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2010-06-30 / Columnists

Our Piece of the World

by Ellen Holliday

Sean Willis Sean Willis During my adult life, I have traveled with music on my mind. I worked for Atlantic and Polydor Records and I studied in my early years under some hometown music teachers, such as Mrs. Hicks from Hicks Memorial Church, Professor Jones of Holy Trinity and Mrs. Lush, an elementary music teacher who was a member of my home church, St. Paul’s Lutheran, all in Amityville. My grandfather was a bandleader and bought me a baby grand piano, saw to it that I practice and played the violin. When people remark that I came from the “Horror Town,” my answer has been simply, “No, I come from the ‘Harmony Town.’”

I have met many musicians and sang with several choirs since my early days in the Amityville Elementary School chorus, but no one beats the music experience I had when I met Sean Willis. I was attending Fashion Institute of Technology on the weekends when I joined a gospel choir in New York City. Bro. Sean had advertised and developed a choir for Earth Day in 1997. Thiswas my very first shot at gospel singing. He was the vocal director of the Voices of Faith. When I finally got there for the concert, I met many school friends.

Sean Willis is the only son of Joshua and Hastie Willis of Amityville/Copiague. He attended Copiague Schools, graduating with honors from the music department in 1990. From seven years old, he studied and was trained by Charlie Vaughn of Vaughan Studios on Francine Street in North Amityville. For 10 years he received private lessons, besides what he learned in the public school environment. At 14 years old, he was one of six top music students, a sophomore chosen to go to France for a special performance and stayed 17 days, all expenses paid. That summer he turned 15. Since then, he has traveled to Scotland, Norway, London and Germany playing sacred music, and plays for secular events as well.

After finishing high school, this phenomenal young man attended Florida A & M University for one and a half years and came home to finish at Hunter College in New York City where he graduated magna cum laude. Instructor at the Integral Yoga Institute in Greenwich Village, choir director of St. Aloysius Parochial all girls school, director of the New F.I.T. Choir and ventured back to Bethel Copiague to lead the “Reunion Choir” last month, for the Linda Hart’s Concert. In 2001 he received the Outstanding Achievement Award for the N.A.A.C.P. in Parkchester in the Bronx, where he directs six choirs at one time for the Parkchester Baptist Church. All of his accomplishments cannot be listed in this column, but we can lift his name and our hats to an outstanding individual who comes to enrich our community. Thank You.

Readers can submit items for this column to Ellen Holliday, c/o Amityville Record newspaper, 85 Broadway, Suite A, Amityville NY 11701 or via email at acjnews@rcn.com

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