LEOMINSTER – An awards night and college signing ceremony held in the high school’s newly renovated senior courtyard for 2021 class art, music and theater students gave seniors a sense of normalcy that they had been missing for over a year, as well as the opportunity to showcase their talents and be recognized for their achievements.
“The arts are such an important part of education, but they don’t always receive the same level of respect or recognition as traditional sports or academics,” said Shelly Saben, art professor at LHS, who has helped organize the event. “These students work so hard, but not just for a season. They work year round to hone their skills and hone their talents. This year they had to persevere in a remote setting while working together and helping each other, which didn’t slow them down at all. Their creativity and effort has led to incredible opportunities at the college level, and it deserves to be recognized.
Artwork for seniors was on display, music was played, and there was a book signing for students leaving for art programs at various colleges and universities in the fall. In addition, numerous awards were given to students in harmony, choir, theater and visual arts, as well as 19 scholarships.
“This is the first time that we have hosted this event and hope it becomes an annual thing,” said Saben. “This is also the largest group we have collectively sent to fine arts programs in art, music and theater, so we are very proud of our children.”
Saben said the number of students enrolled in college programs in their disciplines is the highest they’ve seen in high school in 10 years.
“It speaks to the dedicated teachers in the department,” she said. “The passion, talent and overall level of dedication of our seniors in music, theater and the visual arts has been a privilege to watch and work with over the past four years. Successful careers in the arts are possible, and these students pursue them. This is something the entire artistic team is proud of.
Choir member Kayla Dwyer, 17, has won a National High School Choir Award and will be majoring in primary education at Worcester State University. Dwyer performed in the choir for nine years, starting in elementary school.
“The choir has become my refuge and probably most of my life,” she said. “The choir gave me a place to express myself even when words don’t really tell the whole story, and they’ve taught me so many lessons I can carry through life, such as managing the time, communication and accountability. “
Dwyer said that every time she walks into the choir room at school, she knows what to expect.
“I know I’m greeted by all of my amazing friends and a one of a kind director,” she said. “I know I am greeted with the thousands and thousands of memories that I have created. I especially know that room E302 and the auditorium have become my second home and have contributed to the best years of life. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Dwyer said it “means the absolute world” that the senior awards night came after such a difficult year due to the pandemic.
She said the night and the awards show were “absolutely amazing”, including with her best friend Savannah Mercado, who accompanied her “along this crazy ride” – and her parents’ reaction to ‘she won the prize was priceless.
“I didn’t know what award I was receiving, so when we found out I had received the National High School Award, my parents broke down in tears,” Dwyer said. “When I watched them from the stage, I saw that they were so proud of me. I wouldn’t trade that feeling for the world.
Sage Leger is a member of the high school Jazz Band who performed three songs at the start of the evening when the guests arrived.
“The event itself was fantastic,” she said. “It was a great opportunity to see what all the arts students have been working on over the past year. From monologues performed by members of the theater department to student art exhibitions, I have truly enjoyed observing the talents of my friends and peers.
Léger, 18, has been with the Jazz Band for two years as a singer.
“What I really love about Jazz Band is spending time with my friends and playing with those who share my passion for music,” she said.
Leger will be a freshman at Berklee College of Music in Boston in the fall and plans to major in music production and engineering. She was thrilled to receive a Musicianship Award and Band Boosters Scholarship, as well as to participate in the college signing.
“To be able to have this awards night after the challenges we have faced this year is extremely gratifying,” she said. “I am so grateful to my teachers and their efforts to make the end of this year special by hosting this event. “
Aspiring actress Marilyn Wilson has performed with the High School Theater Company since her freshman year and is heading to Webster University in Missouri this fall to major in drama.
“There are so many good things about the theater company, but I think I appreciate the collaboration between the directors and the students the most in every show that we put on,” she said.
Wilson said she was grateful to LHSTC director and drama teacher Andréa Mastroianni and technical director Timothy Smith, both of whom work in the high school’s fine and performing arts department, as well as her fellow actors.
“Everyone is involved so that we can make our shows as good as possible and working so closely with not only my peers but also Ms. M and Tim is so much fun.”
Wilson, who is 18, said the LHSTC has awarded scholarships to 11 seniors, “who have devoted a great deal of time and effort to all of our shows and other theater company activities,” and that she and four of his theater peers who auditioned for college theater programs performed monologues from their audition repertoire that evening.
“Having this awards night really meant the world to me,” Wilson said. “Not only was it so nice to see so many of my friends in the theater company being recognized, but also to see all of my friends in the band, the choir and the art being recognized was so amazing. E Wing is filled with so much talent and joy for the visual and performing arts, and I think that joy transferred into such an amazing awards ceremony.
LHS Director Steven Dubzinski said he was proud of all the students and the bright future they have ahead of them.
“Leominster High continues to celebrate excellence in all classes and activities,” he said. “All students are valued and we are excited about this new signature tradition for our artists. “
Saben said that while graduation is always bittersweet, this year especially seems to be because high school teachers and staff don’t have as much time in person with their students due to learning. remote and hybrid.
“Each year graduation brings a mixture of emotions,” she said. “We have the opportunity to participate in the excitement of the graduation ceremony while feeling the sadness of saying goodbye to some of the students we have become close to. This year, we also recognize what it took for some of these children to complete the year. What it took to stay focused and motivated while being isolated at home, and what some of them lost along the way. It was (it was) a moving night for sure.