Take a deep dive through D-Wing
May 3, 2023
To many students at East, D-Wing is just another hallway they happen to walk past on their way to class, the bathroom, or perhaps lunch. But to the students who spend hours upon hours perfecting their skills within its’ walls, D-Wing is so much more than that. It houses teachers who have passions they are eager to share, numerous musical arts groups who are ready to perform their talents, and dedicated students who have and will continue to move forward with their lives, never forgetting the impact East has left on them. D-Wing produces friendships, goals, memories, and virtuosities that may go overlooked but are nonetheless extremely important to East.
So, sit back and enjoy the show as Eastside takes you on a deep dive through D-Wing!
Keleher succeeds as ensemble leader and musician
D-Wing is home to not only the students who make up the music department but also teachers such as Mr. Timothy Keleher, who are the backbone of the department.
What most don’t know about Keleher is that he had a successful career in music before coming to Cherry Hill as a teacher. Previously, Keleher was a full-time professional orchestra player and later became an administrator for the Opera Company of Philadelphia.
During his time touring, Keleher performed with headliners such as Gladys Knight, Peter Cetera, and Aretha Franklin at venues including the Tropicana and the Hilton. After 10 years, however, Keleher decided it was time for a change and made the transition to teaching.
“I had been playing out in California, and my wife and family had just moved back so I temporarily took a job substitute teaching in Cherry Hill schools—temporarily, so I told myself,” he said.
While the job was only supposed to be temporary, a Cherry Hill administrator recruited Keleher to take a full-time position, and he has taught in the district ever since. Although Keleher started teaching at East in 1988, he actually taught elementary and middle school music for six years prior.
Since coming to East, Keleher continues to find success both in and outside of the music department. In 2019, the Cherry Hill East Symphony Orchestra had the opportunity to perform in Carnegie Hall as part of the Viennese Masters Orchestra Festival. Furthermore, in 1994, Keleher was awarded the Award for Excellence in Teaching from the New Jersey Symphony Master Teacher Collaborative. Currently, Keleher conducts the symphony orchestra, marching band, jazz band, jazz standards, wind symphony and the pit orchestra, all while also teaching AP Music Theory.
In 2020, Keleher and the music department as a whole faced a significant challenge— COVID-19. Now, one of Keleher’s main goals is to try and recover from the impact COVID-19 had and rebuild the program.
“We lost some numbers because of COVID, but the good news is I’ve been told that the fourth and fifth graders have all been signing up like crazy to be in the music program so we have a whole wave of new students coming,” he said.
Nevertheless, many members of the music department have flourished and found success. Although Keleher believes that the music department is overlooked, just this year, over 40 students have auditioned for and become members of several prestigious music programs, including All National Band and All National Jazz Band.
“There’s a lot of opportunities we have here [at East] that when I was in high school I didn’t have,” said Keleher. “These students have a lot here to help them grow and help them become the best they can be at music.”
Walton finds community in East’s music department
For many people, music is just a hobby or talent that they’re interested in. But for Ms. Gia Walton, one of East’s instrumental music directors, music is her life.
Given that her parents owned one location of the New Jersey School of Music, Walton discovered her love for music at a young age. Starting with the saxophone and moving on to clarinet, Walton found that wind instruments were her absolute favorite. She attended the University of the Arts, where she received a Bachelor’s degree in music as a clarinet major, and later attended Temple University and earned a Master’s degree in clarinet and saxophone. When it was time to decide what she wanted to do with her life, there was no doubt in Walton’s mind that she wanted to pursue music.
Walton has performed in showrooms and casinos, combining her talent with other accomplished musicians. She played with numerous orchestras including the Atlantic Chamber Ensemble, the Ocean City Pops, the Bridgeton Symphony, the Walnut Street Theater Orchestra, the Princeton Musical Festival Theater and one of her favorite performances, the Philly Pops Orchestra.
Playing in the showrooms of Atlantic City casinos inspired Walton and her husband to open a School of Music in Ventnor, New Jersey. At this point, Walton wasn’t only a freelance musician; she also taught at the school in Ventnor, did private lessons, and had her own private studio. The school closed after five years, but that did not stop Walton’s love for teaching.
From the Ventnor School of Music, to private lessons, to adjunct classes at the University of the Arts, to Bishop Eustace High School, and now Cherry Hill East, it’s clear that Walton has impacted many aspiring musicians over the past decade.
At East specifically, Walton has taught for 18 years and can confidently say that each and every student has left a lasting impression on her.
“It’s been a blessing to be here because we have such a great pool of musicians… a really good group of kids that can be brought to a high level,” said Walton.
She enjoys helping every student become the musician they strive to be. Whether they need a band teacher or a supportive friend, Walton is there for them. Her role as a music teacher has allowed her to connect with her students, some of whom even have invited her to their high school graduation parties because of her key role in their years at East. Walton spends hours with her students going over songs and teaching them how to excel.
“It’s amazing to see what happens between freshman and senior year. It’s a huge transformation,” Walton said.
She considers each year a great accomplishment and urges her students to feel the same way. Walton tries her best to organize and set up events, concerts, and festivals for both the Lab Band and Wind Ensemble. Concerts, though stressful, are her favorite events to organize.
“It’s fun to get out there and work with [the performers] when you know they are at their best that night,” said Walton.
The best part of her job is easily the students she gets to teach and the music community around her. Imagining her life without East is difficult because of all the important memories and all the people she has met within these walls.
When it comes to Walton’s life everything is tied to music and specifically, that shared love for it. Whether it’s her family, her students, or her co-workers, every day, she witnesses how music connects people.
Mandescu guides string musicians at East
The average length of a child’s index finger ranges from 50-88 mm. To most 6-year-old girls, this information is meaningless. But for Ms. Gabriela Mandescu, it had the potential to completely alter her fate.
