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Community Outreach Adds Depth to Advanced Chamber Ensemble's Repertoire

This is an updated version of an article published in the 2016–2017 Annual Report.

The Upper School Advanced Chamber Ensemble (ACE) in March brought a judge at a regional competition to tears with their interpretation of the Mendelssohn Trio. But it's not just ACE's melodies that move people. Through community-outreach projects such as annual half-day visits to Primary Children's Hospital, lighthearted, often-smiling music teacher Sarah Yoon fosters compassion in her students that seems to transfer to ACE's evocative performances.

On a warm mid-October morning, ACE played for a few tiny hospital patients and their parents in the children's playroom, which was blanketed with toys and had sunlight beaming through windows seasonally painted with bats, monsters, and spooky scenes. ACE's quick but gripping set of popular songs included "City of Stars" from La La Land, "When I Ruled the World" by Coldplay, and "A Thousand Years" by Christina Perri. Then, the young musicians gathered in a crafting corner with patients and families to assemble and paint cardboard violins created with recycled Rowland Hall theatre props. The entire visit, Sarah said, provided "a great breather to a child's daily hospital routine." Indeed, little patients escorted out to doctor's appointments promised they'd return to finish their violins.

 

This sort of outreach teaches students to use their talent to give back to their community without expectation, Sarah said. "My guys had a great time. It always warms my heart to see our high school students working with patients."

ACE is a seminar class—part of an Upper School program that gets better every year. Students may enroll in pre-selected seminar classes or they can pitch their specific interest to administration and form an accredited class with like-minded kids and a mentor.

Last year, when then-sophomore and budding violinist Austin Topham decided he and a cadre of musicians—Atticus Hickman and Tobi Yoon '17—could expand their group and pursue a challenging repertoire, he decided to reach for the certified title of Advanced Chamber Ensemble. Upper School Principal Dave Samson reviewed the earnest seminar class application and gave it a thumbs-up. Middle School orchestra and chamber music teacher Sarah gladly agreed to mentor the group.

The ACE class roster quickly grew to seven members when Patrick McNally, Jake Bleil, Alex Benton, and Claire Sanderson joined in fall 2016. The new parties brought further sonic depth to the ensemble, which included violin, cello, bass, and piano. This school year, harpist Alison Puri and violinists Zach Benton, Augustus Hickman, and Tim Zeng joined the group.

In addition to their seminar class, ACE meets on weekends and before school as needed to prepare for regional and state competitions. Last year, Sarah divided the class into three ensembles: Dvorak Quintet in G major, Mendelssohn Piano Trio in D minor, and Vivaldi Cello Duet in G minor. This year, the group is tackling more: Dvorak American Quartet; Schubert Trout Quintet (students prepared for that piece with a fly-fishing trip to the Provo River); Holberg Suite (large chamber ensemble); Shostakovich Violin Duets; Handel Sonata for Two Violins; and Elegy for String and Harp. Members of ACE often participate in advanced music competitions and ensembles outside of school, such as Utah Youth Orchestras and Ensembles, the Gifted Music School, and the All-State Orchestra. The ACE curriculum prioritizes a college-level repertoire, within reason—Sarah ensures the young musicians can balance ACE with the rest of their course load.

In March, the three ensembles and four individual soloists successfully competed at the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) Region Solo and Ensemble Festival and advanced to the State festival. Onlookers at Regionals caught the judge wiping away tears at ACE's interpretation of the Mendelssohn Trio. At State, the Dvorak Quintet, Mendelssohn Trio, Vivaldi Duet, and three soloists received a superior rating, the highest possible. One comment on the judging sheet for the Dvorak performance read, "Wow! The best thing I heard all day! Congratulations on an outstanding performance! Bravo!"

A scan of the UHSAA website shows past Rowland Hall ensembles have achieved superior ratings, and more and more are qualifying for State—proof of the increasing success of all Rowland Hall music students due to excellent training by Ms. Yoon and Interfaith Chaplain and Choir and Orchestra Teacher Jeremy Innis. Megan Fenton, Cindy Shen, and Alicia Lu, all 2017 graduates, also advanced to state-level competitions last year.

Coming Up with ACE

Friday, February 2, at 7 pm: Catch ACE's Collage, an evening of interactive listening, art, poetry, dance, and chamber music in the Larimer Center for the Performing Arts. ACE-designed poster pictured below.

