A Year in Review: The Arts

Written by Tara Palazuelos

“When we teach a child to sing or play the flute, we teach her how to listen. When we teach her to draw, we teach her to see. When we teach a child to dance, we teach him about his body and about space, and when he acts on stage, he learns about character and motivation. When we teach a child design, we reveal the geometry of the world. When we teach children about the folk and traditional arts and the great masterpieces of the world, we teach them to celebrate their roots and find their own place in history.” ~Jane Alexander

The quote above by actress Jane Alexander is a personal favorite of mine and exemplifies the importance of arts education in children. Of course, children is a broad term, a term that doesn’t exlcude us teenagers. Forest Grove High School has an arts program full of talent and passion. Of course one needs to be aware of what the arts program at our offers to fully appreciate the magic it creates. The department consist of  a band, orchestra, three choirs, a drama program, as well as many art classes ranging from photography to pottery and everything in between. Every one of these programs constantly proves time and time again that art plays a pivotal role in education, but even more importantly it is vital to life.

This is the FGHS band’s second year under the direction of Mr. Stewart Schlazer. Mr. Schlazer has continued to motivate and cultivate the band into a great ensemble in the two years that he has been here. This year the band achieved a great many things, learning and performing exciting and challenging music for their concerts and competitions. The band feeds the pep band that you may have seen at the home football and basketball games as well as pep assemblies. This year Mr. Schlazer really pushed his students in honing their musical ability and perseverance. The band practiced very hard and always performed marvelously at their events, such as parades and concerts. From The Imperial March from Star Wars at the winter concert to their beautiful rendition of Shenandoah at their pre-festival concert, the music was always marvelous. This year was also a very special one because Mr. Schlazer encouraged most of his students to participate in the OMEA solo/ensemble festival. This festival is for small ensembles and solo performers to compete against other performers in their category for a coveted spot at state. This competition is not an easy one. However, Edgar Sanchez on Flute and Emilee Fatua, Nathaniel Torry-Schrag, Leif Jorgensen, Jared Chesebro, and Cecilia Calderon in a percussion ensemble each won their division earning a place at the State OMEA solo/ensemble championships. Schlazer also sent Ray Bierly to the OMEA All-State festival in Eugene this past January, this is a very competitive festival for the top musicians in Oregon. To finish this year up, the band had their all-district concert on Tuesday, May 24. Ultimately this year proved to be a great year of growing and learning for our band, and I certainly cannot wait to see what they achieve next year!

The orchestra program has impressed me the most out of any other program this year. This is mainly due to the introduction of Ms. Leslie Nuñez as director of the strings program. Nuñez has rejuvenated the program with her youth and genius. Unfortunately, the strings program did not have a specialized strings director for a while. So Nuñez’s arrival was eagerly anticipated. This school year she has really developed the orchestra and taken on great tasks. One of the most exciting moments I can recall was the joint choir and orchestra performance during the winter concert, conducted entirely by Ms. Nuñez. The orchestra has also been working harder and that labor has certainly paid off. The growth in the caliber of musicianship of these young people has simply amazed me. As a whole it has been supremely exciting to see the growth that has been achieved from the very first orchestra concert of the year to the all-district concert held on the 19th of May and the amazing job that they did at the Jazz dinner dance on the 21st of May. Taking a closer look at the students within the ensemble, we can find individuals like juniors Kimo Fong, and Tiare Zijdemans and sophomore Jacqueline Frawley who participate in the Orchestra at Pacific university. Nuñez has also begun a Mariachi band that consists of students from NAMS and FGHS and their small ensemble is also a very wonderful ensemble that has taken flight under the direction of Ms.Nuñez. After all is said and done, I cannot wait to see where the orchestra program will go next year. Bravissimo to all involved!

