My Last Post

For quite some time, I have been thinking about what to write for my last blog post about. Would I write about a performance? Would I leave some type of wisdom for all those who have been avid readers of my blog? Well after much thinking I finally decided what I had to write about, the one person who has had the greatest on my high school career, Mr. Serge Puchinsky.

Mr. Puchinsky is the type of teacher that every student hopes for. He is kind, funny, caring, but most importantly he is dedicated to his work, the BHS Band. I will never forget all that Mr. P has done for me as a member of the band and as a student in general. I joined the band at the end of my 7th grade year. I was scared to be in a room of upperclassmen let alone in a setting taught by a high school teacher, a teacher that was supposed to be mean and difficult to understand according to my elementary school teachers. However, we had not even played through “Chester” (my first BHS Band warm-up) before I realized that that Mr. P was an outstanding teacher and an even better person.

Mr. P is the kind of teacher that went above and beyond to help his students. He took us on trips, to musical workshops, and allowed us to make memories that will last a lifetime. I learned so much from Mr. P and I know that so may other students feel the same way.  I will never forget how he helped me become a better musician, leader, and all around better person.  Mr. P also had a special way of teaching musical elements such rhythms that I will always remember even though I do not plan to ever have a “brussel sprout surprise”  or “blueberry pizza.”

When you join the BHS Band you become part of a family, and Mr. P cares for all of the students as if we were his own children. Yesterday was officially my last day of class, and it was a bitter sweet feeling to know I would not be returning to the one class I went to consistently for four years. I realized something as I walked out of room 144 for the last time, I will miss BHS so much when I graduate, but not nearly as much as I’ll miss being a member of the BHS Band or as much as I will miss Mr. Puchinsky.

Thank you Mr. P for all that you have done, you were truly an inspiration and I am honored to have been able to have you as my teacher.

A Final Farewell

I recently said a final farewell to the BHS Stage as I performed for the last time with the Jazz Ensemble. I have to say, it feels quite disheartening to be in essence done with the musical career at BHS especially when it has to end on such a high note. We played many pieces that night, some of which included, Calle Ocho, Afternoon in Paris,  and my SFA solo piece, Bellavia. With the final farewell to the stage, also comes a final farewell to my senior year, and of course to my blog. Tomorrow is my Senior Prom, so I unfortunately I will be a little busy and will most likely not make any new posts, but keep an eye out for my next post, it will be my last! Just a hint, it will be about someone who has made a major impact on my life. Someone I will never be able to fully thank, but hopefully my next blog will do this person some justice!

Remembering Recitals

A collective sigh of relief can now be heard after months of preparation for tonight is the closing of the first ever SLAM Festival. There were so many wonderful performances that adorned this festival and it is a sweet sorrow to see its end so very near. This festival taught each and every student so much in regards to organization, planning, and the ability to find and highlight your individual talent.

This years festival included my recitals by members of the Arts Academy such as Tara and Anna. Unfortunately I was unable to attend the recital and album release of Anna, but I was able to attend Tara’s outstanding performance. Tara sang a selection of eleven songs from her repertoire which included Someone Else’s Story, Astonishing, Taylor the Latte Boy, and my personal favorite In Short! Tara and I had originally planned much larger event that would also allow us to fund raise for the ACS Relay For Life, but when these plans did not go through, we changed the program accordingly. However, I would like to say that our Relay for Life Team has raised over $12,000!

Tara’s Recital was the first vocal recital of the festival and it was a complete success! She did a fantastic job and I am so glad that we got to work together so closely. I can truly say I am going to miss starting out my days by hearing her beautiful voice!

Imitation is NOT the Highest Form of Flattery

Today in my Arts Business and Technology Class, we read Zen and the Art of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. In our reading, we came across two words that no one really seemed to be able to define, metaphysics and rhetoric.

After looking these words up, I was able to understand their meanings. Metaphysics can be defined as a branch of philosophy that is concerned with explaining the nature of existence and the world around us. Rhetoric is the use of art and language in a persuasive effect. Rhetoric is considered an ancient art of discourse and it is central to Western education and philosophy.

