Administrative Transparency by Riley Barker

“You cannot preach self-government and liberty to people in a starving land” - Fiorello H. LaGuardia, 99th Mayor of New York City

There is a certain charm about democracy that I’ve always found incredibly attractive. There are so many voices yearning to be heard and so many that grasp for a platform; with democracy, seemingly anyone can achieve those goals. Democratic systems are, of course, directly interspersed with Republican ones in American society as, from a very early age, our country has always strived for a balance between individual power and group power. For the most part, we are successful. Businesses run by taking into account the needs of workers and adjusting, and afterward, executives make final company-wide decisions. Our government runs by balancing the will of the people with representatives who vote on behalf of the large population. However, what happens when that balance is not reached - when there is no practical way to balance individual power with the consensus of the public? The answer: tyranny and widespread frustration.

Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School is not a democracy. Schools, in general, may never fully achieve that goal, but I believe they can at least resemble typical representative systems. Does that mean I am implying that LaGuardia is run tyrannically? No, but I recognize that there is widespread frustration amongst its populace. When searching for the answer to why such frustration exists I came to, at almost every turn, one conclusion: it has something to do with the present disconnect between the administration of our school and us, the students, teachers, and parents (some in and many out of the PA). So why does that disconnect exist? I believe it is because at some point, be it the cause of shifting mayoral or city-wide DOE policy or the change in LaGuardia’s local administration, the mission of our school became skewed in favor of a more strict interpretation of standardized education. The problem is that LaGuardia has never been standard. We were not standard when we were The High School of Music and Art nor were we when we were the Performing Arts school. We are not supposed to be standard now. It is why post-1971 (after the Hecht-Calandra act which establishes criterion for Specialized high schools), and after 1984 (when the new building was built) our school became a specialized high school. We are fundamentally different from the many hundreds of other high schools in New York City. We are, quite literally, one of the last significant havens for art in all of its many forms to thrive, to grow, and to be protected.

When, five years ago, the narrative of our school shifted, it was not noticed immediately. Like all policy changes, it took time before people started to see its effects. But when we did, LaGuardian’s took quick action. “Bring Fame Back to the Fame School” was a petition written back in 2016 and has since gotten over 12,000 signatures, 10,000 of which were in the first month the petition was out. It called for a revision of school admission policy to again favor students who had not done as well academically. Since early 2017, that page has been silent, presumably defeated having gotten not much of anywhere, or the authors simply moved on. Despite its absence, the sentiments it once expressed are still widely felt throughout LaGuardia. In a recent poll I conducted of my peers, given the question “Do you ever fear to talk with administrators at our school” 80% of the 136 responses answered yes. When asked “Do you feel as if your input matters in the LaGuardia community?” 82% of the 126 responses answered no. The third and final question I posed was “We proclaim ourselves a dual-mission school. Do you feel as if there is too much focus on academics or art? If neither, please specify why” to which 93% of the 122 responses answered academics.

After meeting with Dr. Mars, Ms. Fleischer, Ms. O’Connell, and Mr. Brummel, (about two and a half weeks ago at the time of writing this), I realized that I should not have feared to speak with administrators, my input actually does matter, and that they are trying with relative effectiveness to focus on both areas the school has, arts and academics, equally. There are problems with exactly how and why the administration is going about its actions which I am still hoping to come to a better conclusion with them on. Examples include: how and why are projects funded? How can we foster more trust at LaGuardia? How can we make sure that the mission of LaGuardia is consistent with how it has always been, and how can we advertise that mission to incoming students effectively - making sure we do not alienate prospective freshman based on their academic averages? These questions do not yet have answers; I am still seeking them. However, despite the remaining problems, I recognized then that the situation was not quite as dire as I had initially thought. In this way, I think there is a simple solution to resolving what our administration might call “misconceptions”: transparency. If our administration can tell the population of LaGuardia what is really going on, how and why they are making the decisions they make, and that they are deliberating over those decisions with the intent to better the arts (and yes, the academics), they will much more effectively be able to collaborate with the public of LaGuardia. Likewise, we, the main body of our school, will all be reassured that the school is acting in our interests and be encouraged to work with them in the way that SGO and the PA currently attempt to. In short: we will no longer be afraid and apathetic. Yes, trust takes time to grow, but I have faith we can all restore it in each other. Trust and transparency are not platitudes from the weekly bulletin; they are values that lead the way forward.

So to our administration: I know you would love for us to come to you with our ideas, and I know you would like to do all you can to satisfy the community at LaGuardia. You’d perhaps like to preach the “liberties” of new facilities and positive changes to our programs, artistic and otherwise, but I caution against that without first heeding Mr. LaGuardia's advice to feed us, your people in a slowly starving land, with a spoonful of artistic leniency and transparency. I genuinely believe that if you can convince us all that you will do anything to protect the arts at our school and keep the line of your communication open you will restore the trust that the community has lost for your decisions. What is art if not an expression against the grain of society?

And to our students, teachers, and parents: I hope that you will join me in encouraging an active, two-way dialogue with our administration, even if that means asking the difficult questions or putting on a little pressure to make sure they listen to us. We can all mend this wide divide, but we must do it collaboratively, in line with a shared vision of making sure the arts prosper in a new global era that sometimes seems bent on dismantling them.

No, We Didn't Walk Out to Skip Class by Paige Levy

Photography by Paige Levy

Photography by Paige Levy

A hush falls over the crowd. Seas of people are moving now, dropping to the floor to sit on the cold concrete of 62nd street.

Just a few moments prior, there had been yelling and cheering. Most had been counting down to 10 o’clock; many were waving signs. “Thoughts and prayers are not #enough” one poster read, while another listed the names of the victims in last month’s major school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

It’s 10 am. The National School Walkout has begun.

Somehow, the silence from the crowd is deafening. I never thought I would see the day when my fellow students, members of the prestigious arts school Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School, would be making no noise whatsoever. I didn’t even know it was possible. The only sound you can hear is the clicks of cameras, or the tiny whisper of one member of the press to another. The students on the ground, however, are silent. Some are lying down, but most are sitting: watching the others, holding hands, or bowing their heads. A few times a student might raise a phone to Snapchat what’s happening or just to have something to share online later, but most of the time their hands are pulled down by the people around them. We just sit and protest, sit and protest.

A few minutes pass before we hear chanting; it breaks the silence that has fallen over the crowd. A group is screaming, counting numbers from one to seventeen, a chant that memorializes the seventeen victims of the school shooting last month. When they see us, the school group stops their chant and comes to sit next to us. A few minutes later, another school does the same.

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Fifteen minutes in. An older man walks past us on the sidewalk, giving us all a thumbs up. “Right on, kids,” he says. He looks proud, and it makes us smile.

The seventeen minutes are over now. The crowd erupts into cheers as people jump to their feet. We’re supposed to be walking back to school, but everyone is hesitant to move. Instead, people start chants. “Enough is enough” we scream, along with the ever famous “We call BS!” People wave signs. A few even get up on other people’s shoulders. A cacophony of sound fills the previously still air. Soon enough though, it dies down. A girl in front of us signals to start walking back, and we do. The press gets their last pictures or conducts their last few interviews with students. We trudge back into school and head to fourth period. It’s over.

But in reality, it’s never really over.

Sure, the orange shirts are taken off and the signs are put away, but the fight won’t stop until we achieve the change we desperately want and need. There have been 21 incidents of gun violence on school campuses in 2018, and while most were not what we would consider to be school shootings, that is still far too many.  It’s impossible to deny that we as Americans have a problem on our hands, one that people seem hesitant to fix.

I witnessed this first hand today after the walkout was over. With the amount of press and cameras, it would be impossible to not be greeted by articles and videos  right away. Of course, along with the articles came the comments. I found the comments under two live Facebook videos to be particularly fun. “This is the same generation who eat tide pods!!” one reply reads. Another says, “How about instead of protesting something you don’t know about you shut up and get back to class…” The last comment seemed to be indicative of the vast majority of people’s opinions in these comment sections. That if you’re not of voting age, you don’t deserve to have an opinion. Most seemed to think that most of us just wanted to skip class. That kids somehow can’t understand or even know about problems that happen today, even ones that concern us.

