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West Point Conductor Leads Briarcliff School Band

BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y. — Delia Montenegro, Briarcliff High School ’s band director, knows it’s not easy getting through to students. But when Lt. Col. Jim Keene conducted the band at a recent practice, Montenegro said he handled it with ease.

“It wasn’t about using discipline or anything like that. He just seemed to understand young people and I think that was key,” Montenegro said. “Not everybody can really work with high school students but he made a connection and the kids loved it.”

Keene regularly conducts the West Point Band, the U.S. Army’s oldest active band, but recently volunteered his services as guest conductor last week as part of an educational outreach program, according to a press release from the Briarcliff School District . Keene’s appearance and direction gave the students a boost, Montenegro said this week.

“I think to have someone from the outside with that kind of experience and expertise come in was extremely helpful and uplifting for the students,” Montenegro said, adding that the school recently received a gold rating from the New York State School Music Association’s Majors adjudication. “I had seen him work with students so I knew he’d add something, but it was really enriching for them to see and I think it was a great experience for everyone.”

Students said in a press release that having Keene visit was helpful for their performance.

“Having a guest conductor is so important because it’s good to hear different interpretations of pieces, which in turn helps strengthen our musical understanding,” said student Lukas Arbogast in the press release. “I thought it was a lot of fun, and a great change of pace.”

Montenegaro said it’s an experience she hopes to bring back in an even bigger way next year.

“When I spoke to (Keene), he suggested the next time I fill out an application that I request sectionals so they could send a number of different people down to work with us,” Montenegro said. “He had even suggested partnering up with another local school to do a joint piece. I think that’s something we would definitely want to do in the future.”

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