The choral program is a longstanding and respected one at FGHS and in the community. Under the direction of Mr. Barry Berdahl Chorale, Da Capo, and Treble choir continue to be valuable assets of the music department. As always this year proved to be an exciting year with the size of Chorale (110 students on a good day) to the tightness of the small audtion group Da Capo and the growth from the all-female Treble choir. Berdahl did a great job shaping the choral landscape of FGHS this year. He managed to hold on to his sanity, have fun with his ensembles, and still continue to put together concerts and create a festival-ready ensemble. This year the choir learned some very difficult but very rewarding repertoire in each and every concert, from The Seal Lullaby to Past Life’s Melodies and songs from every choral genre in between. From the performance of the ensembles at the Veteran’s Day assembly and to their last concert on May 25th, the choirs have continued to share the magic of singing with each other and the audience. This year was made special by the success the choirs have had at connecting with the music, and that has contributed to the betterment of each choir. Berdahl also made it possible for the choir to work with a plethora of respected choir conductors including Will Mclean from West Salem, to Steve Peter from Pacific, to Dory Jarbo a respected clinician and retired conductor. The time that Berdahl put into giving the choir every advantage reflected in the results of their two festivals. In the district festival the choir placed in the top ten against the best choirs in the state and received qualifying scores for the state championships. In the smaller festival the choir performed their set with pride and gumption less than 24 hours after their previous competition, exhausted the choir still managed to receive a near perfect score of 99! Furthermore, Da Capo had huge success in their ventures caroling during the winter time and then with their Jazz performance at the Jazz/Dinner dance fundraiser. Berdahl also helps students participate in events, competitions, and festival outside of school. For example, Hannah Berdahl and myself (Tara Palazuelos) attended the 2016 All-State festival in Eugene, and other students such as Parker Loughmiller and Brenna Fitzgearld who participated in the district solo/ensemble competition for voice. The FGHS choir programs always seem to produce talent, and this year was no exception. It will be exciting to see the path the program follows next year.

The art programs led by Mrs. Swoboda and Mr. Thias are a beautiful part of FGHS. These two incredibly talented individuals teach a wide selection of art classes ranging from basic design to photography to clay arts to AP art and more. These classes are vital parts of life for many students, I, for one, know that my life would be substantially less enjoyable without being able to see the art displayed in the cases in the hallways. This year was an exciting one for the art program, as several students got to be in an actual art show at FG’s own Valley Art! I hope that this recurs next year and am anxious to see where the art program flourishes next!

It’s only fitting that we wrap up with a recount of the drama department’s achievements. This year was a change for the department as the year kicked off with the musical. The first show of the year was A Christmas Carol starring Phillip Thompson-Aue as Scrooge, Nina Skeele, myself (Tara Palazuelos), and Emma Coffey as the ghosts of christmas past, present, and future, Ella Taplin as Tiny Tim and Parker Loughmiller as Bob Cratchit. The show was a hit, complete with fog, fake snow, and fabulous acting, singing, and tap dancing. Under the direction of Mr. Berdahl, the show was a great opening to a great season. The next show to take place was A Midsummer Night’s dream starring Eli Gale, Riley Van Dyke, and Tori Parker. This punk-modern take on the classic Shakespeare tale was the perfect way to freshen up and create a very unique show that was full of incredible acting and also rocked the house. Of course, this was under the direction of Mr. Anderberg. The third show was a series of one-acts starring many actors including Nina Skeele, Noah Burgess, Emma Coffey, Eli Gale, Phillip Thompson-Aue, and many more. It was unique in that the one acts were also student directed by students such as Carrigan Rodriguez, Alex Houger, Noah Burgess, Riley Van Dyke, and Diego Melgar. The one-acts were a very intimate creation that were really quite spectacular. The final show of the year was the Unified production. This production is always special and unique in that FGHS is the only school that has a Unified theater program as of right now. This production faced the issue of student homelessness and was a great informative piece of theater that also brought the community together in a great way. All in all this year was a great year for theater and I cannot wait to see what shows they tackle next year.

This year has proved to be an outstanding year full of achievements for our arts programs and proves how important the arts are to our school and students.


Categories: Arts, School News, Student Arts

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