Sometimes all you need to provide healing is a pen, a pad and an old guitar. Episcopal band director Doug Gay and his team at BR Music Studios are offering their version of healing and support to Louisiana veterans through free Veterans Songwriting Collective workshops.
Doug and his team began this journey two years ago when they were approached by the Louisiana Office of Cultural Development to create a program specifically for veterans. BR Music Studios already had programs in place for preschool musicians and individuals with adaptive needs and Doug says they were eager to work with veterans as well. “We say yes and then we figure it out,” he says. The group did figure it out by adapting an existing program to fit the needs of veterans. One need that Doug and his team identified quickly among the veterans was the need to be heard. These men and women have stories that many don’t understand and it’s comforting for them to be in a place where their story is not only heard, but also appreciated.
During the pilot programs, which were offered in Baton Rouge, Lake Charles, Alexandria and Shreveport, participants spent considerable time simply talking about what they had experienced. In fact, Doug says the sessions all ran much longer than initially planned and going forward he plans to allow more time for discussion. After participants shared their stories, the music educators helped them put their thoughts into lyrics. You might think it would be hard to narrow down so many experiences into one song, but Doug says it always comes together. “It’s magic,” he says with the excitement of someone who has dedicated his life to helping others discover their musical talents.
"I want the audience to get the same goosebumps I get."
Doug says it is powerful to hear the stories of the Veterans Songwriting Collective participants. As you speak to him about the project, the sense of awe and respect he has for the veterans involved is immediately apparent. For Doug and his team, the Veterans Songwriting Collective project is truly a way to support and recognize veterans. He is honored to share this experience with them and humbled by the part BR Music Studios is playing. “We’re just teaching how to write a song,” he says. But clearly, there is much more.
For workshop participant Army Specialist Chad Chenevert, who is married to Episcopal Director of Technology, Michelle Chenevert, the experience was particularly meaningful. At the workshop, SPC Chenevert reflected on what inspired him to serve and the importance of his grandfather’s military hat for his entire family. “My grandfather was my hero, and since the first picture I saw of him in uniform…I only hoped I could grow to be like him,” says Chenevert. “He marched me around his house in Alexandria calling out cadence while I tried to keep that big hat on my young head straight and proud.” Once SPC Chenevert became a man big enough to wear that hat, he followed in his grandfather’s footsteps and joined the Louisiana Army National Guard at only 17 years old. “I turned 18 in the gas chamber at Ft. Leonard Wood, MO and have tried to serve my country in anyway I can, even after my honorable discharge,” he says.
As stories such as SPC Chenevert’s are told during the workshops, there is a sense of understanding among the attendees. Participants can relate to one another and the challenges they have all faced. Veterans Songwriting Collective sessions are filled with laughter, tears and the comfort that comes from being with those who understand. While the goal is for veterans to come together to write a song about shared experiences, the journey and bonding that occurs are the true takeaways.
Thanks to the expertise of Doug and his team, these shared stories are transformed into meaningful songs. Doug and his workshop co-creator, Sarah Burke, have partnered with Nashville Star finalist and Army Specialist David St. Romain, to voice the songs and a team of BR Music Studios musicians supply the rhythms. There truly is a magic in the experience as men and women who once felt their story was unheard, now have the opportunity to hear their story in song.
Specialist Chenevert says the Veterans Songwriting Collective experience was incredible and he is confident it can help other veterans who are struggling with their challenges. This sentiment around music therapy is gaining traction. Music therapy has existed since the early 1800s with the first university music therapy courses introduced in the 1940s. Now, the National Endowment for the Arts is working with the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs to help members of the military deal with issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder. According to Creative Forces, which is a National Endowment for the Arts initiative that works with military personnel, music therapy can help “optimize feelings of safety and reduce perceptions of threat during emotional risk-taking.” The organization also points out that music therapy “contributes to improvements in social integration, quality of life, and overall motivation in the recovery process.”
After seeing the value of the initial pilot sessions, the Louisiana Division of the Arts and the Lt. Governor's office have begun the process of approving two additional workshops in the spring of 2020. Doug and his team are especially interested in bringing the events to smaller, more rural areas so that more veterans can easily access them. In the meantime, songs such as those inspired by SPC Chenevert’s own experience will serve as a reminder of those who serve and the sacrifices they make. “My grandmother absolutely cherishes it, as it was her husband who wore the hat,” says Chenevert. “We are very appreciative for the talents of Doug Gay, David St. Romain, and all the others who volunteered their time to organize the event,” says Chenevert’s wife, Michelle. “Our family was moved to tears as we listened to the song created called ‘PawPaw’s Hat.’”
