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orchestra concert
Large group of student dancers performing on stage
In a Grove
lower schoolers making pottery

The Arts

When our students have the opportunity to perform and create, they find new ways for self-expression and self-discovery, and gain self-confidence.

In February 2018, Rowland Hall’s Advanced Chamber Ensemble presented Collage, an evening of interactive listening, art, poetry, dance, and chamber music. (Video by Oliver Jin ’18)

Taught by faculty who are professional actors, dancers, visual artists, musicians, and writers, our fine arts curriculum and extracurriculars open doors for students who want to develop confidence and creativity in practicing an art form.

Art is woven into the very fabric of our students’ lives. Beginning School teachers integrate visual art and music throughout curriculum, and instruction becomes more formal in the Lower School. Children enjoy their weekly visits to the McCarthey Campus' beautiful art studio, where they learn technique, history, and criticism, and make 2D and 3D masterpieces under the able direction of professional artist-teacher Kathryn Czarnecki.

Learning to play Orff-Shulwerk instruments and exploring music theory, history, and performance from the talented baton of Cindy Hall also enthralls lower schoolers as their artistic interests begin to bloom. Stage performance starts in the Lower School, and students can develop their dramatic talents in the middle and upper schools.

Dance is everywhere—from movement exploration in the Beginning School, to impromptu playground rehearsals for the Lower School's annual Puttin’ on the Arts concert, to the Lincoln Street Campus studios where our older students develop fierce, animated choreography to express their feelings about the world they want to change.

2018-2019 arts calendar thumb

Arts Stories in Fine Print Magazine

dancers on stage

Every arts performance is a collaborative event, and in recent years we’ve had a large contingency of alumni return and contribute their time and talents to our programs. This January’s dance concert, Home: The Monsters We Run From, The Refuge We Seek, featured a film by Oliver Jin ’18 and a piece choreographed by Laja Field ’08. Also assisting: Max Jacquin ’18 worked on the lighting design and Sophia Cutrubus ’18 trained dancers in the Middle School Arts & Ensemble program.

Oliver’s film served as an introduction to the dance concert, framing the themes of migration and departure in scientific terms and providing audience members with a foundation to aid their interpretation of the dancers’ work. “The film is a message that says migration and movement and departure are an integral part of our humanity,” Oliver said. He credited Rowland Hall with showing him how the arts are intertwined. Now in his first year at Sarah Lawrence College studying photography, Oliver frequently attends art installations, dance lectures, and other performances to support and learn from fellow artists.

Laja Field ’08 enjoyed coming back to Rowland Hall and collaborating with the current group of students and artists. She said the school feels like home to her: “The teachers and experiences I had there I hold very close to my heart.”After graduating in 2008, Laja Field earned her bachelor’s degree in modern dance at the University of Utah and went on to dance professionally, eventually founding the physical dance theatre company LAJAMARTIN with her partner, Martin Durov. She said studying dance at Rowland Hall—and the opportunity to complete a distinction in dance—helped her envision a career in the field. Laja was thrilled to return and create a piece on current students, which  was partly inspired by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk, The Danger of a Single Story.

“I believe that, if we tell more stories, and we’re able to invite another perspective through dance, there’s an opportunity to see something in a new way,” Laja said. She described her piece as a mish-mash of cultural influences, which asks people to consider their roles in any given community. “Who are we? Are we the ones who open our arms? Are we the ones who listen to new stories and open up our perspectives and take them in? Or are we stuck in our ways?”

Rowland Hall’s arts department chair Sofia Gorder celebrated the desire of our alumni to collaborate with other artists and stay engaged with their alma mater: “The school breeds this idea that we come back and we give back. That’s part of the culture.” See clips from the concert and hear more from Laja and Oliver about what giving back to the arts means to them.


Livia Anderson sitting in front of her mural.

