Julien Rentsch on the Huntington High School stage. (Darin Reed photo)

Julien Rentsch Captures Music Awards

Julien Rentsch on the Huntington High School stage. (Darin Reed photo)

July 27, 2020

Julien Rentsch is one of the top young musicians and composers in the New York metropolitan area. He will soon move to a much bigger stage as the Huntington High School Class of 2020 member prepares to begin his studies at Northwestern University in Illinois.

Mr. Rentsch is a gifted young man, possessing incredible talents and unlimited potential. He captured two of the most prestigious music awards presented annually at Huntington: the Thomas Karolyi Memorial Scholarship Award and the Jean Vandersall Scholarship Award.

 Huntington Class of 2020 member Julien Rentsch will be studying at Northwestern University.
Huntington Class of 2020 member Julien Rentsch will be studying at Northwestern University.

“I chose Northwestern because of its versatility,” Mr. Rentsch said. “I applied to Bienen School of Music (Northwestern’s music school) as a music composition major. I love how their program is run because I will get to work with world-renowned faculty while also having numerous opportunities for my music to be played. I hope to film score in the future (write music for movies and other types of media). Northwestern will help me on this journey to film score because they have opportunities for composers to write music for plays, which will in turn allow me to gain experience I will need in the future.”

An Advanced Placement Scholar with Distinction, Mr. Rentsch was the salutatorian of Huntington’s graduating class. A member of seven different academic honor societies, he has claimed a long list of honors and awards over the years.

“I was accepted into Northwestern’s dual program with the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, so I will likely be double-majoring in a field unrelated to music,” Mr. Rentsch said. “That’s a reason I love Northwestern. I can continue studying subjects that have interested me in high school while also getting a rigorous music education.”

The teenager has enjoyed an excellent experience in the district’s music program and he has shined in every possible way.

“The music program has been the highlight of my academic career in Huntington,” Mr. Rentsch said. “I still credit Mr. [Matthew] Gelfer, the J. Taylor Finley Middle School orchestra teacher, for introducing me to composition, which I am now looking into as a career. Mr. Gelfer and Mrs. [Nicole] Castaldo were extremely helpful and open to letting my compositions be played by the chamber orchestra. Mr. [Jason] Giachetti even gave me a period of his day to work with my on my compositions as part of an internship. Overall, the Huntington music department has been so supportive of me and has helped shaped my future.”

One of the best athletes in Huntington’s Class of 2020, Mr. Rentsch captained the Blue Devil varsity soccer team and excelled on defense. Vice president of the school-wide student government, he was also the president of the high school orchestra, treasurer of the French Honor Society and corresponding secretary of the National History Day club.

Thomas Karolyi Memorial Scholarship

Thomas Karolyi was a remarkable orchestra teacher and director and an exceptional musician in his own right. One of J. Taylor Finley Junior High School’s founding faculty members, he instructed, mentored and guided thousands of musicians during his storied career. Mr. Rentsch would have been one of the maestro’s favorite teenagers.

Mr. Karolyi passed away on September 8, 2018 in a Melville hospice after battling lung cancer. He was 82 years old and still performing as a musician. His family, friends, former faculty colleagues and students contributed thousands of dollars to create a scholarship in the gifted musician’s memory.

The first annual $1,000 award was presented in June 2019 by Mr. Karolyi’s widow, Felicia to Arielle Harvey, who is entering her sophomore year at CUNY Queens College’s Aaron Copland School of Music, where she is studying to be a music teacher.

Mr. Karolyi’s 31 year Huntington UFSD teaching career is the stuff legends are made of. “During that time, he established the chamber orchestra, the all-district orchestra concert and the intergenerational concert,” said Mrs. Karolyi at the 2019 senior academic awards ceremony earlier this month. “He also founded the Tri-M Music Honor Society, which like several other programs, still continues to this day.”

Born in January 1936 in Budapest, Hungary, Mr. Karolyi first evaded the Nazi killing machine when Germany occupied Hungary, hiding with his parents in a darkened basement room for weeks at time.