To SPC Chenevert, his grandfather and so many others, we say thank you for your commitment and service. Click here to listen to "Paw Paw's Hat."
Happy Veterans Day!
The Knights football team will host a first round playoff game this Friday, November 15th at 7 pm! The team finished the regular season with an 8 and 2 record after a win over Port Allen last Friday.
Congratulations to the Middle School boys cross country team! The team won their division at the St. Michael's Cross Country meet. The varsity boys and girls teams were runners up. Senior James Christian was the first place finisher in the varsity race. Next up - the state meet in Natchitoches on Monday, November 18th.
Friday night the Episcopal home crowd had one last regular season opportunity to cheer on senior members of the football team, as well as the cheerleaders, dance ensemble dancers, and drum corps musicians. Senior Knight at Episcopal is a special time for these students and their families as they celebrate the last regular season home game in an athletic career that may have lasted one season or numerous years. Students also had the opportunity to attend the Squires Club's Friday Knight Live.
To learn more about what it's like to be an Episcopal athlete click here. Seniors Sara Be, James Christian and Nick Johannesson share their thoughts on athletics and academics.
Episcopal student athletes of all ages have already had a great fall. Lower School students enjoyed an exciting flag football season. Fifth graders teamed up with sixth graders to play on the navy or gold flag football teams. Lower School students will also have the opportunity to compete in volleyball, which takes place in the spring.
This fall, the Middle School Knights competed in cross country, swimming, football and softball with tremendous results. The Middle School boys and girls cross country teams each won the Episcopal Round Table Run with four girls in the top 10 and three in the top five, and six boys in the top 15 and four in the top 10. At the West Feliciana Relays, the Middle School boys broke the course record by 1:04 and recently they earned the metro championship title for their performance at Highland Road Park. The Middle School swim team earned a title of their own as they won the city championships and were named Division 2 champions. There were numerous individual and relay champions, including Lucy Cramer, Ella Kate Johnston, Faith Johnston, Jack McConnell, Olivia Melancon, Ryann Richard, Rylee Simoneaux and Charlie Williams. In the opening meet, Middle School swimmer Olivia Melancon was an individual double winner. Three swimmers won their events – Olivia Melancon, Faith Johnston and Matt VanDeMaele. Rylee Simoneaux, Baylen Sims, Ryann Richard, Ella Stephens and Charlie Williams also placed in the top five in their individual events. The Middle School football team is well on their way to playing on Friday nights with an enthusiastic and engaged home crowd. The squad had a great season with big wins including a dominating victory over Dunham. The softball girls fielded a sixth grade team and a combined seventh/ eighth grade team this season. The teams fought hard all season with exciting contests against Dunham, Parkview, UHigh and Central. It will be exciting to see how these Middle School athletes continue to grow as they transition to Upper School sports.
Senior members of the Knights football team can be proud of the 8 and 2 season they put together. The squad won their Homecoming contest against Catholic High of Pointe Coupee and there have been numerous high scoring games in which the Knights simply ran away with the game. Junior Ryan Armwood’s name has been called throughout the season for scoring touchdowns for the Knights. Two Knights, RB Ryan Armwood and QB Dylan Mehrotra, were nominated for WBRZ Player of the Week honors. The first round of high school football playoffs gets underway this Friday, November 15th with the Knights hosting the game.
In what has become a tradition, the Knights cross country team is prepared for a trip to the state championship meet on November 18th in Natchitoches. Look for senior captain James Christian to make a big impact at the meet. James was recently the top boys runner at the St. Michael's meet. He also placed 5th in the Metro Meet and the Catholic High Invitational. Over the course of his senior year, he has put up personal bests and arrived at the line among the top six finishers at each event. However, James is much more than just a great athlete. Coach Dupe says James truly is a leader, staying after practice or meets to help pack up and really pitching in wherever he is needed.
The varsity swimmers will make their way west for the state swim meet on November 20th and 21st. Both the boys and girls teams finished in third place in the recent Capital City Swim League City Meet. At that meet, sophomores Eugene Jiang and Alexa Ryon Bennett earned individual wins and the 200 medley relay team of Ben Naquin, Evan Jurkovic, Nick Johannessen and Eugene Jiang broke a 16 year old Episcopal record by one-hundredth of a second.
