SOMERS, N.Y. – Somers High School senior Luke Totoro late last month presented his WISE project to an auditorium filled with classmates.

Totoro, an accomplished guitarist and pianist, has played with the high school jazz program for four years. For his semester-long WISE project, which stands for Wise Individualized Student Experience, Totoro composed five original songs. He recorded the songs by himself, playing all the instruments, onto his computer. He performed the songs live on Thursday, May 18, with help from his brother, Chris, his father, Vincent, and professional musician John Fiscella.

His mentor for the WISE project was Terry Reynolds, music coordinator for Somers Central School District. He commended Totoro’s abilities as both a composer and an improviser.

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“He’s brilliant,” Reynolds said of Totoro. “He has an amazing ear and we’ve been thrilled to have him in the program.”

WISE Services is a not-for-profit organization that helps participating schools to develop a program under which students can design individualized, passion-driven projects intended to empower students as they transition out of high school.

Participating students pair up with a member of the community to get real-world insight into a professional field of their choosing. Projects can include, but are not limited to, internships, independent research, self-improvement, community service or cultural, artistic and performance-based activities.