Advanced Chamber Ensemble's Collage

Late February (date to be determined): ACE will play with the Fry Street Quartet at Rowland Hall
March and April: Regional and State competitions
Thursday, April 26, at 7 pm: ACE concert

Music

Students Lead the Way in a Finely Tuned Ensemble

Community Outreach Adds Depth to Advanced Chamber Ensemble's Repertoire

This is an updated version of an article published in the 2016–2017 Annual Report.

The Upper School Advanced Chamber Ensemble (ACE) in March brought a judge at a regional competition to tears with their interpretation of the Mendelssohn Trio. But it's not just ACE's melodies that move people. Through community-outreach projects such as annual half-day visits to Primary Children's Hospital, lighthearted, often-smiling music teacher Sarah Yoon fosters compassion in her students that seems to transfer to ACE's evocative performances.

On a warm mid-October morning, ACE played for a few tiny hospital patients and their parents in the children's playroom, which was blanketed with toys and had sunlight beaming through windows seasonally painted with bats, monsters, and spooky scenes. ACE's quick but gripping set of popular songs included "City of Stars" from La La Land, "When I Ruled the World" by Coldplay, and "A Thousand Years" by Christina Perri. Then, the young musicians gathered in a crafting corner with patients and families to assemble and paint cardboard violins created with recycled Rowland Hall theatre props. The entire visit, Sarah said, provided "a great breather to a child's daily hospital routine." Indeed, little patients escorted out to doctor's appointments promised they'd return to finish their violins.

 

This sort of outreach teaches students to use their talent to give back to their community without expectation, Sarah said. "My guys had a great time. It always warms my heart to see our high school students working with patients."

ACE is a seminar class—part of an Upper School program that gets better every year. Students may enroll in pre-selected seminar classes or they can pitch their specific interest to administration and form an accredited class with like-minded kids and a mentor.

Last year, when then-sophomore and budding violinist Austin Topham decided he and a cadre of musicians—Atticus Hickman and Tobi Yoon '17—could expand their group and pursue a challenging repertoire, he decided to reach for the certified title of Advanced Chamber Ensemble. Upper School Principal Dave Samson reviewed the earnest seminar class application and gave it a thumbs-up. Middle School orchestra and chamber music teacher Sarah gladly agreed to mentor the group.

The ACE class roster quickly grew to seven members when Patrick McNally, Jake Bleil, Alex Benton, and Claire Sanderson joined in fall 2016. The new parties brought further sonic depth to the ensemble, which included violin, cello, bass, and piano. This school year, harpist Alison Puri and violinists Zach Benton, Augustus Hickman, and Tim Zeng joined the group.

In addition to their seminar class, ACE meets on weekends and before school as needed to prepare for regional and state competitions. Last year, Sarah divided the class into three ensembles: Dvorak Quintet in G major, Mendelssohn Piano Trio in D minor, and Vivaldi Cello Duet in G minor. This year, the group is tackling more: Dvorak American Quartet; Schubert Trout Quintet (students prepared for that piece with a fly-fishing trip to the Provo River); Holberg Suite (large chamber ensemble); Shostakovich Violin Duets; Handel Sonata for Two Violins; and Elegy for String and Harp. Members of ACE often participate in advanced music competitions and ensembles outside of school, such as Utah Youth Orchestras and Ensembles, the Gifted Music School, and the All-State Orchestra. The ACE curriculum prioritizes a college-level repertoire, within reason—Sarah ensures the young musicians can balance ACE with the rest of their course load.

In March, the three ensembles and four individual soloists successfully competed at the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) Region Solo and Ensemble Festival and advanced to the State festival. Onlookers at Regionals caught the judge wiping away tears at ACE's interpretation of the Mendelssohn Trio. At State, the Dvorak Quintet, Mendelssohn Trio, Vivaldi Duet, and three soloists received a superior rating, the highest possible. One comment on the judging sheet for the Dvorak performance read, "Wow! The best thing I heard all day! Congratulations on an outstanding performance! Bravo!"

A scan of the UHSAA website shows past Rowland Hall ensembles have achieved superior ratings, and more and more are qualifying for State—proof of the increasing success of all Rowland Hall music students due to excellent training by Ms. Yoon and Interfaith Chaplain and Choir and Orchestra Teacher Jeremy Innis. Megan Fenton, Cindy Shen, and Alicia Lu, all 2017 graduates, also advanced to state-level competitions last year.

Coming Up with ACE

Friday, February 2, at 7 pm: Catch ACE's Collage, an evening of interactive listening, art, poetry, dance, and chamber music in the Larimer Center for the Performing Arts. ACE-designed poster pictured below.

