Music Institute of LI Benefit
Geri and Carol Kushner and others with Larry Kushner (center) at a previous concert. (Photos by Music Institute of Long Island)

First Annual Larry Kushner Memorial Concert A Success

Bringing cheer to the Cerebral Palsy community

The Music Institute of Long Island, located in Manhasset at the Community Reformed Church, has been playing holiday concerts at the United Cerebral Palsy Center in Roosevelt, Nassau County for over thirty years. This year the concert was officially named “The Larry Kushner Memorial Concert,” after the brother of the owners of the music school, who had CP and passed during the pandemic. During that time, the Music Institute of Long Island performed via Zoom because the Cerebral Palsy audience and MILI students didn’t want to miss a year or two of performing the holiday concerts. MILI has now returned to an in-person concert. 

Geri Kushner, co-owner of Music Institute of Long Island, remembers her brother fondly. “He was the eldest. It was lack of oxygen at birth, couldn’t walk, couldn’t talk, couldn’t take care of himself, but was extremely bright. My brother was so special. He had a smile that was incredible. And our parents devoted their lives to him. We were brought up that if my brother could go to school, he would go to school. My brother could have a bar mitzvah. My father worked with him, my grandfather, he was tutored by somebody else who was handicapped and had had a Bar Mitzvah. He couldn’t say it. My father and grandfather said it for him, but he knew it.”

The performers’ ages ranged from six through sixty, with alumni participating in spreading holiday cheer by playing songs such as “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” and a Hanukkah medley. “We usually play ‘It’s A Small World’ because we believe that’s a beautiful song that we can play at every concert. We play some Suzuki pieces, we play holiday pieces, we play classical pieces, and we usually do ‘YMCA,’” said Kushner.

Performers included:

On violin:

Sumira Chandrashekhar – 13 yrs old, Manhasset

Chloe Chen – 11 yrs old, Manhasset

Emma Liu – 6 yrs old, Manhasset

Meghna Venkatesh – 16 yrs old, East Williston

Elizabeth Zhang – 17 yrs old, Manhasset

Joshua Kim – 6 yrs old. Queens

Dorothy Shorter, Valley Stream

Donna Levine,  Old Brookville

Judy Olson – Alberston

Carol Kushner  &  Geri Kushner, Directors Music Institute of Long Island

On flute:

Ellen Zhao -12 yrs old, Manhasset

Kendrick Williams – 11 yrs old, New Hyde Park

On cello:

Ilana Grossman- 23 yrs old, Queens

The CP Center is just one of the venues where the children perform throughout the year. Kushner credits the experience with bring some kids out of their shells and letting them shine in a low-pressure setting.  “Some of them are shy, but they like performing in a group. Some of them are less shy and they would like to do a solo. Some of them pick up on my sister’s and my vibe of being a little crazy at a concert to make it pleasurable, to make it fun and exciting. It doesn’t have to be serious, it could be more and they love doing that.” 

Following the concert a friend of Larry’s gave Carol and Geri memory bottles, and gave a speech about how the community misses their kind, funny friend daily. “We just want them to feel special. We want them to feel appreciated and I think they do. And even after my brother passed they loved it, and they look forward to our concert,” said Kushner of her brother’s friends. “(We are here) to bring live music to those who don’t necessarily have that opportunity, because most (people with CP) are living in group homes.”

Performance is a large part of learning at the Music Institute, but so is confidence-building. Learning music helps with other subjects, because of the way it stimulates the brain, according to “We feel that if kids are given the opportunity, nothing should hinder them. They should just be the best that they can; just go for it. And I guess that really is what our philosophy is to bring music to bring happiness.” Said Kushner.

Ultimately, music education, the performances and the benefits they give people are their own reward. “We believe that music is so important for everybody. It certainly brings joy to many people. It can transport them to a different place,” said Kushner.

Established in 1990, Music Institute of Long Island (MILI) is a classical music school staffed by exceptional instructors from many of the most prestigious conservatories and graduate music schools in the United States and Europe. Its instrumental programs include classes in violin, viola, cello, double bass, guitar, piano, jazz piano, flute, clarinet, saxophone and voice.  MILI has been voted #1 Best Music School for over 10 years.

Students participate in All-National, All-Eastern, All-State and outside youth orchestras during their time as well as routinely receiving high scores on NYSSMA and Royal Academy Music Festivals. MILI students have performed at Carnegie Hall, Steinway Hall, Bruno Walter Auditorium, Rose Hall, Symphony Space and Adelphi University’s APAC.

Music Institute of Long Island offers all of its students the opportunity to perform in several solo recitals throughout the year, group performances and an honors recital. Additionally, MILI students perform in several outreach performances at assisted living facilities, and at the Cerebral Palsy Center of Nassau County. MILI’s culmination performance at the end of the school year is the GALA Concert.  

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