Interim Acting Principal Yeou-Jey Vasconcelos on piano and LaGuardia senior Giorgio Poma on cello

July 14, 2019

Dear Faculty, Staff, Students, Parents, Guardians, Alumni, and Friends,

It is with great honor and privilege that I greet you as the Interim Acting Principal of Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts.

I began my career in the New York City public schools as the Music Director of Eleanor Roosevelt High School. I quickly scaled up my vision of excellence for the music department, and began to oversee all aspects of administration and supervision as Assistant Principal. In 2016, I became the Principal of Talent Unlimited High School, and further leveraged my networks in education, the arts, and academia. My academic history includes a Bachelor of Arts in Biology and Music from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master of Arts in Music and Music Education from Columbia University, and a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership from New York University. I was also fortunate to participate in further studies in music and pedagogy at Temple, Princeton, Duquesne, and Rider Universities.

As a child, I demonstrated a penchant for observing and engaging with musical elements. While my cousins took turns sewing patterns on grandma’s Singer machine, I listened intently to the rhythmic undulation of the stitches. While my older siblings received corrections on their posture and wrist shape during their lessons, I sat under the piano eagerly awaiting the melodies about to take shape. When my father casually hummed folk songs, I would run to the mysterious black and white keys to decipher the pitches. My mother noticed, and didn’t take no for an answer when she was told by the piano teacher I was too young. I started my formal music training, but more importantly, learned a lesson in relentlessly tapping into a potential.

When my high school band director (the inspiration for J. K. Simmons’ character in Whiplash) introduced me to the trombone, music transformed from an independent pursuit to a collaborative experience. Throughout college, graduate school, and my early career I maintained musical studies and penned quite a few essays extolling performing arts as the fuel for learning: the persistence and self-reflection from practicing challenging passages; the patience and open-mindedness from rehearsing with diverse perspectives; the precision and attention from analyzing patterns, I concluded, was the perfect vehicle for teaching inquiry.

My work as the principal of a performing arts school has demonstrated the power of arts education. As a musician, I am blessed to have experienced the intimate processes of actors, dancers, and visual artists. I was invited to engage in collaborative projects across the arts, making unequivocal statements about identity, equity, and social justice. Through the arts, we communicate in the most human way possible – by sharing experiences and soliciting emotional responses. When the arts become limited, so become our voices. LaGuardia stands for education in the arts, and in turn, for the voices of our students. I am committed to ensuring that arts education – education focusing on human interactions – is always at the core of our work.

I am excited to have begun conversations with faculty and staff, students, parents and guardians, alumni, and partners, who have generously shared their time, experience, and expertise. I thank Executive Superintendent Rosales and Superintendent Orlen for their support as we work together in this incredible community of intergenerational stakeholders.

I look forward to us sharing with each other our belief in the power of the arts, education, and arts education. Along the way, we will reflect, revel, and revise to protect the integrity of our mission at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts.

Best,

Yeou-Jey Vasconcelos

Principal Interim Acting