Despite Covid-19, The Justin Veatch Fund will award six new music scholarships on June 10. A planned awards program at Yorktown Town Hall, however, will not take place but that isn’t stopping the fund from saluting the winners.
“We look forward every year to an inspiring program,” stated Fund President Jeffrey Veatch. “This year we planned to have Ossining singer/songwriter K. J. Denhert as our keynote, but that will have to be postponed.”
Each recipient will be mailed a $1,000 check and a metronome award which can also serve as a rehearsal tool.
The 2020 recipients are Izaak Baer-Sanft of Ossining High School, Tara Curran of John Jay High School, Michael DiVestea of The Harvey School, Leila Hudson of Yorktown High School, Serena Jade Miller of Rye High School and Daniel Zitomer also from John Jay.
Scholarships began in 2009
The Justin Veatch Fund Music Scholarships honor the legacy of Justin Veatch, a Yorktown High School senior who died from an accidental drug overdose in 2008. The 2020 awards bring to 48 the number of $1,000 scholarships awarded by The Fund since 2009.
“It’s an incredible thing to watch my brother’s legacy continue to positively impact the lives of young musicians each year,” remarked Elena Veatch, who is also a board member.
Two of this year’s awards were funded by full sponsors: The law firm of Joseph J. Tock in Mahopac and Club Fit in Jefferson Valley. Another of the awards was underwritten by a group of donors. Sponsors are given framed pictures of the awards with their inscriptions as making them possible.
The 2020 Recipients
Izaak Baer-Sanft, a graduate of Ossining High School, plans to attend Berklee College of Music in the fall. On music’s role in his future Baer-Sanft puts it simply: “Music is how my brain works.” He says his ultimate goal is to be able to have a career composing, arranging, collaborating, recording, releasing, and performing his own music. His band director called Baer-Sanft one of the most artistic students he’s had the pleasure of teaching. Another teacher said she has rarely seen a student so joyfully committed to his craft and how he showcases his work. In his recordings he has collaborated with other instrumental performers as well as making multi layered recordings entirely on his own.
Tara Curran, a graduate from John Jay High School, plans to attend the University of New Haven. She is a vocalist and songwriter and says she has been devoting her energy to singing since she was 5 years old. Curran says a turbulent family life as a young child caused her to seek refuge in muaic and introduced her to the blues. One of her music teachers called Curran a hard working, self-disciplined student whose kindness provided motivation to others. She performed as lead singer for The Justin Veatch Fund All Stars at Paramount Hudson Valley in 2016 and has since fronted the bands Gilbert and Tara Jade and Company, is a two time winner of the Ridgefield Bandjam, performed at Pleasantville Music Festival, and was a first place winner at the Berklee High School Jazz Festival.
Michael DiVestea, a graduate from The Harvey School, plans to attend Syracuse University’s Bandier Music Business Program. DiVestea plays piano, keyboards, and drums. He envisions becoming a successful music producer or entertainment attorney. Since 2018 he has produced music using Apple’s Logic Pro X. The result has been a music album released on several platforms including Spotify and iTunes. He has performed at the Towne Crier Cafe, Daryl’s House, and participated in the Ridgefield Playhouse Battle of the Bands. DiVestea’s piano teacher said hel has demonstrated a natural ability for creating music by employing the drive and determination that earned him the rank of Eagle Scout.
Leila Hudson, a graduate from Yorktown HIgh School, plans to attend Princeton University. She is a harpist and has been playing since she was eight years old. For the past two years Hudson has been the harpist for the prestigious New York Youth Symphony and a featured performer on NPR’s From the Top broadcast. She was also the harpist for the National Youth Orchestra for two years in a row. Michael Repper, music director of the New York Youth Symphony, called Hudson one of the most special young talents in our country. She credits her musicianship to perseverance to overcome obstacles, conquer fear, and take risks.
Serena Jade Miller, a graduate from Rye High School, plans to attend Berklee School of Music. Miller says writing music, singing, and playing guitar has been a passion since she was a young girl. She believes music gives people better access to their emotions and can be a healing force. Charlie Lagond, one of her music teachers, says Miller has grown musically through the development of deeper ensemble skills in jazz and improvisation. At Berklee she plans to major in songwriting. Miller has regularly performed in venues such as Rockwood Music Hall and is a 2020 National Young Arts Foundation Merit winner. She says in these politically polarized times she hopes her music can help bring people together.
Daniel Zitomer, a graduate from John Jay High School, plans to attend Northwestern University in the fall with a double major of jazz performance and physics. He’s been playing drums for 12 years but also plays guitar and writes music. In addition to John Jay he attended Lagond Music School. At John Jay he performed with the elite jazz band and represented his school at All County and Area All State festivals. He also formed two bands outside school. Zitomer was awarded the Judge’s Choice Award for drum-set performance in Jazz at the Berklee College of Music High School Jazz Festival.
The Veatch Story is told in film and talk
Justin Veatch was a talented musician and singer/songwriter whose original recordings along with covers were released by Polyvinyl Records in 2010 on the CD Permagrin. The documentary film Whispering Spirits tells Justin’s story and paints a moving picture of how the Veatch Family has dealt with their loss. Jeffrey Veatch, Justin’s father, delivers a multimedia talk A Message from Justin designed to inspire teens to take better care of themselves, to avoid the perils of substance abuse, and to watch out for their friends.