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LaGuardia sophomore art major Nadia D. begs to disagree. “I personally walked out because I feel like students really shouldn’t be going to school with the expectation of a gun threat, and we shouldn’t be preparing our students to get shot up… It’s not something that should be a daily occurrence. It’s not like these children are people on a battlefield; they didn’t sign up for it, they didn’t want it, and they’re never going to be able to live their lives because of something as stupid as a gun law not being able to happen.”

When I asked why she thought it was important as teens to speak out and protest, she responded, “Teens under the voting age are getting killed, and that’s not something that’s right. People who aren’t legal adults are the ones who are victims in the attacks, and if no one’s going to stand up to it, we will.”

Nadia is not alone in this opinion. In fact, I’m positive that the masses of kids who crowded the main entrance and held us up for at least five minutes before we could even reach the door would disagree. The bodies laying down, taking up almost an entire city block, would disagree.

Just because we’re under the voting age doesn’t mean that we’re ignorant. It doesn’t mean we don’t have a brain. I’m not naïve enough to think that if I close my eyes and wish hard enough, this problem will go away. I am smart enough, however, to know that there are solutions. After the Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania, Australia, in which 35 people died and another 23 were seriously injured, strict gun control laws were introduced. Australia has not had a mass shooting since 1996. In the UK, after Thomas Hamilton used legally owned handguns to kill 16 children and one teacher, the UK adopted stricter gun laws as

well. There has been one mass shooting since 1996. The United States has had close to 80 mass shootings since 1996. We may be young, but all of us who marched yesterday can see the obvious solution to this problem.

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We may never fully ban guns on the United States. We do have the Second Amendment, and genuinely good people do use guns for sport. I don’t claim that all people who own guns are bad, and I never will. However, it’s apparent that something has to be done. Common sense gun laws are not only wanted right now, they’re needed. Why is it so easy to buy guns, especially semi-automatics? Why can you still purchase a gun in some states without a special permit, a waiting period, or without fingerprints being taken? As Business Insider reports, “It took a reporter from the Philly Inquirer seven minutes to buy an AR-15, the semi-automatic gun used in many of the US' deadliest mass shootings. In Orlando, buying the AR-15 took just 38 minutes two days after the shooting spree that killed 49 people at the city's Pulse nightclub, the Huffington Post reported.” These facts are ridiculous, but the only way to put an end to them is to stand up and do something about it. We don’t want to have to read yet another story about the latest mass shooting, and we shouldn’t have to be  scared every time an announcement comes on over the loudspeaker. When kids are targets and when everyone else seems to think that thoughts and prayers are enough, it’s only natural that we are the ones to lead the charge.

That is the last time we will be silent.
That is the last time we’re sitting down.
We call BS.

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The Youth Voter Act by Isabel Janovsky

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The Young Voter Act: Why It Is More Important Than Ever That Young People Get the Right to Vote

Last Monday, my English class was having a discussion about the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when one girl spoke up and said, “I know we are marching and protesting but I feel like no one is listening to us.” I believe a lot of teenagers feel that way. Our lives are being affected by legislation passed in federal and state congresses, yet we have no say in any of it. It is time to give young people in this country the power to take a stand and speak out for what they believe in. Our future should be in our hands, not the hands of those who don’t represent what we believe in. The most powerful weapon a person can have in the United States at this time is not a gun, but the vote.

The Youth Progressive Policy

The Youth Progressive Policy Group (YPPG) is an organization created and run by New York students dedicated to the civic engagement of young people in New York and New Jersey. The primary initiative of the YPPG is to get the Young Voters Act passed in New York State. This act will give seventeen year olds the right to vote in New York state and local elections, as well as mandating the implementation of civics education in all public schools.

Why Seventeen Year Olds Should Be Able To Vote

  • Seventeen year olds have the ability to get married, get divorced, drop out of school, drive a vehicle and join the military, just like most adults in New York State.

  • According to a study done by Citigroup, 80% of American students work while in school. These students pay taxes and contribute to the economy, but do not have any say in where their money goes. Such a large group of people should not remain disenfranchised - their contributions are worth just as much as adults.

  • Voter turnout amongst newly eligible voters has been shown to be higher than that of voters of the ages of 18-24.

    • For example, the voter turnout by newly eligible 16- and 17-year olds in the Scottish independence referendum in 2014 was 75%, a great contrast to the 54% turnout by 18- to 24-year olds.

Civics Education and Voter Registration

  • The implementation of civics education in public schools also provides an incentive for young people to get involved in politics and vote.

  • The discussion of civic responsibilities in the classroom gives students the opportunity to ask questions and receive information about the process that they may not have at home or in their communities.

  • High schools will also be required to hand out voter registration forms to sixteen and seventeen year olds who will be eligible to vote in the next election. This will ensure that everyone in the state has the opportunity to register and make the greatest impact possible.

Beginning civics education and voter registration at a young age will encourage a lifetime of good voting practices. Citizens who are educated and aware of the impact their vote will have are essential to a healthy and successful democracy. Everyone in the United States of America has the civic duty to vote, and this opportunity should be extended to every citizen, regardless of their race, gender, religion, or belief.


Lobby for the Young Voter Act in Albany!

On April 24th, 2018, YPPG is headed to Albany, New York to lobby for the Young Voter Act. We will be visiting the offices of Assembly Members to try to get them to support our message and vote for the Young Voter Act. This is a wonderful opportunity for young people to become involved and let their voices be heard in the government.

Isabel Jonovsky is a junior instrumental major who is a part of the Youth Progressive Policy Group.

If you are at all interested, please visit their website, email Isabel at or YPPG at, and check them out on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @YPPGOfficial. To register for to go to Albany to lobby for the Young Voter Act, please visit:

LaG Mag has collaborated with Isabel Janovsky and YGGP to promote their cause and publish this op-ed. If your club is interested spreading awareness or promoting their cause, contact LaG Mag at for a collaboration. 


Women's March 2018 by Elena Giardina

Photography by Elena Giardina

Photography by Elena Giardina

On Saturday, January 20, 2018, women and men around the country took over the streets with handmade pink pussy hats on their heads and protest signs in their hands. This year’s march marked a year since one million people rallied for justice after Donald Trump’s inauguration, and these determined and passionate individuals are back and better than ever. The second annual women’s march took place in Denver, Chicago, Seattle, Las Vegas, Washington D.C., and New York City. With endless news footage, professional photography, social media trends, and positive publicity, the orchestrators of the Women’s March Organization have brought attention to something that is eye-opening and important.

The women’s march in New York City began at 11:30 a.m. and traveled downtown from 86th Street and Columbus Circle along Central Park West. After emerging from the Columbus Circle train station and touching the light of that beautiful, sunny Saturday, people in pink could be seen scattered on the streets and sidewalks. Pins reading phrases such as “Resist”, “Nevertheless She Persisted”, “Nasty Woman”, “March To The Polls”, and “Pussy Power” were being sold along the walk to Central Park, and signs were being passed down rows of people, going from one hand to the next. The walking space grew narrower and narrower as feminists from all over the state grouped together, leading the masses to the march for equality. Although the path was closely-packed, it was not chaotic or uncomfortable. There was a sense of spirit and sisterhood emanating from the crowd as they made their way to the starting lines.

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After finally reaching the police barricades and pathways, the protesters were held back from joining the march starting points for a substantial amount of time. It might have taken some squeezing through tight spaces and jumping over railings, but everyone was eventually able to run into the stream of people progressing down the city blocks. As each barricade was opened, there was an uproar of cheering and happy cries. People with speakers played upbeat music as those of all ages held up signs, clapped, and chanted.

In the middle of the treading stream of protesters, one could look up at the hundreds of posters surrounding their head and realize that they were marching alongside people rallying for justice, equality, and basic human rights. Thanks to the march and the activeness of New Yorkers supporting the Women’s March Organization, marchers were able to share their political and personal views while being creative and uplifting. The signs and cardboard structures shooting up into the city sky were all original and beautiful, each one covering an important viewpoint or position on the current state of our government and/or the everlasting equal rights movement. There were posters covering the ideas of women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and the Black Lives Matter movement. There were signs supporting planned parenthood, supporting immigration and the acceptance of refugees. Posters against the normalization of rape culture and the current presidency could be seen from blocks away. Giant structures and pieces of art mocking Trump’s controversial presidency caught the eyes of people peering out from their apartment windows and grabbed the attention of anyone documenting or photographing the event. Mothers and fathers brought children, allowing the next generation- the future of America- to visualize the reality of the current political situation and to expose them to the uniqueness and diversity that makes this country what it is.