Growing up in Romania, the only way Mandescu could access music education was through alternate schools. At age six she already knew she wanted to pursue this path. In order to gain admission, she was assessed on her hearing, sense of rhythm, and even the length of her hands.
“If I would want to play piano they would probably say ‘No, because your fingers are too short,’” she explained. Since she had chosen the violin and passed all of her assessments, Mandescu began her music journey.
A typical school day began at 8 AM. Until noon she would learn like any ordinary student, then begin her music classes for the remaining three hours. She continued this way from first grade all the way until 12th. Every six months her teachers tested her abilities. Failure was not an option; it meant she would have to find a new school.
“For me, it was kind of very set from six years old that I wanted to do music,” said Mandescu. “It was very easy, what I wanted to do.”
She continued this pursuit at the University of Music in Bucharest, Romania, where she earned a full scholarship. While she learned many instruments, ranging from the viola, to the piano, to the bass, and to the cello, the violin had always remained her forté.
“That was my first love,” said Mandescu. “To just play my violin. To perform.”
At twenty-five she made the decision to leave Romania. Before moving to the US, however, she performed in professional ensembles like the Giurgiu Symphony and the Radio National Chamber Orchestra.
Despite knowing little English, Mandescu began working toward her Masters at Temple University. At the same time she served as concertmaster and the assistant teacher for Temple Music Prep. By the end of her studies at Temple, she had also earned her teaching certification.
It wasn’t for another ten years that Mandescu came to the Cherry Hill School District. Before this time, she played professionally in ensembles like Symphony C, Reading Symphony, and Pottstown Symphony. She also worked freelance, booking performances with names like Frank Sinatra Jr. and Elton John. She even found herself accompanying Broadway shows, like “Into the Woods.”
With all of this success, Mandescu still felt a calling to teach. She started at the elementary level, splitting her time between her younger students in the morning and her highschool students in the afternoon. Nine years ago she began dividing her time between Beck Middle School and East, and it has remained that way ever since. In total, Mandescu has worked in the district for 17 years.
“I feel that we have an amazing music program here, in the Cherry Hill District,” she said. “Weekly lessons, in small groups. That’s the root of our music program. If those would ever be taken [away], I don’t see students being as advanced.”
Mandescu focuses on individualized training for her students, and especially for those new to music. By implementing a beginners class at Beck, she is able to foster a more productive learning environment.
“This, for us, is golden to have these lessons,” she said.
Mandescu’s work is not confined within the district. She also instructs Rowan University’s String Orchestra, and participates in performance groups like the Bay-Atlantic Symphony and The Philly Pops. With endless commitments and unimaginable stress, Mandescu says one thing has always kept her focused: her love of music.
“This is what I love the most. Knowing that the students keep that love of music for the rest of their lives. And they keep playing, even just for fun. It’s so important,” she said.
This love has stayed with Mandescu across the globe, to countless venues, and to many classrooms. It is a love that has remained present nearly all her life, and she never plans to let go.
“You have to constantly maintain where you are, and constantly search to play better,” she said. “And that will never stop.”
73 Questions with Ms. Heather Lockart
Gia Gupta (’23) asks Ms. Heather Lockart, one of East’s Choral Directors, 73 Questions in the style of Vogue’s 73 Questions videos. Lucas Tang (’23) films as Lockart gives truthful answers to the numerous questions about her job and her life.
Lausi continues to inspire students through song
Ms. Laurie Lausi teaches choir and vocal training at East. She has been teaching here for over 26 years.
During her very first year at East, she was able to take East singers and orchestra to the world-renowned Carnegie Hall where they carried out a beautiful performance. It was an experience none of them will ever forget.
In 2005, East Singers partnered with the choirs and orchestras of West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North to do a performance of “Carmina Burana” at the Kimmel Center. They raised over $40,000 for Breast Cancer research and involved many other East departments in the process; business students helped design the tickets, art students did an art show in the lobby, graphic art students designed the t-shirt…and the list goes on! Since they couldn’t do an event of this size every year, Lausi came up with Coffee House which has been held almost every year since 2006. Coffee House allows her students to use their talents to better their community. There is always a cause that Coffee House raises awareness and money for. It also allows other parts of the school community to get involved as well. This year’s Coffee House will benefit Oaks Integrated Health Care and focus on mental health and will be held on April 22. Lausi encourages everyone to come and watch the show!
East Singers is 1 of 5 high school choirs in the state to perform alongside the distinguished Chanticleer choir at Westminster Choir College this month. East Singers have also been asked to do a world premiere of a new choral piece in the Choral Spring Concert on May 18 at 7:30 pm. They are hoping their composer will be able to fly in for the premiere of their new piece. Another event coming up for East Choir includes their annual spring “recruitment”. The small group’s of East, the different organizations connected to Choir, will be visiting the elementary schools hoping to meet more students inspired by music. They are always planting seeds to recruit future singers.
From an early age, Lausi knew she wanted to be a teacher. She gravitated towards jobs that involved working with children. And she also had a rich musical experience throughout her entire childhood with choirs, piano, and church. To be able to blend her love of teaching and music together was the perfect career path for her. Lausi has 2 children who are currently students at East and both of them are active parts of its choirs, small groups and Marching Band. Her parents were both music teachers for a big portion of their lives so she was in choirs and attending concerts from the age of 4!
Before working at East, Lausi performed with the Select Choir and Madrigals (similar to East Voce) all throughout high school. She always did extra-musical experiences like Honors Choirs and piano competitions. In college, she continued to perform in top choirs and small select ensembles. She directed her sorority in an all-college SING Competition, and she performed with the Mexico City Symphony in college
“That was a fun trip and experience,” says Lausi.
