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Fine Arts News

List of 10 items.

  • Reflections on Orchestra at SJS by Penny Meitz

    My heart is full as I work these final weeks at St. John’s! When I began teaching orchestra here in August 2006, there were 32 total students, K-12, in the string program. I had absolutely NO desire to work more than the two afternoons a week that I was hired to work! I had NO intention or dream of building the orchestra program! And here we are, eighteen years later, with more than 100 students in Classes 6 -12 in orchestra. WOW! 
    It’s difficult for me to think about leaving this program and these students to whom I have become so attached. And perhaps even more, to think about leaving the St. John’s community that has become the place I feel where I truly belong. Before coming to SJS, I taught in six different public school districts and at Sam Houston State University over a 31-year period of time. I loved every job I held, but it is at St. John’s that I have learned what being part of a fine arts team and school community is all about. I will miss my colleagues and students, but I will always treasure the relationships I have had here.
  • Senior Reflections Musical Theater and Choir by Arjun Singhal

    The curtain opens, and for the first time the empty sea of black is populated with faces. Dancing while sweating profusely under the heat of the spotlight—singing with the orchestra, and finally reaching that one final note; that one climactic moment— and then never getting to do it again…  
    If you’ve been in a theater production, you’ve heard of the infamous “tech week.” For one long and simultaneously unnaturally short week, you get to see the 7:30 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. sky as you walk in and out of the school building, respectively. The night is far from over though, as you have a history paper due the next day. 
    Yet, I’ve measured my high school career in tech weeks and closing nights. One of my favorite memories is sitting backstage with Tanner during our Covid-year production of Into the Woods so many years ago, admiring one random unnamed interlude where a flute plays Cinderella’s theme over alternating chords rung out on chimes. There is nothing as exhilarating and memorable on campus as performing in the spring musical. And while I’ve belted (yelled, to be honest) “Once And For All!” from Newsies or “A Musical!” from Something Rotten!,  I’ve also cherished the intimate moments created under the amorphous glow of the candlelight or with exhausted red eyes in VST 110 at 7:30 a.m. I’m of course referring to my nine years of choir. 

    From the very beginning, I was an overzealous performer, being in the last group to perform with both the Boy Choir and the Lower School St. John’s Singers simultaneously. And now that I’m making music at a high level internationally with Kantorei, it is still the foundation that was instilled in me all those nine years ago by Mr. Bonasso and Mrs. Parrish that I rely on— imagining a rusty nail against your soft palate, diaphragmatic breathing, or a string extending upwards through the top of your head. But over that time, a few select moments have been emblazoned into my mind. Performing Palestrina’s polyphonic masterpiece, “Kyrie,” in the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Gabriel Faure’s "Requiem" amongst a sea of 70 singers in the Choral-Orchestral Festival, and facing the intimidating choir while conducting in the Spring Concert— my last concert. The elegant capstone to my journey was undoubtedly filling the otherworldly spaces in Austria and Germany with our music last spring break. And I believe we deserved to be there; it was the culmination of a year’s work of quartet testing, subtle stylistic tweaking, and more importantly, Mr. Bonasso and the entire Fine Arts department’s devotion to us. Our tour guide, Barbara, commented on the special bond shared between our choir, how we seemed “to have each others’ backs” like no other group she had seen. Mr. Bonasso always boasts that this is the highest level of choir music you will find at the high school level during our annual concerts, and I credit it not to the talent in our group, but rather to the dedication to the music that our community shares.

    And so I am eternally grateful to this brilliant community. Thank you Mr. McDonald, for fostering this culture of excellence in the Fine Arts. Thank you to Mrs. Hardin and Mrs. Arizpe for meticulous and ambitious directing, staging, and choreographing that ensures our productions are unforgettable. Thank you to Mr. Murphy and Mr. Morgan for the incredible sets that we have the privilege to perform on and the sound/lights that bring our shows together. Thank you to Mrs. Fogler, Mrs. Watt, and Mr. Alan, for working tirelessly on masterfully crafted costumes and hair since the start of our rehearsal processes. And thank you to Mr. Bonasso and Mr. Hervey, for enabling me to help create this music: this music that I will always remember and return to; this music that was eternally memorable to create. Thank you to the rest of the Fine Arts faculty for contributing to this artistic environment. And to the student community in Fine Arts—thank you for being dedicated to brilliance.

