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joseph v rella performing arts center

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Photo by Andrew Harris

By Kylie Schlosser and Andrew Harris

Tuesday Dec. 14 at Comsewogue High School was a very special evening indeed. It was well orchestrated in more ways than one.

Dr. Rella’s son, Richie, spoke about how he was grateful that Comsewogue (where he spent most of his time) ‘shared’ his dad with the family. Photo by Andrew Harris

When Superintendent Jennifer Quinn spoke, she said that Dr. Rella always said that during any celebrations, it was the musicians who were called upon first. Sure enough, musicians and singers from all the schools serenaded everyone that evening.

The dedication of the auditorium could not have been any more fitting, as it was on an evening surrounded by family, friends and love, of course, all to honor the man who started out as a part-time piano player at a church.

Later on he would become a music teacher, principal and eventually the superintendent of Comsewogue. 

Board member Rob Destefano spoke about him with a unique perspective both as board member and as a former student at Comsewogue.

“I am so proud that we are honoring his legacy with his name on this auditorium,” he said. “This is the classroom where he influenced the lives and education of so many of us.  Going through some old papers this past week, I found the program from one of those early, magical moments. This is the program from the 1996 Spring Concert. Some will recall, about how Dr. and Mrs. Rella danced in the aisles as we played ‘Sing! Sing! Sing!’  Classic Louis Prima / Benny Goodman swing music. Magic was happening!”

Charlotte Johnson, choral director, and her Tapestry Singers sang some lovely and fitting songs that evening.

Johnson said, “If you listen to the words of the song, [A Million Dreams], you can imagine Dr. Rella speaking them. He always felt that making this district the best it could be was not impossible … We just need to  put our thoughts and dreams into action, develop a plan and then have the courage to see it through.”

Destefano summarized it best. 

“If we remember the lessons we have been taught here, the time will soon come again, when Comsewogue will dance in the aisles of this auditorium. There is room for all of us. And I hope you will get out of your seats and join us!”

The district believes he, along with his wife, Jackie, would dance to the song that his beloved Tapestry sang that evening: 

“Every night I lie in bed

The brightest colors fill my head

A million dreams are keeping me awake

I think of what the world could be

A vision of the one I see

A million dreams is all it’s gonna take

Oh, a million dreams for the world we’re gonna make

However big, however small

Let me be part of it all

Share your dreams with me

You may be right, you may be wrong

But say that you’ll bring me along

To the world you see

To the world I close my eyes to see

I close my eyes to see.”

— “A Million Dreams” 

Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Ziv Zaifman

Kylie Schlosser is a 9th grade student at Comsewogue High School. Andrew Harris is a teacher in the district.