Category Archives: Arts

Flourishing Lives through the Arts

By Duane Nickerson | Director of the Arts

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” – Pablo Picasso

The arts are different. Unlike most activities, the product of art activity is not useful. Art does not feed us or make our lives more comfortable. It seems the very nature of art is to be without practical use. So why is it that evidence of art making through music and painting pre-dates the invention of writing by over 30,000 years? Why is it that art making traditions have existed in all human cultures throughout history? Just what is it about this activity that compels us to invest time and energy making it, consuming it and storing it in museums?

Picasso touches upon the answer. Art allows us to feel, to sense the wonder and complexity of existence that is ever elusive, that defies encapsulation within language or numbers. Making art is a hard-wired compulsion that can be seen in children who spontaneously make up songs, dance, draw and act out imaginary scenarios. Watch any four-year-old and you will see evidence of this compulsion and the sheer joy that it brings. Children express themselves freely until they move into adolescence and become more self-conscious and invest more time learning the argotic codes required for social standing. Too often the capacities of the artist are left to atrophy as children move through educational institutions that leave behind rigorous arts curricula and thereby denigrate this activity as less important. Children get the message: art is not valued by the adults here so I’ll attend to those things that are valued. The loss of potential is enormous, the capacity for full experience diminished.

At Ridley College, the arts are not left behind.

At Ridley, we aspire to nourish flourishing lives that tap into all facets of our humanity. We aspire to facilitate the full development of the child so that they can reach their maximum potential as productive, creative, happy people. At Ridley, children are exposed to music and art education by specialist teachers beginning in Kindergarten and are able to access increasingly specialized and demanding arts curriculum as they move through the programme into Upper School.

Many of our senior students find that, for them, a flourishing life is one infused with the joy experienced when engaged with art in the studio and on the stage. This joy comes from a state of flow. In a state of flow, a person is fully immersed in an activity because the challenge of the task is matched with their level of competence required to complete the task. As a teacher of visual art, observing students immersed in a state of flow in the studio is one of the most rewarding features of my job. A child who is fully immersed in the process of hands-on creation is a flourishing child.

As Ridley continues to build upon its reputation as a world-class school, its arts programme will grow to facilitate higher levels of performance and deeper engagement. The tools that we use to make art are also expanding to include a wide array of electronic media. More than ever, cultural industries are emerging to encompass large swaths of economic activity in an increasingly automated world. Thus, in the arts, we are also preparing children for rewarding careers as well as ensuring that they keep in their lives the joy and fulfillment that comes from engaging with the arts.

For all of us throughout our lives, we are faced with the task of building identity and generating meaning. Throughout history, the arts have played a vital role facilitating meaning making and affirming cultural identity. Beyond developing artists’ capacities, Ridley’s role as a school is to ensure that its students move on to adulthood with a deep-seated appreciation for the value of art in their lives. If Ridley can do this, it has done its part in ensuring our culture and civilization will continue to nourish our humanity and thereby make the world a better place.

Students Venture to Winnipeg for Speaking Arts Competition

By Paul O’Rourke | Assistant Head of Lower School & IB MYP Programme Coordinator

Ridley participated in the annual International Independent Schools’ Public Speaking Competition co-hosted by the Gray Academy and Balmoral Hall in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Nearly 150 students from over 40 teams throughout the globe were involved in this unique event that features a wide range of the speaking arts- debate, drama, and public speaking. Schools from Canada, the U.S.A., Bermuda, Korea, Peru, Scotland, England, Hong Kong, India and South Africa competed in a five-day tournament that brought together some of the best high school debaters and public speakers in the world.