Although the march was fueled by frustration with and anger toward the country’s current state, the merging of those with similar viewpoints and ideas was something filled with optimism. The people at the march were enlightened and unflinching, seeing the faults in the country’s government and being unafraid to speak up against it. The second annual women’s march was one of the many uprisings that will mold the future of our government as well as the next generation. With marching, chanting, singing, music, and fearlessness, the participants of this year’s march of freedom showed the world that this is what democracy looks like.

Orpheus in the Underworld Behind the Scenes

School News
by Charlotte Force

This story is ancient and well-known – Orpheus’ beloved wife Eurydice passes away. Heartbroken, Orpheus follows her to the underworld, braving godly queens and a three-headed dog to find her. When they re-unite, he is allowed to take her back to the land of the living on one condition: that he not look back to check that she is following him.

This is not that story.

The original title is Orphee aux enfers, which translates from the French as Orpheus in the Underworld. It’s an opera bouffe composed by Jacques Offenbach to a text written originally in French by Ludovic Haleyy. First performed in 1858, the opera revisits the old Greek tale of the loving couple of Orpheus and Eurydice in a reinterpretation that is satirical, sometimes shocking, and modern even by today’s standards. It is one of Offenbach’s burlesques, featuring the “Infernal Gallop” number that shocker audiences in the premier, and is now known outside of classical music as the “can-can”.

In this piece, Orpheus and Eurydice are indeed married. They also happen to despise each other. Each is in love with someone else – Eurydice is in love with Aristeaus, and Orpheus is in love with Chloë, shepherd and shepherdess, respectively. This is not a story of a man retrieving his precious wife, but a series of poignant – comical and dramatic – events about the gods interfering with mortals. The couple is married, Eurydice dies, and Orpheus looks back… but you’ll have to see the opera to know what happens in between in Offenbach’s "profanation of holy and glorious antiquity," as Jules Janin reviewed back in 1858.

LaGuardia’s production of Orpheus in the Underworld, directed by Mary Ann Swerdfeger and conducted by Joseph Meyers, is set to open April 1st. Preparations started way back in Fall semester in the vocal department’s Opera Workshop, where students prepped and auditions for parts in the show. After months of hard work and late nights, vocal students, tech majors, LaGuardia staff, and consultants have come together to piece together a truly incredible production. They started dress rehearsal just a week ago and are now doing run-throughs, right until Thursday when they will run previews and Friday – opening night!

Today, I went and took a sneak peek at the preparation that goes into a dress rehearsal. The Saturday night cast was doing a run of Act II, so I got to see the incredible costumes – from Orpheus to Pluto to a person dunked in a lake – wigs, make-up, and mics flowing out of every room. The level of detail was the first thing that struck me – no hair goes un-pin curled, and no chorus member goes un-costumed. The costumes are gorgeous and colorful. Modern textiles and a medley of styles combine to create an air of Greece with a touch of 19th century France. There is still experimentation, from costume fittings to the proper adhesion of mics (apparently, rubbing alcohol makes the tape stick better) – but it’s obvious that the ginormous working cogs of such a huge production are set in place and working.

I find it hard to wrap my head around just how much work goes into the productions LaGuardia puts on, and the fact that every cast and crew member shares my teachers and classes and school. Honestly – it dumbfounds me. It’s not just the fact that everyone contributes incredible talent, but the honest to god dedication it takes to pull off a bona fide opera. But I won’t gush. You will – when you come to see the show.

See behind the scenes (or... in the basement) of Orpheus in the Underworldl!

Performances of Orpheus in the Underworld are April 1st through 3rd!
April 1st - 7:30pm
April 2nd - 2:00pm & 7:30pm
April 3rd - 2:00pm

Project: Mixed

School News

by Charlotte Force

Simone Reisman, the founder of Project: Mixed, is Nicaraguan on her mom’s side and a Russian-Jew on her dad’s side. People tend to not ‘believe’ her when she says she’s Hispanic, which is an interesting phenomenon: why would you question someone’s race? This question, as well as issues of perception, judgement, racism, and sexism, are the queries that Project: Mixed aims to bring to light.

Project: Mixed was created in order to expose people to the rarely publicized struggle associated with being mixed race. Heritage is often more complicated than superficial appearances would suggest, especially in a metropolitan city like New York. Paired with the prejudices associated with being a woman, there are often tangible effects of growing up mixed race and female. Simone interviews women of mixed race to document their stories, raise awareness about this internal conflict, and show girls that may be struggling with their origins that they are not alone.

“I definitely hope the fan base – the likes – will increase, to the point where it will be featured in a magazine or something. My main goal is awareness. It’s not as easily seen as the fight against racism or what’s going on in Indiana right now. It’s not as crucial as that in terms of resolution, but it’s important for people to think about as we turn into a slightly more accepting age.”

Until now, she’s mainly been the one to approach her interviewees, but one day she hopes that will turn around and people will approach her. “I’ll ask people, some people have asked me, but generally I’ll ask people. But if people want to get involved, they can Facebook message the page, or message me directly.” Right now, she’s venturing to create a website, and later, she says, “It would be cool to turn it into a book at some point.”

The inspiration to create Project: Mixed came from Simone. Her mother’s family hails from Nicaragua. Her mother moved to America at a young age, and grew up assimilating into American culture, encouraged by a mother who thought integration was the only way to succeed in a new country. When Simone’s parents got married, her mother converted to Judaism and she was raised in an English-speaking, Jewish environment. Growing up, then, Simone was disconnected from her Hispanic heritage. Moreover, she doesn’t appear ‘Spanish’, so had to fight off stereotypes of Hispanic features. Growing up without speaking Spanish, never visiting Nicaragua, and with her family scattered, Simone always struggled to answer the question, “Hey what’s your ethnicity?”

In AP Spanish at school, her teacher would always favor the native speakers, who share the same roots as Simone – but she wasn’t raised speaking Spanish. She says about the class, “Spanish made me work even more in order to prove that I was supposed to be one of those kids.” She feels that she “can never be one of those kids, because [she] didn’t learn [Spanish] during that stage where you can learn multiple languages. [She] always feel like [she’s] faking it, even though it is a part of [her].” Instead of Spanish, her parents chose to put Simone in Hebrew school. She recounts, “I feel like if you go to Hebrew school twice a week, you should be able to speak Hebrew. But I can only read really slowly, and I don’t know what it means,” meaning she can only read it phonetically. “I look back on that – it wasn’t really my crowd." Simone would have liked to learn Spanish, which is more widely used - or at least would have liked to learn Hebrew properly.

Even so, Simone appreciates being mixed-race, “I love the fact that it connects me to multiple cultures – for English I did a poet’s study of Ruben Dario, and I was pretty much able to understand his poems. Had I not been exposed to Nicaraguan culture, I would never have found him, and I think his poems are really beautiful.” She talks about the “Cultural Pockets” she’s founded while exploring her heritage. At El Taller on 99th st., she speaks conversational Spanish for 3 hours every week. “I feel like I’m accepted there, being Hispanic. Had I not really wanted to be a part of my culture, that acceptance would not exist, and I’m glad it does.” She gets to explore these “Cultural Pockets” with her family now as well – her aunt came to America when she was 14, so has more Nicaraguan culture within her. “You can kind of see it in the way she cooks, and the way she decorates her house.” Of course, now she can speak Spanish with her mother too. It even affects the way she’s learned the language – “ll” is pronounced as a “j” or “y”, but in Nicaragua they pronounce it as “y”, so she speaks that way.

