Peri Brooks and Isabella Pizzillo
PERI BROOKS AND ISABELLA PIZZILLO SHARE THEIR PASSION FOR THE VIOLIN WITH LOCAL CHILDREN
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).”