Each participant selected three events from various categories that included: persuasive, after-dinner, and impromptu speaking; parliamentary and cross-examination debate; dramatic interpretation, interpretive reading, and radio newscast. Ridley was ably represented by returning junior, Bart Skala ’19 along with first time competitors Faraday Kenny ’18 and Rahul Walia ’19. Bart excelled in parliamentary debate and after-dinner speaking, reaching the finals of parliamentary debating, and narrowly missing the finals in the latter event. Newcomer Faraday Kenny competed successfully in persuasive speaking, interpretive reading, and parliamentary debating. Her speech on whether kneeling for the national anthem is un-patriotic was both topical and informative. Rahul Walia earned strong marks for his performances in impromptu speaking and persuasive speaking, in addition to good parliamentary debate rounds.

While in Winnipeg, all competitors enjoyed the unique experience of visiting the Canadian Museum of Human Rights. It was a fitting place for the top debaters and speakers to spend an afternoon exploring this spectacular venue in the heart of the city. The school venues were unique as well, situated as they each are on First Nations and Metis Treaty One lands. Organizers and hosts underscored this unique historical fact whenever possible.

The closing banquet was held at the Shaary Zadek Synagogue on the bank of the Assiniboine River, again underscoring Winnipeg’s diverse roots. Although Ridley did not claim any of the individual or team awards, each student demonstrated growth and progress throughout the tournament.  All students are congratulated and thanked for their outstanding efforts and contributions.

Ahead next on the debate calendar is the National Qualifier at Country Day School on November 21- a tournament that involves both debate and public speaking – followed by the Fulford Cup hosted by Maclachlan College on November 25.

New students are always welcomed at this activity that meets Thursdays at 4:30 p.m. in room 203 of Lower School.

Get to Know Your Prefects: Anthony N. ’18

Introducing Anthony Nguyen ’18– a Prefect who has attended Ridley since Grade 2 and, in that time, has been able to develop into the person he aspires to be. Read how Anthony excelled in his passions and is looking forward to sharing them with his fellow Ridleians this upcoming school year.

Why did you choose Ridley? I was basically born at the school. My brother, Augustine ’11 also went to Ridley from 2004 to 2011. In 2007, when I had my first opportunity to join Ridley, my parents enrolled me and the rest is history.

Did you feel prepared coming to Ridley? I felt as prepared as any other Grade 2. I must note how valuable my Ridley experience has been since then. I have been immersed in countless opportunities that have allowed me to develop into the person I am today. The school has instilled traits of character, resilience and respect within me, which I believe have allowed me to continue to excel!

Who is your favourite faculty member and why? My favourite faculty members are Dr. Baird and Mr. Dawson.

Dr. Baird is one of the funniest teachers on campus. He always comes into class with a good attitude and ensures everybody’s learning is successful. He also shares a love for ultimate frisbee with me. Although he commonly indicates how I, being a part of the International Baccalaureate (I.B.) programme, have Inadequate Biceps (I.B.), I have enjoyed my time with him.

On the other hand, Mr. Dawson has been a mentor for me in terms of music. He has spent countless hours supporting my growth as a musician and has always been there to lend a helping hand!

What has been your greatest challenge thus far at Ridley? The greatest challenge I have faced at Ridley has been my transition from Lower School to Upper School. Like any other new student to the Upper School, I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to fit in. I was very wrong about my fears. As a matter of fact, Upper School is a place where students finally get the chance to grow out of their shells and shape their own legacy. It is here where I began taking a step towards my music and healthcare careers. I had opportunities to play music at retirement homes and opportunities to volunteer my time at the hospital. So, although my transition was challenging at first, this experience was essential towards my development!

What has been your greatest accomplishment thus far at Ridley? One accomplishment I am fond of is being accepted into the CISMF Jazz Band – an honour Jazz Band, composed of students from independent schools. I was the first Ridley student to get accepted into this band and it provided me with an amazing opportunity to play with some of the best jazz musicians in the province.

