Camryn Libes is one of Huntington High School’s top musicians. But it didn’t just happen by accident. The teenager has worked hard at it from a young age and along the way she’s developed a sensational appreciation for just about every music genre from a wide range of time periods.
It appears to have been destiny that Ms. Libes is on stage performing and impressing audiences of all ages. She has earned the respect and admiration of her teachers and classmates throughout her impressive four year high school run.
“I got into music because of my mother,” Ms. Libes said. “She would constantly have music playing around the house and be singing along. I would then sing or hum along. Within a short amount of time, I was singing classical music, jazz music like Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, alternative music like The Police and Dave Matthews, as well as rock music like John Mayer. Mayer was my second concert, while Steely Dan was my first.”
Because of her mother, Ms. Libes said she now appreciates a wide range of music spread over decades. Few teenagers can possibly match her variety of tastes.
“My mother always likes to bring up how I sang ‘Peter and the Wolf’ all of the time when I was three years old,” Ms. Libes said. “According to her, it was impressive since I was so young and even sang it in front of many people at a bat mitzvah. I still sing parts of songs a lot, but definitely not in front of people. That happened more when I was younger because I would sing in the musicals, talent shows and even made it to the finals in the two Huntington Idols that I participated in.”
Ms. Libes has played violin since fourth grade, working with string teachers Dr. Claude Masear, Mrs. [Christina] Bhasin, Ms. [Debbie] Kim, Ms. [Lisa] Leonardi and Mrs. [Nicole] Castaldo. “I used to sing in intermediate and middle school, but I have since stopped to focus on the violin,” the teenager said.
A lifetime immersed in music
The senior has been immersed in music her entire life. “I was always allowed to play music while my mother and I were driving in the car, which caused us to have an affinity for whatever was playing on the radio,” Ms. Libes said. “It is very easy for me to memorize song lyrics and even beats; definitely easier than memorizing school stuff. It’s weird, but when I’m in the car and I’m listening to a song, I remember the last place where I heard the song.”
While she wasn’t born with a violin in her hands, it isn’t a surprise that the teenager picked up the instrument and has excelled at playing it, even from an early age.
“I got into playing the violin because my mother played the cello and I wanted to do the same, but I liked the violin more,” Ms. Libes said. “It was my first choice when I picked what instrument I wanted to play in third grade. When I started to play in fourth grade, I immediately loved it and played constantly. Dr. Masear even placed me in the fifth and sixth grade orchestra during the second half of the year with Gabriella DeLuca. Under his teaching, as well as my old private teacher, I achieved a perfect score at NYSSMA, which led to my participation in LISFA during fifth grade. From the very beginning, the violin had been a huge part of my life and I can’t imagine school without it.”
Ms. Leonardi, who at the time was the high school orchestra director, gave Ms. Libes a seat in the symphony orchestra as a sophomore, despite it usually being reserved for juniors and seniors.
Applied to 14 colleges
Treasurer of the high school orchestra and a three year member of the Tri-M Music Honor Society, Ms. Libes has applied “regular decision” to 14 schools across the country. She’s not sure where she’ll end up, but she intends to major in psychology and minor in history, if the college permits it.
“Like my music interests, I also have a wide variety of career interests,” Ms. Libes said. “Right now, I plan to become a high school guidance counselor and hopefully the dean of students, like Mr. [Robert] Gilmor. However, I am also considering becoming a high school history teacher or a lawyer.”
Regardless which college the teenager ultimately enrolls in she will never forget Huntington High School or the time she has spent with the district’s music teachers and her fellow musicians
“I have had an amazing experience in the Huntington music program,” Ms. Libes said. “The music teachers are the best and I always have felt that each year I have improved my musical skills tremendously. During the last nine years, the music department was a part of my daily life, whether I would be playing the violin or singing before, during or after school. I have always been in the chamber orchestra that the Huntington schools offer to their musicians. Chamber orchestra is fun because of the challenging music that is played and the fact that our practice is before or after school. The teachers are more relaxed during these times and it is exciting to see what we are able to accomplish in such a short time.”