In relation to the text, these words are obviously quite significant. ZAMM spends a great deal of time speaking of ideas and concepts in western education and on different philosophies that should be adapted by more people. The chapter that we read in class today specifically spoke about education and the flaws in many educational systems. Children are taught from a young age to study the words and actions of others and often recall or repeat them in great detail and because of this, they loose their sense of creativity and sometimes their passions. As artists, the students in my class are extremely fortunate to have been able to hold on to their creative side regardless of the pressures of society and the educational system. Therefore, as you can tell by the title of this post and the points that were aforementioned, imitation is not the highest form of flattery, it is merely monotonous repetition that stifles the inner workings of a creative mind.

Works Cited

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaphysics

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhetoric

Thursday’s with Theater!

This past Thursday, I attended a rehearsal for the showcase of three very talented Arts Academy Students in the Bayonne High School Auditorium. I am working very closely to these girls in order to help promote their event of which the proceeds will benefit the American Cancer Society Relay for Life. The music and skits are being rehearsed, however there is still more work to be done. We need to finalize the details of the show including a name that will attract many people, order and sell tickets, and finally make posters for promoting the event. I feel that we are on track, but we will now be working much harder as the final weeks are quickly approaching.

To Teach Or Not To Teach, That Is The Question.

As you may have already seen in previous posts, we are reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and it brings up many issues that hit very close to home, so to speak. Just the other day, we were discussing the educational process and how teaching styles can be so dramatically different. I could not agree more with this. I feel that I have have some extraordinary teachers, but these teachers are rare, and they are the exception as opposed to the rule.

As elaborated on in my previous blog post, I spend a tremendous amount of time writing and editing my work. I do not simply hand things in to meet deadlines. Therefore when given a grade that is not typical, I begin to question myself first, but recently I also had to question the grader, in this case a student teacher. In my English class this marking period, we read Hamlet. Now, this is not one of my favorite plays, but I spent a tremendous amount of time reading, re-reading, analyzing, and taking notes on this Shakespearean text. I was beyond prepared to write an essay, to say the least! When I wrote my essay articulating whether or not the death of Hamlet fulfilled expectations, I did so thoroughly and provided many concrete reasons as to why. Prior to handing in this essay, I thought it was one of my better essays, possibly the best! I spent time not only on the substance matter, but also on the structure and many small details that only a very attentive reader would catch. However, despite all of this hard work and effort, I was given an 80, a grade I do not typically receive, ESPECIALLY on essays. When informed of this grade, I was beating myself up trying to think of reasons why I could have been graded this way. Was my paper cohesive? Did I make too many grammatical errors? Well to be honest, it was killing me, I had to have an explanation. The next morning, I brought my paper to one of my previous English Honors teachers, she looked over my paper and made a few minor corrections having to do with parallel structure, but overall she thought my essay was “perfect.” How is it that one teach can see an essay as beautifully written, yet another believes it deserves a grade twenty points below “perfect.” It baffled me!

After talking with the teacher who felt I had written a tremendous essay, she suggested that I speak to this student teacher and find out exactly why I was given this grade because she felt it was not deserved. I did just that! This student teacher said that I “articulately danced around my thesis.” He then identified a statement as my thesis, however, the statement was NOT my thesis. I then showed him what I and my extremely well educated teacher had determined the thesis to be and the student teacher disagreed and told me this was the reason I had twenty points deducted. At this point I was holding back many emotions because I really felt, and still feel, that in no way, shape, or form did I deserve a twenty point deduction for this ludicrous reason. In turn, this made me question the educational system that was being implemented. In addition, I had to write a term paper for this student teacher and it was one I was very unmotivated about because I felt no matter how much time I spent, my work would still be criticized and I feel that when I hand this paper in, the same amount of points will be taken off no matter how minuscule the issue.