What has been your favourite Ridley experience? I have absolutely loved my Jazz Band experience. We often play at a range of retirement homes, nearby venues and competitions. My favourite part of this experience is the transcending effect that music has on people. Instantly, no matter the audience, the band can electrify a crowd and brighten a room. In addition, I get the chance to bond with my peers and Mr. Dawson! I always have a fun time in the Jazz Band and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

What is your favourite part of Ridley life? The social life – I have met so many amazing and friendly people who I get to speak with on a daily basis. Whenever I am feeling down, I know I can rely on my newly-made friends to cheer me up. The best part about the social life at Ridley is that you know these friendships will last forever.

What part of being a Prefect are you most excited for? The most exciting part for me would be the orientation day when new students arrive on campus and situate themselves. I am excited to get the chance to meet the next generation of Ridley students and hear every single amazing story that they have to tell.

How has Ridley prepared you for the future? Ridley has prepared me by providing me opportunities to do what I love. Within music, I have had countless of performing opportunities that the music department has set up for me. This includes playing in Roy Thompson Hall, Niagara’s Professional Jazz Festival and various cafés. For my healthcare dream, I have had the opportunity to shadow an athletic therapist, have the confidence to compete in National Biology contests and explore the vast world of medicine. 

What are your plans after graduation? After I finish my Ridley career, I hope to enter into a health science program. From there, I shall see where that takes me. In terms of specific universities, I would love to be enrolled in a seven or eight-year medicinal program in Canada or the U.S. It would be a bonus if that university was close to Ontario, however, I am willing to do whatever it takes to fulfill my dream.

What advice would you give prospective students about Ridley? Don’t do it alone! At various points of the year, Ridley may be tough. An example of a tough time might be your first day moving in, a week of tough school, or even being home sick. That being said, remember that you have your housemates, friends, and teachers to help you to get through these tough times!

Celebrating the Arts at Ridley

The arts play an integral role in leading a flourishing life. The opportunity to explore creativity and practice self-expression allows Ridleians to define who they are, gain confidence in their talents, unlock the potential to innovate and contribute to culture. Great importance is placed on this aspect of student development at Ridley. Students are given the opportunity to create in any way they see fit. Ridley offers both academic and extracurricular options to explore music, drama, visual arts, digital arts, design or the spoken word. Students enrolled in the International Baccalaureate programme have a creativity element integrated into their curriculum as well.

In support of this approach, Ridley recently hosted Arts in April. This series of events captured all aspect of arts on campus. Members of the Ridley community were encouraged to attend and engage with our talented musicians, performers, artists and film makers.

Visual Art Showcase

Arts in April began with a visual art exhibition at Brock University’s Rodman Hall. The Visual Art Showcase allowed our Grades 7 to 11 students to display their artistic works in a public art gallery. The exhibition held its opening night on April 6th, with Headmaster, Ed Kidd sharing his excitement for the partnership between Brock University and Ridley. For the remainder of the evening, members of the community, Brock and Ridley perused the collection, speaking with the artists and admiring the wonderful works on display. The exhibition was open to the public until April 16th.

View photos.

IB Graduate Art Exhibition

“The IB art exhibition was an unforgettable experience; I was not only able to present and reflect on my works as an artist, but also suspend my belief and dissect them as a viewer.” – Monika Morcous ’17

From April 18th to 20th, the Griffith Gym was home to a large collection of art created by IB Art students. All senior IB student were given a section of the gallery where they could display several of their pieces. The works of art on display for the IB Graduate Art Exhibition were taken from a series of studio works undertaken over the two year IB Visual Art course. These works make up the exhibition component of the course, in which each student is required to generate series of artworks that reflected a specific theme and evidence of mastery using a chosen medium. Students enrolled in the SL (Standard Level) course were required to complete seven works of art and students enrolled in the HL (Higher Level) course needed to complete 11. In addition to the exhibition component of the course, students were required to complete a process portfolio and a comparative study paper. Each display was unique, allowing a glimpse into the artists’ creative process, style and technique. The sheer talent, creativity and focus of our IB Art students was impressive.

View photos.