There’s a wealth of opportunity to be cultivated from the interactions of cultures. Children of mixed ethnicity embody that potential to cooperate and create, which has led to some of the greatest advancements of humanity. There are challenges associated with growing up on the border of two cultures, but with campaigns like Project: Mixed, that barrier can be broken and people can begin to understand each other. Ultimately, the goals are for people to understand that people are not only what they appear to be and to establish that being mixed race is okay - even great!

"I'm happy with who I am and it's not a bad thing to be mixed race at all, it's great," Simone concludes, "but I believe it's important to make the concept of 'I am not what I seem' public because individuals might have a different view of race. In order to change people's view of race I believe we must show that color and facial features cannot always be immediately connected to race, as stereotyping is detrimental. Ultimately, although we are celebrating mixed race through Project: Mixed, the goal is to show that race does not matter or change anyone's value and it is what makes us unique and the same."

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Planet Panic!

Music News

by Charlotte Force

The back room of Branded Saloon is an intimate burgundy space with neon signs and pseudo-gas lamps. It’s a dark room, even on days when the sun is smiling, with velvet curtains hugging the jam-packed people around a low-rise stage. It was the venue of Planet Panic!, an Earth Day benefit concert organized by Thomas Warner Perriee and Venice Ohleyer. For three hours, seven excellent bands played excellent music, as a projector screen hung in the back screening The Lorax, psychedelic cartoons, videos of nature, Alice and Wonderland, and dream-like fractals.

Planet Panic was Thomas Perriee’s idea. In the past, his family has gone out to pick up garbage on Earth Day, but this year, he wanted to get his friends involved. “But I knew my friends wouldn’t do that,” he laughed about garbage cleanups, so “one night, [he] was up really late doing homework, and realized that Earth Day was the next month, so [he] got really scared. [He] wanted to do something.” There was one issue: he had never organized an event like this before. “I was sure it wasn’t going to happen. And then I told Venice.” When he told his co-organizer, Venice Ohleyer, about his idea, things started to take shape. “Thomas told me in photography club,” she recounts, “and I thought that was such a good idea, and we should get it to happen.” Thomas adds, “We were both unsure it was going to happen, but once I found people who were behind this, and they were backing us…” They emailed lots of venues – including Silent Barn (“We emailed them three times but they never responded…”) - but to no avail. “We tried a bunch of places, and by then, it was really late – less than a month ago. Everybody had this date booked.” Finally, Thomas asked his older brother, who works at Branded Saloon, if they could use the back room of the bar. “He said ‘Yeah, yeah, let me ask right now.’ And ten minutes later…” they had a venue!

The purpose of the event went beyond celebrating Earth Day - all of the event’s profits, including ticket, button, zine, and t-shirt sales, went to the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) - the bands actually performed for free. Maya Greenberg designed t-shirts and Malach Molaksa designed the buttons. The NRDC “works to safeguard the earth—its people, its plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends” (NRDC website). This true Earth Day spirit was Tomas and Venice’s ultimate motivation for pushing the event through. The band Foam, in fact, got wonderfully environmentally conscious lyrics from the children’s book The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, which is a well-known allegory for what the planet has to offer. They were actually one of the first groups scheduled for the event – Thomas recounts, “They were totally okay with it. I asked, ‘If I don’t get any bands, can you guys just play for three hours?’ and they just said ‘Yeah sure’.” Eventually, Thomas and Venice were able to unite seven bands. The lineup was:

Minimum Wage

Straight Shooter

Every Man Jack

Little Creek


Gruesome Twosome

Ginger and the Snaps

The music, in one word, was great. The musicians, in four words, were having a good time. Before the last song in their set, Little Creek played Yellow by Coldplay good-naturedly, after popular demand from the crowd. Ginger and the Snaps invited the audience to dance, so by the end of the show friends were dancing in each others' arms. Ginger and the Snaps added a raspy, swinging vibe to a generally rock n' roll atmosphere, and Gruesome Twosome contributed a sprinkling of punk charm. Foam's gradual crescendos enchanted everyone in the room. Ginger and the Snaps ended the event with the song DNA, and the enthusiastic crowd jumped along, bouncing so hard you could feel the floor move.

Cool characters filled the room. A girl with blue and green light-up platform shoes. Bleached hair and black hair and the rainbow between. Mom jeans and stressed jeans and skinny jeans and combinations of the three. The members of Ginger and the Snaps accounted for three button-downs, a fur coat, and a tie-dye bandanna. Gruesome Twosome sported fake blood, representing the earth’s suffering, and Earth Day pins (in support of the event’s charity). The lead singer of Foam wore one of the Planet Panic shirts on sale. The crowd broke out their short sleeves for the first days of spring weather this year, and some spaghetti straps could be seen for those summer enthusiasts.

The back room of Branded Saloon filled up almost immediately – so fast that some people had to be turned away. Performers took refuge in the lounge underneath the room, where the music echoed down the poster-plastered staircase and the main sounds were tuning and the billiard “plonks” coming from the pool table. Upstairs, casual listeners bobbed their heads to the music, while avid fans and friends made their way through the crowd to the front.

Two teenagers, a few guitars, a call to a brother, and an enthusiastic crowd later, the event was a huge success.

Women On 20s

Social News

by Charlotte Force

A green flurry of movement is sweeping the nation – its outcome might change the landscape of American wallets forever. Women On 20s is a reform group dedicated to replacing the likeness of Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill with an image of an important woman from American history: Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, or Wilma Mankiller. Many questions line the opinion-section of the New York Times, and endless blog posts about the topic. The most common argument narrows down to: shall we celebrate or condemn Andrew Jackson?

Women make up more than half of America’s population; in America, there are 0.97 males for every female, according to a 2010 estimate by the US Census Bureau. African-Americans make up 12.6% of the population, with Asian Americans and Native Americans in tow. Women On 20s mandates that it only makes sense to have these demographics represented in all facets of daily life – including the little green bills in the average American wallet.

The representation of figures on dollar bills is a way for the United States Treasury Department to commemorate great figures in American history: Abraham Lincoln on the penny, Thomas Jefferson on the nickel, Franklin D. Roosevelt on the dime, George Washington on the quarter, John F. Kennedy on the half dollar… Women populating the world of coins are Susan B. Anthony, a 19th century suffragette and the first woman to vote in America, and Sacagawea, the Native American woman who led Lewis and Clark in their expedition of the Louisiana territory.

The world of bills, however, has no female faces to boast: George Washington ($1), Thomas Jefferson ($2), Abraham Lincoln ($5), Alexander Hamilton ($10), Andrew Jackson ($20), Ulysses S. Grand ($50), Benjamin Franklin ($100), William McKinley ($500*), Grover Cleveland ($1,000*), James Madison ($5,000*), Salmon P. Chase ($10,000*), and Woodrow Wilson ($100,000*) line the hallowed green halls of the dollar bill (*no longer in circulation). Despite of the droves of deserving social, cultural, and political leaders to make their mark on American history, there seems to be a bias for presidents, founding fathers, and secretaries of the treasury – who can all be classified as Caucasian and male – on paper money.

Most featured figures have committed questionable acts. The question is, then, why campaign against the $20 bill’s Andrew Jackson?

The seventh president of the United States has always been a controversial man: dubbed “Old Hickory” for his use of a hickory stick to whip his troops into shape, Jackson was the rough-and-tumble leader who conquered the Florida territory from Spain in 1818. He grew up in a poor Scots-Irish family on the border of the Carolinas, exceeding his means and scaling the ranks of politics. He first helped to establish the state of Tennessee, then moved on to the House of Representatives, then the Senate. Jackson’s claim to fame was his role in the War of 1812, in which he led the decisive victory against the British at the Battle of New Orleans. Old Hickory was an extremely popular president, as evidenced by the massive support for him in the 1824 election. He was a man of the people, worn and shaped by the frontier… But while he was a hardy man, he had accumulated a vast wealth and owned hundreds of slaves who worked on the Hermitage plantation, which he purchased in 1806. Owning slaves in the early 19th century was normal, not the atrocity it would be today, and he had earned his large estate through hard work. He was also a staunch opponent of the central banking system and campaigned for gold and silver coins over paper currency (making him an ironic choice to be printed on a dollar bill). The most controversial part of Jackson’s presidency – one of the most shameful events in American history – was the Indian Removal Act of 1830. This legislation passed by Andrew Jackson’s administration resulted in the removal of Indian tribes from their ancestral homelands, and their mass displacement to Oklahoma Territory. This displacement is more commonly known at the “Trail of Tears”, for by some estimates the death rate on the road to Oklahoma was 24%. The Muscogee, Seminole, Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations suffered from disease, exposure, and starvations while moving away from their homes.

