The Illustrious History of the Music Program in the
Great Neck Public Schools
Great Neck Public Schools
Find YOURSELF in the Illustrious History of the Music Program in the Great Neck Public Schools
Did you play or sing in any of the Bands, Orchestras or Choirs from Great Neck High School between 1928 and 1958? Or Great Neck North High School since 1958? Well, thanks to Genelle Taney (Class of 2003 and Principal Violist of the Symphony Orchestra), you can search the gallery of photographs and rosters of every Band, Orchestra and Choir dating from 1929 until the present. Concert programs date back to 1978. If you played or sang in one of these groups, you might find that some of your classmates were children of Morton Gould, Leo Kraft, Eddie Cantor, George M Cohan, Richard Tucker or Groucho Marx. Great Neck has been the home of an unusually large number of famous individuals including film maker Allan Miller (From Mao to Mozart, Bolero, Music From The Heart, Small Wonders), comedian and actor Alan King, comedian and Actor Andy Kaufman.
Great Neck resident and professional bassist Bob Taffet has provide us with even more notables from this wonderful town of Great Neck:
Leonard Rose, Cellist
Benar Heifitz, Cellist
Samuel Baron, Flutist
Leonid Hambro – Concert Pianist (Had his own radio show on QXR, taught
at Juilliard, President of CALARTS and concertized globally. He was also the pianist for the NY Philharmonic).
Michael Rabin, violinist. His father, George, played in the Philharmonic.
Noam Chomsky, Linguist and Philosopher
Prof. Irwin Corey, Comedian
Sid Ceasar, Comedian
Marvin Hamlisch, award-winning composer
Talia Shire, actress (“Yo, Adrienne” said Sylvester Stallone in Rocky). and the
niece of the film director Francis Ford Coppola who is the nephew of the
conductor, Anton Coppola taught conducting at the Manhattan School of Music
Bernie Glow who
was, through the 50’s and 60’s considered one of New York’s premiere trumpet players and was always first call on all major sessions when the recording industry thrived here. Their mother, Bernie’s wife, was a former Miss America.
Bobby Rosengarden. drummer of the former leader of the Tonight Show Band, when the show originated out of New York.
The web site:
offers a larger number of well-known individuals associated with Great Neck:
People associated with Great Neck
- Dan Ahdoot, comedian.
- David Baltimore (born 1938), Nobel prize winning biologist and former president of Caltech (former resident and high school graduate).
- Nikki Blonsky (born 1988), actress who starred as Tracy Turnblad in the 2007 film version of Hairspray and also to be in the 2008 movie Harold which was filmed in August 2007 in Great Neck North High School and Middle School.
- Enea Bossi (1888-1963), Italian-American engineer and aviation pioneer
- Oscar Brand (born 1920), folk singer and songwriter (resident)
- Donald Brian (1877-1948), Broadway actor, singer and dancer
- Fanny Brice, American illustrated song “model,” comedienne, singer, theatre and film actress
- Algis Budrys (1931-2008), science-fiction author and editor (former resident)
- Sid Caesar (born 1922), television pioneer known for Your Show of Shows (former resident)
- Maurice Chevalier (1888-1972), actor and entertainer
- Walter Chrysler (1875-1940), automobile pioneer, founder of the Chrysler Corporation
- Mary L. Cleave (born 1947), space shuttle astronaut.
- George M. Cohan, entertainer, playwright, composer, lyricist, actor, singer, dancer, director, and producer (former resident)
- Steven A. Cohen, hedge fund manager (SAC Capital), billionaire (former resident)
- Kenneth Cole, designer (attended school in Great Neck)
- Francis Ford Coppola, film director (graduated from Great Neck High School [North])
- Andrew W. Cordier, Columbia University president (former resident)
- Anthony Cumia, latter half of Opie and Anthony (resident)
- Thomas DiNapoli, New York State Comptroller (resident)
- Shay Doron, first Israeli player to play in the Women’s National Basketball Association
- Quinn Early, former National Football League player who was selected by the San Diego Chargers in the 3rd round of the 1988 NFL Draft. (Graduated from Great Neck South High School)
- Percy Faith, orchestra conductor (former resident)
- W. C. Fields, comedian and actor (former resident)
- F. Scott Fitzgerald, novelist and author of The Great Gatsby (former resident)
- Whitey Ford, New York Yankees pitcher (resident)
- Arnold and Jesse Friedman, subject of the award-winning 2003 documentary Capturing the Friedmans (former residents)
- Steven Goldman, activist, BU star, bus exec (former resident)
- Jamie Gorelick, Clinton Administration official (former resident)
- Morton Gould, concert pianist (former resident)
- Joseph Peter Grace, Sr., businessman (former resident)
- Mark J. Green, former New York City Public Advocate and mayoral candidate (former resident and high school graduate)
- Ilan Hall, chef and winner of reality television show Top Chef (former resident)
- Oscar Hammerstein II, writer, producer and director of musicals (former resident)
- Emily Hughes, member of the U.S. Figure Skating Team at the 2006 Winter Olympics
- Sarah Hughes, Gold medalist in Figure Skating at the 2002 Winter Olympics
- Eric Isaacs (born 1957) accomplished physicist who is the director of Argonne National Laboratory
- David Kahn, US historian, journalist, and writer on subjects of cryptography and military intelligence
- Michael Karlan, founder of the nation’s largest networking and socializing group, Professionals in the City (former resident)
- Andy Kaufman, comedian and actor (former resident)
- Josh Kopelman, American entrepreneur (former resident)
- Alan King, comedian and actor (former resident)
- Christopher Lambert, actor (born in Great Neck)
- Ring Lardner, sports columnist and short story writer (former resident)
- The Marx Brothers, stars of vaudeville and movies (former residents)
- Minae Mizumura, novelist, essayist, critic, based in Tokyo, Japan. Author of A Real Novel (former resident)
- Bobby Muller, Vietnam War veteran and anti-war activist (grew up in Great Neck)
- Louise Nevelson, abstract sculptor (former resident)
- Paul Newman, actor (former resident)
- Ted Nierenberg (1923-2009), founder of Dansk International Designs, created in the garage of his Great Neck home.
