Prism: A transparent object with flattened surfaces to refract passing light.
The campus’ music department has given this definition new meaning. Among students, Prism reflects the hours of preparation, passion, and soul that is channeled into each of the holiday-themed performances.
“The most rewarding part of Prism is doing the actual performance for a sold out hall,” band junior Bobbi Zimmelman said. “It shows how all of our hard work and preparation has paid off. ”
The 31st annual Prism concert experienced a standstill in 2020 due the pandemic, leaving Dreyfoos Hall at the Kravis Center of the Performing Arts devoid of 10-foot Christmas trees, vibrant lighting, and the over 400 students and directors that compose the music department. However, on Nov. 30, the hall featured winter themed decorations, voices which consumed the 2,000 seat space, brass and wood violins, french horns, clarinets, and the many other instruments that form the orchestra.
At the beginning of the concert, Principal Blake Bennett noted that the two most frequently asked questions she gets is “When is Prism?” and “When do the tickets go on sale?” This year’s tickets, which offered a dress rehearsal or an evening show, sold out in just seven minutes.
“Making music is so special, and I’m so grateful to be able to sing with such good musicians and such a great orchestra,” vocal sophomore Andrew Gellen said. “Equally rewarding is playing for such a big audience in a really resounding space like the Kravis Center … My sister went to Dreyfoos and graduated in 2019, so Prism has always been something that I’ve been extremely excited to perform in. It’s finally here.”
The two-hour production required abundant rehearsal time during and after school. The music department began preparing songs and holding auditions at the beginning of the school year. To accompany main stage group pieces, students had the opportunity to audition for small group performances. Auditions were held Sept. 20 and 21 in the band room, and students were judged by a panel of directors and deans within the department. If selected to perform, small groups were responsible for scheduling rehearsals and arranging the piece for the final performance.
“A lot of preparation went into the music we’re playing,” said band senior Ellen Dahlstrom who performed in six pieces. “It was stressful to try and get everything organized. It was a bit draining, but I love what I do with music. So, in the end, I felt fulfilled with all the work that went into it.”
In addition to rehearsals for the individual pieces, planning went into the stage blocking behind the curtain to create seamless transitions from piece to piece. Theatre junior Devyn Humble found out her specific responsibilities as backstage coordinator for the production one day before the performance since she was the first person to have this role. Despite the short notice, Humble pulled from her experiences stage managing productions such as “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” and created a Google spreadsheet that she used throughout the show to track the group performances.
“It was satisfying to watch everything work out and run smoothly,” Humble said. “Pleasing the directors and everyone involved was such a rewarding feeling in itself. Seeing all the different talents come together to work towards one outcome was enjoyable to watch.”
However, Humble wasn’t the only crew member. Piano senior Sara Abdo also worked backstage as one of four run crew members who directed performers through the Kravis to their assigned onstage positions. To maintain organization, Abdo created a map of the performance hall and backstage stage patterns. Abdo also created room assignments to track where groups were positioned and at what point during the performance.
“The most challenging aspects are making sure performers are quiet and staying on top of where they are supposed to be, since many students get distracted, want to see their friends in different areas of the facility, or simply don’t listen,” Abdo said. “Another challenge is maintaining control of the program and making sure that we don’t fall behind when calling performers.”
During the matinee dress rehearsal performance, the walkie talkie system malfunctioned half way through the show, causing Abdo, Humble, the crew members, and the backstage coordinator to find alternate ways to communicate and call cues to performers on the stage wings. They sourced six walkie talkies from the Kravis’ administrative staff and formed a rotational system to accommodate the walkie’s batteries and the two chargers available. Only ten minutes before the pre-show did the backstage crew conduct a walkie talkie test.
“The most problematic aspect was the technology,” Humble said. “We faced the issue of our walkies dying mid show, which was very stressful, but we quickly solved this issue and managed to get everyone on stage on time.”
Prism incorporated a diverse accumulation of songs and pieces that reach the various holidays celebrated during the winter season, including Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. Classic Christmas tunes such as “Jingle Bells” and “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” were accompanied by ivory piano keys and singers swaying under streaks of red and green lights. The energetic rhythm of “A Chanukah Celebration” and “Klezmer Holiday” were brought to life through the tapping of drumsticks and horns, accompanied by royal blue spotlights. And the African influences of bongos bellowed through the hall as students played “Umoja.”
“[Prism has] been able to lift me up,” Gellen said. “Making music is so therapeutic and it’s something I’m grateful to be able to do with such a talented group of people.”
Band director Evan Rogovin throws his fist in the air as the closing piece, “When You Believe,” finishes, marking the end of the concert.
Looking to her fellow musicians, vocal senior Elise Overfield sings along to “We Wish You the Merriest.” This piece was sung by the third-hour ensemble chorus and accompanied by jazz instrumentalists.
In the saxophone quintet playing “Klezmer Holiday,” band senior Karla De Jesus encourages the audience to clap along.
Piano senior Zachary Williams plays “Hava Nagila” with band senior Harrison Gesser on the drums and strings senior Ethan Harris on the bass guitar. While this is a traditional Jewish folk song, Williams and Gesser arranged it to fit their small group and respective instruments.
Principal Blake Bennett introduces the performance, thanking numerous benefactors and staff members, especially the music directors who created and oversaw the production. During the evening show, she took this opportunity to introduce author James Patterson, who has continuously supported the concert for the last nine years.
Piano freshmen Josetta Wang and Hannah Zimmerman play “Linus and Lacy” in their first Prism.
Vocal seniors Lillian Critchett, Dariel Peguero, Francesca Moore, Reed Wolfrom, Daniel Mills, and Sydney Horan sing “Sleep Softly” as one of several small groups. Each of these groups was completely student-led, and therefore responsible for every aspect of their performance.
Vocal director Kent Taylor leads the fifth-hour chorus in their performance of “Lux Aurumque.” Translating to “Light and Gold,” this piece diverged from the more traditional, well-known holiday pieces featured in the show.