By Alex Kaplan ’21
On January 8, Pingry welcomed back TanTan Wang ‘16, who visited to perform with his collegiate a cappella group, the Spizzwinks. Wang is currently a member of Yale University’s Class of 2020. During his time at Pingry, he was an avid member of the school’s drama and music programs. Wang was a longtime member and president of the Buttondowns, participated in multiple Pingry productions, and received two Pingry Arts Awards in 2016 – the Outstanding A Capella Group Award and the Pingry Drama “Bottom” Award. The Spizzwinks returned to Pingry as a part of their hometown tour, which takes the group through the homes of each of its members. The East Coast leg of the hometown tour featured performances in Summit and Millburn; eventually the group opted to add Pingry as a stop to their tour. The performance included a capella renditions of popular songs, as well as spoken word skits performed by the members of the Spizzwinks.
The concert had an overwhelmingly positive response from the community. Dr. Andrew Moore shared his thoughts, saying, “The Spizzwinks were wonderful.” He commented on the technique and song choice of the group, adding that, “They draw on a long tradition of a cappella music mixing traditional and current popular songs in their repertoire,” and that, “The group has continued a high level of performance skill in both choral blend and solo singing.” Dr. Moore fondly recounted his time teaching Wang, saying that, “TanTan was a real cheerleader for the music program at Pingry. He was an outstanding Glee Club president, and was supportive of everyone in the performing arts in our community.”
Wang is one of many great examples of Pingry alumni involved in the arts. Dr. Moore expressed his appreciation for alumni like Wang, remarking, “I am so proud of all of our Pingry alumni who have gone on to sing in many of the great collegiate choral groups throughout the country.”
By Meghan Durkin ’21
On Saturday, January 26, students arrived at The Westin Governor Morris in Morristown, NJ for Pingry’s annual winter dance, Snowball. Snowball is a “Sadie Hawkins”-style dance, in which girls traditionally ask boys to attend the dance with them. Students, dressed in formal attire, filled the hotel for a night of dancing, music, and friendship.
Last year, The Westin served as the location for Snowball for the first time. The venue turned out to be a terrific space, with a large dance floor, spacious lobby, and plenty of dining tables for students. Because it was so well-received by the community, Student Government decided to hold the dance at The Westin again. Upon arrival, students entered a main lobby where they could check their coats and bags. Up a flight of stairs, there was a buffet along with soft drinks and a dance floor.
The food choices were a highlight of the event, including macaroni and cheese, dumplings, and burgers. Student Body President Andrew Cowen (VI) agreed that “the food was great.” Along with the food, students could take pictures in the photo booth with props, while the event as a whole was photographed by Peter Chollick Photography. Helen Baeck-Hubloux (V) said, “I found the photo booth to be a very good experience for bonding.”
This year, music included both popular songs, like Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow,” and old favorites, like “Come on Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners and Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline”. Many students crowded the dance floor throughout the night, including Baeck-Hubloux, who added, “[I] had a wonderful time dancing with friends.”
Students agreed that Snowball served as a great opportunity to connect with classmates. Maile Winterbottom (IV) said that it is a “good time for the school to get together as a community and everyone to just bond over something super cool and fun and to get dressed up.”
Sydney Stovall (IV) said, “Snowball is a great time to get with friends and meet new people. You are all dressed up, so it’s a really fun atmosphere. Of course, it’s a good time to release some stress.” Snowball, once again, provided a time for the student body to come together with dancing, music, and food.
By Emma Drzala ’19
On February 22, six competitors sat on the Hauser stage waiting to present their speeches. Finalists Kaley Taylor (IV), Alexandra Weber (V), Carolyn Coyne (IV), Noah Bergam (IV), Jamie Wang (V), and Aneesh Karuppur (IV) qualified out of 20 other students in the preliminary round of the annual Lebow Oratorical Competition. Mr. Richard Karrat, the faculty advisor of Lebow for the last two years, said he loves working on this competition. He thinks, “Public speaking is an important skill to have. This competition allows for students to showcase their speaking skills as well as convey their thoughts and opinions to the school community.”
