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Art, Drama, Music and Books
Art, drama, music & books

Bronxville School English Teacher Alyssa Dioguardi on Appreciating 'To Kill a Mockingbird' PDF Print Email


By Alyssa Dioguardi, Bronxville School English Teacher

Feb. 13, 2019: The first year I started teaching To Kill a Mockingbird, I tried to think back to my own experience reading Mockingbird in eighth grade. As a lover of all things books, reading, and language, I was expecting to remember this book fondly as I did many others in high school but was surprised to find myself coming up blank. Not only could I not remember liking the book, but I couldn’t remember disliking the book, either. It was a wholly unmemorable experience, which caught me completely off guard. Now, To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite books. I reread it every year, finding nuanced ideas masterfully woven into the story that had gone previously unnoticed. Every year I finish the book with my first class, I find myself choking back tears as I stand with Scout on Boo Radley’s porch.

The reality is that while many of us have elevated To Kill a Mockingbird to a place of high stature within our minds and memories of American literature, it is really a book that we come to love later. Every time my classes and I embark on this journey together, I try to acknowledge this. First-time readers of Mockingbird, especially here in the Northeast, have a hard time relating to Lee’s Southern style and Scout’s two-page- long account of Simon Finch’s history in pre-Civil War America. It’s wordy, and if there is anything that turns eighth-graders off to a piece of reading, it’s wordiness. Each year, I make sure to tell my classes that once they get past the first two chapters, I promise, the story will pick up. Once you get used to Scout’s style of speaking, things will get exciting. And so together, we embark on trying to make sense of the picture Lee paints for us, through the haze of her own childhood memories. Inevitably, some kids are hooked right away, some become more invested in the trial, but most finally embrace Boo Radley’s mystique when Bob Ewell comes for Scout and Jem.

It is sometimes easier to think about the complexities and nuances in To Kill a Mockingbird when students are a bit removed from the reading itself. By extricating themselves from the deep think-work of language and craft analysis, students are able to find their own voice and opinions about Mockingbird. I know that for most, I won’t always be there for this experience. It comes later, along with that love for the book that I described earlier.

However, this year was different. We were given the unique opportunity to see Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation at the Shubert Theatre. We had finished reading Mockingbird a little less than a month earlier, giving students a bit of space between the act of reading the book and seeing the show. We prepped for the performance by revisiting themes of justice, perspective, and empathy. We also discussed and anticipated some of the issues that Mockingbird is most criticized for now: Harper Lee’s omission of character development for Calpurnia and Tom Robinson. We also discussed how Atticus may change (a play with a perfect protagonist makes for a pretty boring watch) while also acknowledging that Scout would no longer be the protagonist of this story. We went to see the show and I received the highest praise I could expect from a group of thirteen- to fourteen-year-olds who were brought to see an adaptation of a required piece of reading for school: “It was way better than I thought it was going to be!” That’s a win.

The truly special part for me was not the trip into New York or watching Jeff Daniels portray Atticus. What resonated with me was unpacking our experience in class the next day. In anticipation of guest author and documentarian Mary Murphy's visit on Friday, I had prepared a slew of questions to help kids consider the play and what they thought.

Turns out I really didn’t need to prepare anything. Each and every class spoke about Sorkin’s changes with great insight. They questioned his choices, expressed dismay over his omission of the depth of characters such as Dolphus Raymond, Mrs. Dubose, and Tim Johnson, the rabid dog Atticus is forced to shoot. They talked about Calpurnia’s expanded role, Atticus’s flaws, and Sorkin’s choices that sometimes led to some out-of-character occurrences. They discussed how Sorkin upended the plot and changed the presentation of materials, expanded the roles of Jem and Dill, and greatly diminished the role of Boo.

I could go on at length about our discussion, but in the end, only one really mattered to me. In each class, I did a quick poll. “How many people, when we were reading Mockingbird in class, didn’t really like or enjoy the book?” Expectedly, more than half of each class raised their hands. I followed up by asking them, “How many of you are surprised that you have such strong opinions about a book you thought you disliked?” Slowly, kids started to look at each other as hands crept up, and a slow realization started to creep across the room that maybe, just maybe, there was more to this story than they originally understood and realized.