The Indian Removal Act of 1830 can be considered as one of the biggest civil rights violations of American history, along with slavery, Jim Crow laws, and the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War I. Because of Andrew Jackson’s affiliation with the Act, and his varied violent tendencies, some have retrospectively condemned him as villainous rascal of a politician.

Many argue that Andrew Jackson was an upstanding, brave president, whose faults were a product of his time. America’s first president, George Washington, and the founding fathers, including the deified Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton, all owned slaves. Thomas Jefferson even had an affair with one of his slaves and never recognized the children born out of wedlock – yet we do not campaign to strip him of his spot on the $2 bill. The question is: where is the line between contemporary norms and immorality? Can we stand to say that Andrew Jackson was a condemnable scoundrel, or do we instead justify his place in history and commemorate him as the first president born a “common man”?

The conclusion one may draw is based entirely on a personal ethical compass – there is no way to quantify how “good” or “bad” an individual is. In the case of the $20 bill however, there is more to take into account than the character of Andrew Jackson.

The truly important factors are what the American people feel best represents them, and whose face they choose to have on their currency. It speaks for our society’s ever-advancing social understanding that, whereas once a president could own several hundred fellow human beings, today we respect each other enough to want women and racial minorities on our currency. Historically, these groups have been grossly treated and misrepresented – strong female leaders have been few and far between in the winding road of human history. Our acceptance of different races dates back to only 80 years ago – it’s been only three generations since Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Betty Friedan (amongst armies of other activists) pioneered the social equality that we take for granted today. The Civil Rights and Feminist movements seem like old news to new generations, but we are more privileged than we know to live in this time period and benefit from the hard work of our predecessors.

There may be portraits of women of American currency – Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea on the $1 coin, Helen Keller on the Alabama quarter, and a portrait of Martha Washington on 1886 and 1891 silver certificates – but these are not commonplace coins. The only likely place to find S.B. Anthony is as change for a Metro Card or Coca-Cola from a vending machine.

Women On 20s has declared that the time has come to celebrate the role of women in America and their entrance into politics. The year 2020 is the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, also known as the universal suffrage act, which gave women the right to vote. Women On 20s’ mission is to pressure the Obama administration (and its successor) into replacing Andrew Jackson with a woman in commemoration of that historical legislation, and the 100 years of civil rights progress since.

In democratic style, Women On 20s has published a poll to vote for the woman to campaign for as the new face on the $20 bill. The contenders are Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and Wilma Mankiller. All of these women, besides serving as role models to girls around the world, were civil rights activists. Eleanor Roosevelt used her platform as first lady of the United States to pioneer civil and women’s rights on the global scale. She was a UN delegate and drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Harriet Tubman was an Underground Railroad conductor who led some 300 slaves to freedom, after freeing herself from slavery in the south. She was also a nurse, spy, and scout in the civil war, and was active in the women’s suffrage movement after the 15th amendment did not give women the right to vote. Rosa Parks was a famous activist in the 1960s Civil Rights movement. She famously refused to give a white man a seat on the bus, despite the oppressive Jim Crow laws imposed on the South. Wilma Mankiller was the first elected female Chief of a Native American nation in modern times – she was the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation for 10 years (1985-1995), and helped the 300,000 citizens under her care through community development, education, and healthcare programs.

“A woman’s place is on the money,” says the title page of the Women On 20s website. Only time will tell if the campaign will attain its goal by 2020, but five years is a long time to garner support. Over 256,000 votes have accumulated in the span of 5 weeks, and the final ballot is between the four candidates. The movement has been met with a lot of criticism, from Jackson supporters to conservatives and everyone in between. The movement is in the hands of the people to express their opinion on the matter, which is, after all, the principal rule of democracy.

Women On 20s' Website

65th Street Die-in

School News

by Charlotte Force

A group of 16 LaGuardia students participate in a die-in on 65th street and Broadway to raise awareness of the BLACK LIVES MATTER movement.

A die-in, sometimes called a lie-in, is a form of peaceful protest in which people emulate being dead. These generally attract a lot of attention. Some die-ins are meant to truly evoke the image of death - others, like the 65th St. Die-in, use banners to convey their meaning. A large white cardboard sign, held high by a LaGuardia protester, read “No justice, No Peace”. This chant has echoed through the city since the police officer who choked Eric Garner was acquitted by the New York City grand jury on December 3, 2014. Five months later, police brutality cases like Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and Michael Brown’s continue, the newest addition to the never-ending list being Walter Scott.

“I’ve never done a die-in in front of the school before - I thought it was great. So many kids walk down the block and we had a ring of people looking around here. People were walking by, asking what it was about. Since a lot of the famous and publicized police brutality cases happened months ago, people are forgetting about it. Something like this is like a little flick in the brain to remind you - I think that’s good.” Walter, Junior Drama Major

Magazines like Time continue to publicize the horror, recently releasing a bold black cover with “BLACK LIVES MATTER” printed in striking white. Unfortunately, press coverage has otherwise overwhelmingly subsided. Protesters wage on in Ferguson, yet people have become deaf to their yells. The 65th St. protesters are well aware of the ongoing events, however, and determined to raise awareness for their cause.

“I think it’s important that we do small-scale protests. It’s kind of sad how many people are just walking by and how many people are just standing. The choice to film, and take pictures of it, rather than participating in it is interesting. I think it affects a lot more people than would like to admit it.” Alaina, Junior Drama Major

Police men and security guards stood by tentatively, watching the protest and protecting students - they ascertained that the group came from laGuardia, right down the block. Rather than manifesting resentment or stopping the die-in, they looked on respectfully. One officer approached the group and manifested interest. He read the protesters’ sign, then proceeded to photograph it.

Some passers-by showed their solidarity by matching the die-in’s chants. Imitating the tragic last words of Eric Garner, the group repeated “I can’t breathe!” eleven times - the same number of times Garner repeated those words until the asphyxiation took hold. A passing man set down his bags and crouched along with the group for eleven chants. Passing truck drivers took interest in the “No justice, No peace” sign, and echoed it at the red light.

“So many people either don’t care, or have lost the momentum, lost the motive of the movement as it was before. When people feel that time has past, and they think ‘Oh, it’s not as important’. I think that this kind of movement shows that we need to keep up the movements and not just stop after one. You have to keep it going, and show people that it’s still as important.” Jeremy, Junior Drama Major

The protest achieved its purpose to an extent - it served as a reminder of the tragedies that affect us even today. It is racial prejudice that lays the foundation for these crimes, and a deaf and blind judicial system that does not condemn them. The BLACK LIVES MATTER movement is instrumental in raising awareness about the inequality pervading our system. Today’s protest was but a facet of that movement, but an important one for the LaGuardia community.

Forgotten Faces

Racism and Brandy Melville


by Allison Abrams

If you’ve ever purchased something from the Brandy Melville clothing store, you know that their clothes are super cute, comfortable, reasonably priced, and have that famous, ‘easy’, “one-size-fits-all” policy. Needless to say, I love a good, versatile Brandy tee, but a few noticeable issues rake my liberal mind when I see an Instagram post or enter their store:

1) most/all of the models or employees are white

2) most/all of the employees are “one-size” but not “fits-all”

The domination of white and skinny models is a problem - one that is not uncommon in the world of fashion. According to a recent study from, 78.69% of the models in the Fall-Winter New York Fashion Week of 2014 were white. Though there are increasing “talks” of diversity in the industry and certain designers are beginning to actively place models of color in their campaigns, the industry remains very much dominated by an antiquated vision of beauty: white skin.

