On Friday, March 11, 2011, the great Eastern Japan Earthquake hit Japan. A tsunami that followed caused untold destruction and misery leaving homes and families torn apart. Even now the recovery effort is still in its infancy.
Along with the American Red Cross, charities and celebrities are raising money for the relief effort. On a much smaller scale, Newton South High School alum Taichi Fukumura (Class of 2010) has organized seven benefit concerts, the proceeds of which will go solely to helping the Japanese people.
An undergrad at Boston University studying violin, and a conductor of the Boston Accompanietta Orchestra, Taichi Fukumura saw no better way to help ease the suffering than to use his gift of music.
“When I was watching the videos on the news I decided that we, that everyone, need to do something to help,” Fukumura said. “Fortunately all my family was ok, but I do know some people whose relatives didn’t make it.”
Taichi, along with several other musicians and orchestra groups, used their collective background in classical music to help the people of Japan. He also enlisted the help of his younger sister and junior at South, Yoko Fukumura, and his friend and senior at South, Daniel Zhang.
Yoko Fukumura, a pianist since a young age, did a benefit concert a few years ago for an earthquake in China. “I am Japanese myself, so I feel more connected. And since my brother is organizing it, [that] further deepens my connection with this cause. I am not directly affected, but I hear stories from other people about their families and the conditions and I get scared,” Yoko said.
Zhang, a senior at South is the conductor of an orchestra group called the Boston Acompanietta and plays the violin “masterfully”.
Taichi and Zhang created the orchestra in 2008 after the former head of the Music Department, Dr. Rossini, retired. Zhang is also in South’s official student orchestra called the Newton South Sinfonietta (NSS).
The Acompanietta is completely student run and directed, and does not play at the official school orchestra’s programs. Usually, the NSS plays a few times a day, despite having to perform in contests and shows. On the week of April 25, it will perform Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals as well as the three concerto competition winners’ pieces.
Zhang has realized the difficulties of maintaining the NSS and conducting for the Acompanietta, but during the benefit concerts he will not be conducting, but rather performing while Taichi conducts.
“[The concerts] are a wonderful cause,” Zhang said. “I think it’s really brave that a lot of different groups are willing to perform for this cause.
Six days after the earthquake struck, Taichi began planning the concerts. Originally planning to have only a couple concerts with some solo performance, Taichi’s plans reached newer heights when he got in touch with other musicians.
“The organization was mostly my own. I got into contact with many administrative people in BU for help. Most of the people that I found were music major students studying to become professional performers,” Taichi said.
From then on his passion project picked up speed as he began turning his small time charity event into seven full-fledged benefit concerts. Out of the seven concerts, three are held in BU, three in the Eliot Church in Newton, and one at the New England Conservatory (NEC), a concert hall in Boston.
The concerts in Newton are on Saturday, April 16 at 8 PM. and Saturday, April 30 at 5 PM. and 8 PM.
Taichi has a policy of not performing in concerts that he organizes.
“[I usually don’t like to play] when I run the concerts. There is too much managing to do and performing would take a toll on me, both physically and in terms of the quality of performance. It wouldn’t keep me in the right mindset,” Taichi said.
He, however, chose to go against his principle of not performing and managing because this charity is close to his heart and will be conducting the last concert in Newton.
All three concerts are free of charge and funding for this charity is strictly on a donations basis.
“Any donations for Japan at the events will be greatly appreciated,” Taichi said.
