Former students reflect upon their careers in the performing arts

Eddie Jin, Staff Writer

Beyond the high achieving alumni in the fields of business, politics, journalism, and science, many former students of the school dominate in the arts and entertainment industry as comedians, actors, and musicians.

Of the many alumni who have pursued the arts, Scott Rogowsky ’03, a stand-up comedian and primary host of HQ Trivia, began his career in comedy in high school by founding the school’s comedy publication The Roar in his junior year.

“I poured my heart and soul into [the publication] for two years,” Rogowsky said. He also earned plenty of stage time to reveal his wit as Student Body President (SBP), which he calls his “[pre]-stand-up era,” he said.

His sense of humor and charisma still resonate with his fellow alumni and faculty of the school. Rogowsky often loitered in the library, Head Librarian Caroline Bartels, who remembers him fondly, said. “He was just a funny kid,” she said.

“He was definitely a big presence on campus,” Chris Garrison ’04 said. Unsurprised to see Rogowsky appear on his screen when playing HQ Trivia, Garrison remembers “him as just being a very entertaining SBP,” he said.

Destined to become an entertainer, Rogowsky returned to his high school roots as a comedic journalist after college and interned for The Onion, a humor publication. Contributing to their print edition, web videos, and television series for Comedy Central, Rogowsky’s internship began a career that would involve hosting HQ Trivia as well as his own late-night talk show, Running Late with Scott Rogowsky, he said.

Actor Timothy ‘Speed’ Levitch ’88, like Rogowsky, had a strong vocation in the arts from a young age. He first discovered his interest in theater in high school productions and solo renditions during club meetings period, he said.

Levitch attributes his success to a “tight little minority” of classmates with a passion for the preforming arts, including fellow alumni and HBO showrunner David Mandel ’88 and Golden Globe producer Robert Carliner ’88.

Levitch’s greatest accomplishments, however, are not on film, but in his ability to explain the streets of New York City as a tour guide, he said. Weeks before graduating New York University as a dramatic writing major, “somebody told me that I was going to have to get a job. Hit me by surprise,” he said.

After considering his love of theater performance, history, and New York City, Levitch decided that “tour guiding was a nexus of what I loved,” he said, receiving a license even before he finished college. Levitch’s tours gained fame due to his enthusiastic charisma and short bursts of philosophical opinion.

In 1998, he played himself in a the documentary, The Cruise. He remains active as an actor, and most notably had a role in School of Rock. “I’ve always had a flair for the dramatics,” Levitch said. “I like to say I’m the hardest working tour guide in the show biz.”

Outside the film industry, several alumni have also pursued successful careers in music. Among them is Peter Cincotti ’01, a world-renowned jazz and pop pianist and singer. 

Cincotti had always wanted to be a musician, he said. He frequently performed in live shows during high school, and nearly 10 years later, in the White House.

In one of his many jazz club performances in high school, Cincotti’s audience included legendary producer Phil Ramone, who was impressed by his talent. After the show was over, Ramone had offered him his first record deal.

At age 18, Cincotti released his first record, Peter Cincotti, which quickly climbed to the No. 1 position on the Billboard Jazz chart. Since then, he has released five more albums, and worked with numerous notable producers, including David Guetta. His acclaim led to roles in television shows and films including House of Cards and Spider-Man 2.

Cincotti believes that his education provided him tools for success both on and off the stage, he said. “A lot of artists can’t put a sentence together, let alone have the assets and knowledge that a school like Horace Mann can allow you to gain,” he said. “On the business side of things, my education at HM became a huge asset for me as I began operating in the music business, making deals and agreements with people and companies.”

Cincotti left a mark on the school community with his musical talent. Over 15 years after his graduation, Bartels still remembers the notes of his piano filling Gross Theater during assemblies. “There was this moment when you were like ‘wow this kid is really talented’. This is what they’re going to do with their lives,” she said.

Similarly, Catherine Garrison ‘01 remembers Cincotti as someone who was “really cool but also humble,” she said. “He showed us that it’s possible to do great things while we are so preoccupied at Horace Mann.”

While former classmates remember Cincotti, Levitch, and Rogowsky for their respective musical, theatrical, and comedic talent, they contributed to the community beyond the arts as an ordinary high school students.

Cincotti joined the school tennis and baseball teams, until music consumed more of his schedule. Likewise, Rogowsky played four years of high school baseball, three of which were alongside future Major League all-star Pedro Alvarez ’05. 

Levitch even attributes his start to theatre to the school, as his “whole theatrical and performance career began with trying to get quoted in the Horace Mann Record,” he said.