Sunday, January 26, 2014

Aladdin Jr. took to the stage and impressed - By Michelle Libby

Last weekend, after months of preparation the Windham Middle School drama club performed Aladdin, Jr. at Windham Performing Arts Center to large crowds. The show took place Friday night and twice during the snowy weather on Saturday. The snow didn’t seem to hamper the ability to get to the show and between 200 and 300 people attended each seating, according to one cast parent. The final show was for the entire Windham Primary School second grade class on Tuesday. 

“Success of a show is often measured by the number of seats you sell or what reviewers say of your show and while both of these would be an added bonus, the success of a show for me is how excited these students are before, during and after the show,” said director Mary Wassick in her director’s letter to the audience. 

Aladdin was played by eighth-grader Logan Cropper. His comedic timing and dry wit kept the audience laughing throughout the play. Jasmine was played by Beth Olsen who is also an eighth-grader. Her clear voice and sassy attitude was great casting for the princess role. As far as secondary characters, they all did a tremendous job making the show come to life before our eyes. Genie played by Mikayla Malloy added her own twist on a role made iconic by Robin Williams. Jafar played by Julia Egna was evil well-done and her side kick Iago the parrot was fun to watch and laugh at his one-liners. Razoul, the head of the guards played by Wyatt Yost, the Sultan played by Ethan Leech and the magic carpet played by Corinne Ulmer, added lighter moments to the play. 

Not to be forgotten, the students who controlled the set changes, lighting and sound, they did a fabulous job.
The singing was amazing for a middle school cast or any age cast, and Windham has little to worry about for years to come with the talent moving into the high school. If you’ve been hesitant to see a middle school play, don’t wait any longer. The next show should be the one you attend.

Cub Scouts go to the derby...the Pinewood Derby

On Saturday Windham 46 Cub Scouts gathered at the Windham Middle School cafĂ© to participate in a long standing tradition – the Pinewood Derby. The boys in grades one through five are given a block of pine wood, four nails and four tires and are told to create a car. The car has to weigh approximately five ounces when it is done. 

Designs of the cars are limited only by the boy’s imagination. This year cars ranged from the Tardis (of Dr. Who fame) and a mountain to a turtle and a Minecraft car. No two are the same. 

The competition is for speed. The tracks are hooked to a digital timing system that sends the times to a laptop where they are compiled and ranked. Each car has multiple races.

The winners for this year’s derby are: First place – Rogan Deptula, second place – Joseph Lopes, third place - Jon Loft, fourth place – Landon Schmuck and fifth place – Zachary Day. 

Each den chose a car as most creative and the overall most creative car, chosen by adults in attendance, was Lucas Cormier with his Lego car.  

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Windham girl achieves cheering dream - By Elizabeth Richards

Making the varsity cheerleading squad can be a tough feat for anyone. For Becca Keenan, it might have seemed like an impossible dream, but with support from the team captain, coach and other students at Windham High School, Keenan’s dream came true in her senior year.

Keenan, who was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 23 months, had talked about wanting to be a cheerleader since ninth grade, when she had friends who were on the cheerleading squad, said her father, Randy Keenan. “She’s always said she wanted to be a cheerleader, but she’s not one to follow through,” said Randy, adding that he and his wife also didn’t follow through because they didn’t know how serious she was. But the topic kept coming up, and this winter, Becca received the encouragement she needed to go for it.

Coach Jamie Gaudreau said that Becca told her last year that wanted to cheer. She was friends with a senior on the squad, but was fearful of trying out, afraid she wouldn’t be able to do the routines. This fall Becca again told Gaudreau that she wanted to be a “cheer girl.” At that time, Gaudreau said, she told Becca that she’d love to have her and encouraged her to try out.
Allyson Tibbitts, captain of the squad, said that she was in the cafeteria in the fall when Becca approached her and said she wanted to cheer in the winter. Tibbitts remembered that, and wanted to be sure Becca knew when tryouts were, so she left her a note inviting her to be at the tryouts. 

“It was the push she needed to move forward,” said Randy, adding that Tibbitts also picks up Becca and drops her off after practice. “She’s been a great peer. It’s been unreal,” he said.    
This type of group activity is a new experience for Becca, said her mother Kim Keenan. “Being a part of a team and being accepted by her peers is huge,” said Kim. “She’s never participated in a sport before, and never been part of a group with her typical peers before. That’s what makes it special.” 

While the Keenans said Becca has always been social and felt accepted by her peers, she didn’t socialize outside of school time until becoming a cheerleader. Now, she has attended a Christmas party and goes out with the other kids. “For the past few years she didn’t socialize out of school, it just wasn’t there. Now it seems to be coming to the forefront, and it’s a good thing for her,” said Randy.

Kim said cheering has helped Becca’s self-confidence, among other things. Gaudreau has also noticed a change in Becca’s confidence. “She’s been a total inspiration for myself as a coach and I think for a lot of the kids,” she said. Initially, Becca was reluctant to try things like jumps and tumbling, but now she will try it all, and doesn’t need to be asked twice to do something, said Gaudreau. 

