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McCallum shows off award-winning Fine Arts Academy programs to prospective Knights

First-year director Sam Parrott impressed with collaborative energy of students, teachers
IN+THE+SPOTLIGHT%3A+Junior+Zalie+Mann+performs+%E2%80%9CI+Love+to+Cry+at+Weddings%2C%E2%80%9D+an+ensemble+piece+from+the+fall+musical+Sweet+Charity%2C+to+prospective+students+during+the+Fine+Arts+Showcase+on+Wednesday%2C+Nov.+8.+The+showcase+is+a+compilation+of+performances+and+demonstrations+from+each+fine+arts+strand+offered+at+McCallum.+This+show+is+put+on+so+that+prospective+students+can+see+if+they+are+interested+in+joining+an+academy+or+major.+%0A%0ASweet+Charity+originally+ran+the+weekends+of+Sept.+28+and+Oct.+8%2C+but+made+a+comeback+for+the+Fine+Arts+Showcase.+%0A%0A%E2%80%9C%5BBeing+at+the+front+in+the+spotlight%5D+is+my+favorite+part+of+the+whole+dance%2C+so+I+was+super+happy+to+be+on+stage+performing+and+smiling+at+the+audience%2C%E2%80%9D+Mann+said.+%0A%0AMann+performed+in+both+the+musical+theatre+performance+and+dance+excerpt+%E2%80%9CEthereal%2C%E2%80%9D+a+contemporary+piece+choreographed+by+the+new+dance+director+Terrance+Carson%2C+in+the+showcase.+With+also+being+a+dance+ambassador%2C+Mann+got+to+talk+about+what+MAC+dance+is%2C+her+experience+and+answer+any+questions+the+aspiring+arts+majors+and+their+parents+may+have.+%0A%0ACaption+by+Maya+Tackett.+
Sophie Leung-Lieu
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Junior Zalie Mann performs “I Love to Cry at Weddings,” an ensemble piece from the fall musical Sweet Charity, to prospective students during the Fine Arts Showcase on Wednesday, Nov. 8. The showcase is a compilation of performances and demonstrations from each fine arts strand offered at McCallum. This show is put on so that prospective students can see if they are interested in joining an academy or major. Sweet Charity originally ran the weekends of Sept. 28 and Oct. 8, but made a comeback for the Fine Arts Showcase. “[Being at the front in the spotlight] is my favorite part of the whole dance, so I was super happy to be on stage performing and smiling at the audience,” Mann said. Mann performed in both the musical theatre performance and dance excerpt “Ethereal,” a contemporary piece choreographed by the new dance director Terrance Carson, in the showcase. With also being a dance ambassador, Mann got to talk about what MAC dance is, her experience and answer any questions the aspiring arts majors and their parents may have. Caption by Maya Tackett.

To give incoming students a taste of what the Fine Arts Academy is really like, McCallum hosted its annual fine arts showcase. The event, held Nov. 8, allowed the academy to show off each discipline and even to demonstrate parts of the application process. The night was filled with performances by dance, choir, band, piano, guitar, orchestra and theatre majors and presentations by visual artists. 

Although it is an old tradition, this year’s showcase was a first for Dr. Sam Parrott, this year’s new Fine Arts Academy director. 

We are proud to present our gallery of photos from the fine arts showcase as this week’s Tuesday Top 10.

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IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Junior Zalie Mann performs “I Love to Cry at Weddings,” an ensemble piece from the fall musical Sweet Charity, to prospective students during the fine arts showcase on Nov. 8. The showcase is a compilation of performances and demonstrations from each fine arts strand offered at McCallum. This show is put on so that prospective students can see if they are interested in joining an academy or major. 

Sweet Charity originally ran the weekends of Sept. 28 and Oct. 8 but made a comeback for the fine arts showcase. 

“[Being at the front in the spotlight] is my favorite part of the whole dance, so I was super happy to be on stage performing and smiling at the audience,” Mann said. 

Mann performed twice in the showcase, first, in the musical theatre performance and also in the dance excerpt “Ethereal,” a contemporary piece choreographed by the new dance director Terrance Carson. Since she is also a dance ambassador, Mann got to talk about what MAC dance is, her experience and answer any questions the aspiring arts majors and their parents may have. 

