NK high school pianist grateful to play final concert after pandemic took joy out of playing

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NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — A North Kingstown boy is known as one of the top high school jazz musicians in the state, and like many other students, playing music was a challenge during the pandemic.

Six-time All-State winner Dan Ventura says he was grateful to be able to play a final concert at North Kingstown High School in person after losing so much of the music he loved during COVID.

“Playing, it doesn’t even matter what I’m playing, just playing anything helps me relieve what I’m feeling,” Ventura said.

“I was given the heads up by his middle school teacher that he’s this phenomenal pianist that I had to meet,” Toni Silveira said.

After Silveira and Ventura met, she went on to instruct him in the North Kingstown Jazz Band for several years, and he went on to take top honors in the state year after year.

“He was number one in 7th grade, 8th grade, 9th grade, 10th grade, 11th grade, and this year, 12th grade,” Silveira recalled. “It’s absolutely amazing and shows to his talent and ability and makes us proud and I wanted to make sure everyone knew of his accomplishment at that time.”

Ventura and other musicians at North Kingstown High School almost didn’t have the chance to have one final moment in the spotlight. Over the past year, so much of their instruction was virtual, and even in-person was limited.

With students not being able to practice or perform in a normal setting, it really had an impact on Ventura.

“Socially being at home, being by myself, it killed the drive to want to connect with people and make music with them, it was just harder,” he said.

Once restrictions began to loosen during the spring, Ventura, who has played with the New York City Youth Jazz Ensemble, was able to plan for a big musical send off at his hometown high school in person.

“It is so easy to say that music will always be there, but we did have a moment that we felt that we lost it this year,” Silveira said. “This year really showed the importance of music, it’s not guaranteed, sometimes you have to fight for it, and it’s so important in our students’ lives.”

“It was great to end the year on that note because I didn’t have any expectations to be playing, and here I am, after a concert, after class today, we got to play and I’m just really happy that was able to happen,” Ventura said.

He is going to continue his musical studies in Indiana and hopes to book some local gigs during the summer.

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