  • Dance by Gabriella Saadia

    As I hit my final pose in the finale of the Spring Dance Concert Saturday night, the curtains came to a close for the last time as did my journey in the SJS Dance department. The tears shed when the audience could no longer see our faces serve as a reflection of just how much this department has meant to me over the last six years since Impulse 7. 
    From my freshman year where we began with dancing in boxes outlined in tape on the Marley and performing through recorded outdoor concerts in clear masks to now, our INCREDIBLE teachers Mrs. Arizpe, Mr. Martin, and Mrs. Arouty always made sure to make the most of every single class and give us the best experience possible despite any challenging circumstances. The department has stretched me in so many different ways, introducing me to new styles of dance and bringing in guest choreographers who pushed me far beyond my comfort zone. They bestowed upon me opportunities to freely create works of my own and discover new ways of expression. If someone were to ask me about my favorite part of my entire high school career, STUCHO immediately comes to mind. Nothing compares to the process of creating a story and watching it come to life on stage after weeks of chaotic rehearsals with your best friends. 
    Any day of the rotation with dance on my schedule meant I got to go across the street to spend an hour with my second family, where together we grew not only in our technique but also in our confidence. I am extremely grateful for the small moments we shared together as a group, whether it be our Terps pre-show 8-4-2-1 shakes ritual, choreographing senior piece with my best friend, holding hands backstage, post-show sweet treats, and even our stressful quick changes helping one another with hair spray and tying each others costumes. 
    I am forever thankful for the safe space these studios have provided me over the years and to get to experience so much alongside everyone in this amazing department. I look forward to taking all that I have learned from both teachers and dancers into my next dance endeavors. 
  • Visual Arts by Nhu Chu

    At the beginning of my time at St. Johns, I anticipated intense academic standards and pressure. Thinking about that, I decided that in order to have balance, I would need to enroll in art classes. It was in these art classes where I met Mr. Havel, and later, Mr. Johnson. Soon enough, attending art classes became more than just a means of navigating through the day; I found myself drawn to them before school, during daVinci periods, and even during my free periods. As a result, I have been coined a “studio rat,” a name I take on with pride. 
    Art at St. John’s has not only honed my technical skills and problem-solving abilities, but it has also played a pivotal role in shaping my character. I have come to learn how to not just experiment with new mediums and techniques, but also to analyze narratives and composition. But more than anything, I have been encouraged to constantly see my world.

    The culmination of these lessons and knowledge from Mr. Havel and Mr. Johnson has prompted me to embark on my senior year Independent Study Project titled “The Lies We Tell.” My time at St. John’s has allowed me to grow and learn more about myself and I urge you to delve into the world of visual arts. I am so grateful to the students and teachers who provided these opportunities for me to grow as an artist and a person.
  • Theater Stagecraft by Maggie Whelan

    My theater journey began one sunny day in August 2020, as, mid-quarantine, I decided to email Meridian Monthy to ask about stage managing in the fall at my scary new school that was St. John’s. I first stage managed the Covid-altered One Acts, and met some of the coolest people I had ever (and still have ever) met. From there on out, I was completely emotionally attached to all things theater, known as “Johnnycake” at St. John’s. Through eleven unique, beautiful, and memorable productions I worked on, I grew as a leader. In my role as Johnnycake President, I take on a lot at once. From sitting on the ceramic-tiled bathroom floor with a weeping underclassman soloist to physically standing between two aggressively disagreeing backstage techs, I’ve lifted spirits and de-escalated tensions. There is a serious team-esque quality to the Johnnycake community. We work hard to play hard. I am beyond grateful to have been able to call myself “Team Captain” this past year and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for both Johnnycake, and my best friends (teammates) in the grades below me.
    Being on the Officer Board for this club the past two years has been an experience that one simply cannot replicate. I have a real job at a local Italian restaurant, but being Vice President and President of Johnnycake gave me a learning curve on the workplace that I would’ve never seen coming. My fellow officers (past and present) are my friends, yes, my support system, definitely, but I have very much come to view them as my coworkers. We coordinate and email and plan and stress like we’re running a business, and I adore it. I loved the meetings, I loved the GroupMes, I loved the dumb themes for the Socials, I even loved picking up the IHOP order at the wrong IHOP thirty or so minutes away during a tropical storm warning, which was definitely my fault—I loved it all.
    Johnnycake has been my refuge, my stressor, my comfort, my challenge, but overall, my home for the past four years. I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve experienced a lot of change in my life, whether that be countries, states, or schools, and I’ve found a stability within the VST (especially, the people in it) that pushed me to keep going even when I felt like I had nothing else to give. With a lot of uncertainty and fear and excitement ahead of me in the fall, I want to express my extreme gratitude and love for this home away from home (a first of many) that Johnnycake has created for me. When I walk across that graduation stage in just a few short weeks, I plan to wear my ITS pin with immense pride, and work to “keep the train on the wheels” for all the rest of my adventures.
  • Spring Piano Recitals and Awards Ceremonies Saturday, May 4, 2024 at 10 a.m., 12 p.m., and 2 p.m. Lowe Theater