How are grades such as these fair!? Due to the fact that I supposedly did not have a proper thesis, I was given a twenty percent deduction, despite how well written my paper was and regardless of the fact that I went above and beyond the necessary criteria. In my opinion, it is completely and utterly ridiculous and I see how desperately the educational system needs adjustment. I now understand why this was such a major issue and talking point in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and I feel that people need to open their eyes to the situations such as these and do all that they can to rectify them.

For those of you who are interested in reading my essay, I am going to post it below. Please read it and give me feedback as to what your opinion is on the subject matter! Thanks for reading!

William Shakespeare’s Hamlet: A Book Best Served Cold

Revenge often requires a sacrifice that can completely alter one’s mind, body, and soul. This revenge can take the sanity, morality, or even the life of a certain person. In William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, there was one character that distinctly possessed these qualities: Hamlet. However, many unsuspecting readers question whether the death fulfills the great expectations that were set forth by his extraordinary life. Throughout the play, Hamlet was preoccupied, and even somewhat obsessed, with revenge, morality, and his own guilt; all of which were associated with death. These elements were thought to pave new roads to uncharted territory that lead Hamlet down a path that Nemesis herself would not follow.

Mark Twain once said, “Therein lies the defect of revenge: it’s all in the anticipation; the thing itself is a pain, not a pleasure; at least the pain is the biggest end of it” (Twain 1). In these extremely powerful words, Mark Twain reminded society that revenge is not something one can seek for pleasure for every moment that this revenge is sought, the person merely contributes to their own demise. This idea was all too evident throughout the play and could have been seen through Hamlet’s antic disposition. Hamlet followed a winding path to his own destruction. From the moment that Prince Hamlet agreed to seek revenge, he gave up his life. After King Hamlet’s death, the morose Hamlet did not see the value in his life and pondered these principles by asking, “To be or not to be, that is the question: Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to take arms against a sea of troubles and, by opposing, end them” (L.L. 64-68, Act 3 Sc 1). Hamlet’s indecisiveness proved that he was a moral person.  Suicide was an act Hamlet contemplated, but one he refused to act on due to his Christian values. Hamlet stated, “O, that this too, too sullied flesh would melt, thaw, and resolve itself into a dew, or that the Everlasting had not fixed his canon ‘gainst self-slaughter!” (L.L. 133-136, Act 1 Sc 2).  It was in this moment that Hamlet became preoccupied with the notion of death, and it was through murder that Hamlet was able to finally fulfill his duty.

Morality, however, was an obstacle in Hamlet’s revenge against Claudius.  Taking swift action was not a viable option for Hamlet until all doubt concerning his uncle’s innocence was dispelled.  His choice was evident when he was presented with the chance to kill Claudius while he was praying. Hamlet questioned, “Am I revenged to take him in the purging of his soul, when he is fit and seasoned for his passage?” (L.L. 89-91, Act 3 Sc 3).  Hamlet did not want to grant Claudius the service that was not granted to his father by releasing his soul unscathed to heaven. In addition, he knew he could not murder a man who was attempting reconciliation. Following Hamlet’s actions, or lack thereof, Claudius revealed that he did not repent by stating, “My words fly up, my thoughts remain below; words without thoughts never to heaven go” (L.L. 102-103, Act 3 Sc 4). Even though the sinister Claudius gave this remark, Shakespeare also used these words to reveal the actions of Hamlet. Hamlet’s antic disposition was a mask and it was the epitome of words Claudius spoke. Without thoughts referred to the fact that he did not act on every thought or whim in different situations. Hamlet’s thought processes reveil the true man beneath the mask of the antic disposition and proved that he was in fact a very moral being.