The volleyball Knights made it to the first round of the playoffs! They faced Thomas Jefferson High School in the bi-district round earlier this week. The team put together an exciting season with big district wins against Capitol and Northeast and a fourth place finish in the Northeast tournament in September. They finished the regular season against Parkview Baptist for the Cox Game of the Week.
We hope you will support your Knights whether they are in Lower, Middle or Upper School. Mark your calendars now for upcoming winter sports dates. Go Knights!
This was the best day ever!
Such an exclamation is frequently heard in the kindergarten classrooms in Frazer Hall. Kindergarten students still have the enthusiasm and willingness to get messy and explore the world through play, while also reaching critical academic milestones. In many ways kindergarten is the sweet spot of Lower School. Here, students are developing skills that will forever change the way they interact with the world, such as reading, writing and adding. At the same time, Episcopal kindergarteners still have the opportunity to play and have fun while learning.
Recently, students in Sara Henderson’s classroom began putting books in their book box. The excitement for such an occasion is obvious in the wide grins on students’ faces. Students, teachers and parents have every reason to be excited about what is happening in Frazer Hall. Students may begin the school year only knowing letter sounds or recognizing the letters of their name, but by May they are reading. Kindergarten provides a tremendous transformation for these little Knights and it’s something Henderson is delighted to be a part of even after 17 years of teaching.
Kindergarten students are five or six years old. They are still filled with the wonder of exploration and discovery. They are eager to learn and eager to share what they have learned. Henderson and her fellow teachers, Maria Campbell and Erin Dufour, recognize this and intentionally make learning fun. “We try hard to balance between academics and play,” says Henderson. A sight word hunt, learning stations or pumpkin game day are examples of that balance. Students are having a great time on these adventures while also learning new skills.
"Let them be little."
Henderson says it’s important to remember that kindergarten students are still trying to make sense of their world. They may become overwhelmed with busy schedules and “big kid” expectations that are placed upon them. Allowing kindergarteners to be little and learn in age-appropriate ways helps them develop a love of learning that will serve as a solid foundation for their educational journey. For example, playing something as simple as Uno can be a great learning opportunity for kindergarten students. The classic card game helps them think strategically while also helping them with color recognition and fine motor skills. The same thing happens when they play with Legos, paint or make up performances in the puppet center.
Kindergarten is also a time when students are learning how to work with each other. Henderson says social/emotional learning is a big component of kindergarten learning. One example of this is the All About Me project in which students participate at the beginning of each year. Students share information about themselves and truly get to know each other. This helps them build a community and develop friendships with their classmates. Henderson says they use the responsive classroom approach to boost that sense of community throughout the year. Episcopal kindergarteners also have the opportunity to be a part of the larger school community. Each year, students are partnered with a senior as part of the senior buddies program. Senior students participate in special events with the kindergarteners, such as a Halloween party or the annual kite fly. The senior buddies program is one of Episcopal’s most beloved traditions with alumni remembering their buddy even after graduation.
Fundations, project-based learning, responsive classroom.
The kindergarten team is using best practices to help these little Knights reach their academic goals. The best part is that the teachers are staying true to the students’ age and tailoring the lessons in a way that resonates with five and six year olds. Whether students are making sets of ten using pumpkin seeds or visiting the band room to learn about sound, they are developing a true love for learning. Ultimately, the kindergarten adventures set the students up for continued success as they transition to first grade and beyond. They will be well prepared for adventures such as the first grade triathlon, the third grade vocabulary parade and the fifth grade global marketplace. These little adventurers are tomorrow’s leaders and we look forward to seeing where they go.
Are you looking for the right early childhood learning opportunity for your little adventurer? Episcopal is now enrolling for the 2020/2021 school year. Join us for a Lower School mini open house event on November 19th or December 3rd from 8:30 am to 10:30 am to learn more about the Episcopal experience. You can also contact our admission office at 755-2684, firstname.lastname@example.org or https://www.episcopalbr.org/admission.html for more information or to set up a campus tour.
What does it mean to be an Episcopal athlete? We asked Episcopal senior athletes to share more about their experience.
“Athletes at Episcopal must learn to have mental stamina, being able to truly balance academics with sports, pushing themselves in multiple areas of their lives to be the best they can be, sometimes exhausting but always fulfilling,” says swimmer Sara Be.
“The thing I most enjoy about being an Episcopal athlete is the community that comes from being on a team,” says swimmer Nick Johannessen. “It has always been good to know that I had friends across all grades due to the friendships I made through the swim team.”
