Student Feature Fridays

Nandini Mandaloju

image1This week’s Student Feature Friday is sophomore, Nandini Mandaloju who has devoted her time, energy and passion to helping others and exploring her culture through dance and music. Since she was 6 years old, Nandini has practiced one of the classical styles of Indian dance called Kuchipudi. By her 4th or 5th year, she was developing her talent and love for dance. She describes being on stage as “acting as different characters, allowing her to express her emotions in new ways.” In addition, Nandini is an avid singer of classical Indian music. “Singing and dancing allow me to stay closer to my heritage by singing in multiple Indian languages. It’s a culture blast and lets me feel closer to my ethnicity.”

Nandini is also passionate about helping others. Last summer she volunteered at a senior center where she served food to elders. The experience was life changing for her and she describes “an inner happiness you get from working with them.” She felt that she was able to bring a little happiness into their lives through service to others and it has inspired her to pursue a career as a doctor. Although she derived inspiration from this experience, she is truly an inspiration to others by her compassion and selfless devotion to the community. She plans to explore her love of art and science by studying medicine and continuing with multiple forms of art as a hobby.

Q: During our conversation you discussed your passion for art and science. How do you see yourself incorporating both into your life for the foreseeable future?

A: Art and science are often considered as polar opposites, but I always believed that I can incorporate both together in my life. Since childhood, I have developed a passion for art. Similarly, science had been a big area of interest which I wanted to pursue when I get older. Finding a way to blend my two favorite passions, I decided to create a science integrated art camp for elementary and middle schoolers. This way, I could satisfy both areas of interest and help elementary and middle schoolers develop a love for art and science as well. Running this camp inspired me to make art my leisure pastime in which I would be able to raise money towards philanthropic purposes. I see myself making science my career and art my hobby.

Q: You were chosen to participate in the Metrowest Youth In Philanthropy and had to work with other students to identify two non-profit organizations to donate money to through fundraising and money from the organization. Can you explain what this process was like and why you wanted to be involved?

A: After an interview with Youth in Philanthropy over the summer, I was chosen to participate in a 15-week long program which lasted throughout the first semester of the school year. Youth in Philanthropy (YIP) is an experiential leadership development program designed to empower and educate local youth to become our community’s next generation of philanthropists–those who give their time, talent and treasure for the common good. The project in YIP is to award two nonprofit organizations $5,000 each. The Metrowest Foundation will provide $9,000 while as a group we have to raise $1,000. After reviewing about 7 grants, we selected and visited four potential grantees, and cut it down to two organizations. We ended up raising $1,050 to go towards Waypoint Adventure and Horizons (Dedham). As a group, we made a major board presentation to convince the Metrowest Foundation to approve our decisions. Once the decisions were approved, we went ahead and awarded two nonprofits.

I wanted to be involved in YIP because I was always in love with humanity. I always wanted to give back to my community and see how local nonprofits work. Also, I saw this as a great opportunity to develop more leadership skills, see the needs of my community, and learn to work in a professional environment by participating in the grant evaluating process. YIP was an eye-opening experience because I got to see many communities work together to make a difference. This program has inspired me to give the proceeds of the science-art camp towards a local animal shelter and possibly open a nonprofit organization when I get older. The biggest takeaway from YIP is that philanthropy comes from the heart.

Q: What leadership skills have you developed through your participation in so many different activities and what have you learned about yourself?

A: My participation in so many different activities definitely helped me improve my leadership skills. Working at Kumon with children of ages 3 to 9 expanded my knowledge on how to take initiative in order to help students achieve their highest potential while making their learning environment fun. This gave me a sense of enjoyment and connection with them. I took responsibility in making the students finish their work on time. With improved communication skills, I motivated students to do well by having them set a goal every week I see them. Spending positive time with them helped me gain more confidence.

Also, dance and music gave me a rising sense of achievement and taught me humility and grace. I learned that hard work pays off with great perseverance. Lastly, volunteering at the senior citizen center made me realize that most seniors have life experiences and a wealth of knowledge much different than other younger generations. Furthermore, I noticed that smiles are universal – a smile can make one’s day. Altogether, all the activities I participated in made me a better person.

