A Downward Spiral

I was recently asked to write a second article for a local newspaper highlighting positive aspects of my high school (“Music Program Is One Of Best Kept Secrets”). Once I was able to start it, the article came easily. I just had to find the right topic. However, I had unwittingly alluded to the fact that there weren’t as many pros to the school as some people might think. The editor caught on to this, and through a series of phone calls and emails, convinced me to weave more of this concept into the article. I managed to do just that, and what I wrote really got me thinking.

I mentioned that I had an excellent transition and introduction to high school through band camp, and I truly believe that the week spent practically living together made the experience less overwhelming. However, I think there was more to it than just how it happened. The ‘who’ behind it certainly played a role in it as well.

Just four years ago, the students of Bedford High School were friendly, welcoming, and willing to lend a hand. Those that I came into contact with were intelligent, ambitious, and hard working, and I came into contact with quite a few. It probably didn’t hurt that I was friends with a lot of upperclassmen through my best friend and her older sister. However, I noticed that my entire freshman class had made connections and was fitting in quite well. It was quite a successful year all around.

Now, as I look around at my senior classmates and the incoming and rising classes, there is a remarkable difference. Work ethic seems to have disappeared, respect is nonexistent, and the amiable and spirited atmosphere that once filled the school has left the building. Students that at one point were top in the school, highly responsible, and highly respected have become apathetic and unreliable. The drive and ambition that I admired so much in the upperclassmen of my freshman year seems to have gotten lost in translation. And there’s no reason to talk about school spirit and pride because it’s a fairytale anymore. What happened?

Maybe it’s the relentless testing students are put through that has caused the decline in drive. The Ohio Graduation Test seems to be the current basis for our curriculum, which means we are learning how to test instead of how to learn. And since it’s so easy only the best students seem to be able to pass it, there are more practices and exercises and workshops for it than ever. Gotta keep those test scores up. Who cares what happens after you pass them? They’ve taken top priority, and it’s rather draining. I still have to hear about it, and I passed them with flying colors the first time my sophomore year. They’ve finally broken us.

The lack of spirit could be due to the fact that we have such a dismal football record. Bedford is a football town, so the success of our basketball teams, or our championship girls’ softball team, makes very little impact. It’s all about the football team. The team that has won roughly eleven out of forty games in the past four years. That’s inspiring… I love football, and I cheer my heart out as I sit in the band bleachers behind the end zone. But a person can only be positive for so long when they have to mark an ‘L’ on the sheet week after week.

As for the disrespect and wrecked work ethic, that comes straight from the student body. Through a combination of environment (meaning former; we have a large number of students that have moved into the district from Cleveland and other suburbs over the past four years) and upbringing, a certain mentality has developed throughout the population. In students’ eyes, adults are merely figure heads, not persons with authority that need to be headed and respected. And student officers and leaders? Forget about it. They’re less than dirt. Being in a class or group doesn’t mean actually doing the work, but rather counting on other people to do it. Someone else will cover for you, sing loud enough to cover your sour notes and missed lyrics, share a paper with you so you can turn it in with a slight edit here or there. That’s how things work.

Though programs and policies are being created in an attempt to reward positive actions, there are so many students that have hopped aboard this negligent train of thought that they’re overshadowing the few that still give one hundred percent, that still strive for excellence, not mediocrity. Even the organizations and courses that cater to outstanding students have been infiltrated by indolence and flippancy. Excellence is quickly spiraling into oblivion.

What more can really be done to reverse this deterioration? Is there some way to revive the dying art of respect and rebuild the academic community? I’ve always been told that we, the students, are the future. If this is the case, the future of Bedford High School looks very dim.


Music Program Is One Of The Best Kept Secrets

When asked to write this article, I had a difficult time getting started. This year has been rather hectic on my part, with all the insanity of senior responsibilities, and the idyllic image I had of being a senior when I was a freshman has faded to reality– senior year really isn’t easy and all fun and games.

As a freshman, I had a fantastic beginning to my high school career. I came in through the band program, which automatically lends itself to fostering camaraderie through a week of living together at band camp. It also upped the school spirit, since there was such a vast amount of friendly competition for spirit points. Both of these concepts continued through the year. It was exactly how I pictured high school, and it was a blast. The same was true of sophomore year. There was so much positive energy throughout the building.

It seemed like things started to decline, however. Junior year was a little frustrating. There were so many new students, and not just freshman. Students from other schools– Euclid, Cleveland, Warrensville– started to filter into the school. While the quality of the education was still wonderful, the quality of the students themselves started dropping. There was less respect towards other students who were simply trying to help, and towards teachers and administrators. Apathy began to take over, and it really started to affect the positive atmosphere that was established.