 She even helps the coach base a stunt with Tibbitts. While Becca cheers at the games, she doesn’t typically compete. But during a charitable competition for Cheers from the Heart, she will be on the competition floor with her team. The score in that competition isn’t important to Gaudreau. “To me it doesn’t matter if you’re going to lose. To me winning is being able to have her there on the competition floor,” said Gaudreau. “I will take the zero in jumps just to have the ten for myself as a coach, for her, for Allyson, for everybody else just to have her on that mat. That means more to me and I think it’s going to be a nice reward for her as well,” she added. 

Tibbitts agreed. “It’s not like we only have one competition. We have other ones, and I’d rather have her on there than not,” she said.

Gaudreau said she doesn’t treat Becca any differently than anyone else. She expects the same work out of Becca as the rest of the team, and though sometimes she needs some encouragement, she said, Becca steps up and does what she needs to do. “She is the core of the team,” said Gaudreau. “She is what a cheerleader truly represents to me.” Gaudreau added that Becca brings new light to the program, and she wishes she’d had her on the team for more than just this one season. 

Tibbits said, “She’s like our own team’s cheerleader.” When the team is practicing stunts, she said, Becca is there with encouraging words. Her personality and determination to get out there and do it has inspired the team. “She’s truly made us better,” said Tibbits. “Everyone loves her.”

Randy said, “To us, the kids in this community are just unbelievable.” They have helped Becca have an experience she might otherwise never have had, and one that is the highlight of her senior year. “She was just so excited that she was actually going to be a Windham cheerleader,” Randy said. 

Becca, though reluctant to talk, said enthusiastically, “I love being a cheerleader a lot.”

Music with a Mission begins second season with encore performance from Ithacappella - By Elizabeth Richards

On Saturday, January 11, 2014 Ithacappella returned to the North Windham Union Church as part of the popular Music with a Mission concert series. It seems fitting that their encore presentation was the kick off of the second season, since the group’s performance last year was the inspiration behind the series.
Ithacappella is a men’s a cappella group from Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York. Chris Frost, a Windham High School graduate and alumni of the Windham Chamber Singers, is the president of the group. The performance was part of Ithacappella’s winter tour.

The Windham Chamber Singers opened the concert, leading off with a touching rendition of Caledonia, which Frost had requested they sing. Dr. Rick Nickerson, who is both the Minister of Music for the church and conductor of the chamber singers, said “The excitement tonight was more of a homecoming for Chris.” He said it was Frost’s idea to bring the two groups together, and it was an emotional experience for them all. “To see the connection he’s kept with his hometown is really important,” said Nickerson.
Frost said the experience was indescribable. “I was introduced to a real true musical tradition by being in the Windham Chamber Singers. That was the first time I felt as though I was part of something a lot larger than myself that spanned a number of years, and had such a connection to alumni.” When he got to Ithaca College, he was amazed to find another musical tradition with supportive alumni and a rich history in Ithacappella. “The opportunity to bring those two together today was completely amazing. There is just no way to describe how great that felt,” he said.

Frost added that Ithacappella has worked with countless school groups, and he could confidently say there is nothing like the chamber singers anywhere else. “It’s just so satisfying knowing that I’ve come from that, and I’m able to bring that energy into this group now, being president,” he said.

When Ithacappella took the stage, its energy and spirit was instantly apparent. The songs spanned a wide variety of styles, from traditional barbershop to Sting to One Republic’s Counting Stars, with plenty in between. There was no doubt the group was having a great time on stage, drawing the audience into the fun. The ensemble worked well together to highlight the strengths of each member and offer a show filled with variety, balance and laughter. 

The show was interspersed with unexpected moments, from an occasional break dance to a chorus of “What does the Fox Say?” in the middle of a barbershop tune. During the second half, the group serenaded the winning member of the audience on stage with a combination ballad/comedy routine rendition of “Fools Fall In”. After Ithacappella’s final song, “Goodbye My Coney Island Baby,” the chamber singers joined them on stage for a final chorus of “Let the Sunshine In,” during which many audience members clapped and sang along. 

Despite icy and foggy weather conditions and a Patriots game, the concert was a huge success, with a full house. 

Jim McBride, chair of the Music with a Mission committee said that in the upcoming season they are bringing back some of the most popular acts from last year, and also some new talent that they are excited to introduce. 
The Windham Chamber Singers will be the featured act for the March 29th concert. Dr. Nickerson said they are excited about the opportunity to give back. “While it would be easy for us to do that concert at the school and just keep all the proceeds ourselves, it was very important that we do something bigger than ourselves,” he said. Their concert will support Windham Neighbors Helping Neighbors. 

As MWAM moves into its second season, there have been some lessons learned from the first year, said Nickerson. “We always assumed that summer time would be a great time for concerts and we’re not convinced that’s necessarily so,” he said. 

McBride agreed, adding that while there were decent crowds at the summer shows, attendance was only about half of what they had expected. Another lesson they learned, said McBride, is that the core audience is older than they originally thought it would be.  Because of that, some of the concerts are targeted to that older audience, but McBride said, “We’re very intentional to mix it up, to bring in lots of different types of music and introduce it to the crowd.”

The performers choose the nonprofit that benefits from each concert, but McBride says they have narrowed the scope to focus on nonprofits that are helping people, as well as keeping it local to the lakes region area.
At the end of the evening, Frost said he was overwhelmed and overjoyed, and impressed with the community. “You forget when you are away for so long at school how amazing the community we have is,” he said.