Caption by Maya Tackett. Photo by Sophie Leung-Lieu.

FLASHBACK MOMENT: The chamber orchestra performs Shostakovich’s “String Quartet No. 8” at the Fine Arts Academy showcase on Nov. 8 to exhibit the program’s strength to prospective students. For senior orchestra major Fountain Ray, the event was a flashback to his own eighth-grade year when he attended the showcase with hopes of joining the Fine Arts Academy. 

“I was blown away when I first heard McCallum play back when I was a middle-schooler,” Ray said. “I think it gave incoming freshmen the opportunity to see what they will get to be a part of in the academy.”

Caption by Francie Wilhelm. Photo by Sophie Leung-Lieu.

SELF EXPRESSION: Juniors Sasha Grapko and Greta Wayman perform a routine during the fine arts showcase, one that Grapko said he had a feeling of unison with his ensemble. 

Dancing has been part of Sasha’s life for a long time—eight years. 

“I fell in love with it because it gives me a sense of freedom and serenity,” Grapko said. “That is very stress-relieving and over time I have fallen in love with the art form.” 

Very important to Grapko and the rest of the fine arts program alike, this showcase was a chance for middle-schoolers to see what they could experience, should they end up at McCallum. 

“I think it’s important for middle school students to see the programs at McCallum, what they’re like and what kind of work we do,” Grapko said. “My advice to someone interested in dance is definitely go for it. Try to reach out from your comfort zone and try new forms and styles of dance.” 

Caption by Priya Thoppil with reporting by Shila Gill. Photo by Sophie Leung-Lieu.

THE VOICES OF MCCALLUM: Senior chamber choir member Jaella Brush (fourth from the right) didn’t attend the Fine Arts showcase when she was a prospective student, but she used to be in their shoes. She used to be one of the nervous eighth graders, interested in the Fine Arts Academy, that she now stood singing for. And although she didn’t make it to a showcase before she attended McCallum, she said she wishes she had.

“I think I would have liked to [attend the showcase] because it’s important for people to see what they’re going to get into,” Brush said. “I think the showcase was a good way to show a little snippet.”

The chamber choir performed a selection of recent music, including songs from its previous concert. Brush said the performance went well, despite its unconstrained nature.

“I was told that it was one of our best performances, even though it was kind of a more spontaneous showcase,” she said. “It felt less stressful. There was less pressure, even though it was a showcase for people coming in. It almost made it easier to sing.”

Brush feels that the showcase provides an essential experience for prospective students: seeing programs they have only heard about in action.

“I think knowing about a choir is one thing, because we are a fine arts school so it’s kind of assumed that we have a decent choir,” Brush said. “But choir is about listening to all the voices. So actually getting in there and listening to what we can do, the sound that we create — it’s a different experience than seeing it on paper.”

Caption by Lanie Sepehri. Photo by Sophie Leung-Lieu.

STEPPING UP TO THE STAGE: As a way to give incoming McCallum students or those who are thinking of applying a way to see what being in the Fine Arts Academy is like, a showcase was developed to give these prospective students a closer look at McCallum. The showcase provided small performances from each of the performing Fine Arts Academy Majors including performances from Theatre, Art, Choir, Orchestra, Dance, Band and Piano, as well as individual ambassador presentations from each as well as galleries in the MAC for the visual arts majors.  

For junior Ivy Speight getting to be a part of the theatre department’s performance was a small part of a big impact. The department performed a section of Sweet Charity, and later a mock audition to give an idea of what that process will look like for incoming students. 

“Getting to see all the kid’s reactions to the theatre number was my favorite part,” Speight said. “There were so many kids and they were all so excited to see us and to get to see the school which was really heartwarming.”

Speight used the opportunity to show the incoming students the multiple aspects of the theatre department, and how a finished product would typically be presented on stage.

“I’m glad that the whole cast and I were able to get some kids to consider both McCallum as a school and theatre as a major,” Speight said. “I already wanted to do theatre at McCallum, but it would have given me a lot less stress and I feel more comfortable coming in as a freshman [with the showcase].”

