Arts at Taft: Enrichment Beyond the Classroom

Five student-artists took the stage in Bingham Auditorium recently to talk about their experiences with summer programs in the arts, and how each was made possible in part by the Kilbourne Summer Enrichment Fund. 

With both summer and the application window for Taft’s summer arts grants fast approaching, five student-artists took the stage in Bingham Auditorium recently to talk about their experiences with summer programs in the arts, and how each was made possible in part by the Kilbourne Summer Enrichment Fund. 

“The grants awarded can be used to underwrite all or part of the expense of participating in summer programs, classes, seminars, or trips which encourage and expand each grantee’s interest or skill in the visual or performing arts,” explained Sabrina Moffa ’24, who spent two weeks at a vocal-choral intensive at the Boston Conservatory at Berklee last summer with support from a Kilbourne grant. 

Sabrina Moffa ’24: Vocal/Choral Studies

The Boston Conservatory at Berklee is a top performing arts college offering degree programs in dance, music, and theater. Sabrina attended a program designed specifically for high school students.

“The program included private vocal lessons, music theory and sight-singing classes, classes that taught us how to engage our bodies while we sang, choir practices, repertoire classes, stage-works, which focused on putting together a mash-up of Shakespeare and another contemporary playwright into a moving performance with music,” explained Sabrina. “My personal favorite was the performance classes, in which each student had to perform a song of their choice in front of the class, and then one of the teachers would critique the performance in real time. One of the things I value most about my experience is the people I met—students and faculty alike. They came from all over the country and were so extremely talented—it was quite humbling.”

Sabrina shared a montage of her Berklee performances with the Taft audience during the Morning Meeting, which can be viewed here.

Grace Deng ’23: Dance Intensive

Grace attended a two-week dance intensive at The Hartt School in West Hartford, CT, a comprehensive performing arts conservatory of the University of Hartford, offering degree programs in music, dance, and theatre.

“It is where I danced throughout my childhood,” says Grace, “up until the time I began studying at Taft.

During the two-week intensive, Grace danced five days a week, for six hours each day. 

“The program started with a ballet technique class, then moved through other techniques and styles, including character dance, jazz, hip-hop and modern dance, all taught by faculty members and other guest artists. In each class I learned pieces of choreography that I performed at the final showcase. In the end, I performed four pieces: one ballet group dance, one modern dance, one hip hop dance, and one Armenian folk dance, which we performed at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT.”

See clips from Grace’s performances as part of the Morning Meeting talk here.

Ziara Celeste Pichardo ’23: Architecture and Urban Landscaping

Ziara spent three weeks in Rome and Sant’Angelo in Pontano, Italy, studying architecture and urban landscaping with students from across the globe. 

“My favorite sites were the MAXXI Museum, designed by architect Zaha Hadid, and The American Academy in Rome,” says Ziara.  

MAXXI is a national museum of contemporary art and architecture; the American Academy in Rome is a research and arts institution. After visiting these and a wide range of other historic and cultural sites known for their architectural significance and landscape design, Ziara and her peers applied what they learned to their final project: developing designs for an education and trekking center on an abandoned pig farm Sant’Angelo in Pontano, Italy. 

“I wanted to incorporate the natural foliage and landscape in my design,” says Ziara. “I used the four elements of air, water, earth, fire in creating new elements for the pig farm.”

Ziara used digital design software to develop three-dimensional models of her plans for the space, which she then presented to the mayor of Sant’Angelo in Pontano.

Vincent Chen ’24: Bowdoin International Music Festival 

The Bowdoin International Music Festival is one of the world’s premier music institutes. Founded in 1964, the Festival engages exceptional students through world-class education and performances. Each summer, 250 students from more than 20 countries and nearly every state attend the Festival to study with distinguished faculty and guest artists, Vincent among them. 

“The three-week immersion with highly regarded, world class professors and musicians has greatly enhanced my experience with music,” notes Vincent.

Which he then demonstrated, through a live performance of a piece he worked on during the Festival, here

Ronald Ceesay ’23: New York Film Academy

New York Film Academy (NYFA) College of Visual and Performing Arts is a private school for visual and performing arts. Summer program students learn how to shoot short movies using HDSLR digital cameras, professional lighting packages, and industry-standard digital editing software, with New York City as the backdrop. 

“It was my first time in the Big Apple, a city with an integral place in the history of film,” notes Ronald.

For one month, Ronald lived and studied at the Academy, gaining practical experience in directing, basic screenwriting, camera, lighting, editing, and post-production workflow, as well as how to direct actors.

“I joined a group of similarly aged students from all across the world who were also in the directing cohort,” says Ronald, an avid filmmaker who has shared his work with Taft audiences over the years. “Within this cohort we were divided into groups of four. Throughout the day, we attended seminars on lighting, screenwriting, and editing, the goal of which was to produce two short films by the end of the program. When we weren’t directing, we were crew and actors for the other students in our cohort.”

The first film Ronald produced at NYFA was called “The Tourist.” He shared the short film during the Morning Meeting talk.

The Kilbourne Summer Enrichment Fund, established by John Kilbourne, Class of 1958, in memory of his parents, Samuel W. and Evelyn S. Kilbourne, provides students with opportunities in the summer to participate in enriching programs in the arts.

Watch the full Morning Meeting talk here

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