For several years, Lausi directed a summer camp twist on the musical “Glee” with her co-director Mrs. Heather Lockart. Their last summer was 2019. She is going to teach a workshop this summer for Cherry Hill Summer Enrichment called The Singing Workshop. She is also the assistant director of the All-Cherry Hill Chorus. This past holiday season, she began a quartet, an ensemble of four singers, called “Holiday Harmonies” that performs at parties and events. She also participates in her church music program every now and then and has been on the staff of American Music Abroad, an Honors Choir of high school singers who performed in and toured several countries in Europe.
When she first began at East, She accepted the job of director of a community group called The Spotliters. She has also been given opportunities to perform with well-known composers/conductors like Eric Whitacre and Stephen Schwartz (composer of Wicked).
“I love the variety of my job! No year is the same. All the new music and new members in the choir make it really fun. I really enjoy teaching an elective where most of my students stay with Choir all 4 years. It is such a privilege to be able to have those relationships and be able to watch my freshmen grow into amazing seniors,” Lausi says.
Lausi goes on to express her admiration towards her career, “I also love the awesome responsibility of being a role model for my students. I choose to show kindness, forgiveness, and gratitude in all situations, and I hope that this will impact the lives of my students so that they leave East not only as better musicians but also as better people!”
Lausi can build connections with her students because she believes that singing is such a personal act; you are sharing a very vulnerable part of yourself when you share your voice. She makes it a priority to get to know each of her students and allow them to get to know each other. Lausi believes the more comfortable you are around each other, the more likely you are to fully reveal your vocal abilities.
“I think we represent every department! I really enjoy getting to know East teachers. I also had the privilege of being a chaperone for the senior trip to Disney this year and made deeper connections with the incredible teachers on that trip. We have some of the most incredible humans on our faculty,” says Lausi.
She’s thankful for getting to do what she loves every day around the people she cares most about.
Vocal Workshop allows students to kickstart their singing career
Vocal workshop allows students to focus on their vocal abilities and improve their phonation. Conducted by Ms. Heather Lockart, Vocal Workshop is designed to provide you with the skills and confidence needed to get your voice into gear and raring to go.
In D041, East’s Vocal Workshop is open to anyone who would like to kick start their singing career. By taking this class at East, you will be given the foundation of vocalization and reading sheet music. Everything you need to know to advance to the higher choirs is taught. For practice, Vocal Workshop does warmups, stretching, and sight reading which is reading notes off the board to figure out certain pitches and keys. Members of Vocal Workshop use the knowledge they obtain to fluently and successfully read tablatures. In each class, and occasionally during the lunch breaks, all students are found practicing exercises that adequately improve their vocal abilities. Lockart, along with her students, utilizes all the time they can get to prepare for performances. Performances can be nerve-racking because each time they need to sing new songs, however, everyone involved looks forward to presenting their skills.
Katie Sullivan (‘25) is taking a vocal workshop this year, and she says the class has gotten her more excited to grow as a singer and expand her knowledge. Some successful events they have done this year include the Fall Preview and the Winter Choral Concert.
“The concerts were so amazing, [the higher-up choirs] were raving about us,” says Sullivan.
Vocal Workshop will be performing in the Spring Choral Concert on May 18th. Sullivan’s favorite thing about Vocal Workshop is how it’s a good way to meet people with the same passions as you. She explains how easy it is to connect with other kids in the class, and how she views Vocal Workshop as a tight-knit community.
“It’s kinda like we’re a family,” says Sullivan.
So, if you’re looking for a way to kickstart your understanding of the foundations of music, look into joining Vocal Workshop. It’s open to all grades and there is no experience required. Because Vocal Workshop fits into your class schedule, there is no stress about time management. Vocal Workshop is used to embody your voice, to come fully into your body, your sound, your music, your expressiveness, and the sound of an individual. All these aspects work together to serve and influence one another!
Taking Note of Stay Tuned: East’s A Cappella group shines on stage
Today, more than ever, music is an intricate tapestry of sound. Songs are layered with countless different harmonies, tones, styles, rhythms, and more. In fact, most of today’s pop songs consist of over 20 distinct audio tracks, from percussion to bass to lead and backing vocals. Now, imagine you were challenged to perform a song, complexities and all, with just one instrument: the human voice. Of course, this is no easy task, but for Stay Tuned, Cherry Hill East’s a cappella group, it is what they do best.
Stay Tuned recently demonstrated their vocal prowess at the Mid-Atlantic quarterfinals of the International Competition for High School A Cappella (ICHSA), a highly prestigious national tournament for high school a cappella groups. To compete at quarterfinals, the group first had to pass the first round of competition, in which they sent in a video audition to judges. At quarterfinals, they then won first place overall, as well as Best Soloist, awarded to Faith Kidd (‘23), and the Best Vocal Percussion, awarded to Everett Garcia (‘24). By earning the top spot at quarterfinals, Stay Tuned became one of two teams from the region to advance to the semifinal round of the ICHSA, which will be held at Neptune High School on March 25th, 2023.
En route to their win, Stay Tuned performed three songs in their ten-minute set: “All for Us”, “River of Tears”, and “Good Things Come to Those Who Wait.” Yet the ten minutes of brilliance the judges and audience see on stage is just the tip of the iceberg – the product of hours and hours of practice and preparation.
For officers Asha Maisuria (‘23), Maddie Reddy (‘23), and Carlotta Vingelli (‘23), Stay Tuned’s success is largely attributed to the amount of time, thought, and purpose that goes into every moment of their performance. Take the song selection, for example.
“[When we choose songs], it’s really about what’s the most practical [and] what shows off the group the most. Like what do we feel the most confident in?” said Maisuria.
The process of finding the best collection of songs for competition can be an extensive process, as the group continuously makes changes and refinements to their set list throughout the year to reflect how their collective and individual sound have evolved.
“We start in September, and we sound different. We look different, like the whole vibe of the group is so different when it comes time to compete,” said Vingelli.
