For almost twenty years, the German Exchange program has been a vital part of the Hudson High Community. Recently, Hudson High students and families hosted 20 German students for two weeks.
The program began in 1999 when Hudson High offered German as a foreign language course. Library paraprofessional Ms. Alexandra, who grew up in Germany, started the exchange because of her German background.
“The program is still going on; I’m happy.”
The German students came to stay with their host families in September and the Hudson High students go to Germany in April. They will stay for around ten days. “It’s the only exchange we have at HHS that allows students to stay and live in another country, and to go home with the student hosting them.” says Emily Smyth, one of the current teachers in charge of the program.
Germans and their host families visited sites, such The New England Aquarium, the Boston Museum Science, The Prudential Tower, Lexington and Concord as well as toured the Hudson Fire Department and Hudson Historical Society.
When HHS students go to Germany they will immerse themselves in the culture by touring major cities like Berlin and Hamburg as well as hike through the mountains. They will visit castles, Medieval Cathedrals and the German Reichstag (Congress) building. Students’ will also walk along the former East-West Germany Border and learn more about the Berlin Wall and the concentration camps.
Smyth, as well as Gretchen Houseman and Whitney Nielsen are now in charge of the German exchange program. They have lead the charge for the past few years.
“It’s an important program that helps HHS students built meaningful connections with real people in another country.” Nielsen said. She continued, “Traveling like a tourist is great too, but staying with a family and sharing their everyday experiences help students get to know a culture in a meaningful way.”
Despite the snow, Drama Society held all four performances of Bye Bye Birdie, on March 9, 10, and 11. The show tells the story of a famous rock and roll star that has been selected for the draft and his songwriter’s creative idea to end their career with a final hit song, and a kiss to one of his fans.
Fourteen years passed since Kathleen McKenzie last directed one of the most popular musicals about the Bible, and for the past four years, she’s been searching for the right group of kids to perform Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. This year, she finally found that group.
“I wanted to do a show that highlighted us as a group, and it just wasn’t the right show for that mix of kids [in previous years],” McKenzie admits. “I am blessed, being able to work with these kids.”
As the kids in the musical rehearse number after number, they never complain nor goof off, focusing on how to fit their role and portray the character in a realistic way as they race across stage to their designated spots.
“The rehearsals are pretty difficult, but it’s a nice way to end the school day,” actor Garet Mildish says as he shrugs. “But once tech weeks begins, it’s like Hell on Earth.”
In rehearsals week to week, everyone keeps their positive attitude, preparing for their opening night on November 18.
The actors take great pride in their roles and how this musical will turn out, especially main actor Ben Carme, who’s playing Joseph.
“I’m intrigued and compelled by the storyline of being a dreamer and never giving up,” Carme says. “I honestly love this musical.”
Carme’s positive energy spreads to all the other actors, who have been there for each other when a musical piece or dance confuses them. Eighth graders listen to seniors for guidance, and sophomores practice with freshmen to reach the required pitch for numerous songs.
Alicia Sagastume, ecstatic while she hit high notes in the middle of rehearsal, bounded around the auditorium with a grin from ear to ear.
“Everyone has something to point to and say, ‘I did that. I’m proud of what I did. I feel like I belong,’” McKenzie says, and the statement stays true as rehearsals keep barreling forward day after day.
Throughout the play, there are many moments that bring out the side characters’ importance and their pride, such as the salsa scene between one of Joseph’s brothers and Potiphar’s wife. It shows how hard they’ve worked to reach this point, how the wives create harmonies for the vocalist to sing to, and how Joseph’s father reacts to his death. This small dancing scene draws in the audience, even if there are no vocals. The dance numbers as well as the songs can steal the show.
To McKenzie, this musical brings everyone together and shows that drama society isn’t about only the two main actors. She stresses that everyone in this play is equal to or even more important than Joseph in the end, as the ensemble is in every piece and every actor shows up at least once in each act.
“They’re such a welcoming group, and they’re there for each other,” McKenzie says. “That’s what I love about them.”
The Drama Society’s latest production, Iphegenia and Other Daughters, will be performed tonight at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. It is a Greek tragedy about a young girl sacrificed to the gods so that the wind will blow. Throughout three acts, this play follows a cycle of reoccurring vengeance within an ancient Greek family, until the cycle is ended by a reunion between a brother and his long-lost sister. Tickets are $10.