For the Music Department, recent cuts have hit hard, especially on the elementary school level. Fourth grade chorus and third grade recorder programs are being eliminated. Along with cuts there are increases in fees like $200 for elementary instrumental music and a new $200 fee for All-City Band and Chorus groups.South’s music department is mainly dependent on enrollment, so many smaller groups such, as music technology, are first to be cut or are forced to run less blocks. Due to the cuts in elementary school music programs, however, South spots troubles in the future. “What we are going to see is a reduction in the number and quality of musicians in the future,” Fine and Performing Arts Departments Head Jeff Knoedler said.“When cuts start at the elementary school level it magnifies the effect that it has on the high school music program,” Music teacher Jason Squinobal said. When you cut the students’ first experience, like the recorder class, students start to learn to play later and they start to learn to play in a group together.”The cuts in music will also bleed into the enrollment of classes like music theory, “Students will not be as interested in learning music theory as they won’t have the experience of what it is like to talk about reading music, playing scales, or learning theory at that third grade level,” Squinobal said.Often due to a smaller priority assigned to the arts in comparison to other departments, the fine and performing arts have a tradition of being the first to feel the effect of negative changes in the school budget. “It seems like arts in general is deemed less important than what people call the big five academic departments, English, History, Science, Math and World Language. When you place a higher priority on the big five, the arts become more expendable and are cut first,” Squinobal said.Lisa Linde worries for future students. “I think all of Newton’s performing groups, which includes about twenty percent of our school, and around 50% of middle school students, will feel the heat in the next ten to fifteen years,” she said.]]>
By Daniel BarabasiThe new public school budget for Newton, approved on April 5, comes as a hard hit for department heads and classes alike. The 2011-2012 school year will see an increase in class sizes as well as a decrease in staffing and classes.As of now, the History and Social Sciencedepartment is planning to cut three classes. “We cut based on signups and trying to keep class sizes reasonable,” History Department Head Robert Parlin said.One of the main classes not running for the history department in the next year is Advanced Placement (AP) European History, which has run for many years in the past. “We have to set priorities based on how many people have signed up and so we cannot run a class of 15 and run a class of 30 elsewhere,” Parlin explained. A new course, AP Comparative Government, is starting up in its place and has been overenrolled.The mathematics department is expecting to have similar trouble. AP Computer Science will not be running next year due to under enrollment. On the other hand, Curriculum I and Honors classes will see an increase in class sizes to over 30 students per class.This is not an ideal situation for any department, but other options seemed more detrimental in the long run. “We could have decided to cap numbers for Honors and AP classes at a lower number, but that would leave more students with missed opportunities,” Math Department Head Steven Rattendi said.Increased class sizes can also lead to effects inside the classrooms. “There might be cut backs on writing assignments, which will be determined on a course-by-course basis. An AP course that has a research paper every quarter and the class is 32 kids could see the teacher saying that he or she couldn’t give a research paper every quarter because of time constraints,” Parlin said.In the World Language department, under-enrollment and cuts based on under-enrollment are hitting lower-level classes harder than in other departments. Out of the four introductory courses offered at south (Spanish 1, Chinese 1, Latin 1, and French 1) only Spanish 1 and one other will be offered next year. The classes that see the least enrollment will be canceled. This, however, causes difficulties for students, as South requires two years of language and colleges often scout for three.”Such restrictions are not permanent. It is just that all departments are forced to make cuts. We want to speak to students at the middle school level to make sure that Latin 1 [ and all the other courses] can come back the year after,” World Language Department Head Suzanne DeRobert said. To account for decreased number of classes being taught, 1.25 positions are being cut in the Math and World Language departments and 0.75 positions are being cut in the English department as well as more position-cuts in other departments. This does not mean a whole teacher and then a quarter of another teacher is being fired, rather teachers will be teaching five blocks less total per week in the Math and World Language departments.In the case of the Math department, a decline in the budget was planned for. “We anticipated a cut in our budget and we decided beforehand how many sections of each class we were going to run,” Rattendi said. “Now that the budget is official, we just have to make our plans official as well.”The English department made similar plans. “We have done our work and anticipated cuts. All we know are figures. The biggest variable is senior year enrollment, due to the large number of courses we offer,” English Department Head Brian Baron said.As schedules come closer to becoming finalized, the strain that budget cuts put out radiate further. “It is not ideal and it is not going to be easy, but the whole budget won’t be easy,” Rattendi said. The current hope of the district is to offer the best that they have with what they have available. DeRobert described the efforts of her and her fellow administrators as, “we have to concentrate our resources to teach what we can.”]]>
Senior Ron Garber and his partner, Ashley Golman, both 17 years old, have recently placed first in the National Dance Competition Association’s (NDCA) National Championship in Provo, Utah. Participating in one of the most prestigious ballroom dancing events in the country, Garber and Golman competed against forty other couples in their under-eighteen category.
