The year in review: Performing Arts

As the 2021-2022 school year draws to a close, the performing arts department reflects back on a great year filled with the return of countless performances and concerts. This year, with performances back in-person and mask-optional, many students involved in the performing arts have had many more opportunities to participate in presenting their skills. 

“After not being able to do so many performances and concerts, it’s so incredible that we get to shift gears and go straight back into doing what students and faculty both love, which is the music and getting back that sense of community when getting to play and perform together,” said Scott Stewart, chair of the performing arts department. 

Performers also got the opportunity to take part in auditioning and performing for the Georgia All-State Orchestra, Band, and Chorus. Due to the pandemic, last year’s auditions were recorded, but this year performers tried out in person. This year, Westminster had 17 performers accepted into the All-State Orchestra, Band, and Chorus. The All-State performance, in partnership with the Georgia Music Educators Association, took place in Athens at the beginning of March. The All-State performers included Dean Cureton (percussion), George Jabren (flute), Jaimie Koh (clarinet), Luke Parikh (percussion), Daniel Qiu (clarinet), Brandon Yao (bassoon), Mason Yu (flute), Arnika Alikhani (viola), Jaia Alli (cello), Sarah Kim (viola), Karina Maithel (violin),  Alex Na (bass),  Sophie Wang (violin), Joe Kuester (chorus), and James Rosenblath (chorus).

“All-State was really great because you really got to connect with a lot of people you’ve known for a long time and also meet new people through music,” said sophomore Sarah Kim, a violinist who attended All-State in March. “The people and the music made it really special, especially in a time where we used to not be able to get to see each other face-to-face and have that human interaction.” 

An iconic staple of Westminster performing arts traditions, the Upper School performance of Handel’s Messiah in December, returned to an in-person performance in McCain Chapel in 2021. Unlike last year’s 30-minute digital format of Messiah, the performance this year once again invited alumni back to practice and perform the piece alongside students. With advanced technical and musical skills required for the pieces, practice, preparation, and coordination between orchestra and chorus was difficult for many students and faculty alike. However, the aspects of getting to partake in a great performance and tradition made the production worthwhile for all involved.

“With Messiah, we had a good number of people who were not initially familiar and accustomed to the pieces we were performing, but I believe that was what made it really special,” said senior Tobias Liu, concertmaster of the chamber orchestra.

Alongside the orchestra, students in chorus and ensemble also got many opportunities to perform this year, with six concerts in-person and the ensemble trip to London over spring break. In addition, the chorus and ensemble hosted guest artists and groups like the British ensemble group VOCES8 and Dartmouth University’s men’s a capella group, the Dartmouth Aires. 

“I really enjoyed having the opportunity to see the VOCES8 group perform and having more opportunities to grow and learn as a singer,” said sophomore Elliott Spinrad, a member of chorus, ensemble, and MAC.

Westminster’s band also participated in many concerts and performances, including the annual symphonic band and wind ensemble in early fall, Oktoberfest, the Halloween parade, and the Thanksgiving and Christmas services.

“The transition during COVID was difficult, but it was really rewarding after our perseverance with the constantly changing situations we had,” said junior tubist Bo Koebler. “This year’s concert materials have been great, especially with solo and chamber work. The faculty and staff have been extremely generous with time and working with us. I’ve been playing the tuba since I was a freshman and seeing my own personal growth, along with others, in becoming comfortable with that instrument is pretty incredible.” 

The Upper School performing arts department never fails to bring Westminster together with their impressive performances and high-level technical and musical skills, highlighting the importance and necessity of music and community today.