Eighth graders Sam Maston and Kailyn Vaillancourt played in the wind ensemble with some of the best musicians in the state at the Central Mass Junior District Music Festival on April 30 at Leominster High School.
To perform with this band they had to audition for one of the four ensembles available: the wind ensemble, the orchestra, the jazz band, and the chorus.
They performed and practiced the songs “La Madre de los Gatos,” “Salvation is Created,” “Silverquill,” and “The Fate of the Gods.”
They have both been playing their instruments for five years, Maston on the clarinet and Vaillancourt on the flute. They both share a passion for music, so they enjoyed going to long practices to prepare for the festival.
The practices were four hours long. Even though the practices were lengthy, “they were worth it because at the concert, we sounded fantastic, and everyone was together,” Maston said.
Even with all of their practice, their nerves were still running high the day of the performance, and they did not go away until they picked up their instruments.
“The conductor was talking, and I was a bit nervous. Two clarinetists were speaking in low voices to my left. The conductor finished what he was saying and then turned around and raised his hands. He looked at me for a moment. Then he signaled for everyone to raise their instruments. When the downbeat came, I knew we were gonna be the ones that people talked about after the concert. And I was not wrong,” Maston said.
The experience they gained at the festival was unforgettable because of the friends they made and the music they played, and it is something that will stick with them for a while.
“The best part of the festival was learning music and how music can be shaped and performed,” Vaillancourt said.
After their positive experience at the Junior Districts this year, they both plan to try out for the Senior Districts next year.
After debuting at the Art Show on April 28, the painted pianos made by the National Art Honors Society moved to their permanent locations, the Unitarian church and Avidia Bank. The students decorated the Unitarian church’s piano with symbols of peace, love, and hope, and Avidia Bank’s piano celebrates Hudson’s 150th anniversary. These organizations requested the designs, but the idea for the project started before then.
It began with Erin Yates’ discovery of a YouTube video of a homeless man playing a complex song on a beautifully painted piano in Sarasota, Florida. Yates looked further into this and discovered that the piano belonged to an organization called “Play Me, I’m Yours” based in the UK. The organization decorates pianos and then places them on the streets in different cities for the public to use. This project began as an artwork exhibit by the British artist Luke Jerram and includes over 1,500 pianos in 50 cities worldwide.
Inspired by the idea, Yates talked to other people and messaged with “Play Me, I’m Yours” for advice, but she is not working with the organization because of how much money that would cost.
“I like the idea that we’re painting on something that’s not paper, or canvas, or even a mural. We’re painting on something different, and we’re adding music to it. And I like that it’s community oriented, and we’re working with businesses on this. I had to meet with Avidia Bank and the Unitarian church, and we have to have a partnership with them to make this work. And Hudson Appliance actually helped us get the pianos from people’s houses and to the high school, so it’s something like a real team effort,” Yates said. “The Chamber of Commerce in Hudson has also participated and helped us organize where to put some of these pianos.”
Yates started contacting people, looking for private businesses who would allow the pianos to be placed outside their building. The pianos would be placed out of the way in any extra space next to the buildings. With residents donating pianos, Yates and the students started the project in December and were able to get two pianos from families around town with the help of Hudson Appliance, with two more waiting to be moved because of a lack of storage space at the school.
“If that [the first two pianos] goes well, we will hopefully work with some other businesses and put some pianos there. I’ve been talking to Medusa about putting a piano outside on the sidewalk there, and maybe putting one outside here at the high school, just outside the cafeteria in the rotunda,” Yates said.
The students worked together to plan and paint the designs for the pianos, but the process is not always perfect.
“I did something on the other piano where I fixed something someone did because it didn’t look very good, so I was like ‘I’m gonna fix this,’ and it’s really nice to see it all coming together,” National Art Honors Society member Jillian Giorgio said.
The first two pianos have been completed and moved to their new homes on the streets outside Avidia Bank and the Unitarian church. Now the only problem is how the pianos will survive the elements.
“They are using paint that will not come off in the rain, and that’s why we’re using mural paints and acrylic paints. And we prime the pianos first, so we can be sure the paint won’t come off while they are outside. The pianos will also have buddies there, and the buddies might be our students or they might be people from the organization or both. And those piano buddies will cover up the pianos when it rains and just check up on them, make sure they’re okay, things like that,” Yates said.
With more pianos on the way, downtown Hudson will be filled with art and music for a long time.