Summer Reading Contest Winner, Week 2: On ‘Vincent Lionti, Violist and Youth Orchestra Conductor, Dies at 60’

Summer Reading Contest Winner, Week 2: On ‘Vincent Lionti, Violist and Youth Orchestra Conductor, Dies at 60’

Zachary Hommel, 17, from Cornwall Central High School in New Windsor, N.Y. chose the obituary, “Vincent Lionti, Violist and Youth Orchestra Conductor, Dies at 60” from a series about those who have died from the coronavirus pandemic, and wrote:

It was an evening in early March, following the end of our Youth Symphony rehearsal. I went to Mr. Lionti, my conductor, and shared with him some exciting news about a summer music program. With a proud handshake, he said, “You’re well on your way!”

Then, COVID-19 happened.

Those were some of the last words he said to me, and I never completely understood what he meant until I read about him. According to the article, Mr. Lionti had degrees from Juilliard, gained recognition from Isaac Stern, was a substitute for the New York Phil, and eventually joined the Met Orchestra. I’m ashamed to say I had to read his obituary to find all of that out. To me, he was just an enthusiastic, lighthearted conductor. But, perhaps that speaks to his greatest accomplishment of all—impacting others. With the Youth Symphony, he achieved “one of the most moving experiences in his musical career,” when he performed at the New York School for the Deaf.

Now, I realize how much of a compliment it was to say I was well on my way—I can only hope to do half of what he did.

But Mr. Lionti wasn’t just another statistic. To pass off each grim milestone as a number on paper is to separate our perception from reality. The perception is that each victim is a tally mark on a chart—no more, no less. The reality is that each victim had a background—a family, loving friends, a lasting legacy.

“121,000 dead” doesn’t do it justice.

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