Lawrence Academy Announces Graduation Speakers

Pamela Nwaoko ‘06 will keynote LA’s 225th commencement exercises

As the school eagerly anticipates Lawrence Academy’s 225th commencement exercises, we are excited to announce that Pamela Nwaoko ’06 will be Lawrence Academy’s 2018 Commencement Speaker.

Pamela Nwaoko '06

Pamela Nwaoko ’06

A member of LA’s Class of 2006, Pamela was born and raised in New Jersey to Nigerian immigrant parents. While in Groton, Pamela engaged in a diverse set of co-curricular activities, including directing a One Act play, founding of one of LA’s first affinity groups, working with students and faculty to develop the Cultural Coffeehouse Series, and, on the weekends, spending much quality time in the library.

After graduating from Lawrence Academy, Pamela attended Georgetown University, the University of Oxford, and Harvard Law School. At Georgetown, she was named a Top Ten College Woman by Glamour Magazine, a Goldman Sachs “Global Leader,” and she addressed her graduating class as a Senior Convocation Speaker. She attended Oxford on a full-tuition scholarship as a Healy Scholar and was recognized during Harvard’s Commencement Ceremony with the Dean’s Award for Community Leadership.

Ms. Nwaoko now practices law in Washington, DC at the multinational law firm Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, representing and advising national and international financial institutions.

“I am excited for the opportunity to return to where my challenging, yet rewarding, educational journey began,” said Nwaoko. “I look forward to meeting the class of 2018!”

Head of School Dan Scheibe will lead the proceedings on June 1 on the Lawrence Academy Quad. Joining Pamela at the podium will be Class of 2018 president Gavin Slattery and peer-selected senior speakers AJ Mastrangelo and Jorie Van Nest.

Published Poets at LA

Poetry is thriving here at Lawrence Academy.

MaggieEThis past summer, Maggie Eames ‘19 saw her work appear in three publications, while Annie Baron ‘17’s poem “Wonder” was selected as a winner in the Save the Earth Poetry Contest.

Now a junior, Maggie “was a poet coming in the door” when she arrived as a freshman, said English teacher Meghan Smith (who is currently pursuing her MFA in poetry through Vermont College), who had Eames as a student.

“We try to teach kids some poetry composition every year in each of the grades,” added English department chair Laura Moore (whose second book of poetry will be published by Kelsay Books this winter, a collection called “Using Your Words”).

Between the students’ work in the classroom, the poetry recitation and spoken word slams, and the literary magazine, “We do have a place for kids who have that particular passion, for sure.”

Maggie’s feature in WURD—an anthology published by a program run out of the Pratt Institute in New York—includes three poems and a short biography, in which she cites the poets Ocean Vuong, E. E. Cummings, and Sylvia Plath among her inspirations. Beneath the title of the first poem, “pendulum petals,” she notes that the poem was inspired by sculptor Alexander Calder’s Arc of Petals, a mobile display in the Guggenheim Museum.

“[It’s the] idea that the page has very little to do with straight lines, that the whole thing is a canvas,” Mrs. Smith described.

Many of Maggie’s poems speak to a connection between visual art and writing; in ‘pendulum petals,’ the poem’s form is one that reflects movement, with words spaced out, letters broken up, and lines appearing to sway back and forth across the page.

“I do think most of my poetry is influenced by other works of art,” said Maggie.

“At Pratt, we went to museums every Saturday and worked with students in other majors, so a lot of the pieces I wrote were inspired by a variety of visual arts pieces by students and at museums, [and] by other poems we read.”

In addition to her work with the Pratt Institute, Maggie attended the New England Young Writers’ Conference at Middlebury’s Bread Loaf School of English, where she took a class on conveying emotion through description.

“My instructor emphasized the importance of gaining inspiration from visual art,” said Eames. “If we want to effectively convey emotion in writing, visual art is a really strong place to start because we have to feel the emotion ourselves to write it.”

Maggie also saw her work published by American High School Poets: Inside My World, published by Live Poets Society of NJ, and Polyphony H.S., an international student-run literary magazine for high-school writers.

As for Annie Barron ’17, her poem “Wonder” was selected as one of the winners of the Save the Earth Poetry Contest.

IMG_8838When it comes to poetry, Annie is somewhat of a late bloomer.

“It was definitely a long process to get where I am today when it comes to my relationship with poetry,” she reflected. “I think when I first began exploring it in an academic setting during my freshman year, I thought it was super elusive, which intimidated me.

“I remember wishing it was more straightforward, and I definitely thought that writing fiction and short stories was easier because I could use more words to explain myself.”

So, what changed?

“I used to journal a lot, and I think in writing down everything I had to say in a book, I became more comfortable with using words to express emotions and things that I thought were beautiful,” she explained.

At LA, Annie found herself starting to explore writing in a more general way; gradually, her focus shifted.

“I don’t think I was truly comfortable with sharing my work until my junior year,” she admitted.

“Once I did start to share my work, I really felt supported by the LA English department; I felt like they were all trying to help me improve and become more comfortable, which was a major help for me when it came to exploring poetry.”

These days, now as a student at Lewis & Clark College, Annie says she writes more poetry than prose.