Did every student leave my room with a sudden appreciation for and understanding of the subtle mastery of Lee’s work? With certainty, they did not. But I am grateful for the opportunity that seeing Aaron Sorkin’s To Kill a Mockingbird gave me--a rare glimpse at the lingering effects our work and experience can have down the line, when we teachers are long gone from the minds of now-grown middle school students and they start to understand the lasting reasons behind our decision to share this book with them.

Pictured here:  Alyssa Dioguardi with her dog, Scout.

Photo courtesy A. Dioguardi

Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff. 

Bronxville Library Benefit Featuring Hemingway Theme Friday, March 8 PDF Print Email


By Irena Choi Stern, Co-Vice President, Friends of the Bronxville Public Library

Feb. 13, 2019:  “There is no friend as loyal as a book.” - Ernest Hemingway

Raise a Glass to Hemingway is the theme of this year’s benefit for the Bronxville Public Library on Friday, March 8, at 7:00 pm, and it promises to be the party of the year. Organized by the board of the Friends of the Bronxville Public Library (FOBPL), the evening is a community-wide effort, with local merchants donating fabulous raffle items. In a nod to Hemingway, a wide assortment of author-favored beverages will be served, along with delicious fare.

“There has been awesome community support for this event,” said FOBPL board member Jody Klessel. “Local business owners have enthusiastically wanted to participate. Through their generosity, we have acquired a collection of various gifts and donations to be part of the raffle baskets that will be awarded there. Everyone has been very happy to support our library. Several local business owners mentioned that they look forward to attending the event and they love the creative Hemingway theme.”

Over the years, the FOBPL has quietly filled in where library budgets have not been able to meet the need, funding all of the adult and children’s programming, including the summer reading program, author events featuring nationally recognized writers, a museum pass program to New York City institutions, keeping the library open during municipal cuts, funding innovations in digital publishing, and making sure that Bronxville residents have access to resources. The library has long been a central focus of the community, with residents donating to the 2001 renovation of the building, the majority of which was funded by the fortuitous auction of a painting.

“We are so lucky to have this wonderful library in our community,” said Helen Knapp, a member of the host committee with her husband, Charles Cagliostro. “It’s an amazing place to read, write, work, study, learn, and play. The benefit is a great opportunity to support the library and get together with friends and neighbors.”

In every town, the library is a community treasure and a place for learning. As the author Barbara Kingsolver wrote in an essay, “Those of us launched from bare-bones schools in uncelebrated places will always find particular grace in a library, where the temple doors are thrown wide to all believers, regardless of pedigree.”

“The library has been a special place for our family,” said Zlata Gleason, a member of the host committee with her husband, Greg. “It is important to remind our community of the resources the library offers. The benefit is a great way to do so and it helps to get more members of the community involved to help keep our library and its program supported and growing for current and future generations.”

Raffle sponsors include (list in formation):  Eileen Palma, Nature’s Cradle, Sarah Lawrence College, Silk Road, Bronxville Wellness Sanctuary, Chantilly, Continental 109, Dobbs & Bishop, Elia Taverna, Harry’s, J.McLaughlin, Louis di Chiarro Salon, Maison Rouge, Mini’s Prime Meats, Nutmeg, Park Place Bagels, Newton Garden Design and Development, Playa Bowl, Posh, Pure Barre, Root and Vine, Toney Toni and the Gang, Womrath Bookshop, Yoga Haven, and Yoga Rebels.

Please continue the tradition of community support for the Bronxville Public Library. For tickets, go to

Pictured here:  The Friends of the Bronxville Public Library sponsored an evening with Min Jin Lee, author of Pachinko, who was interviewed by Sissel McCarthy. Nearly 400 community members attended the event.

Photo courtesy Irena Choi Stern, Co-Vice President, Friends of the Bronxville Public Library


Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff. 

Concordia Conservatory Gala Benefit with Christine Ebersole and Emerson String Quartet February 9 PDF Print Email


By Kathleen Suss, Executive Director, Concordia Conservatory

Feb. 6, 2019:  Concordia Conservatory presents its gala benefit, GREATEST HITS, featuring Tony and Emmy Award-winning star Christine Ebersole in cabaret on Saturday, February 9, at 6:00 pm at the Sommer Center for Worship and the Performing Arts at Concordia College New York.

This gala concert is part of the Hoch Chamber Music Series and will also feature chamber music with violist Lawrence Dutton, violinists Elizabeth Lim-Dutton and Emanouil Manolov, pianist Jon Klibonoff, and cellist Andrew Janss. The event supports the conservatory’s funding for scholarships, the annual community holiday musical, music therapy, the Stamford campus, and chamber music.