The assembly opened starting with Coyne. Her speech “Drink the Water” was centered around complaints. Coyne argued that we, as a community, are caught up on first world problems. Our complaints rarely dive beneath the surface. Coyne pointed out that about 2,000,000 per year people die of dehydration alone, and so, “Even if the glass is half empty, we should drink the water.”
Following was Weber. She began her speech, “The True Meaning of Music to my Ears,” by talking about the tragedies her family had gone through in the last year. A song that got her through her hard times was Led Zeppelin’s “Thank-You.” Weber opened up to the audience, telling them how music is a communicator and can change your life if you allow it to. She ended the speech by telling us to, “Find your song, and enjoy your ride.”
Bergam opened his speech by reminiscing on a day in a Starbucks cafe. In his speech “Chasing Memes,” Bergam questioned memes. He noted memes as a way around the complexity of life. He challenged the audience to not chase shallow behavior, and instead to find a deeper understanding of themselves. Bergam stated, “What intrigued me the most about the topic was both its scientific theory as well as its timeliness, in an Internet-driven world. I really enjoyed delving into this idea as it related to my own identity as well as the integrity of our communication at large.”
The next speech was “Be Open and be Aware” by Taylor. She told us about how, in the last year, she realized the limit of how sensitive the Pingry community can really be. Taylor confessed some of the personal happenings within her family and related the speech back to her original thought that we all need to be more open. Lastly, Taylor reminded us to connect with others on a deeper level and to get to know someone beyond their smile.
Wang’s “Barking Up the Wrong Tree” followed. She started the speech by telling the audience about a crush she once had. She went on to date him, but it didn’t work out. A year later, Wang went on to join the robotics team. She had the realization that she had no more free time and started wondering what she really loved. As the speech came to an end, she reminded the audience to find something that we really love and run with it.
The final speech was “The History of Pingry” from Karuppur. He said, “I drew my inspiration from a summer internship I did. I was inspired by the school and its development.” Karuppur showed us of some of Pingry’s flaws and myths to remind the community that the school has its own complex and dynamic history, despite how many view it ass monolithic and unchanging. He impressed that we are building a foundation for the future; we are making history.
At the end of the assembly, Taylor was chosen as runner-up and Bergam was named the winner.
By Eva Schiller ’21
On the first day of Chinese New Year, Quzhou(衢州), China, was filled with warmth and gaiety. School and work went on break as people returned home to their families and celebrated the coming of the new year. But for twelve students from Quzhou Number 2 High School, the first day of Chinese New Year meant saying goodbye to their families and boarding a plane to the other side of the world.
On the evening of February 5th, these students landed in Newark, New Jersey and were welcomed by Ms. Yi Hao, Pingry Chinese teacher, and several Pingry host families. Over the next week, they explored foods, activities, and places that highlight American culture. On the Pingry campus, this included visiting the lower school, observing Chinese classes and speaking with the students, hiking to Pingry’s green campus features, and watching school sporting events. The twelve students and their English teacher even sang a beautiful medley of American and Chinese songs at the Lunar New Year assembly.
Outside of Pingry, the host families were tasked with planning their guest’s activities. These included, but were not limited to, shopping in New York City, skiing, visiting famous museums, and trying fro-yo and Chinese takeout. In fact, many of the students had a delicious taste of apple pie (an American classic!) during their stay. These activities were truly the highlights of the exchange, as the students got to “see the similarities and differences in American and Chinese teen culture,” according to Monica Chan (IV), one of the host students. By showing their guests how to eat toast (use your hands, not a fork), use Snapchat, and bowl, the hosts discovered the joy “of introducing someone to a new culture, and watching them grow as they try new things,” in the words of Guan Liang (IV).
Although the Chinese students are all studying English, the exchange also encouraged Pingry students to work on their Chinese skills and reach across language barriers to connect with their guests. Alex Strasser (VI) commented, “Hosting has been an amazing experience for me, and it has reinforced my desire to study Chinese language and culture in college.”
