In less than two months, Episcopal Upper School students will put on a theater performance in the Black Box. Auditions are this week and once the cast is set rehearsals will get underway. However, the actual play has yet to be determined. Visual and Performing Arts Department Chair Paige Gagliano says such a twist is indicative of the exciting things you can expect from the Episcopal arts department this year.
This will be the first time in several years that an Upper School straight play will be offered as an extracurricular activity. (A straight play is a play with no singing and strictly speaking roles.) Middle and Upper School Drama Teacher Joe Reynolds will direct the production, which is scheduled for Tuesday, October 15th at 7 pm. Gagliano says after auditions, the theater team will determine the play based on the talent that presents itself. Such a fluid and flexible approach allows the teachers to tailor the play to the students. “Our musicals are so popular, but we have students who aren’t comfortable singing,” says Gagliano. Offering a straight play makes theater an option for these students. Additional options for students who are not available to rehearse after school is the Theatre Production class or the Acting Master Seminar. Both classes allow students to rehearse during class and produce a full length play.
In addition to the new theater production, there are also three new faculty members in the arts department this year. As described by Hugh McIntosh, Head of School, “As time allowed during the 2018-2019 school year, several of us worked together on plans that would provide stable leadership for the Arts Department, an exciting broader array of studio art offerings, and provide for additional opportunities for teacher-collaboration within the Arts Department. I know this will usher in a more unified and collaborative approach to the arts at Episcopal. Suffice it to say that students will have quite an array of choices in the arts areas at Episcopal. In discussions in late May with the 2019-2020 arts teachers their sense of excitement about 2019-2020 and the new initiatives was palpable.”
Doug Gay has joined the team as the Middle and Upper School Band Director. Veronica Hallock is teaching Middle and Upper School visual arts courses. In addition to teaching Middle and Upper School visual arts courses, Karen Koprowski-Stout is also serving as the Assistant Visual and Performing Arts Department Chair. Gagliano says all three have jumped right into the Episcopal arts experience and are blending well with returning teachers Christine Chrest, Caroline Hagan, Mary Kannenberg and Joe Reynolds. The new teachers are also offering new courses for students this year, including Middle School Forced Perspective and Optical Illusion Photography and Upper School Introduction to Filmmaking. You can read more about the new faculty below.
Gagliano says true to the Episcopal mission of educating the whole child, members of the arts department strive to meet students where they are in their artistic endeavors. “We care for these students and we want them to be comfortable and confident where they are,” she says. The arts team strives to reach every student in the class and connect and share experiences. Gagliano says art teachers have a unique perspective when it comes to educating students because of the vulnerability, empathy and confidence that art requires. “We are teaching life lessons,” she says of the role of an art teacher.
Episcopal art students have traditionally had tremendous success. Recently, nine members of the Class of 2019 moved on to study dance, music, theater or visual art at the university level. Episcopal AP art students had their work on display at the Baton Rouge Gallery. Choir students were chosen to audition for District IV Honor Choir and Episcopal was represented in the 2018 Louisiana American Choral Director’s Association All-State Choir. Last year, the concert band also earned Sweepstakes at the Louisiana Music Educators Association District IV Large Ensemble Festival. In addition, numerous Lower and Middle School students competed and participated in recitals and theater productions with Episcopal and community organizations.
Gagliano says this type of success is exciting and will continue because of the talent among the students. What will also continue because of the talent and commitment of the faculty is the dedication to the process of learning, growing and developing. “Art may push students a little out of their comfort zone, but the students are smiling and happy and that’s exactly how we want them to feel,” she says.
Mark Your Calendar:
Don’t miss your opportunity to catch the Episcopal artists in action this fall. Here are highlights of the upcoming season.
Introducing the New Arts Faculty:
After earning his bachelor’s degree in Music Education at Northwestern State University, Doug has worked as a professional musician and a music educator for over 20 years. A professional drummer, Doug worked as a high school band director in Baton Rouge for a number of years before starting his own music academy, Baton Rouge Music Studios. Students at BRMS can learn to play various instruments, as well as music theory, composition, recording techniques, and live production - many of the skills necessary for a successful career in the music industry. As a teacher, Doug works to ensure that students, whether they see themselves pursuing a musical career or not, are excited about music and that his class is a bright spot in their day. Doug is eager to return to teaching in a private school and will be teaching band classes in both the Middle School and Upper School.
Since earning her Master of Fine Arts in Studio Arts at LSU, Veronica has embodied the artist-teacher philosophy. Over the past four years, she has taught at both the university level and as a talented art teacher at the high school level, all the while showing her own work at over 15 exhibitions in Louisiana and across the country. As an artist, Veronica draws inspiration from literature and challenges her students to develop different perspectives for themselves. She sees art as a positive form of emotional expression that benefits all students. Veronica will be teaching visual art courses in both the Middle School and Upper School next year.
Another graduate of LSU, Karen has her master’s degree in Anthropology, Documentary Filmmaking, and Fine Arts. Karen has had an impressive career working in art restoration, as a professional fine artist, and in the TV and Film industry over the past 20 years. She then discovered her calling as a teacher and has been teaching art both in public schools and with the Arts Council of Baton Rouge, while continuing to work as a professional artist. Karen uses her broad experiences in art in her teaching. She views the various art mediums as the tools to bring ideas to life and uses whatever medium will best express her ideas. She tries to instill this flexibility in her own students. In addition to teaching various visual art courses in the Middle School and Upper School, Karen will be developing two new courses for this coming year: Forced Perspective and Optical Illusion Photography for 8th grade, as well as an Introduction to Filmmaking course in the Upper School. These new course offerings are the first in the development of an expanded digital arts program at Episcopal. In addition, Karen is serving as the Assistant Visual and Performing Arts Department Chair.
What is your favorite Episcopal arts memory? Share it in the comments below.