He later escaped suffocating religious persecution in Hungary when the Soviet Union invaded the country in 1956 and crushed a popular rebellion. Mr. Karolyi immigrated to the US and became an American citizen, later earning undergraduate and graduate music education degrees at City University of New York-Queens College.

Mr. Karolyi began his career at Finley in September 1965 when the school first opened its doors. His deep voice and heavy Hungarian accent added to the aura that always seemed to envelope him. He had a perpetual spring in his step. He walked fast through the hallways.

As a strings teacher, orchestra director and violinist, few could match Tom Karolyi. He performed throughout his life and right up until the time of his death. His smile, quick wit and hearty laugh will always be remembered by his colleagues.

Over the years, Mr. Karolyi taught at Finley, Robert K. Toaz Junior High School and Huntington High School. He split time between Finley and the high school from 1988 until his retirement in July 1996, serving as the orchestra director at both schools.

Mr. Karolyi’s file in the Huntington UFSD personnel office is packed with accolades from fellow teachers, department supervisors and principals regarding his students’ performances at concerts and special events through the years.

The veteran music teacher’s “great rapport” with his students and his ability to “bring out the best in them musically” is a constant theme that runs throughout the missives placed in Mr. Karolyi’s file.

Current Huntington music teachers, most notably those who work with strings students and orchestras across the district were exceedingly saddened to hear of Mr. Karolyi’s passing. He lived in the Huntington area and regularly attended district concerts.

Mr. Karolyi helped establish the Tri-M Music Honor Society in the district and served as its faculty advisor. He spent countless hours helping students prepare for NYSSMA auditions. As vice president of the Long Island String Festival, he played a key role in the organization and in the running of its festival.

Always a consummate professional, Mr. Karolyi had a certain boyishness to his nature. It’s that perpetually young at heart teacher that Huntington UFSD will never forget.

Recipients of the Thomas Karolyi Memorial Scholarship

2019 Arielle Harvey

2020 Julien Rentsch

Jean Hoerner Vandersall Memorial Scholarship

The Jean Hoerner Vandersall Memorial Scholarship is awarded to a graduating senior who has excelled academically and musically.

The $500 scholarship is funded by Scott and Amy Vandersall in memory of Mr. Vandersall’s mother, Jean Hoerner Vandersall, who passed away in 2008. She resided in Huntington for more than five decades.

The scholarship criteria includes:

  • The student will be a graduating senior from Huntington High School who has excelled in both academics and music.
  • The student should plan to continue being involved in music performance in the future, but not necessarily major in music.
  • The award is not needs based.
  • The student applicants will write an essay which will be reviewed by the music staff. The Vandersall family will read the top essays and select the scholarship winner.
  • The topic of the essay will be: “What role has music played in your education in Huntington? What steps can be taken by your generation of musicians to keep music alive in the concert halls and schools in the future?”

Jean Hoerner Vandersall passed away on March 30, 2008. She was an accomplished pianist and a member of the Manhattan School of Music’s faculty. Mrs. Vandersall also maintained a very active teaching studio in Huntington and was an inspiration to her students. Mrs. Vandersall and her husband, Thornton sent three sons through the Huntington School District.

Scott and Amy Vandersall, reside in New England. Mr. Vandersall was a member of Huntington High School’s Class of 1977. He went on to earn a BA in economics at Colby College and an MBA with a concentration in financial services at Boston University. He is employed as vice president-regional manager at the Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank.

Recipients of the Jean Hoerner Vandersall Scholarship

2012 Alicia Ortiz

2013 Kevin Solomowitz

2014 Benjamin Nikodem

2015 No award

2016 No award

2017 No award

2018 Jamie Rosenbauer

2019 Katherine Riley

2020 Julien Rentsch

Tom Karolyi was one of the founding faculty members of J. Taylor Finley Junior High School.
Tom Karolyi was one of the founding faculty members of J. Taylor Finley Junior High School.
Julien Rentsch at the keyboard as a Finley seventh grader.
Julien Rentsch at the keyboard as a Finley seventh grader.