Seats in a planetarium facing a screen showing stars and a nebula
The Cradle of Aviation Museum’s Catholic Health Sky Theater Planetarium.

Students put their improvisation skills into play while treating the audience to music under the stars.

Maybe you never really outgrow “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” For Adelphi music makers, that musical magic under the night sky never went away.

Every day, audiences are immersed under the night sky at the Cradle of Aviation Museum’s Catholic Health Sky Theater Planetarium. There, they watch presentations about the universe, including ones created by the museum’s educators, or attend family movie nights. And on the evening of April 4, the floor between the screens and the seats became the stage for the Cradle of Aviation Museum’s Music and Astronomy Night with Adelphi University, presented by Adelphi’s Improvisation Ensemble, led by the group’s director, Professor Sidney M. Boquiren, PhD.

Dazzling visuals of planets, galaxies, moons and stars were paired with improvisational vocal and instrumental performances (both separate and together), and audience members were encouraged to participate through claps, snaps and whistles.

Dr. Boquiren, who joined the Department of Music in Fall 2004, said, “It’s wonderful to see this collaboration continuing through the years. Last week was Adelphi’s seventh year collaborating with the Cradle of Aviation Museum for Music and Astronomy Night, though only the second year that the Improvisation Ensemble has been involved as the featured group.”

Students Serenade Under the Stars

“What I liked the most about playing at the Cradle of Aviation Museum was being given the ability to create atmospheric music,” said Ava Azueta, a music education student whose primary instrument is the flute. “Up until this performance, most of our improvisation was done without specific visual prompts. It was really great to exercise the skills we’ve acquired in class by mimicking elements of the environment. Other than the venue being a planetarium theater, this performance was unique because I was able to play a multitude of instruments. In most other ensembles, we are generally confined to playing one instrument. In Improv Ensemble, we are encouraged to explore improvisation with our voices and a variety of instruments.”

Eight students are standing in a group smiling at the camera

Photo credit: Kerri Kiker, Cradle of Aviation Museum. The Adelphi Improvisation Ensemble.

At this performance, Azueta played flute, alto flute, bass flute, tubanos, hand percussion, glockenspiel and even sang. “Having the opportunity to play all of these instruments gave me more flexibility and creativity in my responses to what I saw in the astronomy films.”

Senior Donna George is majoring in music performance. Her voice is her primary instrument, and piano is her secondary. “The best part of the Cradle experience was that there was a chance to challenge our musicianship with different hand percussion instruments such as the claves,” she said.

Another student performer, Julia Gill, is a senior music education major who is currently student teaching at an elementary school. Similar to George, voice is her main instrument and her secondary is piano, and she performs on the trumpet as well. “I enjoyed having a visual cue to prompt our improvisations,” she said. “I also liked learning a bit more about astronomy and finding a connection between art and science.”

Other student performers included Katelyn Austin, Matthew Leibowitz and Grace Simone. (Ensemble Improvisation members Lara Campanella and Mario Mannarino could not attend.)

Dr. Boquiren looks forward to directing the Improvisation Ensemble again in Spring 2025 at the Cradle of Aviation Museum. “It’s a unique opportunity to showcase the talent of Adelphi students and to also show how music and astronomy can intersect.”

Adelphi’s Improvisation Ensemble is open to all Adelphi students. Ability to read notated music is not required.

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