Sunday, April 1, 2012

West Side Story

I had the great pleasure of seeing the musical this weekend... twice. Mrs. Ogle and I attended opening night on Friday, and we were both blown away. I found myself being amazed at so many things that I knew I had to try to write it all down to share it with you, my amazing audience.

First, and foremost, the talent of our student body is remarkable. The singing, dancing, and acting were phenomenal. Aubrie Lamb and Stewart Arp did a fantastic job as Tony and Maria. I was in drama club in high school, and we never gave performances like I saw out of those two Friday night. Then, when I came back to watch my daughter, who also did an amazing job if I do say so myself, in the children's matinee, I was equally impressed by Kaitlin Neibarger as Maria. What a talented freshman, and she's in my homeroom, so I was beaming with pride and making sure everyone around me knew she was one of my kids. Additionally, I thoroughly enjoyed "Officer Krumpke" by the Jet boys. You could tell that group was having a great time on stage, and Zach Lueken anchored the crew masterfully. Olivia Underwood (and on Saturday, Hannah King) and J.C. White brought the Sharks to life with great skill. I was impressed by the acting chops displayed by Jake Whitacre as well. He had a tough role because he wasn't on stage very often, but when he was, he had to deliver some long passages basically to himself, which I know from experience is difficult to do.

Aside from the leads, I am always impressed by the shear number of students who put in the hard work and unbelievable amount of time to fill the stage as dancers and additional voices for the large numbers. That level of dedication is remarkable for anyone at any age, and it is great to see so many of our students getting involved in projects like this. All of the understudies did a great job on Saturday, and the solos by Leslie Rush, Meredith Blanford, Kenzie VanSickle, and Emily Turner were beautiful.

Of course, keeping it all running smoothly was an entire crew of students working lights and running the stage. I am still amazed that a student was the stage manager. Way to go, JD Hasler.

The pit orchestra sounded great at both performances. I'm no musician, but even I could tell that the music was complicated. Kudos to my good friend, Dan Tripp, and all of the talented musicians he was working with to make it all happen. It is a testament to the program he has put together that the orchestra included not only current students, but also alumni and band directors from our middle schools and even Chrisman High School.

Not everyone who contributed was on the stage. The sets were fantastic. Mrs. Phegley and her Advanced Arts students really outdid themselves. And Ms. Seaton's Desktop Publishing students put together very professional programs. From top to bottom, our students, and the teachers who guide them, really showed their stuff this weekend.

Last, but certainly not least, I tip my hat to Dan Lynch and the team he has working with him. I see him in the halls at school, and I know how hard he is working, but his enthusiasm for these kids and allowing them to share their talent with the community is an inspiration. He is what every teacher should strive to be.

In the end, I am so glad that I got the opportunity to go watch both performances. It gave me time to reflect on exactly what I was witnessing, and I'm glad it came when it did. Spring Break is a great time to recharge and make the final push through the last half of fourth quarter, and getting to begin the break with something like this really gives me a boost. It is easy, as a teacher, to get frustrated with students this time of year. They are getting burned out, and it sometimes feels like we are spinning our wheels, but when I see them deliver something like this, it really reminds me of how blessed I am to know them and have the opportunity to help them accomplish their goals, even if it is only in a small, indirect way.