Although the Chinese students were only here for one week, they formed loving, lasting relationships with their host families. At the farewell dinner, each guest and host made an impromptu speech about their experiences, and how they would “remember it all, forever,” according to JiaYi, the guest of Eva Schiller (IV). Tears were shed by both hosts and guests during the event as they reminisced about the week and reminded one another to keep in touch. Many of the speeches also included a heartfelt thank-you to Ms. Hao and Mr. Jeff Jewett for their hard work and time spent planning.
After leaving Pingry, the students visited tourist spots in Washington D.C. and New York City, sending photos to their host families along the way. Monica Chan’s guest, Ming, described the exchange best: “Good food, good people, and I had a wonderful time!”
By Armani Davidson ’19
Black History Month was established to honor the accomplishments of African Americans throughout U.S. history. On Friday, February 1, Upper and Middle school students came together for the annual Black History Month Assembly. The assembly paid tribute to Black History Month with student performances including singing, dancing, acting, and poetry. Nolan Baynes (IV), one of the presidents of the Black Student Union, noted that, “With this assembly, we wanted to display the gravity of Black History in a new and creative way to grab the attention of our peers.”
The Pingry Buttondowns and Balladeers opened the assembly with the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by J. Rosamond Johnson and James Weldon Johnson. The Buttondowns and Balladeers were followed by a group of middle schoolers who reenacted pivotal moments that took place during the Civil Rights Act, such as the first student sit-in in Greensboro, North Carolina, Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington, and Rosa Parks’ refusal to stand for a white passenger on a Montgomery bus. These middle schoolers “time traveled” using a time capsule full of mementos alluding to historical events to illustrate the hardships and progress that occurred during the Civil Rights Movement.
Members of the Black Student Union, including Kamal Brown (VI), Solape Fakorede (VI), Rashida Mohammed (VI), Nia Phillips (VI), and Veronica Williams (VI) performed “I, Too” by Langston Hughes. The poem describes how Hughes is able to identify as an American, even though he is the “darker brother.” Williams said, “Reciting Langston Hughes’ “I, Too” made me feel proud as I was able to stand strong in my own skin.”
Da Boyz, from North Star Academy Clinton Hill Middle School in Newark, NJ, performed an award-winning step routine. Stepping, a type of dance that uses movement, words, and sounds to communicate, is a tradition in African and black communities that originated in the 1900s. Angelina Mayers (VI) felt that “The Black Student Union did a great job with the poem, “I, Too,” as did the step group from North Star. It was so riveting! I was excited and empowered to celebrate Black History Month.” The assembly ended with the Balladeers singing “Imagine” by John Lennon.
Phillips, one of the presidents of BSU, said that “The Black History Month Assembly was a chance for not only the Black Student Union, but also the middle school to pay homage to the African Americans in history who have done so much for the progress of society.”
By Brooke Pan ’21
Pingry for Girls Empowerment (P4GE) is a new club in Pingry this year, looking “to raise awareness on contemporary issues affecting women and girls both nationwide and around the world,” according to club co-leader Eva Schiller (IV). The other co-leaders, Emma Huang (IV) and Sydney Stovall (IV), join Schiller to broaden the scope of girls’ empowerment both within and outside the Pingry community.
The club consists of a group of students interested in learning more about the fight for women’s rights and taking a more active role in advocating for women’s rights in today’s society. Although it was only established this year, P4GE has already gathered a diverse group of students who are eager to participate in the rich opportunities the club has to offer.
One of the main priorities P4GE leaders had when creating this club was differentiating it from Girls’ Affinity group, a group with similar interests. “The Girls’ Affinity group is definitely an extremely important asset to the school, so we wanted to make sure [our missions] weren’t clashing,” Stovall explains. “An Affinity Group is designed to bring people together that share the same identity to discuss topics that relate their shared identity. P4GE strives to be open to all genders because we believe women’s equality should not solely be an issue to women.” P4GE hopes to attract any student who shares the same goals as the club by hosting fun activities at each meeting.