Rewards and benefits began to disappear due to the behavior issues and academic problems. They affected not only the students causing the problems, but also the students who were doing all the right things. Classes started to get frustrating because the majority of students, even in honors classes and elite groups, really didn’t care.

This mentality has only seemed to intensify this year. Disrespect abounds, and work ethic appears to be nonexistent. And while Mr. Vawters is attempting to bring back that culture of excellence, students are resisting the change. It’s certainly disheartening. That’s why I hit a wall when I started this.

After some thought, though (much of which probably wasn’t very positive), I had an epiphany. And I had to beat myself up for not pulling the string on the light bulb earlier.

From my perspective, one of the best things about Bedford High School is the music department. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t realized this earlier, since I spend at least half my day in this branch of the school. With a variety of music groups, music classes, and venues throughout the year, there’s something for everyone, and all the ensembles, classes, and performances are fantastic. But our music program is also one of the best kept secrets in the district.

The music program, unlike most of the departments and organizations in the school, doesn’t shut down during certain seasons. Sports rotate seasons, but there isn’t a single sport that plays all year round. Sure, other departments might give homework over breaks and vacations, but there aren’t any organized classes. In contrast, the music department, particularly the band, has only a short break between the end of school and the beginning of their next season. Marching season begins about half way through the summer with band camp, and rehearsals and performances continue through the rest of the summer and on to the end of football season. But it doesn’t end here. Concert season starts, as well as jazz and blues, and mid-season, the pit orchestra for the musical begins. These overlap with the vocal music department, which incorporates many instrumentalists as well. Most of the students in the music program are involved in multiple ensembles, which means an overlap of rehearsals in a single day or week. There are very few instances where these situations happen in other organizations.

It’s strange that the caliber of the music groups is such a secret. Not only are these students some of the hardest and longest working students in the school, but they are also the most visible in the community. From the football field to the stage to the streets and communities of the Bedford City School District and beyond, ensembles in the music program have performed all over the area. Wherever they go, the bands, the orchestra, and the choirs create beautiful music and leave smiles on the faces of the audiences. They provide entertainment for half-time shows. They keep the beat in parades. They sing carols in multiple venues during Christmas. And the musical incorporates dozens of students to put on an extraordinary show every spring.

Yet these ensembles and events fall into the background, overshadowed by sports, testing, and dress codes, and are truly suffering from a lack of funding. Audiences are generally small, and there is very little support from the community. Instruments and other equipment are old and falling apart, and replacements are usually expensive. This is an unfortunate fate for such a fantastic program. Perhaps a little more publicity and more donations could help. These programs foster such a sense of responsibility, companionship, and culture, it would be a shame to see them disappear.

Music is an integral part of humanity, affecting everyday lives in a variety of ways. Music is used as communication and as art, even as a business and to make a living. It’s been proven to boost IQ and to affect mood. The process of creating music takes a certain type of person, and the students in Bedford High’s music program are just that type. They’ve become adept at bringing melodies to the masses, and I truly believe that this program is one of the brightest highlights of Bedford High School.

L.E.L. Choral Festival A Huge Success

Students from all over Northeast Ohio gathered at Bedford High School on Wednesday, February 16, for the annual Lake Erie League Choral Festival. Choirs from Euclid, Warrensville Heights, Shaw, Shaker Heights, Cleveland Heights, Mentor, and Bedford each performed as a school. Later in the festival, all the choirs combined to form a mass choir of 350 students, singing 3 extraordinary pieces with largely diverse styles and backgrounds. It was a normal festival in respect to the actual performance. But the preparation this year was tremendously different.

L.E.L. directors wanted to return it to its previous format. Decades ago, students had the privilege of attending a clinic taught by a prominent guest director prior to the performance. Not only did students rehearse the group pieces, but they also learned techniques and styles that could better them as singers. That’s just what happened this year.

Mr. Frank Bianchi– retired high school teacher and director of award winning high school choirs, professor at Baldwin-Wallace College, founder of the Baldwin-Wallace Men’s Chorus, in his sixth season as director of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Chorus, and his second year as Assistant Director of the Cleveland Orchestra Choruses– took the podium after a warm welcome from Bedford High principal, Mr. Samuel Vawters. With a little humor and some crazy but effective vocal warm-ups, he captured the students’ attention and began an afternoon full of music and camaraderie.

From the time students arrived at Bedford High School at one o’clock until dinner time at five, the choirs ran through the mass pieces. The auditorium was filled with a plethora of sounds, from animal calls and native chants to soulful gospel chords to soaring poetic farewells. Silence fell when Mr. Bianchi spoke, and remained until the next note left the singers’ lips. Measure by measure, phrase by phrase, the separate songs practiced by multiple choirs merged into one body of multiple tones, much as the people behind the voices had intermingled to create the mass choir. Students from different schools stood side by side to create the same melodic masterpieces.