Senior Ron Garber and his partner, Ashley Golman, both 17 years old, have recently placed first in the National Dance Competition Association’s (NDCA) National Championship in Provo, Utah. Participating in one of the most prestigious ballroom dancing events in the country, Garber and Golman competed against forty other couples in their under-eighteen category.After dancing for nine years and training with his partner for four, Garber finally began to see his work pay off, “I felt accomplished. Finally all my work paid off. For the last year we were always so close to being first. We were always second or third but never first,” he said. Before dancing with Garber, Golman was exclusively doing ballet. When she did, however, transition to ballroom, Garber noted that “she wasn’t that advance, but picked it up really fast.” Along with their coach Jean-Philippe Milot, a Canadian professional ballroom dancer, Garber and Golman did intense training to prepare for the event. Contending in Utah would have its physical difficulties. The higher elevation in Provo would result in difficulty in breathing. In the NDCA championship, Garber and Golman danced in an elimination style. After each of the four rounds, couples were eliminated till only six were remaining. Those six then danced once more for a chance to be crowned champion.In their first dance, Golman slipped during the routine. “She was really nervous and wiped out.” Garber recalled. “But after that we calmed down and got better.” The two dancers got a boost of confidence with each subsequent round and performed increasingly better. The NDCA used the Brigham Young University court for the competition. “The audiences were on the bleachers that went [sky high]. You count pick out anyone. Nonetheless, everyone was cheering and really excited. It motivated you to do better because not all competitions are that big,” Garber said. While the usual and known competitors were present and performing at BYU, a lot of the couples dancing were from the West coast. “It was a differentexperience competing against the West Coast. They were all unknown and had their own [flare],” Garber said. “But our biggest accomplishment [that night] I think was defeating our long-time rival from New York.”
Phil Kudryavtsev, another South student who attended the NDCA competition and placed fourth overall, said, “[Garber and Golman] presented themselves well and they danced well as a couple. They give great motivation for others to perform better.”
Alair Nahebedian, another ballroom dancer from South, reciprocates Kudryavtsev’s sentiment, “I’m really happy for Garber. He’s an amazing dancer and worked really hard to get what he achieved.”
Garber and Golman danced in the youth category and after placing first with the youth, participated in the under 21 category. They placed second in the under 21 category. “I am even more proud of placing in the under 21 category. Its incredible that that happened,” Garber noted.
Next year, both dancers will be eighteen years old, and therefore they must compete in the amateur (older than 18) category of competitions. Naturally, the competition level for the amateur category is higher than the youth category.
Garber’s ultimate goal is to be an internationally ranked dancer. To stride towards his goal, Garber and Golman will be competing in another national competition in a couple months. If they place first or second in that, then the couple will be invited to the Czech Republic to compete in a global event. This would make Garber one of the youngest at that competition and one step closer to his dream.
