Actor Peter Gallagher Pays A Visit To Byram Hills High

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Byram Hills Central Schools Director of Fine Arts Joy Varley, left, stands with Byram Hills alum and television and movie star Peter Gallagher. Photo Credit: Michael Nocella

ARMONK, N.Y. – In an effort to create buzz and raise funds for its upcoming performance of “Guys and Dolls” in March, the Byram Hills High School Stage held an alumni concert Monday night. Graduates from the 1970s to as recent as 2012 were in attendance, including television and movie star Peter Gallagher.

“This is my first time back since I graduated in 1973,” said Gallagher, who is best known for his portrayal of Sandy Cohen on the hit television series “The O.C.”

Gallagher, who was tracked down through his Facebook page, came back to honor the place that inspired him to become a performer. The late Byram Hills music teacher Gene Bissell had a big hand in that.

“Mr. Bissell’s passion and strong belief in his students introduced me to this world,” Gallagher said. “To this day, I take with me the appreciation he had for understanding the amount of discipline needed to be successful.”

The night’s performance included a variety of Broadway songs, each from different alums. It concluded with a collaborative rendition of “Seasons of Love” from “Rent,” which was led by Gallagher.

Gallagher was in good company, as the turnout from fellow graduates was nothing short of overwhelming. Notable guests included 1993 graduate David Harbour, who is currently on Broadway with Al Pacino in “Glengarry Glen Ross,” Broadway composers Grant Sturiale (1975) and Jason Lofreddo (1996) and current Broadway performers Katerina Papacostas (2006) and Lauryn Ciardullo (2004).

“The turnout from everyone was simply spectacular,” said Joy Varley, director of Fine Arts for the Byram Hills Central Schools. “The mix of generations here tonight was a really neat experience.”

Varley called the musical variety alumni concert the school’s first “social-media event,” as most graduates were found through Facebook and Twitter.

“It started out as a what-if,” said Byram Hills High School music teacher Adam Shatraw. “We put some feelers out there and the response was greater than we could have imagined.”

That response included a RSVP from the school’s most famous graduate.

“I think it was important for current students to see Peter was just another guy,” said Shatraw. “As soon as he walked into this building you could tell he was immediately transported back to his high school days, just like anyone else.”

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