This year, the singers also took their song selection a step further by interweaving a storyline throughout their performance as well. Starting from their opening song, “All for Us”, they depict the journey of an individual hitting rock bottom, then being surrounded by sorrow in a “River of Tears”, and finally finding happiness in “Good Things Come to Those Who Wait.”
In addition to song selection, the group also pays careful attention to choreography, as well as the dynamics and techniques needed to execute each song, in order to create a powerful performance.
“I find our peak moments where we need a push and pull, where we need to draw [the audience’s] attention to this moment,” said Reddy, who is also the choreographer for the group. Reddy draws from her extensive dance background when designing the choreography, in addition to taking input from other members of the group.
“Another big part of the [choreography] process is putting it all together, seeing what it looks like on other people because as much as I can put it in my head and think that it works, a lot of the time when I put it on my group, it doesn’t work,” she continues.
While the choreography in Stay Tuned’s performances isn’t exactly like that of a dance performance, the group also often utilizes movement to convey a feeling or message to the audience. For example, during a climactic point in “All for Us”, the group gathers in a close formation in a pulsing movement, creating the likeness of a beating heart. Like song selection, each movement is tailored to the group and intended to enhance the performance, but not excessively so.
“Our director Ms. Lockhart talked to us about finding the ‘ten’ moment of our set,” said Reddy. “And that’s a really interesting thing to think about when we’re thinking about picking songs, doing choreography, figuring out our dynamics for our pieces [because] if everything is always a ‘ten’ nothing shines. You need to pick that ‘ten’ moment, and every other ‘ten’ needs to be an eight or nine.”
Furthermore, because of the absence of a backing track in a cappella, the singers must instead rely on their group mates during a performance, building off one another’s harmonies and energy. The singers must make sure to stay in balance without overpowering one another during a performance – in this way, they can create a full, rich sound on stage.
“My favorite part of it is when you listen to acapella music, it doesn’t just sound empty, like it’s just people singing. It sounds so full, like our voices become an instrument,” said Reddy.
Speaking of teamwork, a key aspect of Stay Tuned’s success has been their close bonds with one another. Connected by their shared passion for singing, the group has become a close-knit family with countless memories, from Wawa runs to potluck parties to games of Just Dance.
“[Going into practice], you know that you’re going into an environment where everyone’s working really hard and everyone’s working really passionately, and [where] you can all just bond over your love of music,” said Vingelli.
Such an environment is crucial to singing especially, as this art form truly does require one to open up and embrace vulnerability.
“Stay Tuned’s biggest strength is [their] willingness to take [a] risk and put [themselves] out there,” said Ms. Heather Lockart, the advisor of Stay Tuned. “The entire group is so safe and comfortable with one another because it’s like a family.”
In her years of teaching choir and a cappella, Lockart has found that this courage is a crucial quality needed for a group to thrive. She encourages future students to also take a risk and audition for Stay Tuned.
“Anybody could do it with enough determination and hard work. All you need is a passion for music and singing. If you have that inside of you, come and join us,” said Lockart.
Lockart officially established Stay Tuned in 2012, and since then, the group has enjoyed great success at the ICHSA, as well as other competitions such as A Cappella for Autism. Stay Tuned’s involvement in such competitions is one of its focal points, setting it apart from the other small vocal groups offered at East, such as Belles and Voce.
Though this competition aspect is what drew many of Stay Tuned’s current members to join the group, the act of performing itself has also been quite a fulfilling experience because they’ve been able to inspire others with their passion for singing. Recently, the group performed for prospective East students and their families, one of the liveliest audiences they’ve ever had, at the Eighth Grade Open House.
“I like knowing that the future is bright and [we’re] inspiring a lot of kids because I know that there’s a lot of little people out there that want to be just like us one day,” said Vingelli.
One performance at a time, Stay Tuned is sharing the art of a cappella and a love for music with the community, leaving a legacy that continues to inspire East students for years to come.
The Belles form a tight-knit community in the walls of D-Wing
The sound of handbells echoes through the East auditorium at the Winter and Spring Concerts. With the soft ring and gentle vibration, the whole auditorium fills with a beautiful musical melody. The Belles of East, a group of 16 girls, are the talent behind this unique way of performance.
The Belles of East are one of three small groups here at East, along with Voce and Stay Tuned. It is the oldest small group at East, and has been here longer than its director, Mrs. Laurie Lausi has worked here. Teachers at East like Ms. Debbie Barr and Ms. Stacy Garson were in the group when they went to East. The Belles use actual handbells in their performances, in contrast to Voce and Stay Tuned, both of which perform a cappella.
The Belles of East are one of the few groups in the country to use this unique instrument. While the training and preparation is tough, the end product makes it worth it.
“It adds a really nice atmosphere and tone to all of the songs that we do. It’s just a very whimsical feeling,” says Usra Aslam (‘24), one of the Belles’ officers.
The Belles audition process starts very early. All of the small groups must first go through the same audition procedure. They practice basic skills like scales and sight reading during these tryouts. After this, aspiring Belles have a weeklong Belles training-focused workshop. This is where the handbells are first introduced, and the older members teach those auditioning how to operate them. They also learn a piece of the song that they are performing for the Fall Preview Concert. Then, they have a second audition where they sing the song they learned and play the handbells.
Their practice schedule is also very rigorous. They always practice once a week after school and determine the rest of the schedule based on their needs and what they have to get done for the week. Although their routine each week is different, they always rehearse during lunch three to four times a week.
Now for the planning: like any other small group during a practice, they start by going over the vocal sections. Because there are four voice parts: soprano 1, soprano 2, alto 1, and alto 2, they must ensure that everyone is singing their proper part and that everything sounds correct. The officers must figure out each time a member needs to ring their handbell after everyone has learned their vocal portion. The more seasoned Belles will play the harder handbell parts, and the “baby” Belles, or first-year Belles, will play the simpler sections, according to their level of experience. The performers must learn how to combine the voice part and handbell part into a single, unified sound after mastering them individually.