The success and popularity of P4GE can be attributed to the creative ideas and opportunities the leaders have. When asked about her reaction to the response of the club, Schiller adds, “The leaders and I were very excited at the response of our club. Right now a large part of our club consists of sophomores, but we got a lot of attention at the club fair, and can hopefully expand further as we plan more activities.”
These activities include “female guest speakers from varying backgrounds to talk about female empowerment on a small panel,” according to Stovall, as well as “[taking] action by writing letters to government representatives” according to Schiller. With these plans in mind, the leaders hope to spark an interest for others to take initiative as well.
One of the first outside–of–school events the leaders planned was a trip to the Women’s March in New York City, NY. However, due to forecasts suggesting unfavorable weather, the trip had to be cancelled. Fortunately, the Women’s March did not go unattended as Grace Wang (IV) travelled to the city to attend the march. “I was disappointed when the trip got cancelled because I was really looking forward to it,” says Wang. “I decided to go anyway. It was such a nice atmosphere, and I had a great time!”
This year, P4GE hopes to encourage more students to participate in their club and to build on the environment at Pingry as a whole. The leaders are excited to see what the future brings for P4GE, and they aspir
Brian Li ’22
On February 21, 22, and 23, Pingry’s Drama and Music Department performed this year’s winter musical Rent, a Pulitzer-Prize and Tony Award-winning production by Jonathan Larson. Influenced by Giacomo Puccini’s opera La bohème, Rent follows a group of impoverished young artists suffering from HIV/AIDS struggling to establish themselves in New York City’s Lower East Side.
The musical focuses on two roommates on Christmas Eve: Mark (Nick Grimaldi ‘19), a struggling filmmaker and Roger (Ian Dugan ‘19), a previously successful but now troubled rock musician. One of their friends, Tom Collins (Lucas Vazquez ‘19), plans to meet the two at their apartment, but is attacked and beaten. Meanwhile, Mark and Roger’s former friend and current landlord, Benny (Rajeev Doraswamy ‘19), demands last year’s rent, but the two roommates refuse to pay. On the street, a cross-dresser called Angel (Leo Zhu ‘19) finds Collins and the two instantly fall in love, revealing to each other that they are HIV positive. Roger is also HIV positive, contracted from his previous girlfriend. He tries to write a song on his guitar, but fails, and is interrupted by Mimi (Katerina Deliargyris ‘19) knocking on the door. They instantly feel attracted to each other, but Roger pushes her away.
Out on St. Mark’s Place, Maureen (Dorothea Miller ‘19), a performance artist, begins her performance to protest Benny’s eviction of the homeless. Afterwards, all the protesters meet at the Life Café, but they see Benny there. He announces that “Bohemia is dead,” but the protesters celebrate “La Vie Boheme.” Beepers go off to remind them to take their HIV medicine. As a result, Mimi and Roger discover that the other is HIV positive and decide to begin a relationship.
The next summer, Angel dies. After his funeral, Mimi reveals that Roger has sold his guitar and bought a car to leave New York. Roger responds by saying Mimi is back with Benny, her previous boyfriend. Roger leaves for Santa Fe, and after a while, returns to visit his old friends with the intention of showing them the song he wrote in Santa Fe. Suddenly, Maureen and Joanne (Alessia Zanobini ‘19) carry Mimi into the apartment, who collapsed out on the streets. Roger pleads for her to live and sings Mimi the song he took a year to write. After appearing to die, she abruptly wakes up to everybody’s shock. The family has come back together and agree that there is “no day but today.”
