Laurel High's Art Week spotlights student performances

Students walking the halls between classes Wednesday were treated to orchestral performances from their peers as part of Laurel High School’s annual Arts Week celebration, featuring performances in instrumental and vocal music, dance and drama.

The Arts Department kicked off Arts Week with dance performances on Nov. 13. All four arts groups will unite on Friday, Nov. 17 for a final collaborative performance to depict art forms from the decades of the ’40s, ’50s, ’70s and ’90s.

Department chairwoman Jaclyn Martin, who also teaches dance, joined instrumental music teacher Amber Abbott, vocal music teacher Chris Fominaya and drama teacher Frank Hammond throughout the week to give their students a larger audience.

Between 100 and 120 students within the department participated in Arts Week, Abbott said.

Laurel High became an arts integration school this year, Abbott said, following a multi-year process to integrate the arts into other school subjects, like math and science.

Abbott said arts integration recognizes the performing arts as more than a hobby.

“A lot of time, energy and focus is spent on reading, math and science,” she said. “It is all certainly important, but we are important, too.”

On Nov. 15, Abbott stood aside sophomores Bianca Falby, Isaac Cortez and Henry Hernandez in one of the school’s lobbies, where the students performed Lana Del Rey’s, “Summertime Sadness,” on cellos between the third-period lunch breaks. The three students played the song twice as their classmates stopped to listen as they shuffled to and from class.

Two additional orchestral performances were held in other parts of the school.

Abbott has taught band, orchestra and piano at Laurel High since 2010, including extracurricular activities like marching and jazz bands. She said the students were allowed to choose their own music for Arts Week since she makes most of the selections in the classroom.

Isaac and Henry, both 15, and Bianca, 16, chose the hit Lana Del Rey song, while their classmates played HBO’s Game of Thrones theme song.

“It’s a pretty short period of time, but enough for students to walk by, stop and watch a little bit and still make it to class on time,” Abbott said. “It’s super important because we have an excellent performing arts department. It lets our kids show off a little bit, while exposing the arts to other students.”

Bianca, who has played the cello since sixth grade, said Arts Week brings different performing groups together and takes their hard work outside the classroom.

“It’s good to see all of the performers,” Bianca said. “There were some dancers dancing at lunch the other day and they were really good. It’s nice to see how other people react.”

Bianca wasn’t nervous during Wednesday’s performance, but said it was still “kind of nerve-racking.”

“I saw some of my friends and I was like, ‘I don’t want them to make fun of me.’ They’re all cool about it though,” she said, laughing.

Isaac said their performance was a “really good” way to introduce the cello’s “beautiful sounds” to their classmates, and he was proud of the day’s performance.

“We only had a week to practice,” Henry added. “There are a lot of hidden talents that many people don’t get to see.”

Principal Dwayne Jones said the high school community has “a wealth of talent.” In the past five years, he said, the number of arts programs have increased at Laurel High to cater to students and staff who’re interested in the performing arts.

“We know that the arts can be pivotal in the development of young people and in helping young people with the instructional activities that are required in all of their classes,” Jones said. “We want to promote the arts.”

Arts Week raises awareness of the arts, Abbott said, and even reignites students’ passion to perform.

“There are a lot of students, who used to play an instrument, who have come and talked to me about starting again,” Abbott said. “We’ve definitely been recognized and asked to perform more.”

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