Overall the showcase provided a multitude of opportunities for students to see the different McCallum Majors, the audition process, and ways the Fine Arts Academy shows off their works in hopes of taking pressure off the process of coming into the school and picking a program. 

“The combination of the show and the individual ambassador presentations was able to do that in an effective way,” Speight said. “It’s a nice family event that helps these 8th graders see all the different programs and choose one that interests them.” 

Caption by Chloe Lewcock. Photo by Sophie Leung-Lieu.

SENIOR SOLO: Senior Aubrey Mitchell plays a solo on the Alto sax during the song “Off the Hook.”  Unlike a typical solo, Mitchell’s was improvised.

“I love the opportunity to solo on a song,” Mitchell said. “It makes me feel really alive and excited. I just love to perform.”

For Mitchell, the performance was her favorite part of the night. 

“We [the jazz band] just flow so well together, and feed off each other’s energy,” she said. “Also, Ms. Nelson is an exceptional director and she makes you feel welcome to be on the stage.”

Mitchell enjoys performing not only for the thrill, but also the opportunity to express herself.

“The fine arts program gave me the opportunity to shine and discover myself through music,” Mitchell said. “I express myself through and learn about music any chance I get.”

Caption by JoJo Barnard. Photo by Sophie Leung-Lieu.

PARROTT’S FIRST SHOWCASE: The fine arts showcase took place on Nov. 8 in order to demonstrate to incoming ninth-graders what the Fine Arts Academy has to offer and what to expect when applying to the program. The showcase included performances from dance, orchestra, theater and other areas of the program.

This was Fine Arts Academy director Dr. Sam Parott’s first fine arts showcase, and he believed the event ran smoothly despite it having been canceled due to the pandemic previous years.

“The gallery opened and every group who was in the musical [group] did a musical number,” Parrott said. “The visual arts and performance theater [groups] showed the performance, and tech theater ran the entire program. Incoming students also got the opportunity to meet with their future teacher.”

One of Parrott’s favorite parts of the showcase was getting to see how students and teachers collaborated to put on a good show.

“They put on the best possible performance for people they have never met before with no potential income, other than students who may be interested in coming here, which shows that they are passionate,” Parrott said.

Another aspect he found interesting was getting to see seniors reenact their audition from when they were incoming freshmen.

“[The students] had the opportunity to relive the moment and show what it meant to be an incoming McCallum student,” he said.

In the future, Parrott hopes for the showcase to go beyond just showing off the Fine Arts Academy.

“I would like it to be followed by an elective fair where students can come back and see what the school has to offer, so that way they don’t just see the fine arts program.”

Caption by Gaby Esquivel. Photo by Sophie Leung-Lieu.

SMALL BUT MIGHTY: Seniors Isa Aleman Ward, standing, and Isa Pirkey, seated, represent the piano program with the song “Liszt Liebestraum No. 3″ to show the current students and incoming middle-schoolers what the piano program has to offer. While it has the fewest number of majors of any academy program, all music majors take the piano class. Director Dr. Sam Parrott praised the piano majors for their focus on their craft.

Illustrating that focus, Pirkey said that she spent months on the piece. “I’ve been working on it since February,” she said, adding that the long hours of practice are worth for performance opportunities like the showcase. She said she hoped here performance could motivate others to focus on piano study.

“I always look forward to playing for middle-schoolers and hopefully inspire them to join the fine art program.”

Photo and caption by Aubrey Macedo.

EXPLORING WONDERLAND: Seniors Gabriella Smith, El McGinnis and Junior Zoe Maxwell take front row in the pre-professional dance class’s piece entitled, “Ethereal.” Inspired by “Alice in Wonderland,” dancers were challenged with the task of being theatrical as well as technical. 

“We tried to play around with storytelling towards the beginning,” Smith said.

 However, finding a way to encapsulate the magic of wonderland required unique choreography and a bit of genre-bending. 

“The style is more of a whimsical modern,” Smith said.

Caption by Caroline Owen. Photo by Sophie Leung-Lieu.

This story was originally published on The Shield Online on November 28, 2023.