It’s not every day that students get to sing before a Long Island legend. Yet that was the case Wednesday for a group of Glen Covers when Billy Joel himself attended Deasy Elementary School’s “The River of Dreams: A Billy Joel Tribute Concert.”
"We invited Billy Joel on a lark, but we didn't expect him to come. It was totally thrilling," Deasy Principal Nomi Rosen told Newsday. "We were all beside ourselves."
Joel, who lives in nearby Centre Island, sat among parents at the Wunsch Center stage at Finley Middle School, where the concert was held. He “applauded at the end of every song, smiling all the way” as Kindergartners through second graders performed an “eclectic collection” of the Piano Man’s hits, according to the district.
Kindergartners kicked off the performance with “You May Be Right” and closed with “Uptown Girl,” with Kalia Edwards featured as a soloist on “Lullaby” in-between.
First-graders performed “My Life,” with Alana Barnes and Jordan Billings singing solos in “Tell Her About It” and “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song).” Second-grade singers sang “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” “New York State of Mind” and “Piano Man,” with solos by Caleb Ham, Amy Cruz-Chacon and Trinity Gilreath, respectively.
"This was a very welcomed surprise,” Rosita Mallo, the school’s concert director told Newsday, noting that she found out Joel was in the audience only moments before the performance. “It gave the kids extra energy to perform."
Days before the show, Deasy parents and teachers began spreading the word by writing letters and through social media, hoping that Joel would attend, school officials said.
And although he was invited to sit up front, he chose a seat further back so as not to rattle the performers, Newsday reported. Joel left the show after hearing the kindergartners and first graders perform, as audience members began asking for photos and autographs.Still his presence left the kids “in awe” and “proud to perform for him,” Rosen said.