In 1953, Marylyn (Tobin) Varriale ’57 stepped foot on Adelphi’s campus as a freshman majoring in music. Sixty years later, she returned to perform on stage at her alma mater.

Member of Adelphi University’s Profiles in Success program.

Writer, Educator, Composer/Arranger

Memorable Adelphi professor: “Lillian Jackson, the instructor for opera and music history classes. She was extremely outgoing and creative.”

At Adelphi: Delta Gamma, Delta Omicron, Gold Mask, Student Activities Committee, Glee Club, Newman Club

Favorite Broadway Musical: West Side Story

In 1953, Marylyn (Tobin) Varriale ’57 stepped foot on Adelphi’s campus as a freshman majoring in music. Sixty years later, she returned to perform on stage at her alma mater.

A composer, music teacher, and educator for more than 30 years, Mrs. Varriale wrote the music and lyrics for Evangeline, A Curious Journey, a play based on the epic poem by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. “Peter Pantina is the playwright, and my friend and fellow Adelphi alumnus, Timothy Pappalardo, B.F.A.’01, was cast in the lead,” she said. “He also assisted the author in staging the musical numbers.”

“It was wonderful to come home to Adelphi for this presentation,” said Mrs. Varriale, who performed a stage reading in the Adelphi University Performing Arts Center (AUPAC) Concert Hall on May 30, 2014.

Music has been an integral part of Mrs. Varriale’s life since as far back as she can remember. She started playing the piano when she was just five years old. “I was playing so much, even getting up at 5:00 a.m. to practice, that my mom had to padlock the piano,” she said.

By twelve years old, she received a full scholarship to attend The Chatham Square School of Music in Manhattan.  “I was being trained to be a concert pianist,” said Mrs. Varriale, who was attending the school three times a week for theory and composition, as well as piano literature classes; all this, in addition to the regular academic classes she attended at The Mary Louis Academy.

When it came time to think about college, she was interested in attending a local school with a strong music program. She applied to Adelphi, and recalled being interviewed by Professor Lawrence Rasmussen, former chairman of the Department of Music. She was offered a scholarship and, given her extensive musical background, her first year music classes were waived.

As a student, in addition to being involved in campus life as a member of the sorority Delta Gamma, the Student Activities Committee, and Newman Club, she continued to hone her performance skills by participating in the Glee Club and the campus theatrical group, the Gold Mask.

She remembered her sophomore year when classmate Richard Trousdell ’57, who would become the president of the Gold Mask their senior year, asked her to compose the musical score to a play he was writing for Adelphi’s Annual Musical. It was called, A Chance for Glory. She found that the role of composer came naturally to her. “It was like an epiphany,” she said. “Taking words and feelings and putting them into music.”

After graduating, she got a job as a receptionist at the advertising network, McCann Erickson. She would often go to the sound studio during her lunch break or down time to play the piano and rehearse her personal compositions.  Someone overheard her and, before she knew it, she was recruited by the firm to write copy for music stations and to put her talents to use writing jingles.

She went on to earn her master’s degree in music education from Teachers College, Columbia University, before dedicating herself to working with students on all levels, from kindergarten through 12th grade.  Throughout the years she taught vocal and instrumental music, as well as directed musical plays for all age groups in the public schools of Valley Stream, Bellmore-Merrick, New Hyde Park, and finally Manhasset where she was the high school choral director for fourteen years.

Among her notable accomplishments outside of the classroom were forming the company Tiny Footlights, in which she served as the author/composer of mini-musicals for children, performed throughout southern New England. She also wrote the music and lyrics for Letterville, published by the National Reading Styles Institute (NRSI), a unique musical approach to a phonics program, and published the children’s book When Simple Was Hard to Do, a “read along, sing along, play along” book.

Throughout her career she has also received local and national recognition for radio and television commercials she has created, such as D’Agostino, a radio jingle for a the New York City supermarket chain that received a Big Apple Award and Whole in the Wall, a radio jingle for a clothing boutique that was awarded first place by The Retail Advertising Conference.

Trained in the Lincoln Center Aesthetic Education approach, Mrs. Varriale is currently a teaching artist through Tilles Center’s educational outreach program at Long Island University. She also has a private studio where she coaches aspiring performers and composers.

Published August 2014.

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