After this weekend, the “once-in-a-lifetime” bucket lists of the singers in Hillcrest’s Vocal Ensemble and their director are a little lighter. Travel together to New York City? Check. Perform with a Grammy-winning composer and conductor? Check. Sing in Carnegie Hall? Check, check, and check. 

After more than a year of planning and practicing, Hillcrest choir director RaNae Dalgleish and her 33 vocal ensemble students took a red-eye to New York City during Spring Break to prepare for a performance in Carnegie Hall on Sunday, April 8. They were joined by high school choirs from Dubai, New Jersey, Tennessee, Canada, Wisconsin, Texas, Ohio, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and California for the Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY) performance of The Music of Eric Whitacre. 

The opportunity to perform in Carnegie Hall is a remarkable experience, but to perform composer Eric Whitacre’s music with him as the conductor is even more significant, said Dalgleish who also performed with her students on Sunday. “This is huge,” she said. “This is a once in a lifetime experience for the kids. I knew that going in, just to work with Eric Whitacre alone is monumental because he is a rock star in the music world.”

Dalgleish responded to an advertisement on Facebook more than a year ago when she saw the potential for her students to have such a unique experience. Her choir from the 2016-2017 school year auditioned for the performance, and they found out in December 2016 that the 2017-2018 choir had been accepted to perform at the event that was described by BBC Music as the “No. 1 North American Live Event Choice for classical music.”



“The Vocal Ensemble received this invitation because of the quality and high level of musicianship demonstrated by the singers,” said Dr. Jonathan Griffith, Artistic Director and Principal Conductor for DCINY, in a news release about Hillcrest’s participation. “These wonderful musicians not only represent a high quality of music and education, but they also become ambassadors for the entire community.”

The choir began working on nine pieces for Sunday’s performance right away, recording and sending videos intermittently to the organization to ensure they would be prepared for the big stage. The students performed “The Rumor of a Secret King” by John Mackey, three spirituals by Moses Hogan, and several songs composed by Whitacre, including “Seal Lullabye,” which was originally written for a Disney movie that was later cancelled.

Whitacre is a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music who has conducted choral and instrumental concerts around the globe, including with the London Symphony Orchestra.
In this digital age of distraction and social isolation, a few dozen Brighton High artists found connection and meaning in the deep human themes depicted in the ancient wall art and petroglyphs of Nine Mile Canyon.

Their trip through the dusty wilds of southern Utah was an educational journey through time, serving as artistic inspiration for a mural they unveiled on Wednesday. For some, the hours spent surrounded by sandstone monoliths and aromatic sagebrush was a restorative break from the hectic pace of an urban high school. Others found connection in communing with voices from the past. Many remarked on how the scope, importance and lasting nature of the art project gave them a sense of purpose.

“The making of beauty, the investing of yourself into making beautiful things in your landscape knowing that they’re going to endure beyond you, knowing that they’ll be there for the next generation, for your grandchildren…is a commitment,” says Lakota/Plains Apache storyteller Dovie Thomason. “If not sacred, we’d certainly call it a top priority.”

Brighton is the fifth Canyons District high school to create a Sacred Images mural as a monument to indigenous peoples. The piece will be permanently installed at the school after the campus is rebuilt with proceeds from a general obligation bond approved by voters in Nov. 2017. The project was made possible by the Center for Documentary Expression and Art and its “Sacred Images” artist-in-residence program, which paired students with Thomason, Ute spiritual leader Larry Cesspooch and muralist Miguel Galaz — guides whose role was to empower students to express themselves.  



Before entering Nine Mile Canyon, Ute Elder and Spiritual Leader Larry Cesspooch gathered with students to bless them with an eagle’s wing. He also shared the Ute creation story and several other tales that have become part of Ute oral tradition over the centuries. 

To hear these and other familiar tales retold by Cesspooch and Thomason “gave the stories a voice that I had never heard before,” said Brighton English teacher Ron Meyer. “It was such a beautiful thing, and I think my students really appreciated that.”

Funding was provided by the Utah Division of Arts and Museums, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Salt Lake County Zoo, Arts and Parks Program. Board members and District administrators and dignitaries, including Shirlee Silversmith, Director of the Utah Division of Indian Affairs, were on hand for the unveiling to celebrate the achievement. 

But the mural was wholly conceived and created by students. “I’d like to take credit, but seriously these students, they did it,” said commercial and AP art teacher Derek Chandler. “We got hands-on and spray-painted, we masked, and we did different art forms that we hadn’t done before.”

The mural, with its bright orange and blue hues, has a characteristically Bengal flair. But beneath the neon paint is a layer of sepia-toned historical photographs depicting people and places who been unifying forces in the students’ world. “When we created the background, we tried to focus on things that brought us together as a community and as a nation,” said student artist Jessica Brunt. “I’m really grateful to have been a part of this project. It was something I’ll never forget and that has helped make me a better person.”

Video courtesy of the Center for Documentary Expression and the Arts.

