The general consensus is that this year’s Talent Show was perhaps the best in recent memory. There was over an hour of acts – mostly singing and dancing. After the school’s Big Band and Upper School Rock Band opened up the show, one of the next performers was one of the seventh graders, singing Adele’s current hit “Rolling in the Deep” and accompanying herself on piano. Unfortunately, there were issues with her microphone, and she ended up deciding to stop. Greg Snedeker, our instrumental music teacher, got her set up with a new mic, and, to cheers and applause and cries of her name, she started in again from the beginning as though nothing had ever gone wrong.
In faculty meeting, looking back on the day, several teachers commented on what an amazing moment it was, how good she sounded, what poise she had, and how supportive the students had been. Jeremy Deason, our Athletic Director, leaned down toward me and, knowing I would understand the full context of his remark, said, “Every day,”
As expected, I let my thoughts fly back to a day earlier in the year when two of the middle school students were making a presentation to the faculty requesting the right of the seventh graders to vote in elections for the Student Council President. During dicusssion prior to voting our approval, several teachers commented how impressively articulate, well-spoken, and able to think on their feet these students were. Jeremy leaned down and said to me, “Every single day. That’s what we see in the middle school every single day.”
This year, we split the annual Middle School Performing Arts Presentation into two nights. Friday night, May 20 was for the dance and music classes, and the Theatre 7 class will present their three original one-act plays on Tuesday, May 31. Every student takes all four performing arts (including both instrumental and vocal music), though fall is for Theatre 8 and Dance 7, while spring is for Theatre 7 and Dance 8.
Friday night, the show opened with the Dance 8 group performing in the Bollywood tradition. I was up just in front of the stage waiting with the seventh graders in Rock Band for our turn, so I could see them up close. As they wove their arms together and apart, spinning and swirling and morphing into different configurations, moving together and apart, I could see not only the complexity of a long dance but also the smiles on their faces as they went through their combinations. They were most definitely having fun!
The Rock Band, Ensemble, Combo, and Guitar Ensemble all did a great job, with an eighth grader’s saxophone solo in the Beatles’ song “Day Tripper” a particular highlight. Just before the Select Vocal Music group sang their final selection, Tony Lechner, their beloved director, turned to share with the audience that the next song, “Find the Cost of Freedom,” has been written by Stephen Stills following a visit to a Civil War battlefield, and that it seemed well suited to current times. If you know the song, you know how powerful it is under normal circumstances. I am quite sure I was not the only one with misty eyes who didn’t ever want the song to stop.
The full Vocal Music group sounded amazing as well, and more parents than I can count told me how impressed and moved they were. One father wordlessly embraced Tony before finally finding voice to thank him, and then turned to express amazement and admiration to Greg on getting every single student on stage playing an instrument and sounding so good together. I’m sure Ann Sorvino, our dance teacher, also got many compliments for the Bollywood dance, and the Rock Band also received due praise and plaudits. Being privileged to be part of the Peforming Arts Department, I know how much time, effort, and care it took to put this show together, on the part of both students and teachers.
On repeated occasions this week, I have seen teachers from various other schools express the desire to work “in Bill’s school,” and I certainly understand why. Part of it, given the context where several of the remarks were made (a webinar with Teacher Leaders Network on non-core assessment), is the work we’ve done in designing our assessment system, and part of it is the fact that we don’t think in terms of “core” vs. “encore” but rather in terms of one unified program.
But the biggest part of why we are such a strong school comes down to students. As some visiting teachers observed about the Theatre 7 class, “They’re so self-possessed!” And as Tony said in thanking parents for sending us these wonderful kids, “They’re talented, they’re smart, they’re nice, and they’re fun to work with.”
Every single day.
– Bill Ivey, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School Dean