Ridley Independent Film Festival

On April 19th, a red carpet was rolled out in the Mandeville Theatre for the 9th annual Ridley Independent Film Festival, better known as RIFF. This film festival is entirely student-run and was an opportunity to showcase the creative works of the IB Film Studies students.  Each student group was tasked with creating their own short film, from conception to execution. As each film premiered, it was clear that each student involved – videographer, producer, editor, actor or otherwise – was committed to creating a top-quality short film. For several students, this was the perfect opportunity to build a portfolio and get first-hand experience.

View RIFF films.
View photos from the red carpet.

Celebration of the Arts

On April 25th, the Upper School gathered together for the annual Celebration of the Arts. The event began in the Mandeville Theatre, where Head of Upper School, Michele Bett, inspired students with the trying stories of artists, musicians and performers from throughout the ages.

“Rationality, or thinking with the head, is one half of our human inheritance; the other half is creativity, or thinking with the heart. And I submit that this is the place of the arts, both at Ridley College and in our culture as a whole. The place of the arts is the heart.” – Michele Bett

To follow, students from the Music, Performing Arts and Digital Arts programmes performed pieces for their peers in the audience. Our string musicians played a spectacular piece from Star Wars, followed by a song from Hamilton, the musical. Raylon Chan ’19 rapped alongside them and brought the audience to their feet for a standing ovation. A number of IB students showcased their studies during a theatrical piece that told a story through movement. The Jazz Band also performed on stage, after a playfully animated video on the negative effects of climate change. When the spectacular display of performing arts concluded, students reconvened in the Griffith Gym for a visual art exhibition, showcasing the works of both Upper School and Lower School students.

Read Mrs. Bett’s full speech.
View photos.

Upper School Art Awards

To conclude Arts in April, students from Grades 9 to 12 joined in the Mandeville Theatre one last time for the Upper School Art Awards on April 26th. This award ceremony is an opportunity for our students to celebrate the accomplishments and achievements of their peers. Interspersed throughout the award presentations were musical and theatrical performances. Faculty members from the Department of Music: Scott Vernon, Clyde Dawson and Ken Hutton joined Anthony Nguyen ’18 on stage for a fantastic musical performance to begin the night. Dramatic Arts students performed scenes from Ridley’s production of The Tempest.  The String Orchestra, Cadet Band and Senior Choir all performed on stage – sharing both classical and modern songs. Finally, audience members were treated solo performances from Petrina Mo ’17, Alessia Guarducci ’18 and Jim Li ’17. To conclude the event, Senior students, Petrina Mo ’17 and Padraic Odesse ’17 spoke of the importance of the arts at Ridley; not only as a means for self-expression, creativity and culture, but also as an opportunity to expand one’s horizons and make connections.

View photos.

While Arts in April may be over, Ridley’s dedication to the arts continue. In May, our youngest Ridleians are showcasing their creative works at the PYP Visual Arts Showcase, followed by a musical performance by the entire Lower School student body.

TransfORming Our Globe – Thomas ‘Tawgs’ Salter ‘94

For this month’s installment of the TransfORming Our Globe series, we’re sharing the story of Ridley alumnus, Thomas ‘Tawgs’ Salter ’94, who fell in love with music on campus and turned his passion into an award-winning career – producing music for Sony/ATV and many major artists.

Tawgs’ Ridley career began in 1989 and continued until 1992. During his three years, Tawgs would often find himself in the music studios, practicing on any instrument he could get his hands on. The more time he spent there, the more he fell in love with music. A Ridley faculty member encouraged Tawgs to join the orchestra, where he would have the opportunity to collaborate with fellow musicians on campus. While the time he spent honing his musical abilities left an impact on Tawgs, it was the facilities and programmes that he had access to through Ridley that put him on the right path, leading to where he is now.

