Expressing

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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.

Our Upper School Advanced Chamber Ensemble's annual Collage event is an evening of interactive listening, art, poetry, dance, and chamber music. The 2020 iteration, held on February 28, was centered around Vivaldi's Four Seasons. Middle and upper school music teacher Sarah Yoon first worked with students to launch Collage in 2018, and it's since become a favorite annual cross-disciplinary arts event, showcasing our students' boundless creativity and thoughtfulness.

Taught by faculty who are professional actors, writers, dancers, musicians, & visual artists, our extracurriculars & curriculum open doors for students who want to develop confidence & 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 Susan Swidnicki 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.

Arts Stories in Fine Print Magazine

Alum comedian Jamie Pierce

Alum Jamie Pierce ’98 thrives in all sorts of spotlights: he’s a classically trained dancer with theatre credits galore, and as a comedian, he was named a Laugh Factory top-10 national emerging comic and has opened for industry legends such as Wanda Sykes and Janeane Garofalo.

Now, Jamie—who honed his performing arts skills on our Larimer Center stage—will grace Rowland Hall’s virtual stage to host our April 17 stand-up comedy auction benefiting school financial aid, faculty professional development, and our ongoing COVID-19 response.

What a thrill to now be master of ceremonies for such a glamorous event! And this year it’s taking place in the most glittering venue of them all—my living room.—Jamie Pierce ’98

“When I was in high school, I remember being jealous of the adults who got to dress up fancy and attend the auction,” Jamie said. “What a thrill to now be master of ceremonies for such a glamorous event! And this year it’s taking place in the most glittering venue of them all—my living room.”

We can’t wait for Jamie—aided by a few other hilarious community members—to crack us up for a good cause. Visit our auction webpage to read more and get ready to STAND UP Rowland Hall on April 17.

Jamie Pierce's Biography

After graduating from Rowland Hall, Jamie began his career as a classically trained dancer (BFA, ballet, University of Utah) performing with the Utah Ballet Company before moving to New York where he appeared in The Music Man and Broadway Dances. Other professional theatre credits include Carousel, Dreamgirls, Urinetown, and The Wild Party, as well as Evita, Phantom, and Peter Pan with Utah’s Pioneer Theatre Company. In 2019, he received an Ovation Award nomination for his performance in the Los Angeles production of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and most recently created the role of “Frank” in the world-premier play, Embridge. As a comedian, he was selected as a Laugh Factory top-10 national emerging comic and was featured in the New York Comedy Festival at Caroline’s on Broadway. He has performed as the opening act for notable comedy legends including Wanda Sykes and Janeane Garofalo. On screen, Jamie can be seen as the title role in the film festival favorite Bill (2021) as well as the lead in the music video for “Just Party” by hip-hop artist Supanova Galaxy. He has also appeared in numerous TV commercials. Jamie is host of the top-rated podcast Hello, Gorgeous! (#43 on iTunes). He currently lives in Los Angeles.

auction

Alum Nicholas Miller '14 in Southern Utah, where he and former classmate Camille Backman '14 created their album.

by Heather Ernst ’14

Among the chorus of duetting birds deep in the canyons of Southern Utah, a new duet is echoing off the red sandstone walls. Nicholas Miller ’14 and Camille Backman ’14 have traveled hundreds of miles to be here, on sacred land, and their purpose is a special one: to make music.

This pair’s story began nearly 12 years ago, when Nicholas joined the Rowland Hall community as a middle schooler. Since then, he and Camille have developed a deep friendship around their love for Southern Utah; their shared interest in activism and volunteering, which was nurtured during their time at the school; and their predilection for playing music, sometimes together (when the stars, and their schedules, align).

From a young age, both Nicholas and Camille have had an infectious passion for music. Nicholas found that love playing the guitar, mainly focusing on jazz, but he’s no stranger to experimentation: he’s done everything from play in rock bands to study the sitar in India. Camille, a classically trained violinist, has spent a great deal of her life dedicated to mastering her skills and perfecting her sound. Both have found a great deal of joy in collaborating together and with other musicians, something they’ve done since high school.

“We actually played a duet together at graduation,” revealed Nicholas. “That was the first formal time that we played together.”

Camille Backman and Nicholas Miller playing at their 2014 graduation.

Camille and Nicholas playing at their 2014 Rowland Hall graduation.