After a break to eat and change into concert attire, the choirs returned to the auditorium to take the stage as individual schools. The techniques learned in rehearsal were put into practice as each choir demonstrated its talent. Spirituals rang out from the risers; Latin prose haunted the corners; Hebrew and Mongolian were heard in the same venue. Not a word was spoken as the choirs performed, and a round of enthusiastic applause rose in each one’s wake, demonstrating the respect that had been fostered throughout the afternoon.

Bedford closed the first half, and then a brief intermission allowed students to meld back into the mass choir. Mr. Bianchi took over, and invited the audience to a journey through the rain forest with “Tres Cantos Nativos”, arranged by Marcos Leite, a piece inspired by the native tribes living along a river in Brazil. Utilizing a variety of different vocal sounds, instruments, and physical actions, the piece created the atmospheric effects of being in the jungle. “After the concert, I had so many people come up to me and tell me that the CD accompaniment really made this song enjoyable,” said Bedford director Gary Kaplan, “so you can imagine their faces when I told them it was the students making the sounds.” The wildlife faded into a tribute to the passing of people and events throughout one’s life. “Omnia Sol”, or “Everywhere Light”, by Z. Randall Stroope, combined Latin and English in an ode to the experiences and interactions that make being human memorable. The airy melody was a sharp contrast to the third song, “Praise His Holy Name” by Keith Hampton, a rousing, spirited gospel song. As Mr. Bianchi told the kids, “It should make you think of good old Sunday-mornin’ preachin’!” It certainly had the audience clapping along.

As is tradition for many choirs, the performance ended with the timeless “The Lord Bless You and Keep You”. However, there was nothing traditional about it as 350 members sang the final song in what was a very successful production. The motto of Bedford High School is “Working to build a culture of excellence.” According to Mr. Vawters, “If we’re talking about building a culture of excellence, this festival and all these choirs definitely demonstrated doing just that.” And in every minute of the festival, from rehearsal to departure, excellence certainly was displayed.

It was a wonderful show of talent and hard work from all the choirs, and certainly worthy of praise. “Great choral music is alive and well in Cleveland. The L.E.L. Choral Festival was living proof of what can happen when talented young adults from different schools and communities, different faiths, different political affiliations, different cultures, different economic backgrounds and different abilities come together for a common cause. The results were breathtaking and a good lesson for all of us to learn about commitment, dedication, hard work, sharing, discipline and respect. I’m proud of each of the 350 students who participated,” said the very impressed and exuberant guest director.

This event was the epitome of unity and multiculturalism, a peaceful collaboration of such a diverse group. It truly seemed to prove the idea that music really is a universally understood language and way of life that anyone can become a part of.


–Caelie Orlosky

Closing Time

Closing Time by Semisonic

Life is about to change. Senior year is quickly drawing to a close, and so much is looming on the horizon. For many, there’s the transition from the rowdy halls of high school to the serious academia of college. For some, a job or career is already in place for after graduation. Others may take some time off from the brain work and stock up on money or blow off some steam. Either way, a large chapter in the book of life is about to end, and the next page may be quite ominous.

Grade school is a time to develop friendships, discover personal interests, and learn about the world around us. The first portion of our lives is spent becoming comfortable with ourselves and our surroundings. Suddenly, things are about to go topsy-turvy.

We’ll be moving out of our parents’ cozy homes– where we’ve played and worked, laughed and cried, eaten and slept for about eighteen years– to live in an unfamiliar room with a complete stranger in an unfamiliar city and somewhat fend for ourselves. We’ll be taking classes, working, practically living on our own, with very little day-to-day help from the people who raised us. We’ll have to fend for ourselves and face the real world, paying our own bills, acquiring our own food and clothes, and making sure we stay on track without the guidance of a parent. Who knows how things will turn out?

There’s reason to be nervous. Finding finances is tedious and somewhat nerve-wracking. Finishing the high school silliness is becoming inane, but the intensity of college is growing ever so slightly ominous. And cutting ties (kind of) with people that filled the first stages of life, while appealing at first, may just turn out to be daunting. Taking care of ourselves in all respects is something that is quite frightening.

