Peri Brooks and Isabella Pizzillo


201 Family - - CONTENTS - – SAM PASSOW

Peri Brooks of Nor­wood and Isabella Pizzillo of Te­nafly, both 15, be­came friends sev­eral years ago in a music pro­gram at The Elis­a­beth Mor­row School in En­gle­wood. “From there, Isabella and I had a real in­ter­est in vi­o­lin so we con­tin­ued to work re­ally hard at the in­stru­ment,” Brooks says. “We worked with our pri­vate teach­ers out­side of school, and we’d of­ten play to­gether.”

Now sopho­mores – Pizzillo at the Dwight-En­gle­wood School and Brooks at Ho­race Mann School in the Bronx – they still share that pas­sion and also a de­sire to give back to others.

“We re­al­ized how much music can af­fect peo­ple so we wanted other kids to ex­pe­ri­ence the same ex­pe­ri­ences we had,” Pizzillo says.

“Isabella and I have had the op­por­tu­nity to take vi­o­lin lessons and ex­cel at the in­stru­ment, but we know there are kids out there that are our age when we started that would love to play an in­stru­ment but don’t re­ally have that op­por­tu­nity,” Brooks says. They cre­ated a week-long camp called Bergen Heart Strings that ran in Au­gust 2016 at Bergen Fam­ily Cen­ter in En­gle­wood. The first step was a fundraiser at Zing­cy­cle in Te­nafly with par­tic­i­pants pay­ing for seats in the spin­ning stu­dio.

That event and some out­side do­na­tions brought in more than $1,000, which en­abled them to pur­chase ten vi­o­lins, the nec­es­sary equip­ment like foam sponges used to shoul­der the vi­o­lin, and prizes and shirts.

The girls worked with 50 campers to­tal, 10 dif­fer­ent ones each day, and showed them the ba­sics so that some kids were ready to play “Twinkle, Twinkle, Lit­tle Star” by the end. Brooks and Pizzillo also per­formed songs for them so they could have a bet­ter idea of what the vi­o­lin can do.

“They were also young so we had to take breaks and play with them,” Brooks says.

See­ing how sim­i­lar the kids’ ex­cite­ment was to their own in­tro­duc­tion to the vi­o­lin made it spe­cial for Brooks and Pizzillo.

“They all had huge smiles. I don’t think they’d ever held a vi­o­lin be­fore,” Pizzillo says.

“Some of them, you could even see them gasp as they opened the cases,” Brooks says.

Bergen Fam­ily Cen­ter’s pres­i­dent Mitch Schon­feld says that as a for­mer high school vi­o­lin player him­self, he was also ex­cited for the idea.

“Our kids took to it im­me­di­ately, de­light­ing in their abil­ity to make a pleas­ant sound and feel ac­com­plished,” Schon­feld says.

Brooks and Pizzillo are plan­ning spin­ning and yoga fundrais­ers this year so that they can ac­quire more vi­o­lins to in­clude more kids this sum­mer. The goal is to keep mak­ing the camp big­ger.

“We re­ally hope we con­tinue to do this through­out high school,” Pizzillo says. “Then maybe our friends from other grades will take on the role (af­ter they grad­u­ate).”

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