    Our Spring Piano Recitals featured piano students performing solo repertoire and duets, presenting a wide array of music from different stylistic periods. Each performance time showcased upwards of 30 individual musicians enrolled in the program, ranging from Elementary through Advanced levels. Following each recital, a brief Awards Ceremony highlighted student accomplishments from the year, from rigorous in-house testing and adjudication events to off-campus contests and festivals. 
    We extend a warm thank you to the SJS community for supporting these students as we celebrated the culmination of their hard work this year. Contact Joanna Reeder for more information, including performer lists for each of the recitals. to learn more about our program and find information on how to audition for enrollment next year.

  • St. John's Singers Spring Show is Out of This World! Friday, May 10 at 7 pm Lowe Theater

    “Have you ever felt like nobody was there? Have you ever felt forgotten in the middle of nowhere? Have you ever felt like you could disappear? Like you could fall, and no one would hear.” These powerful words from Broadway’s Dear Evan Hansen frame the story of this year’s Spring Show, entitled “Out of this World” presented by St. John’s Singers. Join us Friday, May 10 at 7 pm, as we follow two heroic students on their journey to self-acceptance. Featuring songs from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s CinderellaHigh School Musical, and notable music by Imagine Dragons, Coldplay, and more, our hero and heroine travel far through space to learn how to become better humans on Earth. Click here to purchase tickets. 

  • Piano Students Display Their Talents in Events and Competitions

    The SJS Piano Program is proud to announce the awards and accomplishments their students have achieved throughout this school year. 
    All SJS piano students participate in rigorous adjudication and testing events each year on campus. In the fall, 57 piano students received medals for earning a score of 90 or above on the Texas Music Teachers Association Theory Test. At the in-house, adjudicated SJS Piano Showcase in November, students received trophies for earning “Excellent” or “Superior” ratings for three or more consecutive years. Lauren Baker (Class 12), Elise Boswell (Class 3), Iliana Day (Class 5), Ayla Hasan (Class 12), Luke Hilpert (Class 12), Tiffany Li (Class 8) Nola Miles (Class 8), Cadence Porter (Class 4), Kayan Sikhtian (Class 4), Macy Vanderbloemen (Class 8), and Abby Ziemba (Class 5) received three-year trophies. Kirsten Nguyen (Class 8) received a six-year trophy. Eight students received Superior ratings: Evan Boswell (Class 8), Luke Hilpert (Class 12), Olivia Stehle, Sasha Verzosa Mintz (Class 10), Lucas Wang (Class 4), and Paxton Young (Class 4).
    SJS Piano Students also have opportunities to participate in off-campus piano events. Aidan Hsu (Class 3) received a silver medal and Ryan Vo (Class 8) a bronze in the Houston Music Teachers Association (HMTA) Piano Contest. Ayla Hasan (Class 12) and Grace Hindman (Class 5) participated in the HMTA Baroque Competition. Aidan Hsu (Class 3) was awarded a Division I Honorable Mention in the 2023 Forum Young Artist Contest and Sonia Chilukuri (Class 10) placed third in Division VII. In February, 11 students participated in Forum Festivities, an adjudicated event in recital format. Of them, several received Superior ratings: Elise Boswell (Class 3), Coralie Hsuan (Class 2), Emerson Young (Class 7), and Paxton Young (Class 4). 
  • Alumni Spotlight Ariel O'Connor ’99