Although the handbell appears to be an easy instrument to play, it is not. “There is a really specific way you have to play it. You kind of have to make these little circles with your hand, it’s all in flicking your wrist. It’s hard to get the hang of,” says Aslam.
The Belles travel all over the South Jersey area to perform. The holiday season is when they are busiest, as they go caroling in Haddonfield and participate in holiday lighting events. They also perform at senior citizen homes, in addition to visiting all the elementary and middle schools. Additionally, in 2016, The Belles performed for Barack Obama’s Christmas party in the White House. Aslam says they “are desperately trying to get that for next year as well.”
The Belles are currently focusing their preparations on their upcoming Spring Concert, which is on May 18th. They will be performing a three song set, including “Travelin’ Soldier,” “Gone Away,” and “Mama Who Bore Me.” They also still have to go on the elementary school tours.
The Belles are also more than just a school singing group. They share a very close bond with one another. For Aslam, her favorite memory so far this year was the Belles’ group sleepover. This is an annual event, and they watched the movie “Anastasia” in honor of the song they performed, “Once Upon a December.”
Aslam takes great personal pride in performing this song in particular because she arranged and made it possible for them to perform it. She has loved “Anastasia” since she was in elementary school, and once she joined Belles, she knew she wanted to compose it. She spent a few months composing the song and figuring out the individual parts. Performing it with everyone “was such a beautiful experience,” she “worked really hard and seeing that come to life was very rewarding,”Aslam says.
Balancing Belles with other school commitments can be tough. Aslam and all the other members have had to make a few sacrifices like dropping a couple of clubs, or changing their schedules to ensure that their full attention and devotion is towards the group.
“Since elementary school it was a dream of mine to be in Belles. I just knew it was something that I always wanted to do,” says Aslam.
As for the impact Belles has had on Aslam’s experience at East, she says “it was a great way for me to find a sense of community right from the get go and I think it’s really been a safe haven and a place of refuge to come to Belles. I just love making music with all of the other girls in Belles and it is so gratifying seeing what we come up with throughout the course of each season.”
Belles is such a special small group and positively impacts all members involved and the East community.
“The whole ambience is so unique and special and the fact that we get to partake in something like that at East here is such a unique opportunity,” says Aslam.
Chansons creates an unforgettable choir packed with memories and creativity
In D041 every B block, students erupt into melodious harmonies, 38 voices fusing together in song. These voices are made up of none other than Chansons, one of East’s four curricular choirs. Led by Mrs. Heather Lockart, members of Chansons not only unite with various pieces of music but also unite with each other as a choir.
Chansons is a treble choir opposed to other choirs, meaning it primarily consists of female voices, although students do not have to identify as female to join. Students have to audition to be a part of Chansons after completing a year of Vocal Workshop, making this choir more selective than others. With all treble voices, those in Chansons join together and experience a sense of community through their similarities.
“We all have one thing in common: not necessarily the way we identify but our voices and our experiences,” said Grace Gellert (‘25), a member of Chansons.
Practicing predominantly in class, members of Chansons work on vocal exercises in addition to a variety of songs to hone in on their vocal abilities. They prepare performances throughout the year for the Fall Preview, Winter Concert, and Spring Concert. When choosing songs for these performances, members have the opportunity to collaborate on a setlist with Lockart, choosing pieces that speak to them. In May, they will also compete in a choral competition at Six Flags.
Currently, Chansons rehearse for their upcoming Spring Concert on May 18th, where they will perform “Fire,” “We Are the Voices,” and “Famine Song.” These powerful pieces carry messages of speaking out and facing injustice, which those in Chansons are excited to showcase.
“[The Spring Concert is] a cultivation of everything we’ve learned throughout the entire year. It’s gonna be so fun to see everyone display their best work,” said Gellert.
For Gellert, the community and lasting bonds formed by Chansons make this club special and memorable. Despite typically working with those in the same vocal part, Chansons provide an opportunity for sophomores, juniors, and seniors who share the same passion for singing to coalesce. Driven by their common love, individuals in Chansons work in harmony to put their best work into the choir. Chansons acts as a welcoming outlet for each unique voice to merge together into one strong sound.
“The best part of performing with Chansons is we all connect to the music together,” said Gellert. “I always looked up to the people in Chansons, and even before I joined Chansons, I saw it as this safe space.”
Chansons allows members to share their devotion to music with one another along with audiences at performances. This choir builds a sense of belonging for every individual that joins, acting as a stronghold for unity at East.
Marching band proves to be a talented musical arts group, a team, and a family
Walk into D055 and you’ll find students sitting throughout the room. Some in the back corner chatting, some tuning their instruments, other sporadic clusters scattered in the room. The marching band kids claim this room as theirs’ though– they’ve been here since August after all. Welcome to their home– they made this place their own and found their family.
Marching band originally was not focused on competitions, but rather on other activities like performing at football games. Today, they are consistent competitors, holding the title of state champion, while also excelling in their other roles at school. This past season, the marching band set a new school record at the festivals, winning State Champion, Best Auxiliary Percussion and Best Ensemble.
There are a variety of different sections in marching band: winds and brass which include instruments like trumpet and french horn; percussion which includes the drum line; side line percussion which includes the front ensemble’s mallets and keyboards; and color guard which has props like twirl flags for visual effect.
The marching band’s season spans from August to November. In the middle of August, band camp officially starts at Cherry Hill High School East, from 9:30 A.M. to 5 P.M.. Around 75 students begin early in the process of training, developing, costume fitting, preparing equipment and more.
For many incoming freshmen and underclassmen that are entering the school for their first times, band camp serves as an assimilating activity. The first transition to a new school is facilitated and made easier by the band. Yet, some may be deterred by the fear that comes with change and the responsibilities associated with joining the band.