After three years of intermittent painting, junior Livia Anderson in August applied the last strokes on a vibrant mural dominating one wall of eighth-grade American Studies teacher Bill Tatomer’s classroom.

Livia—who received help from assistant artist and twin sister Leonie—started the mural the summer before eighth grade at the request of Mr. Tatomer. Now, her “client” couldn’t be happier with the final product: “I’m so fortunate to have this student-centric, curriculum-specific masterpiece in my classroom,” Mr. Tatomer said. “I’ll treasure it, and my students will get to appreciate it for years and years to come.”

Livia's mural features a famous World War II scene, plus imagery inspired by the westward expansion of the US.

In the following Q&A—lightly edited for length and context—Livia discusses how she made the mural, her productive struggle during the the three-year undertaking, how she persevered, and what she learned.

Why did you volunteer to paint this mural?
Most of the time I use small canvases, so completing an artwork of such magnitude was foreign to me. It was a great opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and experiment with new methods and mediums.

Is this your first mural-painting experience? What was that like? Will you do it again?
This was my first time painting a mural. It was exciting because I experimented with different tools, such as airbrushes, sponges, paint rollers, etc. If I’m ever given the opportunity to paint another mural, I’ll wholeheartedly accept. I’ll say, however, that I was unprepared when it came to time management, so that made it difficult to complete quickly.

It took me far longer than I expected, but I’m glad I completed it...If I’m ever given the opportunity to paint another mural, I’ll wholeheartedly accept. —Junior Livia Andersen, mural artist

How long did it take? Explain the process and timeline.
I began painting the mural in summer 2015, before I started eighth grade, and completed it this summer—so it took about three years. I finished most of the sketching and background painting during the first summer, but the details took me longer. I mostly worked on it when school was out for summer, which allowed for hours of uninterrupted work at a time.

How do you feel about the final product?
I’m quite proud of the mural, to say the least. It took me far longer than I expected, but I’m glad I completed it.

Explain the imagery you used. What inspired you?
I knew Mr. Tatomer wanted me to depict the American flag, but I challenged myself when it came to the other elements. I decided to pay tribute to Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, the famous 1945 photo by Joe Rosenthal. I also included elements of the westward expansion, such as bison and a steam engine, and “We the People” as a nod to the foundation of America.

You've taken several art electives with teacher Rob Mellor. How did your knowledge and skills influence this mural, if at all?
I used quite a bit of the skills I’ve learned. The two main principles I had to take into consideration were perspective and proportion, and I used my knowledge from art classes to do so.

What did you get out of the experience?
Throughout the creation of this mural, I learned so much and improved my artistic skills. I used new tools and mediums and depicted things I don’t work with often, such as the human form and geometric objects.

Visual Arts

Choreographing 'Home'

My Experience Collaboratively Creating the January 17–19 Dance Concert Home: The Monsters We Run From, the Refuge We Seek

By Katie Rose Kimball, Class of 2019

Every dance concert is a culmination of many artistic processes, patched and threaded together into an epic mosaic of experience, ideas, and connections. Each choreographer and dancer can trace their own emotional story through the development of the program, if only because the process takes months to complete.

Above, students run through Home in a dress rehearsal before opening night.

Coming out of the last summer of high school, I found myself thinking about the habits I had formed to structure summer days—drinking morning tea, eating questionable meals, redesigning my room—and my relationship with routines as a whole, whether they were mind-numbing, comforting, or something in between. When I was presented with the tagline of this year's concert—Home: The Monsters We Run From, the Refuge We Seek—I found myself with the perfect avenue to explore my questions about routine.

To create my dance, I settled into a cyclical process of choice, inspiration, and response. For instance, I chose music with layers of repetition to reflect how routines build on top of each other. When I was considering one potential song, another dancer casually commented that it sounded like a morning alarm. That comment propelled me to build the storyline of my dance around morning routines. This choice led to more deliberate decisions like having one dancer make a cup of tea while the rest slept. And so it went until I had filled the whole three minutes of music.