Brandy Melville’s case is particularly upsetting. The models used in their Instagram photos and store displays are young and mostly unknown in the fashion world. They only have stores in California and New York City: both fairly liberal regions. So why do they consistently cast white and blonde (sometimes brunette and red-haired) models for their pictures? Why do they call ‘average’ a size 0 while boasting to be a casual, one-size-fits-all outlet? They should makes clothes in sizes 6, 8, 12, or 14 (for women) and see if they still look mildly comfortable or flattering!

When you scroll through their Instagram, look for the token black woman in the bunch, who is so light - biracial, I assume - she is almost white. There is nothing wrong with biracial women - on the contrary. However, there’s also nothing wrong with fully black women. It is not a difficult decision to place a black, Asian woman, Latina woman in every other picture - or even every picture.

We need to stop consciously choosing white beauty over beauty of color, because if the world could see in black and white, everyone would have a job. That is not the case, so models of color are out of work.

Next time you scroll through a magazine, please take note of the models of color, or lack thereof.

If a small, independent store for young, liberal women won’t portray diversity, who will.

Many of you at LaGuardia are sure to have noticed the lack of diversity at stores like Brandy. It sucks that our favorite places don’t represent what we truly believe in. We know many of you are interested in fashion and photography, so if anyone would take up the suggestion of beginning some kind of initiative for this issue (maybe taking pictures of women of color or women of different sizes in Brandy clothes, making a blog, etc.), contact Allison here:

Name *

"So how did you prep for the SAT?"


by Charlotte Force

Cartoon by  Dave Coverly

Cartoon by Dave Coverly

“Well… let’s start from the beginning.”

Standardized testing begins at a young age: when minds are ripe for picking. Beginning in the 3rd grade, students in my grade were made to take the “English Language Arts” and “Math” annual standardized tests. I was given my first test prep book at 8 years old.  Amongst activities such as learning how to add or spell words like “metallic”, my 3rd grade teacher taught us the important lesson of “scoring well”. In 3rd grade, the ELA and Math tests were diagnostic – our scores didn’t really “matter” until the next year, but I remember being very concerned, along with my classmates, about getting a good score. What would it mean if I didn’t score high enough on the ELA? What if I didn’t score as high as the other kids? ‘What did that mean for my future’, I thought, with echoes of “Yale” and “Columbia” ricocheting off my 8-year-old mind. I didn’t think of the content of the tests, because quite honestly they weren’t hard: I aced them. However, content is what we all should have been thinking about; not the importance of the grade, but what it meant to know how to add and spell words like “metallic”. Every single 3rd grader in my classroom was more concerned with grades than thrilled with the power of arithmetic and grammar.

The next rung of the testing ladder was the New York State Regents exam. When introducing the year’s syllabus in 6th grade, my middle-school homeroom teacher told us all about how this school would prepare us well for the regents coming in 8th grade: how we would all be “scoring well”. After all, this was a great school – everyone had to do well. In came the test-prep books, now all-so familiar. These companions guided us through the ideas of Greek democracy by explaining “process of elimination” and taught us about solving for x by reminding us that “when taking the test, the clock is ticking”. And so the clock ticked, and we crossed off answers that couldn’t be right… Soon enough I was jittery and filling in the bubble-sheets of tests that seemed to matter quite a bit. Little did I know that colleges care little to nothing about the 8th grade scores of their applicants – but of course, the most important thing was that Everyone at my middle school passed the Regents Exam with flying colors.

The biggest and worst test of them all came only this year: the Standardized Aptitude Test. Every student in the nation quivers at the thought of The SAT, because it is in fact a shockingly all-powerful test that will determine everyone’s identity and future… There are many things that all students are “expected” to do: “attend class”, “follow directions”, “cooperate with rules”, etc. However, the ultimate duty of the student is to Succeed. Everyone is held to that standard, and the key to unlocking the perfect future is a good SAT score. Testing leads students to believe that the true mark of success is a 100% mark on an exam paper, but that isn’t true. The key is hard work, resilience, creativity, resourcefulness, and intelligence. The SAT doesn’t test these things; it gauges one’s ability to “take the test”. And boy – are we prepared. All of the Princeton review books under the sun couldn’t give you the testing experience of this lifetime: eight years of yearly tests. They say practice makes perfect –four ELA and Math tests, eight Regents, 2 SAT IIs, 2 AP tests, and 2 PSATs later, I’d say I’ve had plenty of prep for the SAT.

Every student in the nation must take the SAT or its cousin the ACT in order to “succeed”. There is no longer room for brilliantly creative young minds to create their own education – there is only the reach towards that mouth-wateringly perfect 2400. It’s easy to get lost in the looming dawn of a Saturday morning lost to this beast, but although the SAT carries its weight in our future, the numbers on any of our standardized tests don’t define us. The things that make students individually great are the same things that set them apart; a standardized test rewards the average of a person and rejects their excellence.

I’ve been prepping for the SAT for half of my life, but the most important lesson has not been “process of elimination”, “watching the clock”, or “going over my answers”. I’ve learned to Let Go: to not be the little 6th grader who cried because an 88% whispered of a slipping future in her ear. The most important tip I have for going into the SAT is to remember that it’s not the end-all, be-all – in the grand scheme of life, it’s merely the start of your beginning.

LGBTQ+ Information Banned on DOE Servers

School and City News

by Charlotte Force

While researching at school for the "LGBTQ+ Oppression Around the World" project for last Friday's Global Conflict Awareness Day, my group came across something appalling: an innocuous website was blocked on the grounds that it contained "Gay or Lesbian or Bisexual Interest".

At Global Conflict Awareness Day, our group collected 243 signatures from students attending the fair. We then expanded to the web through a petition that has 118 supporters. The support has been strong, but needs to be bigger.

We want to send a letter to School Chancellor Farina and the Department of Education to make this change, and take a public stance against this policy. In order to make an impact, we need as many signatures as we can get! So, when you sign the petition - don't just stop there. Share it, and tell your friends!

The official New York City Department of Education Internet Acceptable Use and Safety Policy (IAUSP) exists under the larger umbrella of the Federal Communications Commission's Children's Internet Protect Act (CIPA). The DOE and FCC's policies both agree - they serve to protect children from content including "pornography, obscene material, and other material that may be harmful to minors. The Department may filter other content deemed to be inappropriate, lacking educational or work-related content or that pose a threat to the network" (DOE policy). 

Information about LGBTQ+ rights, people, or culture does not fall into any of these qualifications. It is neither obscene, nor dangerous for minors. Therefore, this content blockage is a gross violation of students' rights to information and an example of the bigotry that fuels the anti-LGBTQ+ rights movement.

Beyond the invalidity of the blockage, the information about LGBTQ+ culture, rights, and resources could be invaluable to teens who cannot access that kind of information at home. The internet is a valuable resource, and teens struggling with their identity could find it invaluable to have access to information in a safe space such as school. The blocking of information is taking away that tool.

If New York City is going to take an actively pro-LGBTQ+ rights stance, it cannot do it half-heartedly - certainly, not at the expense of the city's students. The NYC Department of Education must repeal this ban and agree, once and for all, that the negative perception of the LGBTQ+ community is pure bigotry.

Bringing Three Astronauts Home

School News

"Bringing the World Home" Lecture Series featuring Grethe Barrett Holby and The Three Astronauts

by Charlotte Force 

The cast and crew of the Three Astronauts, including Ms. Holby, along with the MarsTeam and Mr. Singh.

The cast and crew of the Three Astronauts, including Ms. Holby, along with the MarsTeam and Mr. Singh.

The Three Astronauts – A Space Opera is based on a children’s book come to life in intricate and thoughtful splendor. The science and enchantment of the opera is folded in layers of artistry: from the direction, to the writing, to the comedy. The opera has been built up by a dedicated team, led by Grethe Barrett Holby: director and concept creator. The process of writing, composing, performing, and producing an opera is what Grethe Barrett Holby, as our guest lecturer, exposed to us in the January installment of LaGuardia’s lecture series, “Bringing the World Home”.  The opera is based on Umberto Eco and Eugenio Carmi's The Three Astronauts, a gorgeous children’s book following the space-trekking footsteps of an American astronaut, a Russian cosmonaut, and a Chinese taikonaut – three Earthlings on their way to Mars. Collaboration started on this labour of love in April 2013, and the libretto (opera jargon for script) has been finalized. At LaGuardia High School, we were privileged enough to have a part of the opera performed for us in its early stages. This opportunity allowed us to attest to the creation of an opera. As we discovered these new facets of the art form, Ms. Holby shared with us valuable lessons; these, to use as artists, and as humans – small, and looking to make giant leaps (maybe even all the way to Mars).