Q: Through dance, music, and volunteerism you have clearly developed a strong sense of who you are, what you are passionate about and where you see yourself in the future. What advice do you have for students who have yet to find their passion or direction?

A: It is okay if you haven’t found your passion yet because it is never too late to start. Try to stay open-minded and savor a different experience every day because you never know when something strikes a chord within you. Also, stay true to yourself and choose activities which lead to your happiness. Finally, focus on yourself and let go of any inhibitions you have.


Student Feature Fridays

Jayden Seto

IMG_0007This week’s Student Feature Friday is senior Jayden Seto. It is very apparent from talking to Jayden that he has a clearly articulated plan for the future, a plan that he has worked hard to create. As soon as a conversation with Jayden begins, it is hard to miss the maturity and self-awareness he exudes. Jayden is a self-described conversationalist and has found a path that will leverage his strengths and love of interacting with people, combined with a passion for politics. Next year he plans to attend Norwich University, participate in the ROTC program and major in political science. After graduation he looks forward to law school and feels that his time spent working with Mr. Marsden during his senior internship this year has solidified his decision to practice law.

In addition to his senior internship, Jayden dedicated a portion of the school year to designing and creating a website geared towards helping students understand the political arena and educate themselves on the different political parties in the United States. The project encountered its challenges along the way but Jayden persevered and felt it was a huge learning opportunity for himself. He has a bright future for himself in law and politics and looks forward to continuing to develop his leadership skills so that he can help others along the way.

Q: Earlier in the year you completed a senior project, creating a website to inform students of different political views of each party. Can you provide a little background on the website, what you were hoping to accomplish and why this project resonated with you?

A: When I elected to do a senior project, I knew that I must do something exciting that would also help better Holliston High school. One way I was able to personally connect with a wide range of people, is through American politics. I had the opportunity to take the lead in making something that I am passionate about. My ultimate goal was giving the students of Holliston High School a way to formulate their own political opinions during such a turbulent time in American politics. Although that was my goal, unfortunately, I am not able to push this project further or keep it to date, because I am graduating and cannot find students that are willing to continue this project.

Q: During our conversation I was struck by how clearly you were able to articulate your vision for the future. How did your internship with Mr. Marsden affect your desire to study law?

A: Working at my Internship with Mr. Jay Marsden was one of the best learning experiences I have had in my high school career. Articulating the future is one of the most important things anyone can have; it allows you to choose your own future, and do what you want to do. This internship helped me to look toward the future and see what I want to do for the majority of my life.

Q: How did you develop such strong self-advocacy and leadership skills during your high school career?

A: Although I have a learning disability, I was able to compensate in areas that I wasn’t as strong in. I also learned how to self-advocate for my needs in order to gain access to all of what our educational system offers. Leadership, leadership is a whole different ball game. Leadership skills are something that some people are born with, and others need to learn over time. I don’t see myself as a leader, but I have an undeniable thirst for learning and trying new things – if that entails taking charge and being a leader, then that is what I will do.

Q: What advice would you have for other students who are still trying to identify their passion/area of interest?

A: The best advice I can give other people, is to go out and meet new people. If you know what you want to do, go out and meet different types of people within the field/with the same interests. You never know, one/some of these people might end up helping you in your endeavors/open up doors, teaching/showing you things you did not know, or being your colleague/boss.


Student Feature Fridays

Andrew Balestieri

Screen Shot 2018-04-04 at 11.04.12 PMThis week’s Student Feature Friday is senior Andrew Balestieri. Andrew began to discover his love of comedy when he had to dress as the profession he wanted to be at the 6th grade career day. He attended school that day as a comedian and realized he could make people happy through laughter. He further developed his skills of comedy, acting and performance when he became involved in the after school theatre program. His interest in performing was solidified when he had a leading role in Legally Blond and “sang his heart out”, only to receive a roaring response from the audience. When Andrew was asked about his passion, he stated that “if he had been asked two months ago he would have said comedy, but now he believes his passion to be making people happy with performance in general.”