After graduation, both continued their study of music, Nicholas at the Lamont Jazz School at the University of Denver and Camille at the Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio. Although the pair has been hundreds of miles apart—most recently on two separate continents, as Camille is now working on her master’s degree in Brussels, Belgium—they have always maintained their relationship as friends and musical partners.

“I would say each year that we’ve met up since high school we inevitably have some sort of jam session,” laughed Camille. “It’s so natural—when we spend time together, usually music is somehow being made.”

In fact, their musical connection is so natural that they managed to create their new album, For Other Waters Are Ever Flowing, without even knowing it, while traveling together through Southern Utah in summer 2020.

“I didn’t actually know that we were recording an album when we did it,” chuckled Nicholas, but the creativity flowed and “it ended up being an album’s worth of music.”

For Other Waters Are Ever Flowing consists entirely of improvised music between the violin and guitar, as well as the natural sounds of each location Nicholas and Camille visited during that trip. “Our aim was to find places in Utah with acoustic qualities that we were interested in,” explained Camille.

It became clear to the pair that this project could be a way for them to help spread awareness about the importance of the sacred indigenous lands that spread for miles across the desert of Southern Utah.

Location was a key aspect of this project. Both musicians had previous interest in Southern Utah after having traveled there numerous times growing up. And as they returned in summer 2020 as young adults and spent more time exploring the area’s spaces—rappelling into canyons with their instruments and recording materials strapped to their backs—their interests expanded from acoustic qualities to the history behind those spaces. It became clear to the pair that this project could be a way for them to help spread awareness about the importance of the sacred indigenous lands that spread for miles across the desert of Southern Utah. 

“Part of sharing this album is a way that we can protect indigenous lands while also making them accessible to people,” explained Camille. “Regardless of where you are in the world, you can listen and connect to Utah.”

As the pair explained, they were “trying to communicate with their roots and grapple with homecoming, leaving, returning, and belonging” through this music. Upon entering these wild spaces that mean so much to them, the music allowed for moments of connection with the ecological and cultural histories of the places. Listeners of the album have this experience too. It begins to feel as if the instruments are speaking to you: with each strum of the guitar and bow of the violin, you can feel yourself moving through the canyons, developing a new sense of consciousness and connection to those who lived there before. The abstract blending of sound, ecology, and activism make for an album that speaks to the history of the space in which it was recorded. And the most interesting part of the album is that it cannot be recreated—and it’s not meant to be.

Camille Backman '14 in a slot canyon.

“The music on the album can only happen in certain locations, in the moment it was created,” Camille explained. 

Looking back on her musical career, Camille credits Rowland Hall for giving her the space to build strong relationships. “Rowland Hall does an excellent job of allowing you to develop your interpersonal skills with your mentors and peers,” she reflected. 

Both Nicholas and Camille also credit their mentors from Rowland Hall in preparing them for life’s challenges. “I would definitely have to shout-out to Kody Partridge and Dr. Hickman,” Nicholas said. “Both of their classes made me a better thinker, which has connected to art and creativity for sure.” 

Nicholas and Camille will continue their creative pursuits: Nicholas is currently applying to graduate programs, where he will further his studies in music, and Camille is in her third and final year of her master of music program in Brussels. Looking forward, Nicholas and Camille are anxious and excited to be back on the same continent where they can create more music and collaborate on future projects.


Album art of %22For Other Waters Are Ever Flowing.%22

   Courtesy Bridget Hartman

After many hours of collaboration, as well as editing from two different continents, and with the help of Anthony Peña (mixing) and Bridget Hartman (album artwork), Nicholas and Camille are proud to share For Other Waters Are Ever Flowing. Those interested in buying the album can do so through BandCamp, and 50% of the proceeds will go to Utah Diné Bikéyah, an alliance between the five native tribes of Utah who strive to preserve and protect the cultural and natural resources of ancestral Native American lands to benefit and bring healing to the people and the earth. The album is also available on Spotify, YouTube Music, and Apple Music.

Alumni

Cedi Hinton playing trumpet in Rowland Hall’s jazz and pop band.

The Utah All-State Band's virtual performance of "Incantation and Dance" by John Barnes Chance. In the collage, Cedi Hinton appears above the S in State, and she gets the spotlight several times throughout the video.