Along with the ideas of morality, Hamlet felt the very human emotion of guilt. Towards the end of the play, Hamlet stated, “I shall win at the odds; but thou wouldst not think how ill all’s here about my heart” (L.L. 225-227, Act 5 Sc 2). This quote explained that Hamlet simply had to be killed for that was the only way his revenge would be able to be executed. In addition to this enlightened thought, he was concerned with the thoughts of other and wished that no one would think differently of him for what he knew had to be done. Hamlet was so very ridden with guilt by this point in time, that he was well aware he would soon be taking his final breath, a fate that his father, Polonius, and Laertes never saw coming. Unlike these characters, Hamlet was also different in the fact that his death was one he freely accepted. As previously mentioned, the fate of the character was decided upon from the very moment revenge was sought. The soul of Hamlet went through an extreme amount of grief and sorrow and it was torn from the very moment his father asked for the soul of his son to avenge his own. However, if this was not punishment enough, Hamlet did not only lose a father whom he respected and admired, he lost the women he loved, Ophelia to suicide and Gertrude to the evil Claudius. The act of killing Polonius could have been justified by the fact that Hamlet believed it was Claudius behind the curtain, but in the purely human moment that surrounded the death of Polonius, Hamlet wore his mask of antic disposition once again to hide the true guilt he felt as he killed the father and brother of his true love, Ophelia.

Hamlet reflected, “To be or not to be, that is the question” (L. 64, Act 3 Sc 1). This is the question that even people today seem to ponder.  What is life without revenge, morality, and guilt? Is it one where the aforementioned question would not have to be asked? Life is full of so many questions and more often then not, they lead people to more questions as opposed to answers. William Shakespeare’s play allowed for the reader to see the effects that elements such as revenge, morality, and guilt have on a person as well as a society. In the life of Hamlet, these three factors contributed to the series of events that added to his downward spiral. Even though Hamlet was seen with this antic disposition, he did not stray from his morals nor did he let the guilt completely consume him like rust upon iron. Hamlet’s death was extremely significant because he upheld human principles, but he can also be considered a tragic hero. Revenge, morality, and guilt are aspects of being that we can live without, but they are also those that people choose hold on to because they allow us to acknowledge our flaws, learn from our mistakes, and become righteous beings.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William, Barbara A. Mowat, and Paul Werstine. The Tragedy of Hamlet,

Prince of Denmark. New York: Washington Square, 2002.

Twain, Mark. “Revenge Quotes.” ThinkExist Quotations. Web. 20 Mar. 2011.

<http://thinkexist.com/quotations/revenge/3.html>.

Processing the Creative Process

In my Arts Business and Technology class’ latest discussion of  Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, we read about the creative process. However, many may be wondering…What exactly is the creative process? In the book, this process was associated with the building of a rotisserie, and even though this may seem a bit strange, the meaning behind it is actually quite fascinating. We learned that to build or create, you must first have peace of mind. Before you creation  is possible, you must be at one with what you will be creating and let the creative energy flow as opposed to forcing it. This natural process will allow for a more efficient creative and artistic environment. When thinking of this concept,  my mind always drifts to  Michelangelo. Michelangelo would not sculpt, he would search for the right piece of marble and merely unveil what was already within. This may be a difficult thought to comprehend, but I think it is the perfect example of his creative process because it shows the many facets that are often associated with his artistic processes.

As a product of the Bayonne school system, I feel that we are not taught this creative process. We are asked to create and throw information back without the proper comprehension or necessary knowledge. However, I know that I use a creative process in many aspects of my life. First and foremost, I use a very detailed process when learning music. When given a piece, I first take note of the key sign and time signature and will often highlight any changes in these areas throughout the piece. Then I will sight read through it, making mental notes of areas I will have to improve. After this I sometimes mark areas where the rhythms are difficult or if there is a section I need to further examine. This process is then extended when I am ready to go about practicing a piece, but I must first give myself time to absorb the notes I took and come back to the music at a later time. When I do practice a piece the process is also quite intricate. I first refresh myself of the aforementioned procedure, and then I begin working on the area that presents the most trouble. Typically, I work backwards and I master the rhythms at a slow pace. Once I know the section and can play it up to speed, I then change the rhythm around and play it different ways, this helps me get the notes under my fingers and allows for a more graceful flow. I then continue to practice this same way for all of the difficult areas and soon I will be very proficient on the piece. This may seem like a tremendous amount of work, but it takes a lot to be able to perfect anything, and the task becomes even more difficult when an instrument is involved.

