Shrub Oak Art Teacher Embraces Music's Role In Social Change

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(From L to R) Richard Salerno, Mary Barresi, Brian McClintock, Linda Ventura, Suzanne Mosca, Stan Serafin and Marshall Toppo went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
(From L to R) Richard Salerno, Mary Barresi, Brian McClintock, Linda Ventura, Suzanne Mosca, Stan Serafin and Marshall Toppo went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
Marshall Toppo (left) and Brian McClintock take a tour of The Capitol Theatre.
Marshall Toppo (left) and Brian McClintock take a tour of The Capitol Theatre. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly

PORT CHESTER, N.Y. – Both Linda Ventura and Marshall Toppo already use rock music as a tool in their classrooms, but the two music teachers plan to take it a step further after receiving special curriculum training at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

The Capitol Theatre teamed with nonprofit HeadCount.org for a second year to send 10 Westchester teachers to the Hall of Fame on July 31 and Aug. 1. Last year three teachers were selected.

Ventura, who teaches music production at Port Chester High School, said the curriculum creates a framework for how to use “music as the soundtrack for social issues, political issues and economic issues.”

“We all came away with our own little idea that we’re going to come back and develop,” she said of their trip.

The first thing teachers did at the Hall of Fame was listen to David Bowie’s “Space Odyssey,” which Ventura called “a great tune.”

“We listened to it and we talked about what are some ways that you can take this one tune and work with it in the context of your one classroom,” she said.

Toppo, who teaches at the Osborn Elementary School in Rye, said he already teaches the musical history of an era.

“I use it all the time and they just really took the materials I had and multiplied it exponentially,” he said of the Hall of Fame archives, which have been made available to the teachers.

He went on to say that, “People who are teaching literature I think can add that in as well.”

Brian McClintock, a Valhalla resident who teaches math at Westlake High School, plans to have his students create a budget as if they were going on tour with a band, or calculate the probability of a band making it into the Hall of Fame.

Suzanne Mosca is a U.S. history teacher at Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua. She said she may have students choose a band they think should make the Hall of Fame. They would then have to defend their selection using historical context.

Mary Barresi, a Shrub Oak resident who teaches art at Lakeland High School, said she is creating a months-long lesson plan to help students discover what issues matter to them through music. 

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