In early December, Rowland Hall junior Cedi Hinton received an exciting notification in her email inbox: she had been named first trumpet in the Utah All-State Band.

“I was really shocked,” she said.

Shocked, because 2020 was the third year that Cedi had auditioned for the All-State Band, a group made up of top high school musicians from across Utah. After not making the cut in 2018 and 2019, Cedi said, she almost didn’t audition again.

“I auditioned the past two years,” she explained, “and I was always planning to audition, but I just got really busy with school and said, ‘I’m not going to stress myself out more with having to record another thing.’”

So she let the deadline pass her by.

Not long after, however, she learned that the Utah Music Educators Association (UMEA), which manages the All-State Band as well as other all-state groups, had extended the deadline. This convinced her to rethink her plan.

Cedi's recording not only secured her a place in the band, but also earned her the honor of trumpet first chair—an endorsement of both her musical skill and leadership abilities.

“So I submitted a recording,” she said.

That recording, which Cedi submitted on her 17th birthday, not only secured her a place in the band, but also earned her the honor of trumpet first chair—an endorsement of both her musical skill and leadership abilities (first chairs are recognized as the best in their instrument groups and often act as section leaders). Dr. Bret Jackson, Rowland Hall’s jazz and pop band director, wasn’t surprised when he learned of this impressive accolade.

“Those who have heard Cedi performing with the Rowland Hall jazz band know what a brilliant trumpeter she is,” said Bret, who noted that the last year one of his Rowland Hall students made All-State Band was 2014. “This honor says a lot about how hard she's worked to become a well-rounded trumpeter that is comfortable performing in a variety of musical genres and mediums.”

Cedi’s journey to well-rounded trumpeter began in elementary school, when she decided to take on a new instrument after playing the piano for several years. She decided to try the trumpet, she said, because “I thought it looked kind of cool.” And though she has also enjoyed checking out other instruments over the years—such as the bass, drums, and guitar—the trumpet is the instrument that’s stuck. By sixth grade, Cedi was taking private lessons with instructor Seretta Hart, whom she still works with today. She’s also embraced opportunities to hone her skills in music groups at Rowland Hall and through Salt Lake’s Wasatch Music Coaching Academy.

Cedi Hinton with her trumpet.

In the Utah All-State Band, Cedi’s talent was further developed by professional musicians: the group, which gathered virtually in January 2021, was instructed by Loras Schissel, music director and conductor of the Virginia Grand Military Band and the Cleveland Orchestra Blossom Festival Band, and mentored by members of the Utah Symphony in an online masterclass. While Cedi acknowledged that the virtual format made some aspects of the All-State Band experience tricky, she still recognizes and appreciates the benefits of it. In particular, she said, she enjoyed how the band’s performance of John Barnes Chance’s “Incantation and Dance” pulled her out of her comfort zone—as someone who loves and prefers to play jazz music, she said, studying this song helped her better appreciate classical music.

“I really enjoyed the song and expanding what I love to play,” Cedi said, “so maybe I’ll work on more songs like this and enjoy classical music more—and that’s kind of exciting.”

Cedi plans to try out for All-State Band one more time this fall, when she’s a senior. She admitted that, even though she’s made the band once already, the thought of auditioning for it one last time still makes her nervous.

I definitely want to keep playing, and meet people who also play, and join bands and groups.—Cedi Hinton

“That really intimidates me, but I kind of have to now—and I really want to,” she said.

It’s clear that Cedi is using this experience—including the lessons she learned before making All-State Band—to help guide her journey as a musician. It serves a reminder of her talent, as well as her resilience when things haven’t quite gone as planned. It’s also shown her that, whatever opportunities come her way, she’s driven by a passion for playing and the magic of collaboration.

“I definitely want to keep playing, and meet people who also play, and join bands and groups,” she said with a smile.

Congratulations, Cedi! We are so proud of you.

Music

Sixth graders recording the original radio play "The Awakening."
 
Like all educators across the country, Rowland Hall theatre teacher Matt Sincell had to rethink his lesson plans after the COVID-19 pandemic derailed in-person learning in March.
With traditional classes and a spring production off the table, Matt found himself looking for ways to provide theatre experiences for students during quarantine. He decided to introduce them to radio plays, a completely acoustic type of theatre, which could be produced from their homes.

