By Sean Fischer
Volume 66, Issue I
As Ms. Montenegro prepares to say goodbye to all her colleagues and students, she reminisces about her time spent at Briarcliff and her career as a musician. Her countless accomplishments in the classroom and on stage over the past twenty-eight years will leave a lasting legacy here at Briarcliff.
After graduating from Douglas College, a subsidiary of Rutgers University, with a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education, Ms. Montenegro continued to the University of Wisconsin, where she received a Masters degree in oboe performance. The oboe, her primary instrument, was introduced to her when she was a sophomore in high school.
Today, Ms. Montenegro knows how to play almost every band instrument. Ms. Montenegro’s teaching career has spanned a lengthy twenty-eight years, starting in 1989, during which she has taught at Todd Elementary School, Briarcliff Middle School, and Briarcliff High School. Looking back over her time spent here, Ms. Montenegro remembers doing sound checks in Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center with the high school band, marching up Pleasantville Road in the Veteran’s Day Parade, performing in Carnegie Hall, and delivering the news that the band had earned a Gold with Distinction in the NYSSMA Majors.
Ms. Montenegro will culminate her incredible career after the winter concert in December. She is retiring in the middle of the year because there are two breaking points in the music department: after the winter concert, and the end of the year. She chose to retire in December because of a combination of it being her birthday, a personal milestone for her and other personal factors. She actually started teaching in Briarcliff in the middle of the year, so it is a perfect ending time for her.
“During the days when I was teaching at Todd, I had students that I started in fifth grade, and I saw them graduate as seniors,” said Ms. Montenegro. “To see their growth as musicians is a really wonderful accomplishment.”
Ms. Montenegro will also miss seeing all students as individuals come in at the beginning, and watching them come together, and develop one sound. The high school band’s motto, “One Band, One Sound” is really impactful and powerful to her students. She says, “You can’t have a successful group if everybody isn’t able to lose themselves, and know when to give and take.”
She will also miss the great partnership between students and teachers, as well as all her colleagues in Briarcliff. “[In Briarcliff,] it’s so ideal, you’ll just miss being in that environment, where everything is working.” Other teachers will remember her for being a fantastic leader, and incredible musician.
“[Ms. Montenegro] inspires, guides, demands, supports, instructs, and cares deeply about her students, and the quality of the music-learning, and the music-making with which she is charged,” says Dr. Banks, chorus director, about Ms. Montenegro.
Ms. Montenegro will be deeply missed by all her students and colleagues, who are, every day, touched and inspired by her impactful love of music and education.