Grasso Tech senior brings people together through music
Groton — Ella T. Grasso Technical High School Senior Jacob Lalumandier is all about teamwork.
Whether he’s participating in Student Council or pursuing his passion for music, he likes to see the team succeed.
This year, with Grasso Tech music director David Brush and Robert E. Fitch High School Senior Alex Goins, he helped found the Southeastern Connecticut Percussion ensemble, or S.E.C. Percussion. The ensemble practices at Grasso Tech and includes members from Grasso, Fitch, the Marine Science Magnet High School and Groton Middle School.
“I love the music, but I think what’s really kept me involved in that is it takes a lot of people to come together,” Lalumandier said.
He said about 25 students participate in the program, with discussions underway about opening it up to schools across the region.
Lalumandier, who is 18, lives with his family in Gales Ferry in Ledyard and transferred to Grasso Tech this year. He said within a week of talking to Brush, they came up with the idea for the percussion program, and Lalumandier reached out to friends at Fitch, who came to meet with him and Brush.
Lalumandier said the group’s success was beyond his expectations. “I thought we’d go out for a couple of performances and call it a season at the end of the day," he said, "but it really took on a life of its own once the kids started all getting together.”
At the first practice, Grasso students all sat in one area, and the Fitch students sat in another. By the end of the season, everyone was friends with one another, laughing and joking together.
Music as motivation
Lalumandier, who comes from a military family, was born in St. Louis and has lived “just about everywhere,” including Georgia, Colorado, Guam and Italy.
His family moved to Connecticut in December 2019 and he was at Fitch for only about three months, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. He had just started making friends, when all of a sudden, he didn’t see anyone until the next year. He struggled and lost motivation and, at the end of the year, the school sent a letter home to say he was at risk of not graduating on time.
He said he realized he had one year of high school left and needed to work on his future. From that day on, he started to put in as much work as he could. He soon quit his job at Dairy Queen and started working at Mystic Seaport in the maritime field he plans to pursue after high school.
Lalumandier said his younger brother was going to Grasso Tech, and throughout the pandemic, the school was calling home once a week and offering extra support and services. Lalumandier saw a sign that Grasso Tech was accepting transferring seniors and, after talking with his family, decided to transfer and found it to be an easy transition.
Lalumandier is in the Guest Services Management program and is getting certifications and training for free, which not only helps him in his job at Mystic Seaport, but he also would like to work in the hospitality field during college to help pay for his education. He also knows that, no matter where he works, being professional and hospitable is important and people like to work with someone who is there to support the team.
Lalumandier, who had no outlet for his music or way to display it during the pandemic, realized he needed a way to make music with the people he liked to truly motivate himself to get through the school year. He said he went from almost not being able to graduate high school to now heading off to college next year, because music gave him the motivation.
Brush, Grasso’s music director, said Lalumandier is one of the greatest student leaders he’s ever come across in his career, and Lalumandier wants to be involved with the percussion group even after graduation.
“It's a testament to the fact that he’s just really passionate about what he does," Brush said, "and he’s going to be successful in his career because he has the ability to not just feel passionate but also to convey that passion to other people.”
Brush said that’s an important skill to have when trying to build a group like S.E.C. Percussion, but it’s also going to serve Lalumandier well moving forward in his life.
Brush said the biggest compliment he received is that people didn’t realize S.E.C. Percussion was in its first year.
“As the course of the season went on, they got really, really good, and I was so proud of them because every week it got better and the score just kept climbing,” he said.
Making a difference
At Grasso Tech, Lalumandier participates in Student Council, Class Council and the yearbook and helps out the school with morning announcements and its social media.
Chris Jones, department head for Guest Services Management, said Lalumandier is a great student who has excelled in his trade and is a true leader of "Grasso nation." He's also a mastermind in the social media world. “He puts Grasso Tech on a whole new level when it comes to our social media position,” Jones said.
Lalumandier said he enjoys making a difference. He said earlier in high school, he wasn’t as engaged in the school climate, but he finds it to be a lot more fulfilling and he’s a lot happier with himself and being in school because he now has a say in decisions and is helping to build the school as it goes forward.
He said his class was really the last one that had a full normal year of high school before the pandemic, so he and other upperclassmen are helping pass on some of the traditions, such as pep rallies, to the younger students.
After he graduates from high school, he plans to go to Maine Maritime Academy and major in marine transportation operations.
Lalumandier said that interest partly comes from his father who is in the Navy, but he also has been involved in Sea Scouts for five years, starting from when he was living in Guam. He would like to work on a ship, whether it be military or civilian, as part of a crew.
“I see myself standing on the bridge right next to the captain and sailing the oceans,” he said. “I love traveling. I love being on the water. I love being part of that team, being that team player, so five years from now, that’s where I see myself being.”
Lalumandier said he would like to see Lebanon, where his grandfather is from. He’d also like to advocate for technical schools and help foster programs, such as the Sea Scouts.
He said his time at Grasso Tech has given him a lot of understanding because “we have kids from all over the region, and everyone’s coming in here with their own viewpoints, their own life experiences, and being able to understand other people’s viewpoints and life experiences and still being able to work together and get stuff done, that's invaluable."
"That's something I will carry with me forever,” he said.