The fine arts program at Charlottesville City Schools infuses our schools with enrichment and experiences that encourage artistic expression at all grade levels. Here are just a few of the recent arts-related events and accomplishments we are celebrating.
Congratulations to our musicians who represented Charlottesville High School in the 2019 All-Virginia Choir, Bands, and Orchestra at the Richmond Marriott and Convention Center; culminating performances were held at the Carpenter Center. Pictured left to right, top row: Adria Cafferillo, Choir; Reid Dodson, Symphonic Band, Parker Nelson, Choir, Margaret Ann Doran, Choir, and Anna Bon-Harper, Symphonic Band. Seated: Sarah Garretson, Orchestra.
TheatreCHS students just returned from New York City where they participated in the Broadway Theatre Group Hamilton Summit. Students enjoyed two days of acting, dance, and vocal workshops with cast members from “Hamilton.” They will also visit the Upward Citizens Brigade Improv Club and saw “Hamilton” on Broadway in the Richard Rogers Theatre. Click here for news coverage of their trip.
The annual division-wide ArtConnections exhibit featured student art from across the division. Two evening open houses which included performances by the Walker and Buford School jazz bands gave the public an opportunity to celebrate the many talents of our kindergarten through 12th grade artists. A Saturday celebration attracted more than 600 visitors and featured hands-on art activities including letterpress printmaking with visiting artist Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr.
Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr. also conducted several letterpress workshops at our schools and other places in the Charlottesville-area as part of his “Finding Wisdom” residency with Virginia Humanities’ Virginia Center of the Book. Charlottesville High School art students got to make their own prints using their own words of wisdom.
Congratulations to the following CHS musicians who earned selection by competitive audition for the 2019 All-Virginia Orchestra and Band: Senior Sarah Garretson placed third chair cello in the All-Virginia Orchestra while junior flutist Reid Dodson and senior horn player Anna Bon-Harper were selected for All-Virginia Band.
The CHS Orchestra continues its tradition of excellence, recently earning top honors at the 2019 District Orchestra Assessments. The String Ensemble earned all “Superior” ratings and straight A’s in all 28 subcategories for their performance and sight reading at grade 6, the most difficult level of music. The top CHSO has earned a superior rating at every District Assessment performance at grade 6 since 1984. Here is a sample:
Meanwhile, the CHS Concert Orchestra earned all “Superior” ratings and nearly straight A’s in all subcategories for their stage performance at grade 5 and also earned “Excellent” for sight reading.
The Knightengales, Charlottesville High School’s all female ensemble, earned all Superior ratings at the District 13 Concert Assessment. Congratulations to (pictured left to right) Lolly Lynch, Anne Boura, Al-Nisa Utz, Casey Casarez, Emily Webber, Emma Harrison, Renee Lyons, Kyla Rose, Bobbie Jo Fassler, Eliza Smith, Sylvie Bowman, Courtney Snapp, Ceci Becker, Parker Nelson, and Esmerelda Lopez. The troupe recently performed with other Charlottesville-area women’s ensembles in a concert benefitting The Shelter for Help in Emergency.
Congratulations to the following CHS choir students who earned positions in this year’s All-Virginia Choir to be held in Richmond in April: (pictured left to right) Adria Cafferillo, Margaret Anne Doran, Parker Nelson, Eoin Sprinkle, Sarah Garretson, and Javier Fortune.
Meanwhile, the Buford Middle School Symphonic Band was one of three middle schools in our district to receive unanimous Superior ratings at District 13 Concert Band assessments. The band is now preparing to travel for their spring trip to the MUSICALE Festival in Williamsburg, Virginia in April.
Other Notable News
Buford Middle School 8th grade Civics and Economics classes visited Charlottesville District Court where they got to see what they are learning about in the classroom in real-time action. Thanks to Judge Downer, the court clerks, members of the Sheriff’s department, and the Commonwealth’s Attorneys for giving our students this valuable educational opportunity.
The CHS Black Knight Debate team hosted the VHSL Regional Debate Tournament which included schools from Blacksburg, Danville, Bedford County, Salem, and Sherando. CHS won first place in the Sweepstakes, and the following students will advance to Super-Regionals in April: LINCOLN-DOUGLAS- Dani Szabo (1st), Ellie Detert (4th), and Alex Ralston (5th ); PUBLIC FORUM – Lena Keesecker & Talia Sherman (3rd) and John Emery & Maisie Fischman (4th).
