An aviation student in the flight simulator.

SJSU Remembers 9/11

By Sarah Kyo and Pat Lopes Harris, Public Affairs

As America mourns the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, SJSU’s campus community reflects upon its own connections to the historical event.

The pilot of hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 was a SJSU graduate, and his name lives on in a scholarship for aviation students. A former U.S. Army Ranger in Afghanistan becomes a University Police Department officer. And a free memorial concert and vigil this Sunday will use music to pay tribute to those who lost their lives.

An SJSU Alum’s Legacy Lives On

Tommy Ondrasek stands next to a plaque for Captain Jason Dahl, pilot of United Airlines Flight 93. Photo By Elena Polanco

Tommy Ondrasek stands next to a plaque for Captain Jason Dahl, pilot of United Airlines Flight 93. Photo by Elena Polanco.

Ever since he was a young boy, growing up near a major Houston airport, Tommy Ondrasek wanted to be an airline pilot.

Ondrasek graduated from high school in 2001, the year that 9/11 occurred. Instead of giving up on aviation, he became more passionate and desired even more to become a pilot. The 9/11 attacks also influenced his decision to defend his country.

“I knew that I wanted to join the military prior to September 11th, but those events solidified my drive to do so,” he said.

Almost a decade later, Ondrasek, a SJSU aviation operations student, became the recipient of the 2010 Captain Jason Dahl Scholarship. He used the $5,000 award toward flight training.

Dahl, a 1980 SJSU alumnus, was the captain of hijacked United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Passengers and crew members prevented the terrorists from completing their mission. The Captain Jason Dahl Scholarship Fund, a non-profit corporation founded by Dahl’s widow, Sandy, awards aviation college students with these scholarships.

After enlisting with the Navy, Ondrasek was shipped out to boot camp on March 12, 2002. He served as an Aviation Electrician’s Mate at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

“For my job, it was maintaining anything and everything electrical on an aircraft,” he said.

After being honorably discharged in 2006, Ondrasek headed to California with his wife, who started graduate school at UC Berkeley. Meanwhile, he attended Diablo Valley College, where his career counselor introduced him to SJSU’s aviation program.

“I love it,” Ondrasek said. “SJSU is the only public institution that offers a bachelor’s degree in aviation.”

After graduating, Ondrasek hopes to start off as a flight instructor and look for flight-related jobs. He wants to work his way up to become a pilot for a major airline, just like Dahl.

While Ondrasek has earned other scholarships in the past, the Dahl Scholarship means the most to him.

“I feel more of a need to push myself to achieve great things because of it,” Ondrasek said.

UPD Officer Has Army Roots

Jason Celano in the back of a Toyota Tacoma. He bought the same make and model for his trip across country when he returned to the states after serving six months in the Middle East.

Justin Celano in the back of a Toyota Tacoma in Afghanistan. He bought the same make and model for his trip across country when he returned to the states after serving six months in the Middle East. Photo courtesy of Justin Celano.

Now a University Police Department corporal, then a U.S. Army Ranger, Justin Celano was one of almost 2,000 soldiers deployed in early 2002 for what became known as Operation Anaconda.

He seemed well prepared, having trained for a few years, since enlisting straight out of Santa Teresa High School, Class of 1999.

But there were many lessons to be learned in Anaconda, including one directly affecting Celano, a sniper.

“As a sniper team, you’re most effective in the woods so we were still training in thickly wooded areas,” he recalled. “Then you find yourself in a place with no woods and no place to hide. These days, everyone’s training for the desert.”

Celano wound up earning a place in history after sharing his experiences with embedded Army Times reporter Sean Naylor, who penned “Not a Good Day to Die.” The New York Times bestseller is a detailed account of the operation told through the eyes of soldiers like Celano.

When Celano returned to the United States, one of the first things he did was buy what he knew was one of the most reliable cars on the road, a Toyota Tacoma.

“That’s what we were using over there, and they seemed to run forever with bullet holes in them,” he said.

Celano and a cousin drove the truck across the country and back to San Jose, where a family friend told him UPD was hiring. Within a few months, he was on the job. He had just turned 22, making him younger than most SJSU students.

“I looked at myself at 21, having been in the military, as years older than someone who was 21 and hadn’t been in the military,” he said.

Now 30, Celano sold the truck a few years back. Married and expecting his first child in November, he is steadily climbing the ranks at UPD.

“Corporal Celano possesses a level of maturity, knowledge and experience that makes him an attractive candidate for any number of law enforcement agencies,” SJSU Chief of Police Peter Decena said. “Yet he remains very loyal to UPD and the campus community.”

Celano also remains modest and reserved. He doesn’t talk much about his military experience.

“It’s not because it’s hard to talk about but maybe it was the way I was raised,” he said. “I’m proud of what I did but I don’t feel the need to let the world know. I know and that’s good enough for me.”

Into Light: A 9/11 Memorial Concert

A flyer with a U.S. flag, candles, and music notes for Into Light: A 9/11 Memorial Concert on Sunday, September 11, at 8 p.m. in the Music Concert Hall Building.