“It’s quite the opposite of what I was like during my freshman year of high school,” she said as she described the perspective she’s unearthed through developing her writing.

“Instead of being something that I try to avoid because of how elusive it is, I’ve come to appreciate and respect that kind of elusiveness in poetry because I also notice elusiveness in the world around me.”

“To me, it was a perfect fit.”

Shep’s Place No. 45 – Elite Syncopations

Record cover

The Old Record Shelf

Not long ago, I was browsing through our dusty collection of vinyl (and shellac, as they used to call the 78 rpm records my parents grew up with). In addition to a few classical albums, there’s a lot of Russian music of all sorts — no surprise, since Tanya is of Russian descent and we were both Russian teachers at one time. Then there’s the oddball stuff: Allan Sherman, Mrs. Miller, Tom Lehrer, “Sentimental Songs of the Mid-19th Century,” etc.

Near the end of the shelf, I pulled out an old friend: “Elite Syncopations,” the LP album made by the LA Glee Club (as the chorus was then called) and a cappella groups in the spring of 1977, at a time when choral music at LA was on the rebound after a few lean years. The album hit the streets 40 years ago this fall, at the start of what would be my last year as choral director.

LAGC 1976-77

The Lawrence Academy Glee Club, 1976  – 1977

The album’s title was borrowed from a piano rag of the same name* by Scott Joplin, and the sheet music cover became the basis for the record jacket’s design. Before the days of radio and TV, sheet music was the main marketing tool for new popular songs. Elaborate and colorful covers were designed to catch a customer’s eye. You’d walk into a music store, pick out a song, and give it to the resident piano player to run through it for you — sort of a 1910 predecessor to today’s 30-second preview clips on iTunes. Then you’d buy the music for a nickel or a dime, or perhaps the phonograph record if you had a Victrola and could afford the 75¢.

Making our recording took about half the 1976 – ’77 school year. The main reason it took so long was simply the busy-ness of school life: we had to find times when everyone, or almost everyone, could be there. We did it in the pre-RMPAC Ginsburg Auditorium, with the singers standing among the seats, facing the stage. Our new Realistic stereo cassette recorder with Dolby noise reduction was strategically placed near the front of the hall, with two pretty good mics on tall stands a few feet in front of the chorus. Reverb, stereo balance, etc., were controlled by the strategic moving around of bodies and microphones.

Close Shaves

The Close Shaves (l. to r.): Palen Conway’77, Paul Wheatley ’78, Seth Williams ’77,
Clark Sutton ’78

The glee club that year wasn’t quite the best one we’d ever had — we’d lost much of our first string to graduation in 1976 — but the small groups were in their prime. The Close Shaves, in the second year of their existence, loved singing, to put it mildly. Several mornings each week, we’d (Yes, I said “we” — I was much younger then,) meet in the old music room in the Ferguson Building for half an hour before assembly, which in those days started at 7:45,  to rehearse. Every few weeks, they would brighten up a boring morning meeting with a couple of new tunes, always to thunderous applause.

 

Jazzbelles

The Jazzbelles. Clockwise from bottom: Jane Axelrod ’77, Neena Koules ’78, Claire Shoen ’78, Andrea Swanson ’77, Janie Bernstein ’77

The girls’ group, the Jazzbelles, were newcomers to the LA music scene. Sadly, they were only around for a year or two, but their short career was brilliant. From the get-go, they did much of it on their own, good friends who loved singing barbershop. Zuellen Marshall, a faculty colleague, provided a bit of musical direction, but mostly they took a page from Frank Sinatra’s songbook and did it their way. Two wonderful solos by the very talented Juan Patrick ’78, round out the recording. She had a gorgeous voice and a tremendous range; she thrilled many an LA audience with her own interpretations of the American Songbook. On the record jacket, we called her “LA’s own Ella Fitzgerald.”

 

Juan Patrick '78

Juan Patrick ’78

Below you’ll find a link to the best of “Elite Syncopations” with a list of the selections. May it bring back fond memories for many of you; for the young’uns, I hope you’ll enjoy listening to a bit of Lawrence Academy’s music as it was forty years ago. It seems like last week.

 

Listen to the Album here…

Glee Club:

Sing’t Dem Herr’n (a round in five parts) M. Praetorius    

Since First I Saw Your Face Ford

Lawrence, Here’s to Thee! arr. JSS

The Madrigal Singers:

Mon Coeur Se Recommande à Vous O. diLasso

Juan Patrick:

The Way We Were Bergman-Hamlisch

The Jazzbelles:

The Curse of an Aching Heart Piantadosi-Fink arr. Sweet Adelines

Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy Prince-Raye

The Close Shaves:

Crazy Rhythm Caesar, Mayer et al., arr. JSS Sr.

A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening McHugh-Adamson, arr. JSS Sr.

Mavourneen Traditional, arr. Yale Song Book

Toot, Toot, Tootsie Kahn, Erdman et al., arr. JSS Sr.

Good Night Close Shaves

*   *   *

*https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sE7x05LJj4w  (There are several other versions on YouTube.)

Check out Shep’s Place 1 – 44 in the archive.

 

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