Torn Apart

February 24, 2014 by Bill Ivey

I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Usually, at the end of a show, especially on Opening Night, the cast either cheers and wanders off stage after the bows or simply wanders off stage. But as Meg Reilly, the music director, and Josh Carnes, the drummer, went into the exit music, these kids clearly did not want to leave, and it only took a few moments for the first one to turn to the girl standing next to her and wrap her in a long, warm hug which spread like, well, AIDS in the early 1990s, to choose a show-appropriate metaphor. Only, of course, on a much, much more positive note.

Before the show, Kim Mancuso, the stage director of the play, had gathered us all together on stage for an Opening Night ritual that marked and acknowledged the importance of each and every possible relationship among us in pulling off this incredibly complex and powerful show. When Tom Geha, the lighting technician, and I returned to the tech table, he said, “You know, you probably don’t even think about it because you see them every day, but I was looking around and it really hits you how young they are.” Rent is an ambitious show for people of any age, but it is an exceptional challenge for teenagers and pre-teens (three cast members were seventh graders) to immerse themselves for three months in the world of New York City’s East Village in the early 1990s, when many of the starving young artists were HIV-positive and/or had come down with full-blown AIDS. In that context, it was perhaps even more of a challenge for these kids to put themselves out there on stage for all to see.

Filed Under: LGBT Support, Beautifully different, diversity, Performing Arts, performing, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School

Not Long Enough

May 28, 2013 by Bill Ivey

Spearth Day was born of a series of compromises, but has become one of the key dates in the waning weeks of our school year. Many years ago, the students asked for a special day to celebrate the mailman who played such an important role in their lives (today's students, for whom email is old-fashioned and texting is routine, would probably find this odd). We called it "M and M Day" for "Mail Man Day," and besides presenting him with a card and gifts when he finally showed, we played an all-school game of Capture the Flag and found other ways to celebrate. Over time, M and M Day evolved and became more organized - for one thing, the tradition of the talent show was begun. Meanwhile, earlier in the spring, Earth Day remained a day off for service - cleaning up local parks and rivers, clearing trails, and so on. The two days were eventually combined into one, and the name "Spearth Day" comes from "Spring-Earth Day." We spend the morning doing various service projects on- and off-campus, have the Talent Show after lunch, follow that with games and booths organized by classes and clubs, dedicate the yearbook and pass out copies, and end with a barbecue. This year, for a special treat, there will be a dance performance by the Senior IB dancers.

Filed Under: Spearth Day, Teaching, Alumnae, School Happenings, On Education, Bill Ivey, Celebrating Holidays, Beautifully different, On Parenting, community, In the Classroom, Performing Arts, performing, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Graduation, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School

Songs in the Key of Life

March 18, 2013 by Bill Ivey

(title taken from the title of Stevie Wonder's masterwork album, released in 1976)

Filed Under: Teaching, School Happenings, gender, Bill Ivey, 141 Reasons, Beautifully different, finding your voice, diversity, Rock Band, All Girls Education, Feminism, Performing Arts, performing, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Jose Vilson

The Art of Silence

April 26, 2012 by Bill Ivey

On the day our school was observing the Day of Silence in support of LBGT people, I happened to be away at a conference. I had thought of the perfect lesson plan for Humanities - the kids would listen to 4'33" by John Cage. For those who may not know it, this is the composition wherein the performer makes absolutely no sound with her or his instrument. Silence, as it were - only not exactly, because listeners still experience whatever sounds may happen to exist in the performance space. The name comes from the total length of the piece.

Filed Under: Middle School, Teaching, Grades 7-12 and PG, School Happenings, On Education, Bill Ivey, Boarding and Day, Girls Schools, All Girls Education, In the Classroom, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, performing, The Faculty Perspective, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Education

The Magical World of Musician

December 08, 2011 by Bill Ivey

I used to think making music was magic. I guess, after doing it, I still do. – Lisa Bastarache. ’99 (from her yearbook page)

I will never forget the first time I saw Dar Williams in concert. She opened for the Indigo Girls at the Mullins Center at UMass way back in the mid-90’s, and they invited her to play one of the encores. Alone on stage with her guitar, she transfixed the approximately 8,000 people in attendance with heartbreaking images of a relationship entering and eventually, tentatively, emerging from a “February” period. The song instantly became one of my all-time favorites, and I bought her CD “Mortal City” the very next day.

Filed Under: Dar Williams, Middle School, Teaching, Alumnae, Grades 7-12 and PG, School Happenings, All-Girls, On Education, Boarding and Day, Rock Band, All Girls Education, Performing Arts, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, performing, The Faculty Perspective, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Education

Listening through the Wall: Middle School Select Chorus Auditions and the Spirit of Our School

September 19, 2011 by Guest Faculty Bloggers

I can’t see the students on the other side of the wall from my office, but I can imagine the scene that I’m hearing as I listen. The girls sit in a loosely formed circle, some perched on stools, some sliding out of a chair, others with feet firmly planted on the ground. One student is silently shaking her head, refusing to take her turn. Her fellow students, some who have already auditioned and others anxiously waiting for their chance, cheer her on. They offer words of support, chant her name and talk about how their experiences weren’t so bad. “Once you do it you’ll be glad you did!” “It’s not that bad!” “You can do it! Really!”

This could be any class, in any subject. But I am sitting in my classroom next door, eavesdropping on one of Tony Lechner’s vocal classes. It is Middle School Select Chorus auditions, and each girl has come prepared to share a snippet of a song with the group. The returning eighth grade students have done this before. I can hear familiar works by Adele and Rihanna through the wall, and can pick out some voices that I know well. After all, some of these shortened songs I’m hearing today shocked us last year when performed in their entirety (I still brag to my non-teaching friends about witnessing Charlotte’s Spearth Day performance in May). Now I am hearing unfamiliar voices coming through with unfamiliar songs and I assume they belong to the new seventh graders hoping to join the group.

Filed Under: Middle School, singing, All-Girls, Boarding School, In the Classroom, Performing Arts, performing, chorus, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School

Tribute to Performing Arts Teacher Cyndee Meese

June 11, 2011 by Bill Ivey

Way way back in 1987, my second year of the school, we decided to break with tradition and close the year with a musical revue. A teacher who was going to be rejoining us the following year after a brief leave of absence was put in charge of it, and everyone told me to expect greatness from Cyndee Meese and from the kids. She asked me to help out by choosing, arranging, and selecting and rehearsing the performers for three medleys representing women in rock in the 60's, 70's and 80's. After sitting in on auditions, we agreed that Jen C. would be Laura Nyro, Deanie A. would be Stevie Nicks, and Sabrina P. would be Cyndi Lauper. We put together a faculty band to accompany the students and began preparing for the show. Cyndee's impact was felt immediately in two ways. One, that the kids were indeed headed for greatness and beyond Jen's tear-inducing cry of "Eli's a-comin'. Woah, you better hide your heart," Deanie's gorgeous lilt as she sang "Shattered with words impossible to follow," and Sabrina's gutsy and brassy affirmation that "Girls just wanna have fun," there were many memorable performances. Cyndee's second impact was more literal; as I was accompanying another song on piano, I was having trouble getting just the right sound, so she slid onto the bench to show me what she wanted, bumping me in the process so I slid right off the end onto the floor.

Filed Under: Teaching, Alumnae, All Girls Education, In the Classroom, Performing Arts, performing, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, drama, Education