Walker students in Mrs. Scheiber’s 6th grade Language Arts classes participated in the Charlottesville League Debate competition at Jack Jouett Middle School. They had to debate the topic, “The benefits of zoos outweighs the harms.” Congratulations to this group of first-year debaters which includes the following teams: Olivia Wade and Cyrus Wyatt, Zoe Kershner and Sela Knight, Evan English and Robert Scott, Naia Downs-Reeve and Maya Butler, and Elle Polifka and Ellery Long. All teams won at least one out of three rounds of competition and special recognition goes to team Cyrus and Olivia for winning two rounds, and to Sela, Cyrus, and Olivia for receiving outstanding speaker points.
Congratulations to the following CHS students for being selected as winners of the Tupelo Press Mirabella Poetry & Prose teen writing contest. These students were invited to read their works at the area awards ceremony held at St. Anne’s-Belfield School: “pale-lunged” by Rachel Beling, “Al Hudaydah” by Kiran Klubock-Shukla, “A First Goodbye” by Cassie Hersman, and “The Radioactive Ghost of Kilkenny” by James O’Brien. Their writings will be included in an annual anthology of teen writing which will also include “The Evil Lake” by Lily Deleo, “Hope” by Mathew Farina, “A Father” by Ari Pyle, “Warmth” by Robin Guziejka, “Our Soldiers” by Colin Saint, and “Our Sweet Sensations” by Nyah Catherine-Lim.
Sixth grade Walker student Mohammad Haidari won first place in District 13 in the American Legion Post 74 writing contest. He received a certificate and check for his essay, “I Like Living in America Because…” and moved on to the regional competition.
Using a generous PTO grant that funded 20 point-and-shoot digital cameras, students in Rachel Wilson’s photography classes at CHS visited Clark and Johnson Schools to teach elementary kids the basics of digital photography.
Master Trainer Rick Griffin from The Community Resilience Initiative in Walla Walla, WA will present “The Power of WE: Community Resilience Building” on March 28 at Charlottesville High School in the MLK PAC from 6-7:30 p.m. Parents, teachers, and other community members are welcome to attend.
WIdely-recognized for his work in trauma-informed care, Griffin will address the impact of creating a community conversation about trauma and resilience and the benefits of embedding that information into action through multiple partners, agencies, and organizations.
The public is invited to attend this free event. Please register online here.
Congratulations to iSTEM teacher Teresa Amasia and Burnley-Moran Elementary, winners of the SCHOOL category in the Future Ready Schools Film Festival.
This humorous video, written, produced and directed by Amasia, illustrates how our schools are empowering (and preparing) future ready students. Watch the video to see what happens when a teacher finds himself inexplicably in the future. Or does he?
The following message was sent to all city schools staff and families on the afternoon of March 22:
Update: Charlottesville City Schools Message to Families and Staff, March 22, 2019
Dear staff and families,
Earlier today, the Charlottesville Police arrested and charged a teenager in connection to the threat made against CHS. The suspect does NOT attend Charlottesville City Schools or live in Charlottesville. He has been charged as a juvenile with making threats to persons on school property, which is a felony, and with harassment by computer.
We appreciate the support we have received from the CPD along with state and federal agencies, who took immediate and strong action to protect our schools as soon as they learned of this posting. We also appreciate our parents and community members for being so understanding and supportive of our students, staff, and our decision to close schools. We also want to thank our principals, teachers, staff members, and parents who spent today greeting students and families, and we thank the community centers who hosted us and fed our children.
Again, I want to state in the strongest possible language that our schools will not tolerate threats or hate. For reasons such as this, last fall, our School Board passed a resolution banning clothing or items with symbols of hate as one way to make our schools safe and supportive.
I find it particularly troubling that a person who is not part of our Charlottesville City Schools community would make such a hurtful and divisive threat under the guise of being a CHS student. Since August 2017, we have made concerted efforts to have difficult conversations around race and to build trust and relationships. This comment attempted to undermine our community.
We will NOT let this divide us, either as a school or as a city or even as a region. We know that this person does not represent CHS or Charlottesville or his own county. As one way to show our solidarity, let us follow the lead of CHS teacher Pam Brown, who invites everyone to wear black or orange on Monday as a way of showing solidarity with our CHS Black Knights.
Go, Black Knights!
Dr. Rosa Atkins
On Friday, March 22, teachers and staff from each of our nine city schools spent the afternoon visiting students in our community. Staff, PTO volunteers, community partners, and others came together to be sure our students know that we have missed them the past two days, and that we love them. See the highlights here.
The following message was sent to all city schools staff and families earlier this evening:
Update: Charlottesville City Schools Message to Families and Staff, March 21, 2019
Thank you for understanding our decision to close today. We heard clearly that you, too, want us to prioritize the safety of our students and staff.
The police and other state and federal authorities have told us that this remains an active investigation. We will keep you posted of developments as we learn more. Based on extensive conversations with law enforcement, we have decided to remain closed on Friday, 3/22. Police have asked anyone with information to contact 434-970-3280.
