When someone thinks of the Music Department, the first image in their head might be the music heard or the instruments played. However, one may not immediately think of those who operate behind the scenes ensuring the smoothness of the program. One of these people is Mike Napolitano ’04, MA ’17, a Marist alumni who has worked with the department since his graduation.
Mike (who members of the music department call Mikey) grew up down the road from Marist in Wappingers Falls. When recalling his music origins he explained “I went to high school down the road at Roy C Ketcham High School. I was in band, choir, chamber choir, wind ensemble and jazz band”. He graduated from Ketcham in 2000 where he went down the road to Marist College and studied communications. Yet what made his experience at Marist memorable was that of his time within the Music Department.
Immediately when Napolitano was a freshman on campus, he started in the Marching Band and his love of music further grew. He kept heavily involved with the music department through the singers, band and other small ensembles. Yet it was his senior year that opened a brand new door. “It was my senior year. We had a blackout on the east course and I had my appendix removed” he chuckled “This meant I had to miss marching season”. He had an extended recovery because of the surgery, yet he contributed behind the scenes of the band helping Music Director Art Himmelberger work with the band. Because of this, he was able to find a job at the campus after graduation. After working in Human Resources at Marist for the fall of 2004, a position opened up which included organization of finances and course registrations, in which he was asked to join. “I was kind of picking up on the process while volunteering at the offices” he mentioned while explaining his transition from HR back to the Music Department.
During his time at Marist, Napolitano got involved with the Band service fraternity known as Kappa Kappa Psi. When asked about his involvement, he described it as such “When I became a member in 2002, our founding fathers graduated out. it left us with four members and we had to step up and become leaders”. He served as the role of President and upon graduating served as the Chapter Sponsor for Marist. Yet his impact on Kappa Kappa Psi expanded far beyond that of Marist. He explained “When I became chapter president in 2003, we had a visit from one of our chapter presidents … It was that introduction to what the national chapter provided me helped me understand that what we have on our campus is somewhat greater and larger” This individual became his mentor as he helped expand the fraternity’s role on campus.
In 2011, he further got involved and chartered a Kappa Kappa Psi Alumni Organization which supported initiatives in the area. “Once that happened,” he described “there was a little bit more exposure for what I do in the community that came to be noticed”. He expanded his horizon and worked with the National Alumni Association of Kappa Kappa Psi. He then served on the National Council and was getting national attention with getting an Outstanding Alumni Award to Marist’s chapter being recognized on a national scale. He eventually moved off from the Alumni chapter board and became a District Governor in 2016 (an overseer of chapters across the Northeast United States).
Finally, when asked what his motto was regarding day to day life, he explained four words: do better, try harder. “We can be the best that we can be and sometimes we falter but we are contributers to a greater cause [musical excellence]”. Through his time at Marist and working with the National Chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi, Napolitano learned that by understanding people have a greater role in the greater good of music education, progress and achievement is brought to those around you. It is that that has made Napolitano an important aspect of the Marist College Music Department.