While the term radio play might bring to mind radio series from the 1930s and 1940s, this type of production still attracts audiences today—podcasts, for instance, are “sort of the modern-day version of a radio play,” Matt said. Stories told as radio plays also have lasting power: "The War of the Worlds," a Mercury Theatre on the Air radio episode based on the 1898 H.G. Wells novel of the same name, dramatized a Martian invasion and is remembered because of the fear it stirred when it aired in 1938. “It caused a nationwide panic when it was first performed. People actually thought we were being invaded by aliens,” said Matt.

In the early months of distance learning, Rowland Hall students began exploring this theatre form, ultimately creating an adaptation of the popular children’s book The Gruffalo (which was edited by seventh- and eighth-grade Arts & Ensembles theatre teacher Meighan Smith). Their work was shared with families and friends—and, thanks to Salt Lake City’s Plan-B Theatre Company, the wider community when it was featured on The City Library’s BiblioBoard. And as Matt planned for the 2020–2021 year—which he knew would still include distance learning in some form—he decided to continue the study of radio plays. “With students at home, in class, and, for some, distance learning only, it seemed the most likely class project to be able to complete,” he explained.

This fall, Matt assigned his sixth-grade Arts & Ensembles class the task of creating an original radio play. The result, The Awakening, is a 16-minute production written and performed by students Sebby Bamberger, Lila Bates, Josie Fonarow, Elayna Hoglund, Paulina Ize-Cedillo, Emery Lieberman, Elle Prasthofer, Morgan Schmutz, Sophie Smith, Izzy Utgaard, and Kate Weissman. The play, which took about two months to complete, was written in both the horror and comedy genres, explained Elayna.

“The inspiration for it was the story of ‘The Ghost with the Bloody Finger,’” she said, referencing a well-known campfire ghost story designed to make listeners laugh. Elayna said the sixth graders wanted to incorporate humor into their radio play because they knew their audience would be mostly made up of listeners who were middle-school-aged and younger. “We knew that it’d be more fun to have some funny in it.”

All 11 students were invested in the project, getting involved in the brainstorming, writing, and script editing required of a radio play. Although they weren’t able to do the close-contact acting techniques of a stage production, they did get to experience voice acting, with distance learners applying best practices to capture the cleanest sound possible by recording with blankets over their heads or by sitting inside a closet, and in-person learners utilizing a handmade, COVID-approved sound booth made of two stacked desks wrapped with a thick, padded moving blanket. (Blankets were changed and desks and equipment were sanitized between each recording session.)

“There was never a time that a student was directly interacting with another student, but we were able to create the illusion that they were indeed responding to each other,” said Matt, who edited The Awakening.

The students also learned the importance of sound effects in radio plays, which are key to bringing this art form to life. “The tricky thing about a radio play is that there, of course, is no visual to accompany it,” Matt explained, “so it's even more necessary to rely on our sense of sound to tell the story.” He had students experiment with Foley, a sound-making technique pioneered in the 1920s and still used today—Elayna captured the sound of a refrigerator door closing, a microwave beeping, and a candy wrapper crackling, while classmate Sophie recorded a door slamming, feet running on concrete, and her interpretation of a leprechaun laughing. Sophie said it felt good knowing that her sound effects helped make a difference in the finished recording. “It was pretty nice because you knew it was your work,” she said.

Art will find a way, even in the most challenging times.—Matt Sincell, theatre teacher

And that finished recording is impressive indeed. It’s a strong reminder of student creativity and ingenuity, even within a pandemic. “What they have been able to accomplish in the face of such adversity is really quite unique and wonderful,” said Matt.

The theatre teacher is hopeful that the radio play will also bring smiles to the larger community: on December 14, Matt announced that Jerry Rapier, Plan-B Theatre’s artistic director and a dedicated supporter of theatre education in Utah, had offered to again promote the Rowland Hall students’ work by linking The Awakening to The City Library’s BiblioBoard and to Plan-B’s mobile app.

“It's super exciting to once again have Plan-B Theatre support our students' work,” said Matt. “It’s nice to think that they are able to provide a 16-minute gift of joy to other students outside of the Rowland Hall community. It's proof that art will find a way, even in the most challenging times.”


Banner photo: Rowland Hall middle schoolers Lila Bates and Kate Weissman preparing to record lines of The Awakening.

Theatre

You Belong at Rowland Hall