In addition to Andrew’s love of theatre and comedy, Andrew has a strong sense of compassion for others and wants to help make a difference in the world. Most recently, he and a small group of students organized “The Unstoppable: Benefit for A.L.S. Research, dedicated to Mr. Wechsler.” The event was the culmination of a video project that started in his Communication class and grew into a Benefit event. Although Andrew had never worked with Mr. Wechsler, he knew of Mr. Wechsler’s years of dedication to HHS and his positive spirit. Andrew and his friends premiered their video during the event and gave an award to the student who emulated positivity (voted on my students at HHS). The event was a success and further illustrates the kind of character, compassion and person that Andrew wants to embody.

Q: Why do you consider performing for others to be your passion?

A: For me, performing for others is just the ultimate combination of adrenaline and making people happy. Being able to be heard is what I think everyone wants. Everyone wants a voice, and I’m no different, but beyond that when I’m able to get a reaction from the audience, I know that I’ve made their day better. Making people happy is my passion and I feel that there is no better way to do that than performance.

Q: Standing up on stage and performing a comedy routine is not an easy endeavor. What has the process of honing your craft taught you about yourself?

A: It is not easy at all. But what I have found is that I am in a constant state of performing, writing, gathering ideas. I could just be sitting in a class talking to anyone and I realize that in this conversation I am trying to make them enjoy themselves. I don’t want anyone who interacts with me to have anything other than a positive experience, and it is the same way on stage. The entire time I am on stage I am trying to convince the audience to listen to what I have to say, and to like me and such. But to a certain degree it’s also about not caring what people think, as the entire profession of comedy is that you and everything you say is meant to be judged and interpreted. So I would say that in honing my craft I have taught myself how to accept myself as a personality and how to present myself in a way that I see fit. But even more so I feel like I’ve learned a lot about how my inner mind works and how it thinks. I feel very in-tune with my mind which is something I am grateful for.

Q: What advice do you have for students who have not yet found their passion?

A: Stop at nothing to find it. And don’t knock anything until you’ve given it your fair shake. When I first tried stand up in Boston, I tried a crappy five minute set in front of a room full of slightly buzzed comedians who all wanted the same thing I did. That kind of rejection can make you believe comedy is not for you, but I stuck with it and now it is something that I love. And I also don’t think passions are limited to job titles. Maybe it’s jogging (god knows why) but maybe it is. Or maybe it’s giving 110% in your relationship. No matter what, you should always take chances to find your passion. (Completely cheesy sentence incoming) Chances are some of the best things we get, that’s why you have to take as many as you can get. So all in all I’d say if you don’t know what you are passionate about, explore, its okay to not know, just keep going until you find what it is that makes everything worth it. You know what they say: It’s not about the destination it’s about the journey…and a little bit the destination.

Q: During our conversation you talked about creativity being essential. What role does creativity play in your life and why do you think it is so important for a school to foster creativity?

A: Creativity is, in a nutshell, what makes the world turn. Why do we get up in the morning? To go and learn about the world and what we can do to change it. Life isn’t worth living if you can’t make it your own. The way I see it, we live in this planet and our entire species has built a world and culture and now all of humanity has led right to us, and now we get to contribute. How can we do that if we’re inputting numbers on a spreadsheet. I quote the great Robin Williams “No matter what anybody tells you, words and Ideas can change the world. And the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business engineering, these are noble pursuits, and necessary to sustain life, but poetry, beauty, romance, love these are what we stay alive for.” It could not be more true. We will go on to get jobs and chase money but in the end, art and human connection, that’s what keeps us all sane.  “That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?” Fostering creativity is about helping kids determine what their verse will be, and I think that is pretty vital.

