Please send me the names and success stories (educational, career, family, etc.) of your former students for a future column so we may honor all CI alumni who serve as affirmation that we must be doing something right. It is high time to ‘shout’ out pride in our great alumni, role models for Central Islip students today. Please include name, maiden name, graduation date, email address, and a 50 word or less description of an accomplishment. I will be happy to include them in a long list of Central Islip family members.
A MUSICAL JOURNEY: From Morrow to Kenny G.
In 2009 Bobby Mazzeo, class of 1998, auditioned to play the National Anthem at Met’s Stadium. It was a vocal audition, but he decided to take a chance, and on June 24, 2009, Bobby became the first instrumentalist to play in that new stadium to rave reviews. But where did his journey start? Right here, in Central Islip.
Bobby’s journey began in fourth grade, when, at the age of eight, he picked up his alto saxophone for the first time. He progressed so well that in fifth grade, Morrow instrumental teacher, Mr. Leo Rigaud, chose him to become the first student in his class to learn the tenor saxophone. Bobby was inspired and taught himself the National Anthem, performing it as his first solo, on an instrument then bigger than himself, for his school’s concert. His passion for music was ignited.
Bobby’s path was not smooth. “After graduating from Central Islip High School, , I didn't get my bachelors in jazz performance right away because my father passed away, and I had to work to help out with things as it was just my mom and I.” Bobby attended Five Towns College, shouldering large financial debt, but “meeting my wife to be, Melissa, and that made it all worth it.” During this time, he worked with a recently formed fusion band. While playing a gig at Smith’s Point, he made his radio debut on Star 99.9.
Bobby makes it clear who encouraged him. “I never took a private lesson outside of my schooling in CI, and my teachers, especially Mr. Riguard (4th through 6th grade,) who, even to this day, still supports me, has been my inspiration. He has come to see me play the National Anthem for thousands of people, which he himself accompanied me in the 5th grade, playing my first solo ever. Him, and Mr Muller, another great teacher, and one of the best saxophonists I've heard, who started teaching at the high school my freshman year, and took me under his wing, were invaluable in all that I have achieved, and deserve a mention so much more than my college.”
In the years that followed, Bobby played at numerous churches, fundraising events, and parties. At Five Towns, he was a featured soloist, performing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. He was also featured on television. While playing at a local church, he collaborated with the church’s organist and music director and they were featured on an episode of Good News.
The National Anthem has remained a prominent piece of his performing life. Not only did he perform at Met’s Stadium, but Duck’s Stadium as well, returning multiple times to perform and always with raves. Coming a long way from playing the National Anthem at his elementary school concert, after years of working any gig he could find, Bobby still could not imagine he would get his chance to perform on stage with his idol, the legendary Kenny G.
Bobby’s admiration of Kenny G began in Middle School. Teaching himself Kenny G’s music and watching the band perform, he found a new inspiration. His first time playing soprano sax, he did Kenny proud, performing “Going Home” in the school talent show. He never dreamed he would meet and become friends with his idol, but on October 4, 2002, while standing outside a CD promotion at J&R Records in Manhattan, Bobby got to ask Kenny how he hit that high G, and “stood eager as Kenny pulled aside the barricade and invited him to see for himself.” This began a friendship where “Show after show, year after year, they would meet, talk shop, and share their passion for music.”
On December 10, 2011, Bobby played a duet for the first time on stage with Kenny G during a sold out show in Atlantic City. They performed Pick Up the Pieces on dueling tenor saxophones as the final number to the show. “The energy was incredible, and the performance left the audience begging for an encore.” This success led Bobby to play with his idol on more occasions. “Always present was the heartfelt introduction from Kenny G, always the tenor saxophones, always Pick Up the Pieces as the last song, and always the same reaction.” These gigs included the Sands Casino in Pennsylvania on June 25, 2012, and, at Kenny’s insistence, The Blue Note in NYC on January 13, 2012, and November 16, 2012. January 13, 2012 was Kenny’s first time playing at the legendary Blue Note, and he wanted to be sure that Bobby shared in that experience with him.
Bobby has recorded three of his own original songs, Miami Breeze and La Nina on the soprano saxophone, and Getaway on the tenor and continues to play whenever he has the opportunity. We don’t know where his musical journey will end, but we do know where it all began. He should be an inspiration to all or our students, and a reminder that caring teachers do make a difference. I am grateful he shared his story with us and look forward to what he will accomplish in his bright future.