Ms. Holby found The Three Astronauts in a bookstore in 1989, and brought it home to read to her children. It left a huge mark on her – so much so that she decided to write an opera about it. As she recounted her first encounter with the story, she said: “If I could tell you why it had such a huge impact on me, I might not be making this opera. I guess I’m making it in order to understand it. Artists always do that; they create in order to articulate and discover things.” This piece of wisdom was one of the many that she shared over the course of the lecture. The four most important things, she said, when making a new opera or any piece of art based on a pre-existing property, are: firstly, always start by getting the rights to the work  if it is not your own – don’t take someone’s word for it, get it signed on a piece of paper. The second piece of advice was: build your team with people you like, trust, and whose work you like. The third piece of advice was, she said, the most delicate and trickiest to accomplish: always get a letter of agreement (LoA) from the people you are working with before you start anything – there needs to be a total understanding of the situation. Lastly, bring in producers and the rest of the full team as early as possible – you can’t complete an opera, or anything, all by yourself, and should always have help at hand.

These ideas do not only apply to opera – they are not even only restricted to music or theater. In any creative or collaborative process, the ideas outlined by Ms. Holby create the best environment for producing ideal results. In a school like LaGuardia, that gathers thousands of students in a home where they can pursue their talents for three or more hours a day, advice like this is our bread and butter. The big question faced by artists is: “How can I successfully pursue my passion?” As teenagers, we are mostly exposed to two stages of professional life: our own, and our parents’. The area in between, in which we must work to create stability and attain success, is a grey area full of uncertainty. That is where the value of these lectures lies: in giving us advice, stemming from personal and professional experience. Ms. Holby and our past lecturers at LaGuardia have given us tools to help us navigate the next step in our lives.

These lectures, valuable as they are, are made possible by our principle, Dr. Mars, and of course the Coordinator of Student Activities, Mr. Singh. The organization that goes into these events is incredible: setting up sound equipment, chairs, food, and logistics, is all a lot of work. However, the result is always astounding, thanks not only to the great lecturers themselves, but also thanks to the wonderful efforts of Mr. Singh and everyone else involved.

However, the special case of this lecture is that LaGuardia’s involvement did not stop at the laying of tables and setting out of chairs. A group of LaGuardia students, led by Mr. Singh, actually helped flesh out the science behind this operatic space adventure. These students are Hannah Krutiansky, Tucker Loftus, Josh Bell, Joshua Nodiff, Emily Dinkelaker, Julia Gorlovetskaya, Usha Houiex, Alexandra Kyriakides, and Ariella Mandel. Ms. Holby, a former LaGuardia parent, thought of her friend Mr. Singh as she was collaborating on the libretto, and thought she’d ask for his help fleshing out science. She brought a draft of the libretto to LaGuardia, and had Mr. Singh’s students pose questions about it. This process helped pinpoint the unclear elements behind the science of the plot, and added a new facet to the creation of this opera: an opportunity for education. A consultant from The Santa Fe Opera suggested that interactive videos about the science, technology and engineering be available in the lobby of the performance venue for use by the audience members, before, at intermission, and after the  performance, and later online. It’s a level of audience and community engagement that keeps the performance alive and growing long after the curtain has come down. It is the Mars Team from LaGuardia that have begun to make examples of how to make these videos fun and engaging, to help the audience experience the wonder and creativity and fun of science, and not only the facts. Mr. Singh’s AP student Mars Team researched, calculated, planned, animated, edited, and recorded the videos all themselves, on topics such as solar flares  and routes to travel between Earth and Mars.

The best part is that these videos are creative and entertaining. The very same group that posed questions about the libretto came together after school over a period of two months and created a series of videos answering the questions they’d once had. This wonderful series of educational and entertaining films was then made even more accessible by means of an app! The LaGuardia students created an application, called “OccupyMars”, which consolidates their videos and all sorts of information about the Red Planet relevant to The Three Astronauts.

The science, however, is just one side of the opera. The beauty of this creative medium is the depth of the pieces – all the facets that combine to make an opera sparkle like a diamond. There are many other processes involved in making an opera. The first that comes to mind, of course, is the singing  – this gets divided into two pieces. First, is the words, then, is the melody. The libretto is now finished, and the melody is the in the works. However, this opera has a unique element to tackle: it is an international story, featuring distinct characters, each from nations with singular personalities. Here is where another one of the fascinating aspects of this opera surfaces: a writer and composer from each astronaut’s country wrote the part for their respective astronaut. The brains behind America’s representation are Yusef Komunyakaa (writer), and Tomas Doncker and Daniel Bernard Roumain (who have contributed three tracks to the opera). Representing Russia are Dimitry Glukhovsky (writer) and Alexander Tchaykovskiy (composer). This opera’s ambassadors of Chinese culture and music are Liu Sola (writer) and Ye Xiaogang (composer). Finally, the alien of the opera has its own writer - Linguist-Anthropologist Daniel L Everett, who knows as much as one can know about what it’s like to interact with an “alien”. He spent 10 years immersed in the culture of an Amazonian tribe which has almost no contact with the outside world. Using the knowledge he gained from this experience, and his professional expertise, a language and culture for the alien is being created as well. (Currently, composer Vijay Iyer has said he is interested in writing the music for the Martian and Mars.) As Ms. Holby puts it: “The team for 3 astronauts is just extraordinary.”

There was great importance in having all of the nations (and planets) represented in the writing. Ms. Holby shared with us an anecdote, about a query she’d had about the libretto. In the beginning of the opera, we see the American astronaut, Theodore Anderson (played by Matthew Gamble), being interviewed on television (the TV Interviewer was played by CBS news correspondent  Alexis Christoforous, a LaGuardia alum and the second lecturer in the series). Ms. Holby had asked Dimitry why the Russian astronaut was not interviewed on TV as well. He replied “In Russia, we NEVER! speak about personal things in interviews”. He’d looked at her as if she was “speaking in another language,” she recounted, which added meaning to her advice in the beginning of the lecture: the team you create to make a project is deeply important. Here, it was important to the opera’s factual integrity. If she hadn’t understood the value of collaborating with other cultures, that monumental cultural difference could have been completely overlooked. The anecdote, of course, was met with laughter by the audience – but it illustrated something very valuable for Ms. Holby to share.

Another important aspect in writing an opera, more specifically, is the composition of lyrics, and stringing together of words. There is so much room for expression in an opera – this is what drew in Ms. Holby, an MIT graduate who never expected to make a career in opera, of all things. The Three Astronauts takes full advantage of the potential writing creates for expression. Each writer from a different country had something distinct to contribute. Holby characterized Komunyakaa as the poet of the group, Dimitry, a science fiction author, and the storyteller of the group, and Sola as the imagination of the group. Ms. Holby comically recounted how during the writing process, Sola, who admittedly, had been jet-lagged, would keep them on their toes with wild and creative suggestions for plot elements and artistic direction. She even recounted once that Sola suggested the alien should be invisible… and that Earth water should just pass through it. The writing process certainly sounded fun!

Komunyakaa was actually present at the lecture, which was a huge honor for us, given that he is an incredibly gifted, Pulitzer Prize winning Poet . He is a poet, which was not only felt in the lyrics from the libretto  he read to us, but in the way he spoke. It’s always humbling to listen to someone speak freely in such a purely beautiful way.

Ms. Holby asked Komunyakaa how he feels when his poetry is put to music, as in the case of The Three Astronauts. He replied: “Language is music and the body is an amplifier… it becomes an enabler of motion and sort of expands the meaning of the lyrics past speech… one has to trust one’s collaborators with the spirit of the whole piece… and that involves transformation.” As a poet myself, a writer, an artist, and generally: a human being, I found this comment to be both beautifully put, and profoundly true. It is a transformation to allow someone else to adopt and interpret your work – but as seen in the case of The Three Astronauts, this kind of collaboration creates beautiful results. Collaboration is a process which any artist can grow from; the collaboration between countries, people, and even with our own LaGuardia students, is what makes this opera particularly special. Glimpsing into the creation of this work of art was a learning experience, as well as a simply artistic joy.

