Featured Story

Riverhead senior gives back to fine arts program after starting percussion academy

He has played at Carnegie Hall, multiple times.

He has played at Lincoln Center, multiple times.

He has played at Radio City Music Hall, among other concert venues.

It must have been tempting for Will Green to think to himself during those times that he had made it as a musician. Except for one thing — he’s still in high school. He’s 17 years old and has a world of musical opportunity ahead of him.

Will, a Riverhead High School senior, is a two-time all-state percussionist. His résumé is bursting with achievements and honors. At the high school level alone, he has been president of the symphonic band, a member of the concert band, jazz band, wind ensemble, pep band, pit orchestra, the Blue Masques drama club and the chamber choir. He has performed for the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra, been involved in community theater and taken part in numerous musical festivals.

Will’s musical talent covers a broad range of instruments. He can play any percussion instrument, including the drum set, snare drum, timpani, marimba, xylophone and triangle. He even owns and plays an ocean drum, which he described as an unusual instrument. (“It’s good to have because who knows when I’ll ever need the sound of waves crashing on the beach?” he said). On top of that, he can play guitar, piano, bass guitar and, oh yes, he also sings.

In addition, the Jamesport resident has run for the school’s cross-country and track and field teams, holds a black belt in Isshin-ryu karate and maintains grades worthy of being a National Honor Society member.

And on it goes.

“I think it’s extremely rare to come across someone with all of the talents that he has,” said Jason Rottkamp, Riverhead High School’s assistant principal and director of fine arts. “Besides the musical ability, which is the top 1%, you could be talking also about the person he is, which also is the top 1% of kids you’ll encounter in a high school.”

Will is the type of person who has offered to donate $1,000 to the school’s fine arts program. The school board was expected to act on that proposed donation at its Tuesday night meeting.

The money comes from a nonprofit percussion academy Will started for students in grades 5-8. Donations for lessons were accepted, with the intent of giving back to the school’s music programs, which were cut when the school district went on a contingency budget after two budget vote failures.

“We call it the double whammy of COVID-19 and Riverhead’s failed budget,” Will said. “This is definitely a really hard year for me.”

Will said he was about to perform in the drama club’s production of “Les Misérables” last year when the pandemic hit. His heart sank.

“I landed the lead role and I was so excited to be able to act for the first time and show that I can sing,” he said. “Then everything shut down.”

Will’s connection to music may have begun when he was about 5 years old, playing the video game “Rock Band” at a cousin’s house. For his eighth birthday, he received a drum set and private lessons.

And so began his musical journey.

When it came time for students pick an instrument to study at the end of their fourth-grade school year, Will chose the percussion route. As a fifth-grader, he was moved straight up to the sixth-grade band. In middle school, he was brought on to the jazz band and the wind ensemble. By the time he was a seventh-grader, he was already playing alongside adults in professional pit orchestras.

He always seemed to be ahead of the musical curve.

Will is grateful the school board voted to restore extracurricular activities such as sports and music for this coming spring, and he plans to be heavily involved once again, doing what he loves to do.

“It gives me hope,” he said. “It’s like a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Will plans to double major in music education and percussion performance in college. He hasn’t selected a college yet, saying schools told him they are waiting until all auditions are completed before making their admission decisions. “Music is a different animal in the college world,” he said.

As for his post-college future, Will has options. He could become a high school band teacher or take the performance route and possibly play on Broadway or in a professional pit orchestra.

One thing he knows for sure is that music is in his soul.

He said, “I always feel music and I feel that music always feels me.”

Referring to some of the famous places where Will has played, Mr. Rottkamp, who plays the saxophone, said, tongue in cheek, “I’m trying to get those gigs, too.”