Riverhead High School senior Will Green, a talented percussionist, found a creative way to help young music students and the district's music program. Courtesy photo.

Riverhead High School musician Will Green felt compelled to pay it forward during the difficult time students are living through, with the double-whammy of the COVID-19 pandemic and the district’s austerity budget. The end result was a $1,000 donation to the district’s fine arts department.

Will, a senior and an accomplished percussionist — he was selected to perform at the prestigious New York State School Music Association All-State Festival in December — decided to share his skills with young music students cut off from instruction due to the pandemic and program cuts made because the budget was voted down last year.

“In the past years, all of my nights have been filled with the different clubs offered after school. Under these new circumstances, I had a lot of time on my hands and I wanted to do something to give back to the community,” Will told the school board at last night’s meeting.

“Albert Einstein once said, ‘I see my life in terms of music.’ And that’s exactly how my mind works. My first thought was the young musicians who won’t have the same opportunities that I had to participate in the various extra ensembles,” he explained.

“With that in mind, I started a percussion academy at my house where I could safely offer individual lessons to the young students who have the same passion I have for music,” he said.

“I emphasize that the academy was free. But many parents insisted on paying me for my time. I was very upfront, telling them that all money collected would be donated to the Riverhead fine arts department,” Will said.

“Therefore, I would like to present the district with a check for $1,000 that I’ve collected through the academy. I truly believe that Mr. Rottkamp will use this money where it is most needed, whether it is at Pulaski, the middle school, or the high school,” he said.

Board members thanked him for his effort and the donation.

“I’m really proud of him. We’re all really proud of him,” Jason Rottkamp, the school district’s director of fine arts, said in an interview today.

“Honestly, hearing that he did this, I really wasn’t that surprised. That’s just the kind of person he is,” Rottkamp said. He said he has worked with Will from when he was in the 8th grade and joined the pep band through 11th grade, when Rottkamp became director of fine arts. “He’s in the top 1%,” Rottkamp said.

Will is a talented percussionist who could study performance or music education in college. He’s leaning toward music education, Rottkamp said.

The young man has a heart for education as well as a passion for music, as demonstrated by his initiative to teach percussion to younger students.

Rottkamp said the money Will donated will be utilized to help “fill the void” in some of the district’s programs, by purchasing some equipment. He said he plans to talk to the teachers to decide where it can be best used.

“It’s great to see this. It’s a great way to represent the student body here,” Rottkamp said.

Will, well-spoken and poised beyond his years, last night also thanked the board for reinstating spring clubs and sports which, he said, “gives us all some hope that we can perform again before we graduate.”

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.