 The Three Astronauts Website

Grethe Barrett Holby is the head of Ardea Arts/The Family Opera Initiative which has made this opera possible.

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Being Bilingual


by Charlotte Force

A lot of people have asked me what it's like to be bilingual. 

It enables me to stretch my mind a little further, as if it's clay instead of tin. Tin is stiff stuff – hard to bend, but despite the fact that clay can dry out if you don't use it for a while, when exercised it's almost generous with its malleability.

Different people associate words with different things. When you say dog to 10 different people, 10 different images will pop into their heads: a playful afternoon, an echoing bark, a column of huskies mushing through the snow, a canine cuddle, a fear of bites, a ball of fur tumbling towards you…

This proves that the understanding of a word is founded on experience – we learn by association. Children learn the meaning of words by observing what’s around them. The fact that we all understand words a bit differently is proof of one true fact: it is the object that comes before the word. We often forget that; we are so used to language that it puppets us. We lose ourselves in a labyrinth of meaning, deluding ourselves into thinking that words came first.

When you're bilingual this haze is cleared, because you have two different words for most everything. In my case, the bridge is built between English and French – “running” is also “courir” and the unlabeled action that both words represent. These words are simply sounds and pictures trying as best they can to represent reality. To approximate their meaning in further words would be “to go quickly by moving the legs more rapidly than at a walking speed and in such a manner that for an instant in each step both feet are off the ground,” but these words do reality little justice. This is because the deeper truth lies in reality, not in words.

Being bilingual is seeing the world in this light – beholding reality without the tinted lens of language as a primary translation of thought. That is not to say that only multilingual people can perceive the world in this way – if I can explain this concept in a single language, then anyone speaking this language can understand it. Nonetheless, being bilingual opens up that perspective in a really big way.

All in all, I think being bilingual has allowed me to understand where my position in relation to language a lot better. I have come to understand the importance, beauty, and necessity of language. I know I could not function without being able to express my thoughts, and I am very grateful to my parents for raising me as a bilingual child and allowing me to understand this gift that is language.

Semi-Annual Art Show and Concert

School News

by Charlotte Force

The Semi-Annual, as always, was resplendent this year - the Concert was great, and the show, as always, was impressive. As an art major, I’m always amazed at the vocal and instrumental talent at this school; honestly, it’s borderline ethereal. The pleasant surprise, nevertheless, is the consistent excellence of the art shows. Even as a junior art major, with almost three years of studios under my belt, I’m in awe of all of the art displayed.

The Art Show

The main thing that distinguishes the senior art shows from the Semi-Annual is the sheer diversity of the work in the school-wide exhibit. Whereas seniors collaborate collectively to contribute and curate their shows, teachers in the art department must create a show that flows throughout the entire art department. From ceramics, to printmaking, to painting, to architecture, the show displays the array of classes and how truly lucky we are to go to this school.

The art show is a great place to discover the classes we have at LaGuardia and familiarize yourself with what our school has to offer. I came to LaGuardia loving pencil drawing, with the occasional pen and ink. However, after seeing the gorgeous collection of oil paintings displayed at the Semi-Annual, I decided to concentrate on painting when choosing my electives. The Semi-Annual shows both the lofty goals of artistry and the accessibility of excellent art.

Like I said - my current artistic leaning is painting. The Semi-Annual did not fail to impress - in the 2nd floor gallery, I was especially floored by a painting of Eunice Ng’s in the far corner - as I turned around to see it, I immediately recognized the subject at “Beatrice from the 9th period art class”. That’s the kind of connection the average person doesn’t feel in a museum, but at LaGuardia, the artist, subject, and viewer are often connected. What struck me about the painting was not only the striking resemblance, but the gorgeous brush technique Eunice - who I also know, from 8th period Japanese - used to represent Beatrice and the roses in the background.

Another stroke of recognition came from the panel on the 2nd floor gallery - a panel of my watercolour class’ work. Seeing a familiar face in the crowd is a decently common feeling, but a familiar painting in a show is another thing altogether. The painting in the middle of the panel, of three poppies grounded in a bright blue sky, was painted by my friend Rowen Ghanem, sitting right next to me for the entire semester. I didn’t make the painting, but I saw it come to life. I could say the same about most of those paintings on the panel, but not of paintings in general, and that connection is priceless.

The best feeling, however, is falling in love with a piece, and then realizing that it was created by someone you know - I saw a sculpture of an animal skull and immediately thought it was amazing, but upon closer examination of the label, I realized that it had been created by someone I’ve known since Sophomore year, Afi Goncalves.

All in all, I loved the Semi-Annual - finding paintings by people you don’t know, but have passed in the hall; seeing paintings that inspire you in your own classes; learning from your classmates without even meeting them - that’s the true spirit of the show.

The Concert

The main thing I remember from the concert is standing ovations - it was incredible. The performance was split into two parts - the first, before intermission, featured the LaGuardia Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Dr. Washington; the second featured the LaGuardia Senior Chorus, conducted by Ms. Ballard, and accompanied on some songs by members of the orchestra.

For the first part of the show, the orchestra performed a symphony by Anton Bruckner, an Austrian composer of the 18th century - “Symphony No. 6 in A Major”. A sixth symphony in A Major - that’s all you get from the title, which granted, does not evoke much emotion, but I was bowled over by the performance. Playing in an orchestra is an art unto itself - you have to be in tune, not only note-wise, but to the people around you and the conductor. The orchestra rose to the challenge beautifully and played as a complete being, the cellos and violas wind under the violin’s wings, and the winds echoing and fluttering like a heart.

Seeing an orchestra perform is like witnessing magic - at the flick of the conductor’s magical wand, the musicians cast a spell of harmony and grace. It’s too beautiful to articulate without sounding pretentious; it really just is that incredible.

The level of LaGuardia students is something to be in awe of. As I listened to the orchestra, I looked around the stage and saw familiar faces. Instead of carrying books, my classmates and friends carried tunes, and I was in awe.

The performance ended with resounding applause for the lead musicians - then doubled in enthusiasm and the whole orchestra took a bow.

After intermission, Senior Chorus filed in, decked out in suits, ties, and elegant black gowns, and wowed the audience with their talent. A diverse range of music was represented -

The first song was “Sanctus and Benedictus” from Missa Brevis, by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, a 16th century Italian composer. The song was in Latin - a dead language, yes, but alive in the song. What’s fun about choral performances is the collective harmony of the music, and in this song it was interesting to hear the whoosh of the melody.

Second came the song “Os justi” by Anton Bruckner, making a reappearance after his successful orchestral representation. Then came “The Lamb”, a poem by William Blake, put to music by John Tavener. The sounds of the latter song were gorgeous - although the words were in English, it was performed with careful attention to the beauty of individual syllables. Words were pronounced differently, simply for the sake of making an even more beautiful sound.

Arguably the most popular performance was “My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord”, arranged by Moses Hogan, which was met with a roaring, clapping, whooping, standing ovation. Ms. Ballard conducted an emotional, swinging, raw performance - the basses bellowed and sopranos trembled with a beautiful power that everyone in the audience felt.

After the round of applause, members of the orchestra set up in front of the chorus, and together they performed “Cantata BMV 150”, by Johann Sebastian Bach, an 18th century composer. In the seven passages of the Cantata, four senior vocal majors performed gorgeous solos with the orchestral accompaniment. On Friday, January 9th, when I went, Sophia Hunt, Frank Auletti, Abagael Cheng, and my friend Lukas Jenkins performed. In the Saturday performance, Ezra Mutnick and Dylan Forgione also had solos. The four that I saw perform sang beautifully - they made a great quartet, the combination of their voices creating a gorgeous, rich sound.

The last song of the evening was “Gloria” from Magnificat, in D Major, BWV 243 by Johann Sebastian Bach. Along with all of the artists, both musical and visual, “Gloria” was truly glorious.