera roles, Nair is invited by the Riverside Opera Company to perform in their Spring recital. She is scheduled for a variety of recitals throughout New York, New Jersey and Europe. She is an adjunct voice professor at Drew University, Madison, and the College of St. Elizabeth, in the Convent Station section of Morris Township.

In addressing the students, their parents and teachers in the audience, Nair said she wanted to share two lessons she has learned during her more than two-decade-old career.

“I am a professional Opera, Oratorio, and Recital Singer, a Professor of Voice and a Voice Researcher,” she said. “Clearly my passion has become my profession and I am truly grateful for that. But to get to the point where I’m today wasn’t always easy.”

The first lesson, she said, is “Be curious, never settle and work hard.” The second is, “It’s not just playing/singing the right notes.”

She said she grew up in a musical environment in Austria, with accomplished musicians in her family. When she was four, she learned the recorder and switched to the flute after a year. At 14, she went to a music gymnasium, which in Austria was an academic high school where students received both general education as well as a music education at a conservatory level. She became the principal flute in the conservatory orchestra and sang in an ensemble touring around the world.

After graduation she continued her study with voice and added Musicology and Conducting. She said, “I figured I need to know the history of what I’m performing. I need to know what the person waving around with a stick in front of me needs and looks at, in order for me to be a good singer.”

She said she received performance engagements and conducting assignments with choirs, but still felt she was missing something.

“I observed the best of the best in the classical singing world but was never able to copy what they did let alone understand the physiology about it,” she said.

She said she “went on a mission,” researching “every book there is and going to workshops. But it was when I looked for literature outside the German speaking countries that a whole new world opened up to me.”

Nair said these discoveries were enlightening, but also led to the realization that she would have to “start from square one, putting everything on hold – no concerts or solos for almost a year – to take time to work on a completely new technique. At first I thought, ‘My God, am I ever going to make it. I’ve come so far and now I’m a beginner again.’”

Looking back, Nair said, “It was one of the best decisions I ever made. Because now I was able to do what I’ve seen in all the elite singers, but more importantly, with the new technique, I was able to express all my musical ideas the way I wanted to get them across.”

With regard to her second lesson, Nair told the students that performing on stage is “just the icing on the cake.” She recalled that since early on she worked a lot of jobs in the theater, including being an usher, keeping the books, handling administrative duties, supervising staff in international competitions and symposia, and more.

“Every single one,” she said of these wide and varied tasks, “has made me a better musician.”

She quoted the conductor Sir Georg Solti, who has said, “For one hour of music a day there are 10 hours of work behind the stage.”

Nair added, “The artist is nothing without all the people that are working behind the scenes, who help make the musician look good and give him or her the freedom to focus on the music.”

In closing, she said, “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, because they somehow know what is right and what you truly want to become. Be open minded and never stop learning something new.”

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