It has been nearly two years since Kelsey Kittleson passed away after a battle with brain cancer.
For many in the Averill Park Central School District, it seems like just yesterday Kelsey was in the music room or on the athletic fields; helping younger students get ready for a play or giving voice lessons.
Kelsey left a lasting legacy, one that has now been translated into music.
On Monday, May 20, the high school choir and orchestra will perform an original work dedicated to Kelsey and the senior class at the annual Spring Concert. Composer Eric Barnum wrote the work.
“We are incredibly fortunate that Eric was willing to write this work for us,” High School music teacher Michael Blostein said. “Typically, it’s a multi-year process – he made an exception for us. Throughout the process, there was communication at times about specific aspects – use of text, some technique questions, etc. – but mostly, we left it to him to do his thing in his way.”
While the music is that of Barnum’s, the text is Kelsey’s and the piece will help to ensure that a part of her spirit continues on.
“It’s a really wonderful way to include her in all of the culminating musical activities we do here for our seniors,” Blostein said.
Mr. Blostein and fellow music teacher, Sarah Christy, knew they wanted to honor Kelsey in some way, but weren’t sure how in the beginning.
“We knew we wanted to do something special for [our senior class].” Christy said. “I felt uncertain of how to acknowledge the life that was missing while celebrating the milestones of the collective group. There are a lot of factors, including many students in different stages of grief, as well as the family and, most importantly, her younger sister who is in my ensemble as well.”
In her time at Averill Park, Kelsey was a singer, cello and piano player. She gave voice lessons to a young girl with cerebral palsy who received speech therapy. She helped out with younger students in the middle school with a performance of “Seussical the Musical.”
Kelsey always thought of others, so much so that she was honored as one of WNYT’s 13 Kids Who Care.
She also played sports at Averill Park, competing in soccer, lacrosse and tennis.
“At the time we had a much smaller program, so while Kelsey was young, her impact was really felt as everyone got to know her and her strength and her beautiful self,” Christy said. “We teach many of those who were among her closest friends, so the impact on the class was very noticeable for us.”
Kelsey’s classmates and fellow musicians have taken the task at hand seriously and have spent countless hours practicing the new piece that they will debut on Monday night.
“Personally, this is my first commission and premiere of a work. It has been a really profound experience,” Christy said. “There is a different feeling of responsibility toward how we present this and really bring it to life. The students have been so wonderful. They have been so respectful of the process, the music, each other. I could not be more proud of the extra hours they have committed to making this into everything we had hoped, and more.”
“The results are simply astounding. Hopefully, we’ll have a full house to hear this amazing work,” Blostein added.
The Spring Concert begins at 6:30 p.m. Conductors Sarah Christy and Michael Blostein will lead students in the performance of “Already Soaring” composed by Mr. Barnum.