By Alexa Schmidt, Staff Writer
The performing arts Common Interest Community in Lee Hall is home to singers, actors and everything in between. Two of these standouts are sophomores Miguel Diaz and Joey DeSanctis.
Both natives of New York, both engineers and both performing arts scholars, Diaz and DeSanctis have roomed together since their freshman year.
Diaz grew up in the South Bronx and attended the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria, Queens. There, he discovered his passion for percussion, using instruments such as the timpani, snare drum, bass drum, crash cymbals, marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel bells, vibraphone and the tabla.
Out of all of these instruments, the marimba and the tabla are among Diaz’s favorites.
“The tabla is a North Indian instrument. It’s a classical percussion instrument that’s mostly done with your fingers,” he said.
DeSanctis is from Westchester County and attended Stepinac High School in White Plains. While he was there, he participated in the school’s musicals, drama club and jazz band.
“I was basically their accompanist for whenever they needed someone,” DeSanctis said. “I started a club there because they didn’t have anyone to play music for the masses. So I made the music ministry which included my two friends, a drummer and a singer.”
DeSanctis describes himself as “mainly a pianist”, as he has been playing since the age of four. But he enjoys other forms of musical expression as well.
“I also dabble in drum set, I’ve been playing that for just as long. I play the guitar and bass guitar, I sing a little bit, and I compose music,” he said.
So how did these students end up at Manhattan College?
“I found Manhattan College because of an engineering program I did over the summer, and that’s how I decided to apply,” Diaz said. “Also, my mom convinced me that being in the city would offer me more music opportunities to continue to play music and join different groups here and there.”
For DeSanctis, however, the decision was more all in the family.
“My family members are alumni; my aunts and uncles went here,” DeSanctis said. “I love the fact that it was a smaller environment and that the professors really wanted you to succeed.”
Although they’ve been involved in the arts for a majority of their lives, neither Diaz nor DeSanctis auditioned for the performing arts scholarship. Both proved their artistic merit through their continued involvement in the college’s performing arts program and received the scholarship due to it.
Diaz originally joined the college’s pep band in his freshman year to continue his music career. Director of Performing Arts Andrew Bauer, Ph.D., recognized Diaz’s potential and awarded him the scholarship over the winter.
DeSanctis attended the activities fair and was overheard talking about his high school music ministry experience. He was then encouraged to attend the first meeting of the college’s music ministry, and continued to attend the weekly masses afterwards. He was offered the scholarship as well.
When they’re not practicing, Diaz and DeSanctis can be found working together on a research project that combines engineering and music.
Diaz said, “We talked to a career counselor, and she mentioned that we can talk to a physics teacher named Professor Liby, who suggested we try to do a research project. One thought that we had was resonators for a marimba. They would be cheaply made resonators so that regular students can pay for them.”
Ultimately, Diaz and DeSanctis hope to grow from these learning experiences, both in engineering and in music.
Diaz said, “I really want jazz club to inspire me to explore new genres, things that I haven’t really thought of. Maybe use ideas that I already have from different percussion instruments and incorporate that into drum set, and just try to get better and better at what I do.”
DeSanctis added, “You have to remember that music is about emotion and creativity, and it’s a language and a passion I’d like to keep alive.”