We would like to acknowledge and condemn the fact that this threat was racially charged. We do not tolerate hate or racism. The entire staff and School Board stand in solidarity with our students of color — and with people who have been singled out for reasons such as religion or ethnicity or sexual identity in other vile threats made across the country or around the world. We are in this together, and a threat against one is a threat against all.
We know that many of you have questions about how to talk to your students about why schools are closed. We suggest a brief acknowledgment of the situation. (For instance, for young students, you might say, “Someone said they wanted to hurt some students, and the people who run the schools decided that it would be safer for for students to stay home.”) Then follow your child’s lead as they ask questions or show emotions. We have links to additional resources, below.
Have a good evening. We will give you any further updates as we learn them, but in the meanwhile, we appreciate your patience as we continue to place safety first.
Update: Charlottesville City Schools Message to Families and Staff, March 20, 9:37 p.m.
The Charlottesville Police Department and other authorities continue to investigate the internet threat against Charlottesville High School. They have not yet determined the credibility of the threat. Consequently, we will close all Charlottesville City Schools tomorrow, Thursday, March 21. Again, the safety of our staff and students is our first priority. Have a good night, and we’ll update you tomorrow as we learn more.
Charlottesville City Schools Message to Families and Staff, March 20, 6:38 p.m.
We wanted to make you aware of a situation that we are monitoring closely this evening. Earlier this evening, we were notified by the Charlottesvillle Police Department of an internet threat concerning Charlottesville High School for tomorrow. The CPD and other authorities are investigating this situation, and we will give you an update later tonight. CPD has cleared us to have evening activities tonight, but to allay any concerns, we will have a police presence on hand. Please know that we are working closely with CPD, and the safety of students and staff is our top priority.
City of Charlottesville Police Department Media Release, March 20, 6:35 p.m.
In the afternoon hours of Wednesday, March 20, 2019, the Charlottesville Police Department received an email from a concerned citizen regarding a possible threat that was made against Charlottesville High School.
Detectives are working with Dr. Rosa Atkins, the superintendent of Charlottesville City Schools, the Virginia State Police, and FBI to investigate the credibility of the threat.
Anyone with information about this threat is asked to contact the Charlottesville Police Department at (434) 970-3280 or CrimeStoppers at (434) 977-4000.
Charlottesville City Schools celebrated student artistic achievement with the annual division-wide Jeff Suling Art Exhibit March 4-13 in the Charlottesville High School small gymnasium. This year, the exhibit also included a special opportunity for City students to work with renowned letterpress artist Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr.
Known as “ArtConnections,” the exhibit aims to illustrate how art relates to and connects diverse areas of school curriculum and students’ everyday lives. Selected student artwork from preschoolers through 12th graders was featured and the community was invited to three public receptions which included two evening open houses and a Saturday celebration with hands-on art activities.
More about Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr. and “Finding Wisdom” letterpress printing project
Charlottesville City Schools participated in a large scale community printmaking project called “Finding Wisdom,” led by Detroit-based printmaker Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr. Kennedy conducted both in-school workshops as well as created a display of original prints based on ideas generated by Albemarle County and Charlottesville City Schools students. Earlier this year, both school divisions collected aphorisms, statements, and words of wisdom from students which Kennedy printed in his signature style from handset wood and metal type, and eco-friendly and affordable chipboard. Prints are on display at various locations including CHS, Buford and Walker Schools.
Members of the community were able to engage with Kennedy on March 9 at the “ArtConnections” celebration at CHS, where he led a printmaking workshop. This event was free and open to the public (more details about “ArtConnections” mentioned above).
Throughout the month of March, Kennedy will be conducting in-school workshops working with art students at six city schools (CHS, Buford, Walker, Burnley-Moran, Johnson, and Venable). Prints generated during the in-school workshops will also be displayed at each school.
The “Finding Wisdom” residency coincides with the VA Festival of the Book and is supported by Virginia Humanities Virginia Center for the Book. It involves many facets of the Charlottesville-Albemarle community including Boys & Girls Club, JMRL, PVCC, Jefferson School Tenants, Descendants of the enslaved at Monticello, UVA, and other local cultural organizations.
Division-wide, many events and activities were planned to celebrate Black History Month ranging from classroom decorations to special morning announcements to Soul Feasts and assemblies.
At Johnson Elementary School, second grade students created a backdrop for a Kehinde Wiley-inspired photobooth for African American Heritage Night. Thanks to our talented second graders for creating the backdrop and our parent photographer John Robinson for capturing these beautiful photos. See the photo album here.