Student Feature Fridays

Madeline Cerulli

Maddie CerulliThis week’s Student Feature Friday is junior Madeline (Maddie) Cerulli. Maddie is an active participant in Best Buddies, “The world’s largest organization dedicated to ending the social, physical and economic isolation of the 200 million people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). BESTBUDDIES® builds one-to-one friendships between people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), through school and community friendship programs that provide socialization opportunities to help erase the invisible line that often separates students or adults with and without IDD. Friendship programs include Best Buddies Middle Schools, High Schools, Colleges, Citizens, and e-Buddies.” (

Maddie is currently the Best Buddies chapter president and takes the responsibility very seriously. She helps to match Buddies, looking for common interests that will develop into strong, dedicated 1:1 friendships. She also organizes events for the group including a basketball clinic with the Holliston Boys Basketball team, bowling events, and trips to the aquarium. This month the group is planning several events surrounding the “spread the word to end the word” international movement, focused on ending the use of the “r” word, instead choosing “respect” and acting respectful without judgment. Maddie is truly a caring a remarkable person who is leading by example.

Q: Why is Best Buddies such an important organization for you to be part of?

A: Best Buddies is such an important group to be a part of, as it advocates for the inclusion of our amazing peers in the special education program who we may not have the opportunity to meet otherwise and form really strong relationships with. For me personally, I got involved because of my younger sister. As she is a part of the special education community, I have witnessed some of the challenges she has faced in feeling included in her school and community, and so I wanted to make sure that she and all my friends in the program have the best high school experience possible.

Q: It was clear during our conversation that you have found your passion working with Best Buddies and that you love talking about the group. What advice would you have for others who are still trying to find their passion?

A: I’m lucky enough to have found something that means so much to me, and I think for other people to find their passion, it’s important to have different experiences and be open minded. You never know when something can strike you as something that truly connects to who you are, and make you want to continue with it for the rest of your life.

Q: During our conversation you mentioned educating people about “people first language.” Can you explain what this is and why you feel it is critical for people to be aware of the language they use?

A: “People first language” is using vocabulary that puts the person first, ahead of the disability, or in general, just ahead of any label that might take away from who someone is beyond being part of a specific group. An example I love is if you’re introducing a friend of yours who broke their arm, you wouldn’t say “this is my broken arm friend”, because their broken arm is not more important than who they are as a person. It’s critical to realize that even this small change in language matters. It shows that you are seeing someone as more than that one characteristic, and in this case, as a person, not just their disability. This doesn’t mean that a disability isn’t a valid, respectable, part of who they are, but more that a disability does not solely define them.

Q: Not only are you a leader for Best Buddies but you also participated in the Rotary Youth Leadership conference last year. What was this experience like and what did it teach you about your own leadership style?

A: The Rotary Youth Leadership conference was an incredible experience that allowed me to meet other student leaders from around the state and learn skills that expanded our confidence in leading. I learned so much about using a platform to speak on behalf of a group, and also that leadership doesn’t just come in one form. I learned that my leadership can go past being a vocal presence, but I can also lead through quiet example.


Student Feature Fridays

Kelsey Logan

Kelsey Logan SFFThis week’s Student Feature Friday is sophomore Kelsey Logan whose maturity and varied writing experiences far surpass her age. Kelsey is clear that she wants art to be a part of her life now and in the future and is currently focused on exploring various forms of writing. After being introduced to poetry in 6th grade, she realized the complexity and ability to dissect the poetry was something that she loved and she continues to develop her own style by taking classes at HHS and online through other organizations.

In April, Kelsey will be competing with her team in the Louder Than A Bomb poetry competition. After taking a slam poetry class she auditioned for the competition by reading two of her pieces and was chosen to compete on a team with 3 other individuals from the Boston area. Kelsey gravitates towards free verse poetry because it provides the most mobility in her writing.

Kelsey is impressive in her ability to intentionally step outside her comfort zone and participate in other experiences that push her to develop her skills, challenge her thinking and grow as a person. Her goal as next year’s co-editor in chief of Enigma Literary Magazine is to highlight all different art forms, thus allowing her to highlight the work of so many different students. There is no doubt that the literary magazine is in good hands.

Q: As the soon-to-be co-editor and chief of Enigma Literary Magazine, what leadership responsibilities will you take on and why is this something you are interested in doing?