Into Light: A 9/11 Memorial Concert. Graphic by Ali Hanshaw.

In remembrance of September 11, the School of Music and Dance is hosting a memorial concert that is free and open to the public. “Into Light: A 9/11 Memorial Concert” will take place on September 11 at 8 p.m. in the Music Building Concert Hall.

Dr. William Meredith from the Beethoven Center approached professors Joseph Frank and Layna Chianakas about organizing the event, and they were happy to do it. They will also be performing.

For the event, Frank, a tenor, chose to sing “America My Wondrous Land,” an award-winning song that recognizes the American spirit.

“A perfect piece to honor the memory of our fallen citizens on 9/11,” Frank said.

Frank had lived in New York for many years and performed at the Metropolitan Opera. He remembers the stress of trying to contact his friends there after the attacks on the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers.

“I heard numerous personal stories from my friends who experienced the horror of that day — walking through clouds of debris and hearing sirens and having no communications with the outside world,” Frank said. “It was an infamous day for America, and one we should never forget.”

At the concert, Chianakas, a mezzo-soprano, will perform “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” an African-American spiritual.

“This piece is very close to my heart because my mother died one week before 9/11, and I know many other people lost their mothers on the day of the attack,” she said. “It just seemed the right piece to sing on our concert.”

Many SJSU students were only children when the attacks happened, and Chianakas hopes that the event will allow them to experience the impact it had on the country.

“We are also showing our students a part of history,” she said. “I believe what happened made us all far more aware of how small we actually are in this world, but also how when called upon, we as Americans can support each other, grieve together and eventually triumph over tragedy.”

SJSU’s new President Mohammad Qayoumi will also provide opening remarks before the concert.

“The past 10 years has been the time period for us to reflect and see what we have learned and how we can use this experience in a way that will strengthen us as a nation,” Qayoumi said.

Other participants include the faculty of the School of Music and Dance; Nils Petersen, Santa Clara County’s first poet laureate and a SJSU professor emeritus; and SJSU’s Air Force ROTC Color Guard. The event will conclude with a candlelit vigil.

Votive candles in a heart shape in the foreground with the US flag behind.

SJSU Marks 10th Anniversary of 9/11 With Concert, Reflections, Remembrances

A flyer with a U.S. flag, candles, and music notes for Into Light: A 9/11 Memorial Concert on Sunday, September 11, at 8 p.m. in the Music Concert Hall Building. Graphic by Ali Hanshaw.

Into Light: A 9/11 Memorial Concert. Graphic by Ali Hanshaw.

Date: September 11, 2011

Time: 8:00 p.m.

Location: Music Building Concert Hall

Summary: The School of Music and Dance presents a 9/11 memorial concert that is free and open to the public. President Mohammad Qayoumi will provide opening remarks.Event participants include the faculty of the School of Music and Dance; Nils Petersen, Santa Clara County’s first poet laureate and a SJSU professor emeritus; and SJSU’s Air Force ROTC Color Guard. The event will conclude with a candlelit vigil. Read more on SJSU connections to 9/11 and an SJSU honors class reflecting on the impact of the attacks on literature and culture.

Recent SJSU graduate Joseph Reichert, center, and his percussion pupils perform the song "Funky Buckets" with metal garbage cans, plastic buckets and drumsticks at the Music Building Concert Hall on June 24. Photo by James W. Murray.

Music Camp Reaches Out to Middle School and High School Students

Recent SJSU graduate Joseph Reichert, center, and his percussion pupils perform the song "Funky Buckets" with metal garbage cans, plastic buckets and drumsticks at the Music Building Concert Hall on June 24. Photo by James W. Murray.

Recent SJSU graduate Joseph Reichert, center, and his percussion pupils perform the song "Funky Buckets" at the Music Building Concert Hall on June 24. Photo by James W. Murray.

By Sarah Kyo, Public Affairs Assistant

Music filled the air, as the School of Music and Dance hosted 140 campers at its fifth annual Summer in the City Music Camp, June 19 to 25.

The camp focused on middle school and high school students participating in band and orchestra, in addition to choir for only high school students. Summer in the City exposed campers to SJSU’s music department, said Emily Lane, who has worked at the music camp for five years and has served as a camp director for the last three years.

“It’s fun to see kids come back,” said Lane, an SJSU alumna. “We only see them one week. It’s cool to see them grow after one year.”

Camp co-director Julie Bounds has worked as Santa Teresa High School’s band director for eight years. Before becoming part of the camp’s staff two years ago, Bounds encouraged her students to attend Summer in the City and heard of their positive experiences.

Bounds said the camp reaches out to diverse demographics and a wide-range of socioeconomic levels. Local music instructors have the opportunity to offer scholarships to their students for this music camp.

Campers had the option of commuting from home or living on campus during the week. A typical day for the campers included sectional rehearsals that focus on their particular instrument, lunch at the Dining Commons, electives and chamber ensembles. There were evening shows and activities, as well as a final concert on June 24.