Director Mr. Alan Van Antwerp brought his dramatic expertise to the winter musical. With a background in managing and performing in professional and community productions, Mr. Van Antwerp was able to unlock the full potential of all the cast members. Although Rent was his first time serving as the director of a Pingry production, Mr. Van Antwerp created a passionate and supportive environment for everybody. In order to allow the audience to see the magic within the performance, Mr. Van Antwerp taught the cast and crew about the importance of collaboration. Deliargyris elaborated, saying, “Having Van as the director, he’s amazing, and I feel extremely lucky that I’ve gotten the chance to work with him.” Combined with a group of phenomenal performers and students, the musical was breathtaking and captivating.
Mr. Van Antwerp also served as the lighting designer, while Mr. Sean McAnally was the sound director. Dr. Andrew Moore directed the pit orchestra. The stage managers were Grace Brown (VI), Udochi Emeghara (VI), and Allie Matthias (VI). Ms. Jane Asch and Mr. Christopher Abbott worked tirelessly to create the set for Rent, along with help from the students and parents.
Deliargyris, who played Mimi, said that Rent was much more serious than the previous two musicals. “Trying to portray that message has been something I’m very grateful for and I think it’s very important that we show the message to the school.” When asked what she will miss most about the Drama Department at Pingry, Deliargyris said, “I’m going to miss the community aspect of drama here and the teachers, as they always push you to be your best. I just love how everybody always loves coming to see the shows.”
By Rhea Kapur ’21
On February 8th, the highly anticipated Lunar New Year Assembly opened with a bright, lively rendition of the traditional dragon dance. This was performed by students from the Form II Chinese class with taiko drumming by Mr. Christopher Leone in the background. During this standard component of festive Chinese celebrations, students maneuvered a long dragon figure using poles positioned throughout the body to simulate the “river spirit,” which the dragon represents. Dragons also symbolize Chinese culture and are thought to bring good luck for the new year.
The 2019 Lunar New Year began on February 5th and ended on the 19th. As per the zodiac calendar, 2019 is the Year of the Pig – the 12th animal in the 12-year cycle of Chinese zodiac signs. In China, pigs generally symbolize wealth. Those born in the Year of the Pig are thought to be blessed with good fortune, happiness, and success later in life.
First, and a definite highlight from this year’s assembly, were 12 exchange students from Quzhou No. 2 High School, Pingry’s sister school in southeastern China. The students, who visited Pingry for 2 weeks and were hosted by the families of various Upper School students, first introduced themselves to the school and then proceeded to sing songs they had prepared that reflected the spirit of their city and school.
Next, the brother-and-sister dynamic duo, Elbert Ho (Grade 6) on piano and Felicia Ho (VI) on violin, performed a duet of the traditional Chinese folk song “The Joy of Spring” to welcome in the spring, all while dressed in traditional Chinese clothing. Belinda Poh (III), Francesca Rainuzzo (IV), Udochi Emeghara (VI), and Annaya Baynes (VI), members of the K-Pop Dance club, followed with another energetic, more modern performance of “DDU-DU DDU-DU” by the K-Pop girl group Black Pink.
The Taiko Drumming Club introduced a new performance piece, “Dokokara,” during the assembly, featuring solos by Noah Bergam (IV), Julian Lee (IV), Justin Li (IV), and Guan Liang (IV). This year’s piece was “one of the hardest yet, especially in terms of technique” said Lee, “with many complicated elements that involved interaction between us four soloists – we had to pass the beat back and forth.” Next was The Purple Swans Dance Troupe, a group focused on displaying the beauty, ideas, and significance behind Chinese culture through peking opera, which combines opera with dancing, acting, and acrobatics. Many members of the Pingry community belong to this group, and some took part in their dance performance during the assembly, titled, “The Song of the Pear Blossom.”
New additions to the 2019 assembly included Natalie DeVito (III)’s recital of the poem “Facing the Sea by the Warmth of Spring” by the famous poet Hai Zi entirely in Chinese. The closing element, an exclusive interview with Pingry Sage Dining Executive Chef Mr. Won Ho, a Chinese immigrant, and James Wang (V) was also a highlight. Overall, the many diverse performances of this year’s Lunar New Year Assembly emphasized the beauty of Chinese culture and its core virtues, something to remember and look back on for the year to come.