A: As a co-editor in chief, it will be my responsibility to understand, teach, and be involved in the process of developing the Literary Magazine. I will teach newcomers how we operate as a club, how we create the school’s magazine, and how to apply the skills built by the club to our daily lives. I hope to inspire and push the editors to publish a diverse collection of student work that demonstrates the voices of our peers.

I was welcomed into Enigma last year by the amazing co-editors in chief, editors, and club advisor, Mr. Murphy. I was inspired by all the club members and the kindness and laughter that we shared at each meeting. I was intrigued by the concept that by publishing the magazine, we were illustrating the innovation and creativity of our peers. I hope that as a co-editor in chief, I inspire other members of Enigma, as well as readers of the magazine, to find and express their voices.

Q: During our conversation, you described writing as your passion. What is it about writing that resonates with you?

A: I think that art allows us to connect to and understand each other. It enables us to share our stories and shed light on the aspects of society that we wish to change. I believe that writing is a form of art, and as an artist, writing allows me to share my experiences and develop my perspective of the world.

Q: You talked about this year (sophomore year) as an experimental year, trying winter track, taking an online writing class and taking a class at Mass Art. What have you learned about yourself through this process?

A: One of the hardest decisions that I’ve made was taking a break from dance. I’ve grown up with dance as a major part of my life and developed a bond from this art between my teammates. As my sister and I were on the same team, and held dance as something we shared, I was hesitant to leave the team and lose this connection. The commitment of being on a competitive dance team absorbed my time tremendously and I realized that if I continued to solely focus on this one aspect of my life, I wouldn’t be able to further develop other passions.

This year, I decided to leave my dance team and invest in my passion for art and writing. I took an online writing class that connected me with teens from around the world, receiving feedback from an instructor living in Paris at the time. The online class, as well as the writing electives I took at HHS this year, strengthened my skills and craft and gave me the confidence to audition for GrubStreet’s slam poetry team that represents the Boston area. On top of this, I was able to send my work to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and the outcome was being recognized as a gold key medalist. If I hadn’t had taken this year to pursue in this passion and dedicate myself to the craft, my writing abilities wouldn’t be where they are now.

The class that I took at Mass Art introduced me to various mediums of art. This class brought a group of people together that encouraged self-expression through the process of art – reminding me that life is a process, and that taking time to try new things is so important to discovering who you are and who you can become.

At winter track, I was surrounded by positive encouragement to push myself both physically and mentally. It was inspiring to see my teammates engaged in their event/s and be so supportive of each other.

By participating in these different activities, I realized that I am empowered by being around people that share a passion for a certain pursuit – whether that be a sport, art, or writing – as the energy of a shared love unites those involved.

This year has brought me to the realization that my future does not have to be as rigid as I envisioned it. But that I can branch out into other realms of activities and still appreciate and respect the path I came from. Looking back, if I had not taken this risk, there are so many connections to inspiring students from Holliston, and other towns, states, and even countries, that I would not have been able to make. I am so thankful that this experience allowed me to navigate my way by pursuing in my passions.

Q: When asked what advice you had for others just starting out as writers, you mentioned that it is important to find your voice. How did you go about finding your voice and how is that displayed throughout your writing and other forms of art?

A: Anyone that is just starting out as a writer should understand the importance of their perspective on society. Writing, as well as other forms of art, allow an individual to convey how he or she feels about a certain aspect of the community. Writing is a process that allows one to observe the world around them and illustrate and portray its beauties and flaws. I think that ‘voice’ is a process about taking a step back from society to understand your reaction to the constant change we are faced with. All of my life experiences come together to form the perspective that my work is produced from.

Slam poetry offers a platform for me to express my views of society and how I think we should change. The Louder Than A Bomb competition that my slam team will participate in is a place for our community to hear the voices of our youth.

Student Feature Fridays

Morgan Perry

IMG_2093This week’s Student Feature Friday is senior Mogan Perry who exemplifies leadership skills in both the academic and athletic settings. Morgan is a mature, responsible, kind and caring person who believes in the importance of strong, positive role models. She goes out of her way to assist others and works hard to create an open and welcoming atmosphere. As a result of her patience, compassion and competence she was promoted to “Chief of Early Learning” at Kumon in Natick. Morgan works with 3-7 year olds instructing them with carefully designed individualized programs. Her face lights up when she describes the rewarding experience of working with these students and knowing that she is helping them progress at their own speeds.