Tawgs’ passion for music and the chance to succeed was solidified after a school talent show, when we received praise that made him feel he was where he belonged. Then Headmaster, Douglas Campbell, approached Tawgs the following day and congratulated him on his performance.

“It was the first time the Headmaster spoke to me in a positive way like that. That really propelled me. That was what I needed to go forward. Especially as a child, when there is someone in an authoritative position who says that, you think ‘maybe I should do [a career in music]’.” – Thomas ‘Tawgs’ Salter ’94

When Tawgs finished high school, he spent some time pursuing other interests, but he always came back to music. At the time, he was performing in an original band named Dunk, who was then signed by Sony Music Canada. After signing he decided it was time to get serious with his passion. While he enjoyed performing, it was producing and writing that he loved most.

He began writing music and eventually, Gary Furniss, President of Sony/ATV Music Publishing Canada, took notice of Tawgs’ talent. He began songwriting for the publishing company and took a second position at Sony Music Canada as a Staff Producer. While he had little free time working two jobs, his exposure to an array of artists, professionals and opportunities was extensive. After he got his feet wet, he decided to work solely with Sony/ATV, under the mentorship of Gary Furniss. Gary fostered Tawgs’ career from the beginning and helped him move up through the ranks to a point where he was working with high-profile artists, including Lights and Josh Groban.

“The first song I wrote that received international praise with a big artist was ‘You are Loved’ by Josh Groban. I made the demo in my basement in St. Catharines 10 years ago,” says Tawgs. His song was picked up and he found himself at Abbey Road Studios, working with Groban and his producer.

Tawgs has been in the business for 18 years now and has experienced great success during his career. He has received an ASCAP award, was nominated twice for producer of the year at the JUNO Awards and has won awards for nine of his hit songs. Beyond his personal accomplishments, he has worked on a number of records that won pop album of the year and worked on the JUNO winning song, ‘Young Artists for Haiti’.

While winning awards and working with some of the biggest names in music are certainly perks, Tawgs says his favourite part of the job is the job itself.

“When you are a song writer or a producer you start with a total blank page in the morning. Your success for that day is dependent on what you are going to do in the next ten minutes. The best part of the day as a song writer is when you sit down to write a song with another collaborator. You’ve got fifteen minutes of awkwardness and then thirty minutes of inspiration. It is that inspiration that I wait for, and why I find my work so enjoyable.”  – Thomas ‘Tawgs’ Salter ’94

To Ridleians who know what their passions are but are unsure of how to get there, Tawgs says this:

“It’s not easy. I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t wake up today and think – can I do it again today? That’s what you have to go through as an artist, telling yourself to not give up. You really have to want it and you have to silence the inner voice that tells you that you may not be able to do it.”

“You can’t rest on what you have done before, what you did last month, or five years ago. You really have to every day try and create something new that is going to help you out down the road.”  – Thomas ‘Tawgs’ Salter ’94


TransfORming Our Globe is a blog series where we share the exciting stories of alumni who are leading flourishing lives and changing the world. It is important to Ridley College to support our alumni and share the stories of Old Ridleians, who discovered their passion and found success and happiness down the path of their choosing. 

Do you know of any classmates that are living flourishing lives or transforming our globe? Email any suggestions for the TransfORming Our Globe blog series to development@ridleycollege.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Student Filmmakers Ready for the Red Carpet

On April 19th, the lights will go down in the Mandeville Theatre, for the 9th annual Ridley Independent Film Festival (RIFF). This festival showcases an array of films made by Grade 11 and 12 Film Studies students.

Eleven student films will be screened; ranging in genre from comedy to horror. The entire festival – not just the films – is a student initiative. “They are involved in every aspect of the festival,” says Ms. Danielle Barranca, the Film Studies teacher. The students coordinate the gala, write scripts, host, and produce programmes.

Seeing their work on the big screen is one of the highlights of the course. “I think it’s the moment you see your ideas on the screen,” says Amelia Ritchie ’17. Her film Meaning, is a coming-of-age drama about two kids who meet at a driver’s education course and challenge each other to discover the meaning of life.

