Dragovich’s Teaching Career Heads to its Decrescendo

Dan Johnstone, Reporter

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The Dragovich band era ends, as the iconic music teacher will retire July 1. Mrs. Dragovich has created tremendous improvement in the music program here.

Among her many accomplishments, Mrs. Dragovich invited world-renowned conductors, composers and clinicians to work with her music students exposing them to a higher level of musicianship and appreciation for band repertoire, according to her band teaching colleague Dan Aviles.

Wantagh music students also saw the U.S. and the world. In Dragovich’s music program, her students performed in wonderful venues in Puerto Rico, the island of Tortola, Spain, New Mexico, and in theme parks including Disney World, Hershey Park and Busch Gardens. Closer to home, they performed in Carnegie Hall five times.

“Mrs. Dragovich is a beloved teacher who has created a professional, challenging yet familiar environment for her students,” said Aviles, who has taught band with Mrs. Dragovich for the past 13 years. “It is not uncommon to see students in the band room practicing and rehearsing.” Her students hold a pristine record of performance according to the New York State School Music Association, NYSSMA. Under Mrs. Dragovich’s baton, the Wantagh Bands performed at NYSSMA Majors 11 times since 1996, earning 22 gold ratings, 9 of which were deemed a perfect numerical score. There are currently 40 graduates of the WHS band who are successfully teaching music, performing, or working in the music industry, and many more who continued to play music in their college ensembles and marching bands.

During Mrs. Dragovich’s retirement she plans to travel, do yoga, and study metaphysics. She also wants to do some work in the wellness field.

She’s excited about her future but will miss many things about Wantagh High School. She says she’ll especially miss the magic in each of the band’s performances and friendships that are cultivated within the band family. Also, she’ll miss watching the individual improvement in every student.

Mrs. Dragovich is a Wantagh High School graduate who was a varsity cheerleader and softball player. Even though one of biggest influences in music was her high school band director Rollan Masciarelli, it wasn’t until college at Hofstra that she developed her passion for music. She obtained her masters’ degree from the Manhattan School of Music in clarinet performance. For her third and final degree, she went back to Hofstra to obtain a masters in wind conducting and was the graduate associate of the Hofstra University Band and Wind Ensemble.

After student-teaching in Mineola, she taught in the Hewlett-Woodmere district. Then, she returned to her hometown and spent the rest of her 31-year teaching career in Wantagh. Her time in Wantagh was enjoyable for her and all of students and colleagues.

“After working with Mrs. Dragovich for the past 30 years, I can say that has she transformed our band program into one of Long Island’s premier music departments,” said Principal Mrs. Breivogel.

Her current students have the utmost respect for her. Former students recall how important her impact as a teacher was.

“Mrs. Dragovich is the personification of why the arts are essential to student development and the human spirit,” says 2003 graduate Michael DelVecchio, who, today, is a film director in Los Angeles. “Her passion for music is infectious. Her class was equivalent to playing a major team sport in high school. The lessons, bonds and friendships formed under her leadership will stay with her students for a lifetime. Wantagh High School is losing a giant this year.”

“She has also created and cultivated pride, talent, loyalty, passion, and integrity into the lives that she has worked with every day,” said Principal Breivogel. “Mindy has been a reason why thousands of Wantagh graduates look back on their experience here and smile. As her colleague, her building principal and, most importantly, her dear friend, I wish her the best of what life has to offer in her retirement.”

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Dragovich’s Teaching Career Heads to its Decrescendo