Both of dancers also plan on attending the Black Pool International Dance Festival in May. Hundreds of couples will be attending the competition, and this is the first major competition Golman and Garber will attend together in the amateur category.]]>
ebruary 18 began like any other day for freshman Deyar Dashti, who left her Chestnut Hill Towers apartment for school that morning.She always just dreamed of adventure, but what met her that afternoon was more than she ever expected. When she arrived home from school, ready to begin her February vacation, she found it surrounded by policemen, fire brigades, and medical staff.An electrical unit’s failure started a fitre that displaced about 200 residents from their homes for two days, leaving them to find shelter with family and friends, to pay $69 a night for a room at the Crowne Plaza, or to sleep on an army cot in South’s cafeteria.Spanish teacher Helena Alfonzo, also a resident of the Towers, was in her apartment when she heard that she needed to evacuate. “Because this [kind of thing] happens a lot, I left with just my sweater and my keys – no coat, no purse, no wallet, no credit or debit cards, no cash, and no ID. I didn’t have anything,” she said.“The policemen told us we couldn’t go up to our apartment,” Dashti said, “But after three hours, when we came back, they told us the problem was bigger than they thought it would be. So we couldn’t sleep there.”The Towers’ management and the Newton Fire Department, along with other city staff, safely rescued all the residents whose units lost power. Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority buses arrived to take them to a Red Cross relief center stationed at South’s cafeteria, because, according to Newton Fire Deputy ChiefMichael Castro, Newton South is the official shelter for the south side of Newton.
He said, however, that accommodations were very basic; the cots, for example, were designed only for temporary living of up to four days.
In the end, all the residents decided against using the cots and went to stay with family and friends or to pay the reduced rate at the hotel.
Dashti’s family stayed at her cousin’s house in Cambridge until the complex’s management allowed residents to move back to their apartments.
Although the fire was contained in the Towers’ concrete basement room, it damaged the transformer and other electrical equipment and residents’ personal belongings, forcing NStar to cut power to the building.
“The initial damage was about $300,000 in the equipment itself,” Castro said, “But there’s consumable stuff in the refrigerators [in individual units].”
According to Castro, the blanket insurance policy for the complex will cover claims that residents make for such consumable items.
“We weren’t allowed to go upstairs because we didn’t have anything important in our apartment. Only elderly people were allowed to go back, with a firefighter, to get their medications from their refrigerators,” Dashti said.
Castro and many other Towers residents commended all the city staff and management involved for their aid in a safe evacuation and for their great response to the situation.
“It wasn’t an immediate decision to evacuate [the Towers] because they thought it could be restored quickly,” Castro said. “We had to evacuate 423 units with minimal lighting and no elevators.”
He continued to say that the subsequent efforts went as planned: safely and efficiently.
Many of the residents were elderly, and had to be carried down several flights of stairs by staff. There were no injuries, and after the evacuation, the Fire Department went back and checked all the rooms to make sure that no residents remained.
Alfonzo agreed, “The management acted in a very proper way, and everybody was safe. And nobody was hurt, so I was really, really grateful.”
This was the Towers’ first evacuation since 1980, and the management has been collaboration with the Newton Fire Department to take measures in preventing such fires in the future.
The Towers reopened on Feb 21.
For the fourth round of the Girls’ Basketball Division I State tournament fans, who braved the 45 minute journey to Massoit Community College to watch the Lions were in for a surprise. A generous donation by the team allowed roughly 150 student fans to enter the game free of charge. This provided an incentive for more fans to show up, as more than 200 South students arrived to show their support. “It was great that so many of us were able to come there and show support,” senior Colby Medoff said, “The energy was great, we outnumbered their fans.The donation was accumulated by David Bikofsky, father of senior and Captain Sophie Bikofsky, who went around the community and his work gathering donations so South fans could help support the team. “My dad understood how influential the fans are in our games and thought that it would be tough to get them to go all the way to Brockton” Sophie said.Mr. Bikofsky valued the importance of a large fan base at games, but realized it would be hard to get students to come out on a school night to Brockton and pay seven dollars to enter. So Mr. Bikofsky went around asking friends and people at work to donate money to the team in order to sponsor kids to go to the game. “It was great that we didn’t have to pay to get in. I’m sure many more people came because of it,” Medoff said.In a show of remarkable school spirit, approximately half of the stadium was filled with the black-clad student and faculty body of Newton South. The school also provided a free bus to and from the game transport to those who could not drive or did not have a ride.]]>