Instructors included School of Music and Dance director Dr. Edward Harris; SJSU staff, students and alumni; and community members. Members of the Massachusetts-based chamber group Nautilus Brass Quintet also served as instructors. Walker Beard, an SJSU alumnus, plays the trumpet in the quintet and taught trumpet and brass chamber music at the camp.

Beard said teaching campers of varying ages and musical experience in the same class can be a challenge, but he enjoys seeing the vast improvement in all of the young people in one week.

Jason McChristian, a SJSU graduate student, said his favorite part of teaching music composition at the camp is “when the kids come up with something original and they like it. It makes me very happy.”

SJSU in the News: Beloved Music Teacher Got Her Start at San Jose State, Inspired by Choir Director Charlene Archibeque

Music students from Lincoln High in San Jose pay tribute teacher Anne-Marie Katemopoulos’ 20th anniversary at school

Originally published in the San Jose Mercury News May 19, 2011

By Mary Gottschalk

Over the past two decades Anne-Marie Katemopoulos has become affectionately known as Mrs. K to her music students at Lincoln High School.

Now, her students are saluting her 20-year anniversary at the school with the Lincoln Music Department finale concert on May 28 at 4 p.m. at Campbell United Methodist Church.

Katemopoulos started teaching with San Jose Unified School District in 1989 at San Jose High Academy, transferring after three years to Lincoln, the district’s performing arts magnet high school.

“Anne-Marie Katemopoulos exemplifies all that is good about music education,” says Jackie Zeller, Lincoln principal. “She has the ability to take a fledgling student and create a harmonious songbird.”

Without her dedication and talent, Zeller says, “Lincoln High School would not be the special place that it is today. Mrs. K means Lincoln choir.”

For her 20th anniversary concert, Katemopoulos has chosen choral favorites from her years teaching, including Festival Sanctus, Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus and How Do You Keep the Music Playing.

Lincoln alumni are joining with current students for the event.

Katemopoulos is a graduate of Branham High School and earned both her B.A. and M.A. degrees in music at San Jose State University. As an undergraduate and graduate student, she was particularly inspired by the well-known Charlene Archibeque and performed with the acclaimed SJSU Choraliers.

Under Katempoulos’ direction, Lincoln’s students have performed throughout the United States and many have gone on to professional careers in the performing arts.

Tickets are $10 general admission and $5 for students. They are available online at www.lincolnperformingarts.com and at the door, if any remain. The church is located at 1675 Winchester Blvd., in Campbell.

Haiti Benefit Concert

SAN JOSE, Calif., — Inspired by a blind Haitian violinist’s dedication to music education and his friendship of nearly three decades with an SJSU faculty pianist, the San Jose State University School of Music and Dance will host a Haiti benefit concert. Open to the public, the concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, February 7, in the SJSU Music Concert Hall.

The event will feature San Francisco Symphony guest performers with SJSU faculty members and students. No admission will be charged and parking fees will be waived at SJSU’s South (Seventh Street) Garage, but those planning to attend are being encouraged to bring their cell phones and checkbooks to make donations. Retired SJSU Provost Carmen Sigler will offer opening remarks, and KDFC FM’s Hoyt Smith will emcee the evening.

The concert will benefit the American Red Cross and the New Victorian School, built under the leadership of Julliard-trained blind violinist Romel Joseph. The 7.0 quake that rocked Port-au-Prince three weeks ago destroyed the school, which served children and their families with an emphasis on music and foreign language.

SJSU Professor and pianist Gwendolyn Mok met Joseph in 1982, when both were fellows at the Tanglewood Music Festival, Boston. Mok gave a special performance in Haiti in January 1991 celebrating the bicentennial of Mozart’s death. The event raised funds for the New Victorian, opened later the same year.

As the shocking news of the earthquake unfolded, Mok struggled to make contact with her dear friend. She was relieved to learn that after 18 hours buried under the rubble of his beloved school, Joseph emerged with injuries to his left hand and legs. He was airlifted to a Florida hospital, where he is recovering. His wife, seven months pregnant, remains missing.

“There has always been a bond between Romel and me through the power of music, and now we’re bringing that connection to San Jose, a place constantly confronted by the likelihood of a catastrophic earthquake much like the one that shook Haiti to its core,” Mok said. “We have to step up and help.”

Victoria Joseph, New Victorian’s executive director, will travel to San Jose to share her father’s experiences with concert goers. The audience will be asked to text “HAITI” to 90999 for direct donations to the American Red Cross. They will also be encouraged to write checks to the Walenstein Musical Organization, a charity raising funds to rebuild the New Victorian School.

The American Red Cross name and emblem are used with its permission, which in no way constitutes an endorsement, express or implied, of any product, service, company or individual.

San José State University will donate all contributions collected through February 7, 2010 to the American Red Cross International Response Fund — Haiti Earthquake Relief.

Contact:
Pat Lopes Harris, SJSU Media Relations, 408-924-1748
Jim Fung, Event Producer, 408-203-4846

View the Haiti benefit concert’s Facebook page.

View the New Victorian School website.

View a CBS News story on Romel Joseph.