Newsday Article before Concert

They're banding together again

Caryn Eve Murray

June 12, 2005

The sweetest sounds ever to grace the ears of Jeff Byrne, Peter Trinche, Fred Krainin and dozens of their former fellow band members from North Shore High School are those in the B-flat scale.

That same scale ushered in their first reunion concert in 1981, as musicians by the dozens returned eagerly to Glen Head to play under Bennett Lentczner, their beloved, no-nonsense leader.

And they will be the first notes their instruments sound together at a reunion concert June 19, as dozens of musicians span decades and distance - including Lentczner, 67, from West Virginia, Krainin from North Carolina, Trinche from Bayville and Byrne from Port Washington.

"The last time we did this, my kids weren't even born," said trumpet player Byrne, 52, a Sea Cliff native and one of the concert organizers.

"We were all still pretty young," Lentczner said. "It was only nine years after I left. And it was a great deal of fun. They got me back there to play under me again, and we remembered some of the times we had."

And now they've got him back again - making gentle demands on the leader who had once asked, long ago, for their utmost.

"I wanted them to be the best that they could be," Lentczner said. "And now I am hearing from former students, who don't really play anymore, but they play in this reunion. They have dusted off their instruments and gotten them back into shape to play."

Some even went pro - like Stephanie Przybylska, class of '75, principal bassoonist with the New Mexico and Santa Fe symphonies, or trumpet player Lauren Draper, class of '68, who has performed on Broadway.

As for Byrne, he became a high school music teacher in Port Washington - no surprise there, he said, given his lifelong friendship with Lentczner.

"I just wanted to work with kids as he did way back," Byrne said.

To the 300 or more peopple in the audience for the free 2 p.m. performance, Lentzcner will be a returning hometown musician, getting his students to make the halls sing again.

But to the clarinetists, trumpeters, flutists and bassoonists, he'll be leading one more time. Once again, he'll be top brass.

Newsday Article after Concert

Sounds like good ol' days
Reunion concert of bandmates from the '60s and '70s strikes chord for 45 alumni of North Shore High


June 20, 2005

The musicians milled around the stage at the North Shore High School auditorium the way they had so many times before, waving to family in the audience, trading stories and jokes like teenagers.

Except that these musicians - a collection of school band alumni reuniting yesterday for the first time in more than 20 years, had grown up, gone on with their lives and, in some cases, gone a bit gray since they'd last played together.

"I'd been out of touch with everybody and then I heard about this concert and I had to be here," said Thomas Kay, class of 1967 and a flutist with the Canadian Chamber Ensemble. "I knew had to do this."

The reunion concert brought together about 45 band members who had attended North Shore High in Glen Head between 1962 and 1977, and who studied under former band director Bennett Lentczner, who returned to assume the baton for yesterday's show. A similar concert was staged in 1981.

"We had something very special and unique here, and we come back to celebrate that," said Lentczner, who is now retired and living in West Virginia. He taught at North Shore for 10 years, leaving in 1972 to eventually become president of the New World School of the Arts in Miami.

Like Kay, some of those performing yesterday say studying under Lentczner inspired them to pursue careers in music.

"He's been a mentor and a teacher and a friend," said one of the event's organizers, Jeffrey Byrne, trumpet, class of 1971, who teaches music at Schreiber High School in Port Washington.

Others, like Donna Slanina-Ruiz, a classmate of Byrne's, had not picked up an instrument in years.

"I played up until about six years ago, but when we started to talk about doing this last year, I took my flute out again," said Slanina-Ruiz, a special education teacher in the North Shore district.

The bandmates practiced together for the first time Friday night, and again twice on Saturday, to prepare for taking the stage yesterday before about 75 family and friends.

They played classics such as "America the Beautiful" and "Bugler's Holiday" and, of course, the school's alma mater.

For Amy Gold of Virginia, the concert was a family reunion as well. She, her sister, two brothers and her mother came from three states to see her father, William Herbert, class of 1970, who now lives in Florida, play French horn yesterday.

"It's a really nice Father's Day thing," Gold said. "They're really good, aren't they?"

Robert Grayson crossed several continents for the concert. The 1974 graduate now lives in Australia, where he plays drums and performs as a stand-up comedian. His classmates took up a collection to subsidize his trip.

"It was a little embarrassing, but I just couldn't miss it," Grayson said. "And I figure that if it weren't for Mr. Lentczner, I might have gone into a profession where I'd make some money instead of being a happy musical bum."