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Inspiring U | Feb 27, 2024

What's New With U? February

Two female-presenting students with their arms around each other standing with a teacher in a blue Usdan shirt.

In this month's newsletter, we pay tribute to our former Board Director Dr. Jerrold Ross, highlight a new scholarship opportunity, relive last summer with our Artists in Residence The Knights, and more! 

Remembering Dr. Jerrold Ross

by Dale Lewis, former Executive Director of Usdan


Dr. Jerrold Ross was a transformational leader in the arts, arts education, higher education, and nonprofit leadership. Jerry was Usdan’s longtime Board President, and I had the privilege of working with him for almost 40 years. His creative spirit energized our Board and resulted in innovation across the curriculum.

Jerry began his musical life as a pianist, attending Manhattan’s High School of Music and Art and studying in Juilliard’s Preparatory Division. He earned Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees at Queens College, and a Ph.D. at New York University. In 1997, Emerson College awarded him the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

Jerry began his teaching career in the Syosset and Great Neck schools and at The Dalton School. In 1963, he joined the faculty of The New York College of Music and in 1965, was named President, becoming the youngest college president in the country at age 30. Jerry was proud to have awarded a scholarship to Tania León, the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and Kennedy Center Honoree. Their longtime friendship was recently profiled on a CBS television documentary. In 1966, the College merged with NYU and Jerry was appointed Chair of the University’s Department of Music and Music Education. He subsequently became the School of Education's Associate Dean. At this time, Jerry was also Director of New York City’s historic Town Hall, then an affiliate of NYU. Here he created the Hall’s acclaimed series, Legendary Ladies of the Movies, which featured interviews with stars such as Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, and Myrna Loy. In 1995, Jerry was appointed Dean of the School of Education at St. John’s University and in 2006, he was awarded its Presidential Media. He retired in 2014 as Dean Emeritus and the longest-tenured Dean in the school's history.  

From 1969 to 2003, Jerry was President of Usdan’s Board of Trustees, and in 2006 we paid tribute to his service with the dedication of our Jerrold Ross Discovery Center.

Jerry’s distinguished careers in academic achievement, arts leadership, and community service were, of course, satisfying, but it was his 51-year partnership with Bob Harrod that was the unquestioned driver of his happiness. Bob and Jerry have a gracious home, the site of vibrant gatherings of family and friends. Jerry leaves nieces and nephews, numerous friends, colleagues, former students, and his beloved cat "Miss Coco." His final words to Bob, "Wonderful Life," touched family and friends and summed up a life well lived.

New Scholarship Opportunity from NYSSSA

Students in grades 5–12 who are full-time, permanent residents of New York State may apply to this scholarship to supplement tuition aid already received from a summer arts program, including Usdan! A family's adjusted gross income must be below $91,000/year in order to qualify. NYSSSA recommends that students apply to the scholarship after they have been accepted to the program of their choice; the scholarship will only be applicable to one program. Applications accepted through April 19, 2024. For more information and to apply, click here.



From July 11–19, 2023, in their final year as Usdan Artists in Residence, The Knights brought together Composition, Creative Writing, and Painting & Drawing students around the theme of rhapsody. The collaboration was inspired by George Gershwin's masterpiece, "Rhapsody in Blue," and the inherent, unfettered imagination of youth. Students in the three classes exchanged creative notes, including charcoal drawings, Polaroids, poems, and musical sketches, created in response to the music, which inspired further artistic responses. The project culminated on July 19 at the U Benefit, Usdan's immersive fundraiser, featuring The Knights performing nine new musical Rhapsodies created by the Composition students. The performance featured a poem written and presented by a Creative Writing student, and two Visual Art students painted in real time under a city skyline backdrop created by the Painting & Drawing class. The performance unfolded as a rhapsodic quilt of songs, visual art, and poetry, celebrating the diverse viewpoints, backgrounds, and imaginations of the Usdan students.

Bonus! Listen to The Knights featured on WNYC's "All of It" in celebration of the 100th anniversary of "Rhapsody in Blue."

"Rhapsody" is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.  


Avi Amon — Artist in Residence with Rebecca S'manga Frank, 2023–25


Turkish-American composer, sound artist, educator, and Usdan Artist in Residence, Avi Amon has been busy composing exciting new productions this winter. Most recently, he created the original score and sound design for the world-premiere production of The Following Evening created by 600 Highwaymen for Talking Band, which ran February 1–18 at The Perelman Performing Arts Center in Lower Manhattan. In March, Avi heads to The Kennedy Center for the world premiere of the new musical Through The Sunken Lands. He composed and co-wrote lyrics for this inspiring piece that follows Artemis—a young girl who’s determined to fight to save her dying, flooded town with the help of Aunt Maggie… and a talking heron. Congratulations, Avi!

Pedro Lasch — Artist in Residence, 2017–19

Pedro Lasch's retrospective exhibition Between the Lines is now on view at the Laboratorio Arte Alameda in Mexico City. Organized by Mexico's Ministry of Culture and the National Institute of Fine Arts and Literature, the impressive exhibition includes 100 artworks spanning 30 years of Pedro's work. We were thrilled to have Pedro as our inaugural Usdan Artist in Residence and so proud to see his work recognized in this way by his home country. Congratulations, Pedro!


Longtime Usdan student Aurora Girolamo and her friend made it on the cover of the fall/winter Newsday Fun Book! We just adore seeing Usdan students out in the community and cannot wait to see Aurora's smiling face back on campus in July. 

Are you or do you know of a Usdan student or alum who is doing something amazing? If so, please email and tell us all about it, and you (or they!) could be featured in our next newsletter! 


Tour Usdan

Do you know someone who is thinking of sending a child to Usdan this summer for the first time? We invite families to take a tour and experience our beautiful campus and meet our friendly staff! Our next tours are March 10 and 24. Sign up here.

Long Island Family Camp Fair and Activity Expo

Come visit our booth at the Long Island Family Camp Fair and Activity Expo on Sunday, March 3 from 12–3 p.m. at the Cradle of Aviation in Garden City! Register here.