In addition to her devotion to her students, she is devoted to the athletic arena, playing both club hockey and lacrosse (earning a spot as captain during her junior year). When asked how she became interested in hockey, she described her early experience in learn-to-skate. Her parents had enrolled her starting at a young age, 6-7 years old, and after the class she would see the boys enter the ice for hockey. Her response: “why can’t I do that?” Years later, she continues to play club hockey, taking on the role of captain when her team went to Nationals and won. Although the leadership role may be different on and off of the ice, she continues to model high expectations for those around her.

Q: During our conversation you mentioned that you were promoted to “Chief of Early Learning.” What responsibilities do you have with this role and what leadership qualities do you feel are necessary to be successful when working at Kumon?

A: In my role as “Chief of Early Learning” I believe I am held to a higher standard and must make sure that I follow the “Kumon Method” strictly. I am always trying to answer any questions the other instructors may have or give advice and tips on making the process more efficient. I also train new hires and make sure that I observe how they are learning and correct them if I notice anything that they may not have mastered yet. I always have to be at the top of my game because with the children’s individualized learning plans it is very important to stay on task. To work at Kumon you must be patient, focused, passionate, hardworking, and creative. Over the years, I have gotten to observe the style in which each student learns and I adapt the way I approach each child accordingly. I have developed “games” that I use to get the students through the worksheets quicker and reward them with an extra sticker when they follow along. It is also really important that when you get to Kumon you are patient and kind. My boss who has become a great role model for me has always said “it doesn’t matter if you just failed a test or had a horrible day, when you walk through that door you put a happy face on”. This has stuck with me because kids will not understand if you divert any negative energy towards them. It can be hard to control two energetic 5 year olds, but being patient and kind makes it much easier.

Q: While instructing students through your work at Kumon, you mentioned that it has “sparked a passion for teaching.” What is it that you love about teaching and how has it changed your perception of your own teachers?

A: I have always been good with children and I enjoy anything that involves interacting with people. When I am with a student at Kumon I understand that it may be challenging, but I believe it is so important to begin to develop good learning habits even at a young age. My love for teaching was actually sparked at one particular moment in my first month at Kumon when I was helping a 1st grader in math. He looked down at his classwork and noticed “new symbols”: subtraction signs. I began to explain to him what subtraction was, gave examples, and by the end of the class he knew how to subtract. Seeing his attitude shift from the start to end of that class was one of the best feelings. Although just a basic thing like subtraction, I went home that day feeling so proud that I had just taught him something. I have so much respect for my teachers because now I can see truly how much effort goes into teaching. Explaining things can be so hard especially when a student is frustrated or confused, so when my teachers take that extra time to explain it makes me realize how much they care. Some students at Kumon will draw me pictures, give me a hug, or just tell me that they are so happy to see me. I always feel so much joy when this happens to me so I make sure to always thank my teachers for everything they do. I try to make close connections with my teachers and tell them how much I appreciate them because I know how much it can affect their days, just like it affects mine.


Q: The students you work with have individualized programs that are customized to their needs. Are there ways for teachers to bring this individualized approach into the high school setting?

A: At Kumon, each student has an individualized learning plan tailored to their learning level, style, and pace. Students are more successful when they can learn in a way that works for them, and I have seen this countless times throughout the years. Kumon also stresses independence because it allows students to get a real feeling for what they are and are not comfortable with. Naturally, it is easier for high school teachers to teach in the same way to each student because it is more efficient for the class as a whole. However, without completely changing the way their class runs, teachers could develop more choices. For example, some students are better working alone but some excel in collaboration with others. Some can spit out facts verbatim while others aren’t strong test-takers. Offering various types of assessments: essays, exams, projects, presentations, etc. is the best and easiest way to make sure that each student has an opportunity to showcase their strengths. The teachers that typically lecture and use PowerPoints could give a group assignment one day and those who tend to give lots of classwork can show a video. I think with assessment variation and different levels of courses, Holliston High School is doing a great job with trying to adapt to different learning styles while moving at the right pace.

