All In The Campaign for Blair Academy 2018-2025
Ethan Anthony
Blair’s Musicians Grace Manhattan
Adele Starrs

Amid the towering skyscrapers and bustling streets of Manhattan, a group of Blair high school students will find themselves gracing the stage of one of the city's most prestigious concert halls. 

Opening its doors on Manhattan’s Upper West Side in 1978, the Kaufman Music Center has for nearly half a century made its mission providing access to music at the highest level. On April 30, the musicians in Blair’s Chamber Choir, Chamber Orchestra and Jazz Combo took center stage of the Kaufman Center’s Merkin Hall to perform a variety of classical and contemporary works, including compositions by Black and female artists alongside pieces from Blair’s standard repertoire.  

Director of Instrumental Music and performing arts chair Jennifer Pagotto was delighted when the opportunity to perform at this renowned venue–with exceptional acoustics–fell into her lap. Serendipitously, Blair alum Jonathan Slawson ’05 reached out and invited her to a concert at Merkin this past fall. That connection led to the present invitation, which, Mrs. Pagotto says, will offer our musicians the joy of bringing their music off campus and sharing it with a larger audience. 

Big City Benefits
One of the advantages of studying music at a school located so close to New York City is the wealth of opportunities it offers Blair’s musicians beyond the classroom. From access to iconic concert halls and professional performances to networking and cultural immersion, Blair’s students benefit from exploring one of the world’s most dynamic music hubs and vibrant cultural centers. The performance at the Kaufman Center promises to be one such occasion, with students sampling the city’s international cuisine before settling in with the hall’s professional recording and lighting crews, who will offer their expertise during sound checks, rehearsals that afternoon and the concert that evening. “Some of the best a cappella groups in the world perform at Merkin Hall regularly,” Mrs. Pagotto emphasizes. “This is a wonderful opportunity for our students to perform on that stage.”

A Bittersweet Performance

Ethan Anthony

As the performance—and the next chapter of their lives—draws near, emotions run deep for many of Blair’s senior musicians, infusing the upcoming evening with a blend of nostalgia and anticipation. The evening promises to be a meaningful experience for many, offering students the deep joy of making music with some of their closest friends and classmates. For senior and alto saxophone player Ethan Anthony ’24, this performance marks the culmination of years of practicing with his friend and fellow saxophonist, Andrew Antunes ’24. In their earliest days together in the Jazz Band, the pair toted their instruments outside, practicing under the open skies of the Bowl during the pandemic. “We both have certainly come a long way as musicians since then,” Ethan reflects. Today, they have logged countless hours practicing in the DuBois Theatre, studying under the careful tutelage of Mrs. Pagotto, learning to sync their notes and cadences until they move with one voice, creating magical musical performances. Ethan looks forward to taking his seat next to his stand partner once more, uniting to create this repertoire one last time. “I can’t wait to perform what I know will be the best concerts of my time at Blair. It feels like everything has led to these final performances, and it’s going to be special to perform for the last time as a Buc,“ he says. “I’m certainly going to miss the unity that comes with these ensembles. It’s going to be hard to say goodbye to the people sitting next to me.”

Ethan hopes that those in the audience enjoying Blair’s performance in New York will join him and savor one poignant moment he loves. “I’m going to miss the moment between finishing a piece and the audience’s applause, when we all look up to see Mrs. Pagotto’s smile beaming down at us. It’s unforgettable.”

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Blair parents, family, friends and alumni were invited to join Blair’s talented musicians, and their dedicated maestra Mrs. Pagotto, for a reception at Kaufman Music Center prior to the concert.  

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