- Eugene O’Neill, playwright (former resident)
- Larry Poons, abstract painter (graduated from Great Neck High School [North])
- Neil Portnow, President of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences(former resident)
- Dan Raviv, author and CBS TV and radio correspondent who hosts the CBS News Weekend Roundup (former resident)
- Jordan Rudess, Keyboard Player for the band Dream Theater (grew up in Great Neck)
- Tamir Sapir, Russian Born Cabdriver Billionaire. 12-acre (49,000 m2) Estate on Pond Road.
- George Segal, actor (resident)
- Talia Shire, actress (former resident)
- Harry F. Sinclair, oil industrialist (former resident)
- Alfred P. Sloan, President of General Motors (former resident)
- Seth Swirsky, songwriter and author
- Norma Talmadge, actress (former resident)
- Richard Tucker, operatic tenor (former resident)
- William Kissam Vanderbilt II, railroad executive and yachtsman (former resident)
- Robert Varkonyi, World Series of Poker champion (resident)
- Sam Warner (1887-1927), one of the four brothers who were co-founders of Warner Bros.
- Mordecai Waxman (1917-2002), prominent rabbi in the Conservative movement and of Temple Israel of Great Neck.
- Evan Wecksell, comedian,singer/songwriter (graduated from Great Neck South High School and former resident)
- Mort Weisinger, editor (Batman, Superman, Thrilling Wonder Stories)
- Charlie Williams, traded by the New York Mets along with cash for Willie Mays. Mr. Williams did not make the Great Neck South Senior baseball team as a senior.
- P. G. Wodehouse (1881-1975), English comic writer (former resident).
- Herman Wouk (born 1915), author (former resident)
- Harris Wulfson (1974-2008), composer, instrumentalist and software engineer (graduated from Great Neck South High School)
- Julius Genachowski FCC chairman under Obama administration
This web site was inspired by a visit to Mr. Rutkowski (Director of Instrumental Music, 1991-present) one school day afternoon in May 2000. An older gentleman and his wife entered room 218 while Mr. R was setting up for the Symphonic Band class. The man exclaimed, “I can’t believe it! That is where I sat!!” He pointed to the trumpet section of empty chairs and music stands. It turns out that this man was a 1947 graduate of Great Neck High School and played trumpet in the Band. At the time of this visit, he was living in Pittsburgh, PA and was in New York City on business. He decided to make the trip from Manhattan to Great Neck to show his wife the room that he remembered most about his high school years. Mr. R recalled the man began to name all the “kids” who sat in his section, even though they were then somewhere in their early 70’s.
Playing in the band or orchestra or singing in the choir means that you had the chance to create MUSIC with your classmates everyday. You had a performance everyday. Students and teachers who passed room 218 or 116 without you knowing and heard you in your daily rehearsal. Visitors parking their cars in the parking lot outside heard your performance and made an initial judgment of the kind of school it was.
There are many things you can do with MUSIC. You can compose it, perform it, conduct it, write about it, think about it. Thinking about music makes this art the most powerful of all. If you were separated from your instrument, from all your scores, from all your CDs, tapes and vinyl records of the music you love, you could still have music. You could hear your favorite, most beloved symphony, concerto, sonata or Beatles’ song, even if you were on some deserted island (as part of a national television series or not!). If all the CDs, tapes, LPs, scores and original manuscripts of Beethoven’s nine symphonies were somehow destroyed, there would be enough musicians that could reconstruct these masterpieces, rehearse them, perform them and record them all over again. Could we say that about any other work of visual art? If Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa were destroyed, could anyone truly reconstruct it? As necessary and monumental as all the arts are, this is what makes MUSIC so powerful.
Take a trip down memory lane and visit the photos and rosters from the Arista Yearbooks that Genelle Taney scanned for us. Can you hear the melodies?