“Don’t be afraid because I think that a lot of the people that consider are mainly afraid of competing, or having to memorize the music and drills, but once you do it it’s really easy. And you’ll get the hang of it. And I think growing another family here is what makes it worth it. And the awards you get makes it worth it. So I think that the little fear that seems like a lot that you have when you are considering to join is something that you can definitely overcome,” said David Tribble (‘23), one of the assistant drum majors.
Like many other musical groups at East, collaboration and unity is a driving force of success in marching band. If one person is missing, it can sound like something from the music is missing. Yet this idea of the power of every individual in contributing to the whole is especially pronounced in marching band because their physical presence is needed to present a cohesive front on the field.
“Because of the dependency on other people’s presence and our reliance on each other and helping each other, it differentiates us from just sitting there and playing an instrument” said Evangeline Shim (‘23), the other assistant drum major.
For the students that participate in marching band, the activity changes them– not just as musicians, but as people.
“It’s really helped me become who I am today. I don’t think I’d be who I am without going through drum line for four years, meeting everyone I did, going through the experiences that I did with festivals and going to football games,” said Benjamin Bannett (‘23), the drum line captain.
Eventually the relationships are cultivated, the skills are perfected, and the people transcend past marching band. They’ve constructed expertise and community from the day they joined the group.
“This is kind of like our area,” said Tribble.
And when they march victoriously, heads up, out of D055 for the last time, they are leaving having been part of something where they mattered– their musical talent, but themselves as individuals as well. They leave with the confidence knowing they were part of something beautiful. Because in the search to find a home, they found one, forever transformed by their family.
73 Questions with D-Wingers: Thespian Society
Ava Crawley (’25) and Michelle Bookbinder (’25) ask members of Thespian Society 73 questions in the style of Vogue’s 73 Questions. Lucas Tang (’23) films as Brooke Warren (’23), Carlotta Vingelli (’23), Asha Maisuria (’23), and Sophie Neuwirth (’23) answer truthfully about their life, their experiences with Theater, and how they spend their time in D-Wing.
Voce continues to entertain the crowd
Voce is one of Cherry Hill East’s three auditioned small groups, alongside the Belles of East and Stay Tuned. Formally known as ‘Madrigal Singers’ until 2014, Voce (which means ‘Voice’ in
Italian) sings various styles of music, including jazz, pop, and blues. They are well known for their uniforms of bright red vests and dresses and their continued success of holiday caroling in the winter. The relatively small group size of 15-20 members offers a wide range of sounds from bass to soprano. This year’s group is led by officers Abriella Camp (23’) and Shivani Hirata-Chandran (23’), who’ve both been a part of the group since their sophomore year when they got accepted in.
Every year, Voce members flock to the main streets of Haddonfield along with Belles members. They bring holiday joy by singing Christmas carols to any bypassers. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, you could possibly hear them singing mainstay carols like “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer,” and “We Three Kings” to name a few. In 2016, a few Voce members, along with Belles had the honor of singing at the White House for a holiday party, and even had the pleasure of meeting and talking to President Barack Obama.
Along with holiday caroling at Haddonfield, Voce has also been able to carol at Caffe Aldo Lamberti for the past few years to people as entertainment for the night. Like Haddonfield, the people have the option to request any carol they would like the members to sing. “Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer” is a yearly fan favorite due to their comedic choreography and small bits of comedy throughout the song. Singing at Cafe Aldo Lamberti has allowed Voce to raise money for their group in the form of tips. People have been overly generous in tipping the members. Voce greatly appreciates the kind donations.
“I’ve been able to meet people from a variety of different cultural and musical backgrounds while at the same time bringing my own experiences with me. I’ve met so many close friends through Voce and have learned so many musical skills that I hope to incorporate in my future musical
endeavors,” said Advaith Dhruwa (’23) when asked about how Voce impacted his time at East.
“My favorite memories of being a member of Voce as a sophomore and a junior is going to Caffe Aldo Lamberti in December every year and singing Christmas music for the people who are dining there. It’s really fun because we’re split up into a quartet or a quintet and you get to bring joy to people and spend a whole night singing with your friends, which makes it a wonderful memory and I’m glad I’ve gotten to do it several times,” says Nick Ferrante (24’).
So for any singer that has a passion for singing and would like to possibly grow and challenge themselves, perhaps audition for Voce next year. Who knows, there may be another
time when they get to sing at the White House again.
From D-Wing to on tour: A look through Evan Weiss’s (’03) music journey
Creativity has sprouted from other people’s work since the beginning of time. Artists known for their musical talent have once looked up to another artist. Essentially everyone starts somewhere, even the biggest stars. With just one listen to the simple tune of a song, the brilliant lyrics, or the instruments that add a tinge of flair, it’s easy for one to be utterly enthralled in another’s work. Appreciating and listening to others’ music started the careers of those whose songs have left a lasting impact on our society.
Evan Weiss(‘03), Cherry Hill East Alumni, kickstarted his music journey using the most popular method: listening. From a young age, Weiss was constantly surrounded by music. With parents who had both played in bands, it wasn’t very easy escaping it. Day and night songs drifted through Weiss’s Cherry Hill home ingraining his mind with flawless melodies and genius lyrics. Inspiration jumped from anything his parents played to the teenage angst band widely known as Green Day.
It’s not unusual to obsess over a band or artist, after all, where would famous stars be without their fans, but what is unusual is that in Weiss’s case, Green Day wasn’t even his favorite band.
“I was so unbelievably into Green Day, and not in a way where they were my favorite band, cause they weren’t, but in a way where Green Day made you feel as a young person that it was easy to start a band,” says Weiss
From that moment on Weiss knew just what he wanted to do and nothing in the world could change his mind.
Beginning in 5th grade, while all other kids were busy on the swings or engaged in a heated game of Four Square, Weiss and his friends gathered to create their band, The Progress. Their special meeting ground was none other than Stockton Elementary School.
