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BSM Faculty Support Hurricane Sandy Relief Efforts

BSM Faculty Support Hurricane Sandy Relief Efforts

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Bloomingdale School of Music, like so many educational organizations in New York, was closed for an entire week. During that time, many of our amazing faculty members extended their support to those affected by the storm, volunteering with clean up efforts, supply distribution, and in one case bringing a bit of joy to shelter evacuees through music.

I volunteered at Rockaway Beach. My group was helping the U.S. Army give out supplies—food, batteries, lights, water, blankets, soap, etc. I canvassed, which means I walked around on foot to let as many people as possible know that there was a place for supplies available. At the time, no one had a way of communicating except word of mouth. I met many people who are happy to be alive and their attitude is inspiring. Closer to nightfall I walked around with blankets and found something so simple made so many people so thankful. We ran out of hundreds of blankets and flashlights, essentials they need. These people still need tons of help and I’m so glad I went to help, but it’s not enough. It’s just so sad. Words cannot express the devastation that’s out there.

—Sara Sherman, piano faculty

I spent about half of the week after Sandy hit in Staten Island. It was really crazy to see the devastation south of Hylan Boulevard. I’ve never really seen anything like it. The community really came together in a way I could have never imagined. Staten Islanders were cooking huge vats of Italian food and walking them across police barricades where cleanup crews were helping families. My fiancée and I were moving clothing and self-heating food packets to and from relief sites. It was both tragic and inspiring—one of the deepest and most profound experiences I’ve had. I have never seen a community come together like that.

—Kevin Farrell, guitar and bass faculty

With three young children, I feel limited in what I can do to actually go out in the field and help my fellow New Yorkers. I have tried to do what I can and have been so impressed by the community I live in—Williamsburg/Greenpoint and the grassroots efforts of my neighbors. Almost every bar and store has taken up a collection and we donated what we could. I went over to a store nearby with my 9 week old baby strapped on and helped sort through mounds of donations, bagging and boxing them for distribution in the rockaways. A group of local parents in my neighborhood decided to host a bake sale to benefit relief efforts for the storm. It was a way for us to involve our children in helping out. I designed a poster to advertise the event and spent three hours with my almost 4-year-old twins and newborn encouraging people to buy our baked goods on Election Day—all together we raised over $2200 at two bake sales planned in just 48 hours.

—Bathsheba Marcus, Director of Education and piano faculty

My wife and I have volunteered in the Rockaway clean-up effort. We helped families clean out their basements. They first needed to get all of they’re things out which were waterlogged and covered with mud. Then they needed to “unfinish” their basements—ripping out sheetrock and insulation, everything. We helped a couple families with both of these things. I’ve never seen such devastation up close like that. It was great to see a lot of people showing up to help people in need. Seeing people with real troubles gave me a renewed perspective on things. I get upset if my train is 5 minutes behind or if the Internet connection is slow for 30 seconds. But those things are nothing. In fact it’s a privilege to have problems like that. I should be more thankful. I learned a lot by helping these people. It made me think about people around the world who are suffering every day. I’m left with a feeling of gratitude.

– Jesse Stacken, piano faculty

The week after the Hurricane I went to the Park Slope Armory to play for elderly evacuees who had been displaced from their care facilities in Brooklyn and Queens. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived. Inside, there were hundreds of cots lined up. Many of the evacuees were ill and/or immobile. I was directed to a small area where I met up with some other musicians- some I knew, some I had not met before. There were about 30 chairs set up for the audience. We laughed about the unique chamber ensemble that we had—violins, a viola, a bass, an oboe and a guitar. First we played some classical music, which people seemed to enjoy. Then we played some pop hits, including Elvis, Leonard Cohen and Andrea Boccelli. They LOVED those selections! Several of them were singing along, a few were even dancing! It was amazing to see them go from solemn and quiet to cheerful and excited—the music really energized them! It was so touching to see after all they have been through.

We closed with a group sing-along of “You Are My Sunshine”, which was so moving. After the performance, we had many people coming up to tell stories about their own musical experiences. It was such a fulfilling experience. It is amazing to see the power that music can have in the most difficult of times!

—Katie Scheele, oboe faculty

Through New York Cares I worked with the relief efforts in Staten Island “canvassing”, which was basically knocking on peoples doors and asking if they needed help, or medical supplies. We made a record of it and then New York Cares worked to provide them with the things that they need. Where I was I could see that the water line would have been over my head in some places and we were at least a mile from the beach. Everything was a complete mess and looked just like you’d imagine it to look after a disaster. There was one guy who’d built a big fire pit in the middle of the street and the neighbors were all out warming themselves there and cooking food. All the people we spoke to seemed to be pretty upbeat, and were very grateful that people were there to help.

—Tim McCullough, piano faculty