A woman in the foreground in a dance move, leading a group of elementary school children who are following her moves. The children's shirts have the words "PS 14Q Chorus." The curtain behind them reads "Fairview School Chorus."
LuAnna Lasso '08, music teacher, leads her P.S. 14/Fairview School students, chosen as the NBC Star Choir, in a rehearsal.

Just two days before Thanksgiving last fall, The Kelly Clarkson Show announced to the world that The Fairview School Choir from P.S. 14, a Queens, New York, elementary school, had been named the 2022 NBC Star Choir.

That meant that a couple of weeks later, the students, dressed in festive red and green, were singing and dancing along with the likes of Alicia Keys and Gwen Stefani at the annual Christmas tree lighting event in Rockefeller Center, which was televised nationally on NBC.

LuAnna Lasso ’08, a vocal performance music major from Adelphi University, who had just been hired as a permanent music teacher, directs the choir. That she led her students to a coveted spot at the 89-year-old event didn’t surprise her adviser, Sidney Boquiren, PhD, professor of music and the chair of the music department.

Two women wearing dresses with musical notes and Santa caps are smiling and holding bouquets of flowers. Standing between them is a smiling child in a green jacket.

LuAnna Lasso ’08 (left) with student and fellow music teacher Angelica Ortega

“LuAnna has tremendous drive and determination, and persevered through the challenges she faced,” he said. “She is a terrific performer as well, comfortable in multiple styles of music. Above all, she is a wonderful human being. I can easily imagine that she is having a tremendous and long-lasting positive impact on her students.”

Lasso, who grew up in Queens, never planned to go to Adelphi. Her mother had always told her she was going to The Julliard School.

“But when I came to Adelphi for the tour, it just felt like home,” Lasso said. “There was something about the environment. I was like, ‘Mom, this is it. This is where I need to be.'”

She may not have planned to go into teaching either, but she has a knack for it: Her choir won NBC’s competition over 70 other schools. The students sang “Deck the Halls,” which they punched up a bit.

“We wanted to incorporate some instrumentation and bring the essence of P.S. 14 and the community to light,” said Lasso. “So we added an extra Latinx tag to the end. One student’s father has a band, and he can play the piano, so we had him improvise a little cumbia rhythm. We had the kids strum a chord on the guitar and then break out and dance a little salsa. It really showed what we’re about.”

The official announcement was made on The Kelly Clarkson Show and a news team recorded the students learning they had won.

“The kids had no idea, and it was so sweet to see their reactions,” said Lasso. “There wasn’t a dry eye. These kids are just wonderful young, talented human beings. They’re always there for one another. They really make being a teacher worth it. I’m really happy and proud of them and to be a part of their growth and a part of their lives.”

Meet P.S. 14

Located in the Corona neighborhood of the New York City borough of Queens, P.S. 14 is a Title 1 immigrant community. The student body is made up of multilingual immigrant families who value the arts as a form of self-expression, creativity and community building. Nearly all the 1,100 children at the school are Hispanic and about half are English language learners.

The school also has a long-standing commitment to the arts, Lasso said, and all students receive music, art, theater and dance instruction throughout the school year. In efforts to rebuild the music program’s budget in the aftermath of the pandemic, she and fellow music teacher Angelica Ortega applied for Carnegie Hall’s Link Up and Music Explorer program and for grants to fund programming, including the Music and the Brain (keyboarding) curriculum. Lasso also runs the school’s musical theater after-school program with fellow Adelphi alumna Jillian Onorato ’07, MA ’08.

“We’ve also been applying for Donors Choose,” Lasso said. “A lot of the people from NBC, who were really touched by the kids, have kindly donated, and we’ve been able to get some new instruments.”

When the choir needed something, the school community stepped up. It raised money for the children to take a luxury coach with snacks to Rockefeller Center for their performance—and literally rolled out a red carpet for them to walk out to the bus—the first time any of them had been to Manhattan.

Taking the Show on the Road

The choir’s glory didn’t end with the tree lighting. They went on a mini tour in December, singing for the New York City Department of Education chancellor, the local police station, and at Corona’s tree lighting. They were interviewed and featured in ads and GIFs, and on local TV and radio shows as well as Telemundo.

“I really stress to the kids, ‘Look at what your hard work did!'” Lasso said. “’You are putting a smile on someone’s face. Just showing your talents and personalities, you brought people in, you made them feel something. That’s the beauty of music.'”

Just before the winter break, NBC returned to the school to give the chorus members musically related holiday gifts—and a gift for every student in the school. The network has also given the choir tickets to see Wicked in May, the students’ first Broadway show.

“I’m not surprised with LuAnna’s most recent accomplishment,” said Dr. Boquiren. “She dreams big and does what she needs to do to realize those dreams. In this case, her dream was for her students.”

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