In addition to my musical creative process, I also have a creative process when I write. When I begin to write, even if it’s an essay for an English class, I become completely enveloped in my work. I start by making an outline and formulating a thesis; the topic I wish to write about. After this I spend hours upon hours writing and revising my work. My work has to be perfect, or I just cannot hand it in! Typically, I spend anywhere from five to ten hours in total on an essay before I hit the long awaited print button. However, this is not the end of my process, after printing out my work, I read it aloud to and “audience” (usually my sister or whoever will listen) and then I bring it to one of my past English honors teachers.  This may seem a bit excessive, but I hold my essay’s very dear, they’re like my babies!

I believe that a creative process is extremely important to a well structured life and it can be applied to many different fields. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is bringing many never before mentioned topics to the surface and it is allowing for further examination!

Officially a Scarlet Knight!

Just about a week ago, I made the decision that many seniors like myself are making at this time of the year, and I decided to go to Rutgers University! At Rutgers I will be attending the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (SEBS for short) in New Brunswick, New Jersey. This past week, I accepted my enrollment, placed my deposits, and even took my placement test; I’m officially a Scarlet Knight! I am beginning to feel the symptoms of what they call “Senioritis!” “Senioritis” typically set’s in during one’s senior year, usually at the point when their college plans are set and they are ready to matriculate. However, I am trying all that is in my power to not allow this sickness overtake my academic performance. I hope my efforts are seen in my blog work because I have so many wonderful ideas for new posts! My next post will be about the Student Faculty Alumni Concert, so keep an eye out for it!

It’s Friday, Friday…

As many of you probably already know, there is a new YouTube sensation, Rebecca Black. Her song “Friday” went viral on YouTube not too long ago, but for all of the wrong reasons. Every week on this day, everyone seems to feel the need to discuss this mind numbing song, and I finally want to address it.

I believe it is absolutely ridiculous that this song has been awarded so much press, especially when there are so many other musicians struggling to promote their songs. This brings us all to the question, do we create for ourselves or for our audience? Talent goes to waste when the arts cater to their audience when their audience lacks culture in such a significant and apparent way. Referring back to my previous post about Bill Maher, we should appreciate and support the arts instead of promoting music for the obviously wrong reasons.

Please stop the Friday madness!

We Love Vizzini, Oh Yes We Do!

20110407-091503.jpgThe past week was a very exciting one for the students at BHS because NED VIZZINI VISITED! Even though we do not plan on singing a song for this “Birdie” like appearance, I know for certain that all of the students in Mr. Puchinsky’s Arts Business and Technology class were very excited to be able to hear from such a young published author!

Ned Vizzini began his literary career at the age of fifteen with his memoir “Teen Angst,” and continued his career with Young Adult novels such as “Be More Chill” and “It’s Kind of a Funny Story.” Although you may not be familiar with his two earlier works, you may have heard of “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” one of his fantastic works that was recently adapted to screen.

Ned Vizzini was a terrific speaker and gave one of his workshops entitled, “How Not to Go Crazy in High School.” I was completely in awe of him. He was wise beyond his years and extremely intelligent. I enjoyed every moment of his presentation. I even recorded his question and answer session which can be seen via my YouTube channel in multiple parts due to the fact that we had so many questions and he had terrific answers! Part 1 is up now, and the others will soon follow… here’s the link!

After Ned Vizzini spoke, we were able to purchase his books. After hearing his incredible workshop, I just knew that his books would be superb. In fact, I read “Teen Angst Nahhh…” in one day, I just couldn’t put it down! My like turned to obsession as I read it while I waited for a slice of pizza to heat up, a piece I completely burnt as I lost track of time in the book. Whoops! So, just to clarify, Ned Vizzini writes super-amazing-page-turning-burn-your-pizza-good books and I highly recommend them all!

If you would like to learn more about Ned Vizzini, check out this link!