FSSA Welcomes Mr. Mullany
by Brianna Almonte
Mr. Mullany nervously stood at the edge of the piano in the music theory room: “I am so nervous I have never been interviewed like this before,” he said. It was almost as if that’s where he felt the most calm; near the piano. He then swayed back and forth awaiting the first question.
Although many underclassmen might know him as the freshman and sophomore music theory teacher, many upperclassmen have yet to meet Mr. Mullany who is one of the newest additions to the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (FSSA) community.
A Queens native, Mr. Mullany grew up in a family of six children. His father unfortunately passed away when he was six years old and his mother then had to raise him and his siblings on her own. Mr. Mullany found his love for music at nine years old; he knew he had to have it in his life. Growing up, he listened to Beethoven and that’s what sparked his interest in the piano. Because his mother was raising her children on her own, they couldn’t afford lessons when little Kevin Mullany wanted to start learning the piano.
“We had to actually go there [to the library] if you wanted to learn how to read music or learn the piano either you got a job and paid for the piano and the music yourself or you went to the library and where you figured it out yourself,” he said.
Mr. Mullany decided to dive head first into his profound passion for music and started to get little jobs here and there like shoveling snow and raking leaves in order to pay for his very first keyboard and pay for print outs of the music he had to teach himself to play.
He had never questioned the fact that music was for him, he explained how his instrument, the piano, came to him naturally. He the made reference to the poem Poetry by Pablo Neruda which in the first stanza states that
“And it was at that age . . . poetry arrived
in search of me. I don’t know, I don’t know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don’t know how or when,
no, they were not voices, they were not
words, not silence,
but from a street it called me,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among raging fires
or returning alone,
there it was, without a face,
and it touched me.”
This inspirational portion of the poem stuck with Mr. Mullany, but he was unsure if the people he loved would support such a precarious career. After high school he joined the carpenters union. He explained that within his community many of the men became cops, firemen or stayed within the union. He said that “older folks” told him that he should get a job that is more sustainable than just being a musician so he continued on in the union until one of his friends’ fathers told him that he should just do one thing in his life and do it well.
“I grappled with that because I would think: ‘Well what if you could do two things or three things and do them well. Why not? You only live once, especially if you have youth.’ I never wanted to live a life of regret,” he said.
He went on to explain that being told this made him want to explore more of himself, which made him gravitate toward going to college for music. Mr. Mullany attended Queens college and graduated with a degree in music education. It was then that he began to commit to music. He started to compose his own pieces and choral works and practiced more than ever before. He then worked at a church in Brooklyn playing the organ and at Flushing High School for about 20 years with his brother who became an art teacher.
During the COVID outbreak, Mr. Mullany became one of the in-school teachers for multiple music classes at FSSA, which he described as an absolute pleasure. He was then told by the principal, Mr. Frankel, that he would be kept on as a theory teacher for the following school year.
“Mr. Frankel was so kind to me. I felt immediately a part of the Frank Sinatra family. I was embraced. I was embraced of course by the adults, but I felt a camaraderie with the students that I have not felt in any other school. I feel like I opened up a window after a long, cold winter and let the spring air come in; it was so refreshing to start this new chapter of my life here,” he said.
He said how he loves his new position at FSSA and is quite surprised by some students’ aptitude in music theory. In his classes, he has been trying to integrate socio-emotional impact within his theory lessons due to the effects of COVID on many students.
“It’s strange for me because I had the hunger from a young age. I had the hunger to want to know music and theory and never waited on a teacher. In many ways I think it’s foolish to wait on a teacher when you can do it yourself. There is nothing better than self discovery rather than it coming to you superficially. But it comes from within and one’s own work, it’s yours,” he said.
He added how many kids who know their way around theoretical principles create a collaborative and safe space for the students who don’t have as much knowledge on the subject.
Mr. Mullany is an extremely talented and dedicated teacher and musician full of knowledge. Even as a teacher, Mr. Mullany still finds time to create and dedicate his life to his one true passion—music.