By Noah Bergam ’21
Once meant as a method to curb nicotine addiction, vaping has become an increasingly widespread practice among American youth. As the number of vaping high school students across the country rises, it has become ever more important for teens, as well as parents, to understand the health risks of the practice.
For all their flavors and attention in the media, vaping devices, also known as e-cigarettes or e-vaporizers, have had their share of controversy among Pingry’s own community in recent years. As such, all of Pingry’s health classes have already made sure to include important information about the relatively new trend in their curricula. However, until now, parents have mostly been left out of the loop. In response, the Health Department put on an informative health and wellness presentation for parents for the first time about the issue on November 28th.
Led by health teacher Mrs. Nancy Romano and Health Department Chair Mrs. Susan Marotto, the presentation was a response to a request from a number of Pingry parents who wanted to know more about the consequences of vaping devices.
“We wanted to run the meeting to tell parents about some of the risks of vaping,” said Mrs. Marotto. “We wanted to give them information about what vaping devices are, some of the dangers involved, and how they can talk to their children about it.”
Real vaping devices were on display for parents throughout the 75-minute presentation. Overall, it was a very informative night for the community.
By Monica Chan ’21
On November 20th, the final day before the start of Thanksgiving break, the Buttondowns serenaded the Upper School in Hauser Auditorium at their annual Buttondowns Assembly. The elite boys’ acapella group is led this year by president Rajeev Doraswamy (VI) and vice president Ian Dugan (VI).
The assembly began with the highly anticipated Buttondowns movie, an annual tradition. The three-movie format was inspired by “Edgar Wright’s unofficial ‘Cornetto Trilogy,’ a film trilogy with the same actors, themes, and creative team,” according to Dugan.
The seniors in the Buttondowns had been planning the movie for a long time, as evidenced by clips of the seniors throughout the years. To this, Dugan elaborated, “The introduction to the film was written back when we filmed in the BAC construction site as freshmen, and we left it open ended as to be able to take whatever creative direction we wanted.”
At the end of the movie, the Buttondowns ran down the flight of stairs to the stage wearing their namesake white button down shirts, khakis, and of course, no shoes. The first song was Bruno Mars’ “Marry You” with soloists John Robertson (V), Ore Shote (IV), and Alex Kaplan (IV). “I always learn something from performing in front of crowds. In this case, I learned how to lend attention to the people behind me while still singing correctly,” Kaplan reflected.
The next song had a more R&B feel: “Juke Jam” by Chance the Rapper, with soloists James Wang (V) and Nolan Baynes (IV). This is the second year the two have paired up for a song at the annual assembly. Baynes said he enjoys performing with Wang because, “I think that chemistry between us shows when we sing together, which is really unique.”
Nabeel Jan (VI) and Dugan sang next with the 1980’s hit “Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield. Jan mentioned that he really enjoyed performing this particular song as both he and Charlie Malone (V) arranged the music together.
Finally, Rajeev Doraswamy (VI) and Henry Wood (IV) sang the closing song, George Erza’s “Budapest.” Wood appreciated how the song’s lyrics, “generally talk about how love is more important than anything else.”
Doraswamy spoke after the assembly about his years in the Buttondowns group, reflecting that, “It hadn’t hit me that it was my last assembly until it was over; once it did end, I felt a huge sense of gratitude to those who put countless hours in, and definitely some sadness that it was my last one.” He thanked Dr. Andrew Moore, “who was there for me all four years and has never wavered in his support for the group.” Doraswamy also thanked his fellow seniors Dugan, Jan, Thomas Campbell, and Ryan Henriques, as well as the entire class of 2019, “who have cheered us on from freshman year until now.” He also thanked Dugan for the immense effort he put into the Buttondowns movie.
The event was widely enjoyed by the whole Upper School, apparent by the loud applause. As a final note, Doraswamy said, “All in all, I’m really proud of the boys, and I’ll definitely be looking back on it with a real sense of both happiness and sadness.”