Two bastions of commerce and culture joined forces on Saturday, Oct. 22, for a night of fright and fun at Port Jefferson Station’s Train Car Park.
The Spooktacular Music Festival was a three-hour production co-hosted by the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce and the local affiliate of the School of Rock, the largest music school franchise nationwide. The event showcased the talents of local student musicians while bringing community members together for a night out.
Tracie and Jaime Smith have owned the Port Jefferson-based franchise of the School of Rock for 12 years. They described the music school as a place connecting like-minded youth with a shared passion for music.
“A lot of the kids that come to the School of Rock don’t quite fit in in public school,” Jaime Smith said. “When they come to our school, they are exactly who they are, and they’re accepted for that, regardless of age, race, it doesn’t matter.” He added, “They all share that common goal of art, and they do a heck of a job expressing that on stage.”
This sentiment held on Saturday night as the student performers entertained hundreds of spectators on the Train Car Park’s main lawn, playing songs across various genres, such as classic rock and punk rock.
Tracie Smith offered her perspective on the evening, saying that the event closely aligned with the music school’s organizational principles.
“We pride ourselves on getting the kids on stage,” she said. “It’s not just taking a guitar lesson in your basement and never doing anything with it. We get the kids on stage multiple times per year, and they get to rock out,” adding, “It helps them build their confidence and meet other like-minded kids.”
While the School of Rock has held the event in years past, this marked the first year the performance was held at the Train Car Park. Jennifer Dzvonar, president of PJSTCC, was also present during the event and discussed how it all came together.
“We’re trying to get some more community events over here at the Train Car Park, so together we said, ‘Bring it here, and we’ll do it in collaboration with the chamber,’” she said. “We have some chamber members here setting up some tables. It’s open to the community, free admission, and with live music and fun.”
For Dzvonar, this event marks just the next chapter in a string of recent positive developments for the Greater Comsewogue area. According to her, boosting recreational use at the Train Car Park has been the chamber’s priority for years.
Now, with the availability of public funds and political will, those plans are bearing fruit. “We have always been trying to get this up and running,” she said. “Phase one is trying to get the park usable for the community, so they’re going to be making a walking path in here, we’re getting a parking lot and we’re going to get a playground.” She added, “Hopefully, that should be completed by the end of this year. If not, then the beginning of next year.”
After these improvements are executed, the chamber plans to use the historic train car on-site for community tourism. In addition, plans are in place to repurpose some of it as office space, providing chamber members with new headquarters.
“Our vision is coming to fruition finally,” Dzvonar said. “This is exactly what we wanted for the community — a place to come, a place for kids and adults, a place for anybody. Basically, the motto of the chamber is to bring local businesses and the community together. This is a hub for that.”
Jaime and Tracie Smith have observed a gradual shift in the area throughout their time running the music school. For them, the arts will continue to play a central role in the area’s burgeoning cultural renaissance.
“What we’ve seen in the over a decade that we’ve been here is a movement toward families and the arts and a dedication to the community,” Jaime Smith said. “There has been a real movement forward toward creating something different here … and music always brings people together.”
Tracie Smith added to this perspective, touching upon how the COVID-19 pandemic has brought more families from New York City onto Long Island. Given these trends, she sees reason for optimism.
“We’ve seen such a nice bump in our enrollment post-COVID,” she said. “We’ve seen a lot of new families, a lot of resurgences, a lot of people moving from the city to come here, so we’re looking forward to the future for sure.”
— Photos by Raymond Janis