Ms. Libes has been a pit orchestra member throughout high school and she can’t wait for the spring musical so she can perform with the group again.
“Usually upperclassmen are allowed to play in this orchestra because of the skill level needed, but Ms. Leonardi had faith in my playing abilities,” Ms. Libes said. “I played second violin in Into the Woods and Beauty and the Beast and first violin for The Little Mermaid. The musical and the pit orchestra created a family of friends that I know I will be friends with for a very long time. We spend weeks together and during the final week or rehearsals, we are together more than we are at home. I play in the pit orchestra because of the rush that a live performance gives. You can’t mess up or the audience will know and it drives everyone to practice until perfection.”
Works closely with teacher Jordan Gould
Her high school years have been jam packed with activities. “I have been involved in the ‘planner program’ that Mr. [Jordan] Gould has for his past students who want to help his current students,” Ms. Libes said. “Every part of his Global Vision class for sophomores, American Dream for juniors and African American Politics for seniors are very different from others and definitely more difficult. They require students to be dedicated and hardworking as well teaching students how to improve upon their work ethic. I have been part of all three of the classes mentioned and have been a ‘planner’ for the last two years.”
Ms. Libes has especially enjoyed participating in two simulations organized by Mr. Gould for his classes: The World Court Games and Civil War Games. “The students are divided and have to participate in a court trial,” the senior explained. “The last two years I have been a lawyer, meaning I was one of the leaders for my entire side. I would definitely say that last year, I was the leader of the entire South side during the Civil War Games. I was actually called the ‘mother of the South’ and I took that title very seriously. This experience has taught me patience and communication in order for work to get accomplished. As a ‘planner,’ I assist Mr. Gould on a daily basis and act as the bridge between him and his students.”
The teenager said that over the past year she has learned how to be a leader in stressful situations and communicate with students. “The ‘planners’ have already been through one or both of the games, so we act as a guide for all of the students who are participants,” Ms. Libes said. “We also go to the library as much as we can and make sure that deadlines are set and they are doing their job efficiently. A ‘planner’ and a leader needs to be responsible and caring because the games are sometimes extremely stressful. We need to talk to all of the students constantly to make sure they are okay and doing whatever is needed. ‘Planners’ tell the students what Mr. Gould is expecting of them in a way they will understand. Plus, most of the ‘planners’ were or are students of Mr. Gould so we understand his expectations since we needed to meet them ourselves. As you can see, Mr. Gould has been extremely influential and helpful during the last three years. I am forever grateful for his mentorship. He is the reason why I have a family at school.”
Many memorable moments
Ms. Libes has dabbled in many different activities and used her time at Huntington High School to grow in every possible way. Her interests have come into clearer focus as she has gone about embracing a wide assortment of academic and co-curricular pursuits.
The teenager believes that every Huntington student should consider participating in the district’s music program. Her own experience has been exceedingly positive.
“The music program is definitely something I would recommend because it teaches its students commitment, dedication and hard work,” Ms. Libes said. “One could always improve upon the instrument they are playing and transfer that idea into school and even the workforce. Being a part of the music program, prepares students for the workforce and teaches them how to become a better version of themselves.”
There have been many memorable moments for Ms. Libes over the past four years of high school. “Some highlights have definitely been being a part of the pit orchestra, being a ‘planner’ and doing Homecoming float night each year,” she said. “I love doing float night because it demonstrates how many students genuinely enjoy Huntington High School and have school spirit and pride. I feel as if I am helping my class by participating and the class becomes closer because of it.”
As she heads into the final months of her time at Huntington, Ms. Libes offered advice to the freshmen that will flood into the building next September: “Find something you’re good at and continue with it and have a strong work ethic, which will get you far in school and in life,” she said. “But the most important advice would be to make sure you have a strong support system. High school is a time when you will have the highest highs and the lowest lows. Have friends and adults that will always be there for you. Have that one teacher or staff member that you trust and can go to for help and advice.”