At Buford Middle School, students heard from Charlottesville-area residents that participated in the summer’s Charlottesville Civil Rights Pilgrimage to Montgomery, AL. For news coverage, click here.
Special school-wide morning meetings were held at most elementary schools and some included student recitations of the poem “I am Somebody.” Here is a great reminder for all of us from a fourth grader at Johnson Elementary:
Meanwhile, Rachel Wilson’s photography classes at CHS produced a project to showcase “Self Expression through Hairstyles” using portraits and motion GIF files of students and staff at CHS. See the video here.
Burnley-Moran hosted a Black History Month Celebration and Career Day that featured a drumming assembly along with a showcase of African-American leaders from throughout our city. Last year’s event brought more than 40 local professionals together–many of them CHS alumni. Here are a few photos from this year.
Like several of our schools, Clark Elementary held its annual Soul Feast, which featured a full menu of fried chicken, collards, and more. This year the “Ladies of Soul” (all Clark staff members) gave a special performance.
CHS hosted its annual speaker series featuring a variety of guests like documentary photographer Ruddy Rowe. Additionally, CHS hosted a film screening to tell the story of Drewary Brown to a new generation of Charlottesville residents, and CHS’s African-American history students visited Jefferson School for a special program with Monticello and other community partners.
Meanwhile, we want to applaud the efforts of our teachers, librarians, and World History Coordinator Annie Evans for their year-round work to incorporate local and African-American history across the curriculum all year long. From preK-12th grade, our students encounter diverse voices, stories, and experiences in classroom materials, the arts, and student activities.
Charlottesville City Schools is one of six school systems statewide involved in Changing the Narrative, a Virginia Humanities initiative that aims to explore black history and culture in schools and encourages young people of color to explore and highlight their heritage.
The Charlottesville High School Theater Department presented the Broadway musical hit “Mamma Mia!” on Friday, February 15 through Sunday, February 17 at CHS in the Martin Luther King Performing Arts Center.
Based on the songs of Swedish pop band ABBA including a top hit by the same name, “Mamma Mia” is one of the longest running shows in Broadway history. It features strong female leads with an emphasis on themes of female friendships and empowerment. In 2008, a film adaptation premiered starring Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried.
“This year‘s production of ‘Mamma Mia!’ promises to be a night or afternoon full of joy and happiness,” said CHS Drama Department Chair David Becker, who is in his 10th year leading TheatreCHS. “The cast, crew, and orchestra have worked tirelessly to polish all of the elements that go into a successful show.”
The Friday and Saturday evening performances and the Sunday matinee performance featured the full cast, while the Saturday matinee benefit show featured the understudies. All proceeds from the benefit show will go toward college scholarships.
First-year parent volunteer Victoria Hamilton, whose daughter, Courtney, plays the role of Dona in the musical, said participating in theater is a valuable, multi-faceted experience for the students.
“Through theatre, our kids use math, science, engineering, technology, design, construction, public speaking, visual arts, performing arts, all while fostering a supportive community,” said Hamilton. “I witnessed each of these real life applications and vast creativities in multitudes over the past several weeks by kids from all backgrounds and interests. I have no doubt they will carry this with them throughout their lives.”
“Mamma Mia!” is part of the 2018-19 TheatreCHS performance season which includes: “Dreaming America,” “Arabian Nights,” “Heathers The Musical,” “The Crucible,” and the annual Dessert Theatre.
TheatreCHS has consistently remained an important and vital fine arts force at Charlottesville High School. The Program invites students to work collaboratively, develop critical thinking and public speaking skills, and engage in creative dialogues. An array of courses is taught with the intention of providing enrichment for students interested in these skills, all of which encompass dramatic arts. Numerous students have gone on to pursue advanced studies in theater/cinema, technical theater, stage management, and lighting design at a variety of top schools including Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia College, George Mason University, James Madison University, University of Virginia, and Princeton University. For more information, visit http://theatrechs.org/.
“It’s like a home away from home,” said one fourth grader, referring to her new classroom space at Clark Elementary.
Fourth grade classroom renovations at Clark Elementary School were completed this fall as the first project in a division-wide plan to modernize facilities. The project, completed by VMDO Architects, included upgrades to classroom furniture, lighting, and flooring, along with new cubbies, library nooks, and shelving.
“We are so grateful to the City of Charlottesville for supporting these efforts to upgrade our schools,” said assistant superintendent Kim Powell. “As we turn our attention to the next phase of design at Jackson-Via Elementary, we are confident that next year’s project will be just a strong and impactful.”
Now that the Clark students have settled in, here is what some of them had to say about their new learning spaces.
Kreth, Gracie. “$1M Clark Elementary Classroom Modernization Kicking Off.” Daily Progress/Charlottesville Tomorrow. 20 Jun. 2018