One of the hardest parts of the process was struggling with the vulnerability that comes with asking someone else to perform your art.

One of the hardest parts of the process was struggling with the vulnerability that comes with asking someone else to perform your art. When I teach a dance to another person, it's as if I'm painting a piece on wood and metal and cloth that was intended for a blank canvas. The general strokes of what I'm trying to convey transfer easily, but each individual's performance has different details and a different underlying tone. Yet, this transformation also allows me to see my ideas in a way I never can when they're caught inside my own mind. I'm forced to face that which I was trying to avoid, and I discover comfort in places I'd never thought to look.

I find myself creating a little piece of Home.

Looking around, I see each person in the dance company looking to find this piece of home, whether that's by asking what it means to be a refugee, examining our relationship with technology, exploring a child's imagination, or revealing our underlying dread of deadlines. This year's dance concert brings together a unique collection of voices that are ready to welcome you into their home.


Band Director Dr. Bret Jackson Named State Music Educator of the Year

Rowland Hall Band Director Dr. Bret Jackson can end 2018 on a high note: the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) this month named him Music Educator of the Year.

Athletics Director Kendra Tomsic nominated Bret. She said she's ecstatic UHSAA selected him and the honor is well-earned. "He is truly the consummate professional who loves his students and who loves to bring music into their lives."

It never fails that I see or hear him working with a student or students in the music room every time I walk by. —Athletics Director Kendra Tomsic, Dr. Jackson's nominator

Bret trains students to view music as a creative art that has relevance and potency in their lives, Kendra wrote in her nomination letter, and he's often the first person in the building each morning and the last to leave each night. "It never fails that I see or hear him working with a student or students in the music room every time I walk by," she added. "His dedication and commitment to creating a strong music program at Rowland Hall is incredible."

Through that dedication—plus his musical prowess and unfailingly friendly disposition—Bret has made a big impression on Rowland Hall since his 2005 hiring. He and his students have accumulated numerous awards, including top honors at state and region music festivals and competitions. And his contributions extend beyond the music department: he's always happy to organize a jazz band performance at sports games and other school events, Kendra wrote. "Any time our band is involved with a sporting activity, our fan attendance goes up exponentially because of the festive atmosphere that Dr. Jackson and his jazz band creates in the gym."

I feel lucky to have a career that allows me to help young people develop important life skills and a love for art through nurturing their musical talents.—Band Director Dr. Bret Jackson

Bret loves teaching young musicians in their formative years: he said his own life has been largely defined by the opportunities for growth, achievement, and leadership he had back in high school. "Recognizing this, I feel lucky to have a career that allows me to help young people develop important life skills and a love for art through nurturing their musical talents."

The top teacher added he's grateful for the award and bolstered by the recognition. "If it can help get the word out that there is great music being made at Rowland Hall, then all the better."

Read more about Bret in his biography.

The accolade is part of UHSAA's Distinguished Service Awards, initiated in 1987 to honor individuals for their service and contributions to high school activities. Bret will join 16 other coaches, officials, teachers, and contributors who will be honored at a January luncheon.

Bret is the seventh Rowland Hall employee on record to receive a UHSAA Distinguished Service Award. Full list:

  1. Dr. Bret Jackson, band director and music teacher, 2018 Music Educator of the Year
  2. Bobby Kennedy, girls soccer head coach, 2015 2A Coach of the Year
  3. Mark Oftedal, cross country and track and field coach, 2014 2A Coach of the Year
  4. Kathy Howa, softball and volleyball coach, 2013 Distinguished Contributor of the Year
  5. Shawn MacQueen, former boys basketball and golf coach, 2009 2A Coach of the Year
  6. Ryan Hoglund, former debate coach and current director of ethical education, 2007 Speech Educator of the Year
  7. Kendra Tomsic, director of athletics, 2004 Athletic Director of the Year


You Belong at Rowland Hall