“We started in 5th grade and refined our skills through middle school. It was in high school when we really went for it,” Weiss says.
The Progress performed at Battle of the Bands in Weiss’s Junior Year and won, becoming one of the only bands to win over the seniors. They Played local shows and wrote their own songs. Their dedication proved to many that, in their eyes, making music wasn’t just a hobby but also a future career and a lifestyle.
Despite the different cliches that emerge in high school Weiss and his bandmates continued to stay close. Though each of them fell into separate circles, it was the band that always kept them connected.
Weiss’s circle revolved around East’s D-Wing. Specifically during his junior and senior years, he was always found in his orchestra, and theater classes, yet was never to be seen in any of his core classes. In fact, Weiss saw high school as less of an educational opportunity and more of a joke.
“The whole time I was just wondering how I can move on and what is next to come,” Weiss admits.
However, regardless of his indifferent feelings about high school he now realizes how much of an impact it has left on his life. Being an avid member of Casual Harmony and orchestra gave Weiss the ability to sing with a group of people and harmonize. He’s been able to use those skills years after he graduated.
“I carried [those vocal skills] with me through my career, It helped me be a better singer with other people, learn how to produce myself as a vocalist better and strengthen my skills, which gave me the work ethic as an adult musician,” Weiss says.
In June of 2003, Weiss graduated from East with one big goal, talent, and a lot of ambition. While most of his classmates left for college he chose to stay home and continue working with his band, The Progress. Though they stopped making music together in 2008, Weiss still considers his high school bandmates some of his closest friends.
Weiss moved to Chicago, making sure to carry his passions with him. There he created his new alternate moniker: Into It. Over It. When he turned 23 he started writing and recording one song each week for 52 weeks. Those songs were released in 2009 under the first album of Into It. Over It. titled “52 Weeks”. In 2010 Into It. Over It. collaborated with Koji, another underground artist, on the album “Split”. 2011 was followed by the launch of a sequence of Extended Plays titled “12 Towns” and an album titled “Proper”. In February of 2023 “Proper” was reissued with the live performance versions of all the songs included on the album. The next albums “Intersections” and “Standards” were released in 2013 and 2016.
The last formal album that Into It. Over It issued was in 2020 called “Figure”. It was not just Weiss’s favorite album but also the most difficult album that he’s ever assembled. He and his bandmates worked on it for 3 years, putting each song through writing and revision changes an innumerable amount of times. Weiss even built a recording studio in Chicago to be able to work on the album as often as he could. “Figure” covered eminently personal feelings and emotions throughout Weiss’s life, which was why it was so significant to him. It took heaps of hard work, commitment, and passion to create. By the time it was finished, Weiss wanted to share it with the world.
“It was the first time I poured all of myself into a project and I think it paid off because of that,” Weiss reveals.
Despite the sedulous work and dedication that went into “Figure” it had some difficulty attracting fans in the beginning due to its release being amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It spawned a lot of really excellent, creative, and unique ways for us to release music and to promote music and to move forward as artists,” Weiss says.
Over the years Into it. Over It. has gone through different bandmates, however, Weiss has always stuck around. As of now, and likely for a while, the band’s members consist of Adam Beck (the drummer), Matthew Frank (the bass player), Joe George Shadid (the guitarist), and Weiss (the vocalist). Weiss describes his band as a casual space where everyone has a say. He finds that this is the best way to keep the band operating efficiently, without any issues.
As a musician challenges have been thrown at him and his band left and right. It’s easy in the music industry for artists to get taken advantage of, but Weiss has done everything in his power to make sure that doesn’t happen.
“I’ve done most of what I can to reject the need to rely on the music industry to have to do anything,” Weiss says, “We play by our own rules instead of playing by someone else’s and we’ve reclaimed the rights to most of our records”
One of the biggest career challenges that Weiss has gone through was in 2016. As he and his bandmates were in their early thirties, when this band was their only job, they became worried about financial issues, so they all decided to take a step back for a few years. During that time Weiss continued writing, yet no music was officially produced until a few years later.
But to Weiss, the good outweighed the bad time and time again. Following his dreams and becoming an accomplished artist within a successful band has opened doors to once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. From traveling the world, seeing these he never thought he’d see before, to creating lasting bonds with colleagues, Weiss is more than thankful for where he is today and the determination that has helped him get here.
“I’ve been able to fall into really good opportunities and experiences through working hard,” says Weiss, “The people I’ve met are easily the most rewarding thing.”
Now for Weiss, the music scene has winded down… but only slightly.
“Music is more than a hobby but we don’t live and die by it anymore,” Weiss states, “That’s made it easy to say no to things that we don’t want to do and to say yes to the things we do and to go into each decision we make knowing that we’ll be financially and emotionally supported”
Weiss currently lives in Chicago where he manages his own record label. Though production within Into It. Over It. has slowed down a bit, his creativity has yet to come to a stop. Weiss works with multiple other bands, which have given him the opportunity to perform and tour both locally and internationally.
“I wanted to be a touring musician and I did it,” says Weiss. “My advice to students, in general, is to find the things you love and commit yourself to them 100%. If you focus on it and have the determination to work on it, and to really own your craft and take it seriously, you’ll see the returns from that”
Though Weiss has traveled the world showcasing his artistry for the past 20 years, one place always comes back to him, the place in which the start of his music career is rooted: Cherry Hill East D-Wing.
Namarah McCall (’11) uses her vocation as a musician to help other aspiring artists
Like many East students, Namarah McCall (‘11) can vividly recall sitting in an assembly as a Cherry Hill elementary schooler, watching as members of East’s vocal small groups, such as Belles, perform. Even at that young age, McCall already knew that when she reached East, she wanted to be a part of the music department.
“I knew that I just wanted to be a part of every vocal thing I possibly could,” said McCall. “My whole family, we all sang. [I] grew up in a musical household.”