Advanced Chamber Ensemble's Collage

Late February (date to be determined): ACE will play with the Fry Street Quartet at Rowland Hall
March and April: Regional and State competitions
Thursday, April 26, at 7 pm: ACE concert

Music

Explore More News In Brief

Chris Hill speaks at the University of Utah,

Rowland Hall Trustee Dr. Chris Hill, the University of Utah’s celebrated former athletics director, will be honored by the U this Saturday, February 8, during halftime of the men’s basketball game against California.

Chris retired in 2018 after 31 years of accomplished service that included transitioning Utah to the Pac-12 Conference in 2011. From football to skiing, and from new-and-improved facilities to the academic success of student-athletes, Utah Athletics thrived under his watch. In October, the former athletics director was inducted into the Utah Sports Hall of Fame, and now it’s the U’s turn to pay tribute. This weekend, Utah Athletics will permanently honor Chris with the installation of a banner in the Jon M. Huntsman Center.

It just means so much to me. Having that kind of recognition is more than one could expect.—Chris Hill, retired University of Utah athletics director and current Rowland Hall trustee

“It just means so much to me,” Chris said of the upcoming ceremony. “Having that kind of recognition is more than one could expect.”

Chris began his tenure as a member of the Rowland Hall Board of Trustees in the 2018–2019 school year. Since retiring from the U, he’s enjoyed extra time for volunteering—he tutors math, for instance, and serves on the Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. He’s also been staying active outdoors and, most importantly, spending quality time with his family. “Numbers one, two, and three are my grandkids,” he joked of his scheduling priorities. Chris and his wife, Kathleen, are the parents of two Rowland Hall alumni and have five grandchildren, one of whom is a Rowland Hall eighth grader.

Rowland Hall Board Chair Jennifer Price-Wallin, for one, is thrilled for Chris to be recognized by Utah Athletics on Saturday. “This is an incredible honor,” she said, adding Chris brings a valuable collegiate perspective to our board. “We're fortunate to have him as a trustee.”

People


Top photo credit: Utah Athletics

teacher talking to students in class

The Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) recently named debate teacher Mike Shackelford the 2019 Speech Educator of the Year—a Distinguished Service Award given primarily for Mike’s work strengthening debate programs not just here at Rowland Hall, but across Utah.

I'm grateful that my job allows me the opportunity to get involved in the larger debate community and make a difference for more kids in the state.—Debate Coach Mike Shackelford

“I'm grateful that my job allows me the opportunity to get involved in the larger debate community and make a difference for more kids in the state,” Mike said. “My mentors—Ryan Hoglund, especially—taught me the importance of giving back early in my career.” Ryan, our former debate coach and current director of ethical education, won this service award in 2007. 

Mike explained that school activities like debate depend on countless acts of service, from volunteer judges to late-night transportation and beyond. “Everyone is working so hard that it seems selfish not to do my part,” he said. “I also love matching the passion and work ethic that my students put into the activity.”

Match, he has. Since he joined Rowland Hall in 2007, Mike has taken on an array of leadership roles and accumulated several prestigious awards:

  • Utah Debate Coaches Association (UDCA) Chair of the Elementary and Middle School Division (2017–present)
  • UDCA Chair of the Novice Policy Committee (2016–present)
  • National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) State Educator of the Year for Utah (2017–2018)
  • NSDA National District Chair of the Year (2016)
  • UDCA Policy Debate Coach of the Year (2014)
  • National Debate Coaches Association Executive Board (2013–2015)
  • NSDA Chair of the Great Salt Lake District (2011–2016)
  • UHSAA Speech and Debate Representative (2009–2015)

Rowland Hall Athletics Director Kendra Tomsic nominated Mike for the award and confirmed his dedication to debate. “Mike’s classes are full of enthusiastic debaters who feed off his energy and knowledge,” Kendra wrote in her recommendation letter. “He loves working with students in a competitive environment and it shows.”

For the Shackelfords, debate—and the friendly competition thereof—is a way of life: Mike's wife, Carol, won this award six years ago while coaching for Bingham High School. "Now I'm even with her, which feels great," Mike joked.

Mike is the eighth Rowland Hall employee to receive one of these awards.

The UHSAA started their Distinguished Service Awards program in 1987 to honor individuals for their contributions to high school activities. Mike is one of 17 Utahns to be honored this year, and he’s the eighth Rowland Hall employee on record to receive one of these awards. View a list of past recipients in our article on band director and music teacher Dr. Bret Jackson, UHSAA’s 2018 Music Educator of the Year.

Debate

Collage of teachers with books.

Have you read anything good lately?