There’s also bound to be a feeling of excitement, adventure, and bravado as life moves on to gorgeous campuses and cozy (which may not mean comfortable…) dorm rooms. Oh, the wonder of taking classes that are actually of interest! And there’s always the change in social scene, with parties and gatherings of all kinds. New experiences will abound, and soon, the life of late will be forgotten, or at least ignored, because something better will come along. Ah, how short a time it takes for that…

As we move up the academic ladder, we have to remember that change is inevitable. Life keeps moving; time keeps passing. That’s how things work. We may or may not enjoy where we’re sitting at the moment, but things are going to change, for better or worse. Life will continue, and there will be many sunrises and sunsets. Pretty soon, college will be a breeze, and all the anxiety of leaving high school will be years behind us. Then there will be the transition from college to a career, which could be even more hectic. In the end, there is only one thing to remember:

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

Powerful Magic

Some things in high school are quickly forgotten- like those algebra functions or which mystery chemical reacts with carbon. Some people fade from life until they’re only a face or a name years later. The groups you were in all meld together, and passed and failed assignments become blurred. Things that were such a big deal before graduation escape the mind after.

However, there are some memories that truly will last a lifetime, and people who you will always remember. The Bedford High School musical certainly creates these kinds of memories and connections. Perhaps it’s the vast amount of time spent with the cast, crew, pit, and directors. It could be the performance itself, with costumes, drops, props, and an audience. Or maybe it’s the end to the the entire production that really creates that connection. Whatever the link happens to be, it is shared throughout the entire group of production members, and will certainly provide stories to tell children and grandchildren.

It is with particular emotion this year that we close the production of Guys and Dolls. First, with a majority of the cast being seniors, there are large amounts of nostalgia and tears, particularly for the few of us who have been a part of TheArts since freshman year. Second, the rumor is that it is officially the last year that Sandi Bambic will be running the musical, which may well mean the end of musicals at Bedford period. It is not only the end for a generation of students, but also the end of an era for an educator and an institution.

Nevertheless, Bambic and her students are taking it out with a bang. This musical has had audiences rolling in the aisles, and even the cast was rolling back stage. The voices that soared through the auditorium have left listeners stunned, and the choreography has raised much applause by itself. Aided as always by the professional backdrops, costumes, and choreographers, the production has certainly not suffered in quality from the morose fate waiting once the stage empties after the final performance. Even after a single performance, the praises began rolling in. Closing night will no doubt top all the previous performances.

Throughout the years, real magic has been created on the stage of Bedford High. Not the kind with wands and fairy godmothers (though they have been a part of it a couple of times), but the kind that truly touches the soul. Through hard work, late nights, and trying obstacles, the students under the direction of this amazing lady have transported dozens of audiences to other worlds and different time periods. The streets of New York, a royal palace, a fantastical land called Oz– each of these has spent some time in little old Bedford, Ohio, along with many others. Many unique characters have walked across the stage, from lions and tinmen to princesses and princes to cabaret dancers, rockstars, traveling salesmen, orphans, and a family searching for happiness. There is neither a physical wand nor actual fairy dust that brings everything together and entertains an audience. But the magic of the theater lies inside each cast member, audience member, writer, composer, choreographer, conductor, and director. It is something that many people outgrow, do not care to keep in touch with, and allow to pass by the wayside. It is what has developed societies, created technologies, and fueled lives and passions since the beginning of civilization. And while it may be a simple concept, it is probably the most powerful magic out there: imagination.

For the last time, the imaginations of the audience will be swept away for two hours of uninterrupted bliss as they enter the world of entrepreneur Nathan Detroit, his cabaret dancer fiance Adelaide, the suave and savvy gambler Sky Masterson, and Sergeant Sarah Brown, the Mission doll who’s trying to save all their souls. The music will have them tapping their toes for weeks, the dances will have them gasping in awe, and the jokes will make their sides sore from laughing.

Even after the final bows, when the curtain closes the portal that each person in the auditorium was drawn into, when the conductor has put down his baton, the costumes and makeup are all taken off, and everyone has returned to their normal life, there will still be bits of magic. A strain of a song will suddenly pop into mind, or a phrase will creep into conversation. One might be overtaken with the urge to pull out a dance move. The memories of that flight of imagination will keep the magic alive, as it has with every show. And each person will remember how special the experience was, how much fun they had, what they accomplished. These memories will not be forgotten. They are memories to last a lifetime. Just experience the magic, and see for yourself…

Schools, Scholarships, Seniors… Sanity Shriveling

Okay, so everyone tells you high school goes by fast. They tell you to get started early on college preparations. They advise you not to wait till the last minute on deadlines. But does anyone ever really listen? Of course not!

That’s why most seniors, myself included, are in a constant state of chaos. Even those who are intent on doing things early often fall into the trap of procrastination. Of course we started filling the applications out as soon as they were available. But why do it in January when it’s not due till March? Especially while we’re busy loading up on all the extra-curriculars and academic programs that will really sell an application to the judges? That’s what we were told to do, wasn’t it?

So unfortunately, here we are with thousands of dollars of “free money” lying at our feet, but hardly any of us have the paperwork filled out… The age-old affliction of humanity– procrastination– strikes again.