RIFF, like many film festivals, will feature a red carpet for the student directors, actors and writers to walk down, while being cheered on by friends, family and fans. “It’s a chance to be the star on the red carpet,” says Ms. Barranca.

The student produced films are the largest project of the year, worth 50 percent of the final grade. Students spent the year learning about films, techniques, writing, editing and everything they need to make a film. “I like being able to create something from beginning to end,” says James William Gross ’17. “Being able to make whatever you want.”

His film Smart Casual, is about how people interpret socio-cultural norms and breaking them down. “It takes a lot of interpretation to understand,” says James, who plans on studying film in university.

Before filming begins, students must submit their proposals, write their own scripts, create storyboards and have a detailed filming schedule. The students often spend many hours filming and editing to have their films ready for RIFF.

“It becomes more interesting every year because of technology. The technology has allowed it to come a long way in terms of the quality, polish, and effects that students have access to.” – Danielle Barranca, Department of Visual and Performing Arts

Through filmmaking, students can pursue their creativity and self-expression, while problem solving and persevering through the myriad of challenges that come with making a film. RIFF continues to gain momentum, with an audience of alumni, parents and guest filmmakers growing in size, waiting to see the latest student creations on the big screen.

We invite all members of the Ridley community to come and enjoy this free event, that takes the audience on a visual and dramatic journey. Join us on April 19th at 7:00 p.m. in the Mandeville Theatre.

For now, enjoy a few of this year’s trailers:

Watch trailers on Youtube.

A New Twist on The Tempest

It starts with a storm, but this wasn’t a regular tempest, as Ridley Theatre presented their own twist on Shakespeare’s final play The Tempest, with three performances held in the Mandeville Theatre.

This version of the play takes place far away from the setting of the original, an unnamed island in the Mediterranean, Ridley’s Tempest takes place in turn-of-the-century Nova Scotia. Enhancing this setting is the use of traditional maritime music and sea shanties. The play opens with a stirring rendition “Barrett’s Privateers” by Stan Rogers.

“It’s been fantastic, the kids are amazing, we’re so fortunate at Ridley to have such talent,” says Mrs. Gillian Fournier, who is volunteering her time as a director, while on maternity leave.

This Canadian connection to the show and Shakespeare, makes it more relative to our history, and the audience, according to Mr. Andrew Hitchcox, one of the shows three directors. Especially relevant are the aspects of the play tackling colonization, the arrival of the shipwrecked survivors to the island, and Prospero’s subjugation of Caliban, the island’s original inhabitant.

This production held no auditions, everyone who wanted to be involved in the play got to be a part of it. For many students it was their first experience in theatre. Only nine  of the 19 cast members speak English as their first language. Cast members come from 10 different countries.

“I would never have imagined myself learning Shakespeare let alone performing it and not being terrible. I learned that even though things are new to me, I should always be open and confident in seeing myself succeed in every new challenge I face,” says Obianuju Nwadike ‘17, who plays Prospero, the play’s main antagonist.

The students took a leadership role in the production, including music, lighting. “We give them the skills to be able to do the show,” says Mrs. Anna Blagona, director and Head of English & Drama.

All of the choices and depictions of the characters were up to the student actors. This resulted in some roles being gender-swapped, including the main character of Prospero, played by Obianuju. “I enjoy my character a lot. She switches moods/feelings when conversing with other characters and It’s really exciting to explore multiple dimensions of my character,” says Obianuju.

Ridley’s Troupe 7774 is part of the International Thespian Society (ITS), which was founded in 1929. It is an honorary organization for high school and middle school theatre students located at more than 4,200 affiliated secondary schools across Canada, the United States, and abroad. The mission of ITS is to honour student achievement in the theatre arts.

Missed the performance? Login to TigerNet Live to watch it on demand.

View photos.