“The aspect that I enjoy most about being an Episcopal athlete is the comradery that comes from being a part of a team,” says runner James Christian. “Every day, the team creates an atmosphere that is different than any other. You are surrounded by people who go through many of the same difficulties as you. When you are around these people, you can relax and just be free with others who understand if you are having a tough time.”
Academics are important for all three of these athletes. “Coach reminds us that academics are more important than athletics,” says James. “Coach Dupe teaches us every year of what he believes to be the priorities in life: First is God, second is Family, third is school/work, fourth is sports/extracurricular activities and last is social. To him, academics should be above cross country. This is what helps me juggle the two. I realize I need to prioritize school.”
Academics are equally important for Sara and Nick who are National Merit Semifinalists. Nick says while it is challenging to juggle the rigorous academic program at Episcopal while competing, it’s not impossible. “I learned to be more efficient with my time and listen to my body,” he says. “I also made sure to use my study halls and office hours to their maximum potential, meeting with teachers, and doing homework during these times. Staying ahead on homework helps minimize some of the stress caused by the time crunch of practice and schoolwork.”
Episcopal truly does provide students the opportunity to explore a diverse array of interests. “Being an athlete at Episcopal is not a label, it does not limit any individual,” says Sara. “The swim team has three students participating in drum corps, attending morning swim practice and nighttime football games on Fridays. The football team this year includes three boys who race to select choir after practice on Mondays. This diversity of talent and character within the athletics department is priceless; sports teams gather a spectrum of types of students, forming seemingly unlikely connections and relationships that end up possessing enormous value.”
Students gain a range of important life skills from their participation in sports. “From my athletic experiences, I have learned the values of competition, leadership, teamwork, and hard work,” says Nick. “From competition with teammates in practice to actual swim meets, competitiveness is a crucial component of swimming. Teammates are always pushing each other to improve and be better at practice. Swim meets are the chance for all that hard work to shine, where you can prove to yourself and others what all that hard work has done.”
“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” Coach Dupe. “This is a quote that we hear every year, and it represents one of the most important lessons I have learned from my Cross-Country experience,” says James. “It is always important to be willing to put in the hard work. No matter how good you might be at something, it is hard work and dedication that will get you the farthest in life.”
Team is Everything.
Putting together a successful team and a championship season, truly is a team effort. “As a member of relays, races made of teams of four, I have also learned the value of teamwork,” says Nick. “A relay would not work with only three people. It takes everyone on the relay to make it work. Relays are my favorite races to swim because there are other people to celebrate your team's success. It takes the hard work of all four swimmers for a relay to be successful, and it is a fantastic feeling when it works.”
“Being on a team also brings you closer to people you might not have ever known,” says James. “Those people can become some of your closest friends.”
Sara points out that even those who are not officially on the team contribute to success in meaningful ways. “To be invested and engaged with Episcopal athletics doesn’t necessarily mean enrollment in a sports team,” she says. “Positive energy radiates through the stands when students of all grades gather together to cheer on the football team. In this nature, students build networks of support, elevating the school spirit and overall quality of life at Episcopal through athletics. In other words, sports at Episcopal facilitate mutual support from students, people lifting each other up when they need it the most.”
Congratulations to all of the Episcopal athletes who are accomplishing great things in the classroom and in competition. Go Knights!
Teachers and students in all three divisions got into the Halloween spirit this year. Here’s a look at some of the fun.
Pumpkins with Pops
The smell of freshly carved pumpkins filled the Greer Center as first graders and their pops took part in the Pumpkins with Pops event. This annual tradition has become a favorite among families with dads using saws, knives and stencils to carve a variety of unique and clever designs. Students also had the opportunity to learn more about their pumpkins at the measuring and weighing stations.
How do you make a science lesson on the engineering process a little spookier and more exciting? Turn off the lights! Sixth grade teacher Stacy Hill challenged students to build a pumpkin pillar with only 20 notecards, scotch tape and scissors. The classroom was only lit with black lights and the pumpkins were painted with glow in the dark paint.
Trick or Treat!
Prek-4 students got an early start on their Halloween festivities with a little trick-or-treating in Upper School. Many of the teachers joined in the fun with costumes of their own.
Are you afraid of heights? How about snakes? Episcopal eighth graders enjoyed their retreat to Mo Ranch this week. Students participated in a range of team building and leadership activities including a ropes course and a canoe trip. There was also a chance to spend time in nature and to get up close with a few creatures. A panda and a few Care Bears were even spotted in the crowd.