    As a St. John’s student, both science and art fascinated me. Chemistry classes were just as engaging as Terpsichore and fine art, and I would sit at home gluing tiny pieces of a broken teacup or fixing things around the house. Surgery seemed like a good combination of those skills, and I went to Tulane University for Pre-Med. But my senior year of college, I stumbled upon a field called “Art Conservation” and immediately knew it was for me.
    I trained in graduate programs in Italy (SACI) and the US (SUNY Buffalo), and received a master’s degree in Art Conservation with a specialty in archaeological objects. Our training combines organic chemistry with studio art and art history: you must know how something was made, how it fits into time, and how to slow down its deterioration. I have always been fascinated with studying the remains of the past, and what technical study on those objects can tell us about who made them and how they were used.

    Over my career I have worked in both museums and on archaeological sites. Some of my favorite projects include monitoring the 8th century BCE wooden structure of King Midas’s tomb in Turkey, studying ancient manufacturing technology of 13th century BCE Chinese ceremonial bronze and jade dagger-axes at the Harvard Art Museums, working with a mastodon; uncovering the original paint layers on the 1964 original filming model of the Star Trek Starship Enterprise at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, and working on miniature crime scene dollhouses used to train the first forensic scientists in America at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Currently I am an object conservator at the Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art, writing a book on Chinese Han dynasty metalworking through our collection of ancient Chinese belt hooks
    You never know where your responsibilities and interests will take you, but always try to listen to yourself and what feels exciting and fulfilling to you. Sometimes you might be pre-med and want to be a surgeon, only to discover you can be a surgeon for artwork instead.
  • Alumni Spotlight The Joy of St. John’s First Ever Alumni & Faculty Choir by Robyn McCord O’Brien ’89

    About a year ago, I reached out to Janet Scarcella (fondly known by all who sung for her as “Mrs. S.”) to ask if we could create an alumni choir concert to honor her contribution to St. John’s School and our music program. I have to admit, the ask had several hidden agendas in it! First, I absolutely wanted to honor her. Second, I loved the idea of singing for her again and knew that others would, too. Third, the thought of bringing together classmates and friends across so many classes was so joyful. And lastly, our time here is short, and while Mrs. S. and I had stayed connected through the years via Facebook, I didn’t want this to be an idea that I one day regretted not ever having put into action. So I reached out to her.
    In true Mrs. S. style, and with the same level of energy she had when she first taught me in Lower School, she swung into action, insisting that the program also include Scott Bonasso and others.  We looped in one of St. John’s legends, Bill McDonald, and suddenly, it was all systems go! Over the course of the past year, a committee assembled to help shoulder the load, and equally as importantly, Audra Parrish stepped forward in the most remarkable way to identify singers from years gone by, enlist the help of the school for everything from the purchase of music and snacks, and to assist in the printing of the sheet music to the programs.

    And we began to reach out to singers.  We were not elite about it and invited anyone who’d sung at St. John’s, in a choir, from St. John’s Singers to Kantorei, and those involved in theatrical productions to return to campus over alumni weekend in April 2024.
    We honestly had no idea what would happen. But with the heart, intelligence and passion of the Fine Arts Department in full swing, what did happen was magical! We had almost 100 singers return for what will always be the very first Alumni and Faculty Choral Concert at St. John’s called the Alumni & Faculty Celebration of Song. We had alumni from the Classes of 1961 all the way through to recent grads from the Class of 2019. The music selected by our directors, Mrs. S., Mr. Bonasso, Angela Brill, Bradley Taylor and Lauren Pastorek reflected the scope and talent of the choral department, reminiscent of years gone by, but sung with a love and joy that could only be found in almost 100 of us coming together to do something that had never been done (and for many, something that had not been done in a very long time!). We were accompanied by the fabulous Rob Landes.
    None of us could have imagined the joy that we would find coming together as alumni to perform a choral concert. None of us will ever forget it. And what made it all possible was the love and joy that was poured into us as students and young singers, by Mrs. S., Mr. Bonasso, Mr. McDonald and so many others during our time at St. John’s. That early investment yielded such an incredible event, and we promise, there are more to come! 
    You can keep in touch with us by sending us a note. For all who joined, thank you!  There will be more to come, and for all who want to contribute in the future, stay tuned! We’ve only just begun! 

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