Publicly sharing titles we love leads to discussion and learning. After all, the kinds of books we choose often tell a little something about our past, present, interests, values, and perhaps even the way we see and experience the world.—Chelsea Vasquez, seventh grade English teacher

Those looking for book recommendations may find themselves combing social media for positive answers to that question. By searching #shelfie or #buildyourstack, users can find a trove of images celebrating the written word: color-coded shelves, beaming readers holding up their favorite novels, children sprawled on furniture lost in picture books. For Rowland Hall students, inspiration can also be found by wandering the halls of the Lincoln Street Campus.

This year, a new bulletin board in the Middle School is acting as a paper-and-ink version of digital shelfies and stacks, displaying photos of the books, magazines, and newspapers faculty are currently reading. At first glance, the board may simply seem like a place to browse for titles, but it offers the larger benefit of promoting a culture of reading by sparking conversations.

“The idea isn't necessarily for kids to read the same texts as us, but to show them that all of us are readers and we're open to discussions about the texts we engage with,” explained seventh grade English teacher Chelsea Vasquez, who created the board. “Publicly sharing titles we love leads to discussion and learning. After all, the kinds of books we choose often tell a little something about our past, present, interests, values, and perhaps even the way we see and experience the world.”

The Middle School shelfie board.

The shelfie bulletin board is displayed to the left of the elevator in the Middle School commons.

Upper School English teacher Kate Taylor agrees. In 2017, Kate created “What I’m Reading” signs for faculty and staff to post on doors to model their love of reading. Like the Middle School bulletin board, these signs act as recommendations, but they also convey an important message: that Rowland Hall is a community of diverse readers. By sharing what they enjoy reading for pleasure—even those titles that may not be deemed “serious”—teachers underscore that all reading is beneficial. Furthermore, Kate said, a diet of light and challenging materials is essential to creating strong readers.

By modeling their love of reading, faculty convey an important message: that Rowland Hall is a community of diverse readers.

“I view reading as both a habit and a skill,” she said. “Both are formed and strengthened through repetition. In reading, like weight lifting, challenging reps develop strength while lighter reps develop endurance. Both have benefits. If we want students to be strong readers, they should definitely read texts that push their understanding and vocabulary, but they should also read lighter, more enjoyable works that simply get them reading to improve their endurance.”

See Our Shelfies & Share Yours

Join the conversation! Share a photo of your book recommendations on social media and tag your posts with #RHshelfies. Rowland Hall’s shelfie projects exemplify how educators find creative ways to develop lifelong readers, and we hope these projects inspire ripples through our larger community of diverse readers.

Community

Girl soccer players walking away with arms around each other.

Rowland Hall won its second-consecutive Utah Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (UIAAA) 2A Directors Cup for excellence across three areas: athletics, academics, and sportsmanship and student leadership.

Athletics Director Kendra Tomsic said the prestigious award, announced July 13, demonstrates that Rowland Hall is home to some truly gifted student-athletes. “I am so very proud of our athletes for their efforts in the competitive arena as well as in the classroom,” Kendra said, “and thankful to our coaches who are so supportive of our student-athletes' academic commitments.”

Strong showings at state tournaments—along with high GPAs—helped Rowland Hall secure its second Directors Cup in the award's nine-year history. The UIAAA recognized seven of our teams for having the highest GPAs among their 2A competitors: volleyball, girls basketball, boys cross-country, boys tennis, boys track, and girls and boys soccer. And top-five finishes at state competitions included first place in 2A for girls soccer, second place in 3A for girls swimming, second place in 2A for boys soccer, third place in 2A for boys golf, third place in 2A for boys basketball, third place in 2A for girls golf, and fourth place in 3A for boys tennis.

The description of the Directors Cup, from UIAAA:

The UIAAA Directors Cup is awarded each year to the top school in each class that demonstrates combined excellence in athletic, academic, and sportsmanship and student-leadership [categories]. Each category makes up a percentage toward a school’s total ranking:

  1. Athletic (40%): The place or position a school team finishes in the state tournament.
  2. Academic (40%): Varsity team GPA.
  3. Sportsmanship and student leadership (20%): School’s participation in UHSAA-sponsored sportsmanship and leadership initiatives.

The top-five ranked schools in 2A:

  1. Rowland Hall: 15.26 points
  2. Gunnison: 13.47
  3. Waterford: 12.8
  4. Kanab: 10.12
  5. Layton Christian: 9.65

Rowland Hall's score also amounted to the fourth-highest point total among all classifications in the state.

Read last year's story about our first Directors Cup.

Athletics

You Belong at Rowland Hall