Gloria: Williston Singers and Musicians Outdo Themselves

The seniors are counting down the days until Commencement,AP exams are still on everyone’s minds, and I can’t walk across campus without seeing at least three flyers for various senior projects. It’s certainly a busy time here in Easthampton, but even in the middle of all of the frenzied activity, it is worthwhile to pause for a moment and celebrate the talent and beauty that abounds in the Williston community.

Chorus willistonThis week I had the opportunity to enjoy the spring choral concert, which featured the strains of Vivaldi’s Gloria performed by the Teller Chorus. This was one of those musical performances that transcend single sensory perception. Those of us lucky enough to be there—and I counted more than 100 students, parents, and faculty in the Chapel—heard wonderful voices, accomplished musicians, and audience approval, but we also felt the music. It was that moving.
Williston’s singers and musicians outdid themselves in both preparation and performance, and demonstrated once again that we have one of the best music programs of any boarding school in New England. But that distinction doesn’t come without a lot of hard work and collaboration on the part of teachers, students, and other musicians. The choral concert featured performances by the Caterwaulers, our male a cappella group; the Widdigers, our female a cappella group; and the Teller Chorus, which is comprised of both boys and girls. The orchestra that performed with the Teller Chorus for Gloria featured Fine Arts Teacher Deb Sherr on cello and two Pioneer Valley musicians who played the viola and the trumpet.

deb sherr conducts willistonOn performing with her students, Deb Sherr says, “I absolutely love performing with the students. I often teach and conduct from the cello and find that they are very responsive to my musical cues when I am playing. It makes them really listen, which is an essential part of music making. Plus, it’s much more fun for me!”

Our day students, who hail from all over the Pioneer Valley where the Five Colleges are located, have grown up in a culture that celebrates the arts. When they join our gifted boarding students from around the world, incredible collaborations occur. All who were present know what I am talking about, as do the almost 200 people who caught the performance via live webcast.
It’s rewarding to see how excited the students—and the teachers—become when their hard work pays off so handsomely. Since it is already mid-May, the students will be gone and the campus will seem lonely all too soon. While this is a frenzied time of the year, I’m going to try and take in as much as I can, because performances like these remind us of why a school like Williston is so valuable.

An International Exchange

Last week provided more firsthand evidence of just how interconnected we are when The Williston Northampton School hosted teachers from King’s Academyin Jordan. Our guests were Shaden Al Salman and Ezdihar Zayyad, both of whom teach Arabic in the Department of Communication, Rhetoric and the Literary Arts, and Sana’ Madadha, program head of the Department of Fine and Performing Arts. Their goal was to visit classes and speak with teachers in order to observe different teaching methods and strategies. On their three-day tour, which included visits to our sister schools Deerfield Academy and Hotchkiss, our guests wanted to observe schools with long histories of education, as they fine tune their own newly minted school.

During the day, our guests visited language, art, history, math, science, and religion classes and spoke informally with students and teachers. At the end of the day, I met with them and we shared impressions of our two institutions. I am sure that they will have wonderful observations to report to their head of school, John Austin, who is a friend of mine. Certainly, their trip has inspired ideas of ongoing collaborations, and we will have to return the favor with our own delegation to see King’s Academy in action.

Kings Academy teachers


Seated (left to right): Kim Evelti, Sana’ Madadha, Ezdihar Zayyad. Standing: myself, Shaden Al Salman.