Members of the 2019 Conservatory Gala Benefit Committee are chairs George Lekovic and Maria Ognibene, Claudia Amboss, Ceyda and Balaban Bobus, Betty Crowley, Julie Daher, Brian DeRousseau, Zlata and Greg Gleason, Biljana and Tomas Dordevic, Gerene Rose, Stella Guarnieri, Sharon Ingram, Christian Klose, Mauricio Morato, Sally Quale, Renee Redmond, Aaron Shafer, Jeff Ungvary, and Gary Wilson.

Concert tickets are $39 for adults and $19 for seniors and children; combined tickets for the concert and dinner-dance are $220. To purchase tickets, visit or call 914-395-4507.

Photo courtesy Concordia Conservatory 

Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff. 
Photographer John Isaac, Former Head of the UN Photo Unit, to Speak at OSilas Gallery February 6 PDF Print Email

By Elizabeth Vranka, Executive Director, OSilas Gallery at Concordia College

Jan. 30, 2019: John Isaac, Bronxville resident and former head of the United Nations photo unit, will be speaking in OSilas Gallery at Concordia College on Wednesday, February 6, at 7:30 pm. Mr. Isaac will discuss his 30-year odyssey as a photojournalist with the United Nations.

In his presentation, "The Photographs I Did Not Take," Mr. Isaac will talk about his experiences travelling the world with the UN and some of the difficult situations he confronted as a photographer, including his effort to preserve the dignity of the vulnerable and suffering people found at the center of the many UN missions he was sent to photograph. This presentation will be illustrated with photographs taken over Mr. Isaac's long career with the United Nations. This lecture was originally scheduled for November 15, 2018, but was rescheduled because of the snowstorm that day.

Of his time with the UN, Mr. Isaac said, "For me, photography was a way of life--never a job. My bags were always packed, and I was ready to leave at a moment's notice." Mr. Isaac often found himself at the scene of catastrophic humanitarian crises, and throughout his career, he sought to treat with dignity all those he encountered. At all times, Mr. Isaac said it was his goal "not to take away someone's dignity since it is the most important right that is owed to us all equally." 

The lecture will be given on Wednesday, February 6, at 7:30 pm in OSilas Gallery and is open to the public, but tickets are required. Tickets may be purchased at $25; $20 for OSilas Gallery members. Light refreshments will be provided. For more information, please contact Executive Director Elizabeth Vranka at CLOAKING or 914.337.9300, ext. 2173.

OSilas Gallery is located on the campus of Concordia College, 171 White Plains Road, Bronxville. On-campus parking is accessible via Concordia Place off of White Plains Road. Please see for a full listing of exhibitions, lectures, and special events at the gallery.

Photo by John Isaac 

Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff. 


Bronxville High School to Perform 'Little Shop of Horrors' February 7, 8, and 9; Tickets on Sale Starting Today PDF Print Email


By Karin Drakenberg, Bronxville High School mother

Jan. 30, 2019:  Come in from the cold and watch hometown talent perform in Bronxville High School’s Little Shop of Horrors! Seymour, a hapless floral shop worker, yearns for fame, fortune, and the affection of his crush, Audrey. But Audrey is engaged to Orin the dentist. Desperate, Seymour obeys a plant—Audrey II—that promises to fulfill his wishes in exchange for fresh blood. What could go wrong? Audrey II grows more demanding. The body count goes up and includes Orin, Audrey, and Seymour! And to add to the troubles, there’s scientific interest in creating more of the blood-thirsty vegetation. Will the planet be saved from Audrey II? Will Seymour and Audrey ever be together? 


Join us. The plant sings! Everybody sings! The musical is presented by Bronxville High School actors and musicians and is directed by high school choral director Pamela Simpson. Through generous support of The Bronxville School Foundation and the PTA, we have worked with professional puppeteer Fergus Walsh to create our own Audrey II puppets. It's going to be a fun night! Three nights only: Thursday, February 7, at 5:00 pm, Friday, February 8, at 7:00 pm, and Saturday, February 9, at 7:00 pm.  

Tickets (via Eventbrite) available to the general public starting today, Wednesday, January 30. The links for each performance are:

Little Shop - February 7
Little Shop - February 8
Little Shop - February 9 

Photos courtesy Pamela Simpson, Bronxville High School choral director 

Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff. 


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