Q: What is your leadership style and are there differences for you when leading in an athletic setting versus an academic setting?

A: I have always believed that there are many different types of leaders and I have learned this to be true through my leadership roles in academic and athletic situations. There is the strict “bad cop”, the spirit lifter, and the one who leads by example. My leadership style in athletics tends to be the hard worker and I strive to set an expectation for others to follow. I try to be a role model and take underclassmen under my wing because that makes a huge difference in team chemistry. In difficult situations I stay very positive and never give up because it only takes one person to bring a whole team down. In athletics you are leading your peers and it is your responsibility to earn the respect from your teammates. Sometimes captains have to make a decision for the team and not everyone will agree, but you have to get past that. I have found that being positive and kind is the best way for me to lead in an athletic setting. At Kumon, it is easy to lead because the kids know that I am the instructor and they automatically look up to me. In academics you have to create an authority for yourself which makes it easier to lead. Being a leader is a learning process, and sometimes you have to take on different leadership styles based on the situation.

Student Feature Fridays

Sarah Kennedy

Sarah KennedyThis week’s Student Feature Friday is senior Sarah Kennedy whose passion for music has become a major part of her life. In addition to singing, Sarah plays flute, guitar, piano and ukulele. She is a member of the band, participates in Act Two & Harmonics, and for the second year in a row, is representing Holliston at the All-State Festival. The Massachusetts Music Educators Association hosts the annual District and State level music festivals allowing high school music students to participate in advanced ensembles during the year. Through an audition process, the students first audition for their district’s festival (of which there are 5 districts across the state) in November. Half of the students who are accepted to either the band, chorus, orchestra or jazz band, are then recommended to audition for the State level festival. That festival happens in March and involves two days of concentrated rehearsals in Boston and then a concert in Symphony Hall.

Sarah described her first experience at the All-State Festival last year as a little nerve racking, as she was the only one chosen to represent Holliston. However, she also described the experience as pretty incredible and is looking forward to returning this year. She enjoys expressing herself through music and being able to put emotion to the notes. To Sarah, singing in the choir is the best feeling because it allows for everyone’s voices to come together to make one big, beautiful sound. She looks forward to continuing music in college and is thankful for the teachers who have strongly encouraged her to pursue her musical interests and talents.

Q: During our conversation we discussed your participation in All-States last year. What was your biggest take-away from this learning experience?

A: For me, the biggest take-away was the fact that I was constantly surrounded by people who loved making music just as much as I do.  Because of this, I gained great friends that I still keep in contact with now.  It was amazing to meet others who had such strong passions in not only music, but other areas as well.

Q: When did you first begin participating in the choir and how has your experience in the choir shaped your love of music?

A: I first started participating in choir in fourth grade when my music teacher urged me to audition.  I ended up earning a spot in the choir and I’ve performed in singing groups since then.  Choir has shaped my love of music by allowing me to work with others in such a different way than I was accustomed to and pushing me to become the best musician I can possibly be.

Q: When given the choice of describing music as a hobby or a passion you chose passion. Why is this so powerful for you?

A: Music has always been in my life and has constantly surrounded me, between family, friends, and myself.  It became a passion once I started performing with school groups and beyond school and I’ve also met some of my greatest friends through it.  It used to be a hobby, but has become such a huge part of my life that I wouldn’t be complete without it now.  While I’m pursuing science as a career, music is just as strong of a passion for me that I will continue to keep it in my life in any way I possibly can.

Q: What advice would you give to students who want to become more involved in music but are hesitant about their skills?

A: The advice I would give to those students would be to just go for it.  With music, you can’t be afraid to try new things, whether that might be joining a new music group or learning a new instrument.  If you don’t go for it, you could potentially miss out on a new passion within music and lose opportunities.  This didn’t come naturally to me-I had to constantly push myself to try things that I never thought to attempt.  Though it was hard at first, I discovered new things about music that I love and became more confident in my abilities as a result.