When she entered East as a freshman, McCall immediately signed up for the vocal workshop class, which all students must take to join the choir, and also joined the theater department. In her sophomore year, McCall auditioned for and joined Chansons, East’s all-girls choir, and in her junior and senior years, was a member of East Singers. She also sang along with the Jazz Band, one of East’s most prestigious groups in the music department. In addition to her involvement in choir, McCall was heavily involved in theater, acting in productions such as Aladdin and even serving as Vice President of the Thespian Society.
Throughout her years at East, McCall performed in many of East’s beloved music traditions, such as the spring musicals, Coffeehouse, choir concerts, and even Mr. East. But as involved as she was in these concerts and performances, she aspired to do more.
“We did all of these different great fun musicals and so I was looking for as many different ways that I could sing and perform on the stage,” said McCall.
Pulling from her involvement in musical theater and inspired by Clasual Harmony, East’s boys a cappella group, McCall and a couple of other girls started the idea of creating an all-female a cappella group. With Ms. Heather Lockart, who was also Mcall’s choir director while in Chasons, as their director, the group, dubbed “Key of She”, took off.
However, McCall didn’t always see a clear path to joining the music and performing arts industry. For example, while taking an AP U.S. Government and Politics class at East, she had even considered pursuing law as a career. Like many East students, McCall wasn’t yet sure what she wanted to do in the future during her time in high school. Nevertheless, she continued to channel her love for performing through singing, acting, and dancing.
“I feel like a lot of the times when we’re in high school, we feel like we have to have like ‘the thing’,” said McCall. “But all I knew is that no matter what I was always going to have music in my life.”
The moment that truly cemented McCall’s dream of pursuing a career in singing, songwriting, and performing came halfway through high school when she was 16. McCall had been dabbling in songwriting, and her guitar teacher at the time suggested that she record her song. The moment she stepped in the recording studio for the first time, McCall recalls, she knew it felt right.
“I got excited and I just really love the feeling of actually expressing what was on the inside and then you know, knowing that people wanted to hear it.”
After graduating from East, McCall attended Ithaca College, majoring in music and minoring in integrated marketing communications. Though McCall remained active within a cappella groups at the college, pop was the performance style that appealed to her the most, and thus, she began researching how to land opportunities in the pop music industry.
“[Music] was one of those things where you don’t necessarily know that you’re in the industry until you look back,” said McCall.
As she became more involved in the Philly music scene, McCall picked up on the various entrepreneurial skills needed to succeed in the industry. She learned how to effectively pitch her music, send the right emails, make the right phone calls, and keep the momentum going from one opportunity to the next. McCall also began experimenting with and discovering her music style, as well as learning how to produce and create her own songs.
“I really started to create my own lane with making music, you know, pulling from my acapella roots. I just love the voice and how we can create so many styles with just this one thing,” said McCall.
Today, McCall describes her music style as “Manna from Heaven.” She describes it as a type of improvisation, where she pulls from whatever audience or environment she’s immersed in as she creates music.
“[In the Bible], there’s a lore that any [of] the food that you eat would taste like whatever it is that you desired, and so I love to go into [performances] based off of how things feel created, or a sound, or a feeling based off of what I’m getting in that space,” said McCall.
Thus far, McCall has released over ten singles, as well as a full album, titled Deia (2018). Believing that artists should not feel boxed in, McCall’s discography encompasses different genres of music from a thought-provoking and soulful song entitled “Mindful” to a more pop-centric song called “Avacados.” For McCall, writing songs is not a formulaic process, but rather changes every time. Sometimes McCalls songs come to her in dreams, like with “Deia” or she will sometimes be challenged to put the puzzle of syllables, rhythms, and notes together.
“Honestly when it comes to the songwriting part of parts of the journey, and even when you’re creating every song knows how it wants to be before you start to write it,” said Mcall. And so the game is figuring out how it wants to show up in the world.”
Another unique aspect of McCall’s artistry is her ability to create music on the spot using a looper. A looper is a piece of technology that allows artists to record music and then play it back with the ability to add notes or lyrics over top of it. Essentially, McCall is able to create a song in a matter of minutes, starting with the beat and adding layer by layer.
In addition to performing and finding outlets for her creativity, McCall strives to help others tap into their artistry as well. She works as an artistry coach, holding one-on-one sessions and group workshops for clients. Currently, McCall also is writing her own book, Artistry for Everyone, which chronicles the experiences and lessons she’s accumulated as both an artist and artistry coach.
“[Artistry] is for everyone. It’s not about performance,” said McCall. “It’s the fact that everyone has an artistic and creative way to express whatever they feel whether they’re going into real estate, being a lawyer, or being a teacher.”
From her own experiences within the music industry, McCall has found that too often, artists are pressured to value factors such as the media and popular appeal over their ideals when deciding whatever creative work they want to put into the world. Especially with the rise of social media platforms like Instagram and Youtube and TikTok, McCall says, everyone seems to be chasing trends and creating whatever will generate the best numbers instead of truly expressing themselves.
“Of course, all of those things are necessary, right? Knowing the system and knowing how to play that game,” said McCall. “But I never want the people that I coached and the people that I trained to ever lose that soul of who they are or the spirit of who they are just because they’re trying to compete.”
Especially for young adults, McCall emphasizes the need to explore your artistry without feeling confined. In order to be an artist, you do not need to put on a persona.
“I walk my clients on how to protect your inner child and the imagination because a lot of times we’ll think, oh, well I have to make this song absolutely perfect, but I don’t have any ideas right now,” said McCall. “The reason why you don’t have any ideas [is because] you put way too much pressure on yourself. Like if you actually had fun, you might have a ton of different ideas that might not necessarily work, but now you’re in a totally different headspace.”
McCall crafts her identity through her art and has found a calling to help people embrace the freedom to simply be themselves in an artistic space, whatever that may be.