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  • From the first American production of an epic war play to a tale told with fog, gun shots and strobe lights, high school students in Canyons District are hard at work to bring a variety of stellar performances to the stage this spring. You don’t have to travel all the way to New York City to experience the magic of the theater, just head down the street to your closest high school and see one of these timeless plays:

    "Dunsinane"
    Originally premiered by the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre of Scotland in 2010, David Grieg’s sequel to Macbeth will experience its first all-American production this spring at Hillcrest High School. The play has been performed in the United States, but it was a touring production by the National Theatre of Scotland. Written in modern vernacular, it starts right where Shakespeare left off as a British idealist invades Scotland with his army of young men to establish peace in a foreign country. Peace, however, is not as easy to create as they expect. With a cast of over 120 actors portraying male and female warriors, this modern epic with surprising twists will be performed with a company of students from throughout the school, with a thoughtful exploration of the idea of peace in the modern era. Tickets are $10, though sometimes discounted tickets are available in advance on the school’s website.
    When: March 16, 17, 19
    Where: Hillcrest High School

    "Macbeth"
    This classic tale from Shakespeare tells the story of choice and consequence. It chronicles the tale of Macbeth, a Scottish Lord overcome with ambition. He kills the king and takes his place, only to find himself sick with paranoia about maintaining his position. Because of the mature themes of the play, only those age 10 and above are invited to attend. The performance will allow the audience to sit on stage with the performers in the style of a black box theatre. Time period and gender roles are removed to give new perspective to the story, which will be told with fog, gun shots, sword fighting, strobe lights, live sound effects and lots of fun. Tickets are $9.
    When: Feb. 21-24 at 7 p.m.
    Where: Alta High school auditorium

    "The Comedy of Errors"
    This Shakespearean play tells the story of Antipholus and his servant, Dromio, who go looking for their long-lost twins, from whom they were accidentally separated at birth. When the pair ends up in the same town as their siblings without knowing it, suddenly everyone is seeing double in this fast-paced comedy of mistaken identity, which ends with the happiest of family reunions. Tickets are $5.
    When: Feb 22-24 and 26 at 7 p.m.
    Where: Jordan High School

    "The Crucible"
    "The Crucible" is Arthur Miller’s masterful retelling of the witch trials in Salem Massachusetts. This chilling and poignant story is as relatable and relevant today as it was in 1693 when it occurred and in 1953 when it was written by Miller. All are invited to enjoy this unique and intimate production of this timeless tale. Tickets are $9 for adults and $4 for students and children.
    When: March 9, 10, 12 at 7 p.m.
    Where: Brighton High Auditorium 

    "Dr. Faustus"
    "Dr. Faustus" is the story of a man who sells his soul to the devil in order to get whatever he wants. Viewers of this play may be inspired to ask themselves, how far would you go to achieve greatness? The performance will also include a presentation of individual pieces used in competition, including monologues, scenes, songs and pantomimes. Tickets are $5.
    When: March 16-17 at 7 p.m.
    Where: Corner Canyon Little Theatre

    "The Beautiful Game"
    This rarely performed musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber will have its Utah high school premiere this spring at Hillcrest High. The musical sets rioting in 1970 in Ireland against a backdrop of a high school soccer team, telling a tale that’s part West Side Story, part Newsies. With soaring ballads, an intense narrative and incredible choreography, the performance will feature an incredible evening of dance, soccer, and the fight for a world without violence. Tickets are $10, though sometimes discounted tickets are available in advance on the school’s website.
    When: May 17-19
    Where: Hillcrest High School
    Dust off your roller skates and pull out your leg warmers. It’s time to relive the ‘80s.

    Fall musicals are in full swing, and next up on the performing arts calendar is Brighton High’s production of Xanadu on Oct. 26, 27 and 30 at 7 p.m. and on Oct. 28 at 2 p.m. The show will be performed at Brighton’s auditorium.

    Like the multi-hued leaves decorating the Wasatch Mountain range, this year’s fall theatre lineup is perhaps one of the most diverse on record. Whatever type of theater you love, CSD has something for you. Following is a list of performances and dates.  Tickets can be purchased at each school’s box office. 

    • Alta: “The Wizard of Oz,” Nov. 14-20
    • Brighton: “Xanadu,” Oct. 26-28 and 30
    • Corner Canyon: “The Little Mermaid,” Nov. 18, 20
    • Hillcrest: “Les Miserables,” Nov.16-18, 20
    • Jordan:  "The Addams Family," Nov. 9, 10, 11, and 13
    The first-ever members to join Alta High’s marching band will be graduating this year — and they’ll be celebrating in a big way.

    After four years of high-stepping, twirling and drumming, Canyons District’s only marching band will be taking their talent across the country to represent Utah in the 13th annual National Memorial Day Parade, held annually on Constitution Avenue to honor the men and women who have served valiantly in the U.S. Armed Forces.  The parade starts at 2 p.m. Eastern on Monday. 

    This is the first time the award-winning band will perform in a different state, and they will be the only Utah marching band in the event. The parade is one of the country’s largest Memorial Day event.

    “I had no idea we would be marching in this parade,” said Alta bandleader Caleb Shabestari, who led the band to 2A division state championships in 2013 and 2014. “I think it’s cool we’ve doubled the size of the band in four years and we’re taking a trip across the country. We couldn’t have done that last year.”

    Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan nominated the marching band to represent Utah last March and the group has been preparing ever since. These days, the students attend practice two days a week to put the final touches on their patriotic program. The songs they will perform will highlight an immigrant’s journey to the United States.

    “Just for the parade we’ve probably practiced for 40 hours straight,” Shabestari said. For those who won’t be able to see the parade in Washington, D.C. on Monday, May 29, the band will perform the same numbers at parades this summer in Sandy and Draper. 

    The parade also will be streamed live on military.com.  

    In June, the Alta High marching band will begin rehearsals for the summer band program, which includes flashy performances in Fourth of July and city celebration parades. The students range in age from seventh- to 12th grades and hail from all parts of the District. 

    In the fall, the group will start working on their fall competition program, which will feature a theme of air, flight and planes, with completely original music. Students from all over Canyons participate in the District band located at Alta.

     “My goal at the end of five years is to have a band with over 100 people,” Shabestari said. “We are well on track to do that.”
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