Fine Arts News

AJMS Music Students Speak with NASA Scientist

Andrew Jackson Middle School students spoke with NASA Hubble Telescope scientist in preparation for a field trip to see the Charlotte Symphony concert of Holst’s The Planets. Students skyped into Astrophysics Dr. Jennifer Wiseman at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland on Tuesday, November 27th to get some background of how the Hubble Telescope takes those great pictures of the planets and the cosmos beyond them. During the 20 minutes that AJMS students were interacting with NASA, the Hubble Telescope completed 1/5th of its journey around the globe as it orbits every 96-97 minutes.

Dr. Wiseman discussed with students the different types of telescopes that the Hubble Team uses to create these stunning images of our solar system. Knowing students were preparing to see the symphony, she said that her use of the different telescopes was like the a composer combining or orchestrating different musical instruments. She just uses very expensive scientific instruments, but the concept is the same as for a composer of music.

The essential question for the interaction was centered around the STEAM initiative for Lancaster County School District and how NASA uses creativity to solve problems. Dr. Wiseman said that when you are working to fix a telescope that is in space and you can’t touch and observe it, creativity is a must to “see” what must be done. This is one of many reasons why creativity is being encouraged and cultivated in all classes at AJMS.

AJMS students will talk with two other members of the NASA Hubble Team this week. One is a science journalist who takes the teams research and presents it in magazine articles and books. A science journalist combines the skills of language and science and just as the students at AJMS do. Finally, AJMS will interact with an engineer from the Hubble Team who developed some of the fixes for the telescope while in space and taught the astronauts how to make the repairs.

Ladies Honors Chorus

The Ladies Honors Chorus participated in the South Carolina Music Educators Choral Directors Middle School SSA Clinic in Rock Hill on Thursday, November 15th. There were 155 students in attendance at the clinic from Sullivan MS, Indian Land MS, and Andrew Jackson MS. The clinician was Sandy Holland, a nationally-known music educator and conductor for treble voices.

The Ladies Honors Chorus prepared three pieces for the clinic once a week after school that were then rehearsed and performed with the other schools. The pieces ranged from a Canon by Baroque composer Georg Philipp Telemann to contemporary choral compositions. Having the opportunity to sing in a large vocal ensemble was important and a rewarding experience.

After all that singing a quick stop at Chick-fil-a was the next order. Congratulations to these select members of the Ladies Honors Chorus!

Wonza Johnson Day

Friday, October 26th was Wonza Johnson Day at Andrew Jackson Middle School! Johnson went to AJMS over ten years ago and now tours with the musical and hit show Hamilton. Mr. Timmons presented him with a plaque at a special assembly for 7th and 8th grade students. Johnson took time to thank his teachers from his years at AJMS, Ms. Turner and Mrs. Benton, for their dedication and support. He told students to continue to explore all avenues and grow and find themselves, especially during the middle school years. He talked about having diverse experiences such as playing the oboe in band, juggling in theatre, and running track. Lancaster County Public Schools Arts Coordinator David Platts arranged Johnson's visit to AJMS. The questions from students at the end of the interview were fantastic and show how engaged our school is. Way to go AJ!

Christine Van Arsdale

Harpist Christine Van Arsdale’s visit to Andrew Jackson Middle School may have come a day late, due to school’s cancellation on Thursday, but there was nothing stopping the music from AJMS students! 7th & 8th Grade Strings and Chorus students performed with this wonderful and talented musician as they learned about the harp and the music of Great Britain and Ireland.

“I was extremely proud of all of the performers today. Not only for the music that they made, but for the people that they are. They performed great and adapted to many adjustments needed to play with a harpist like using microphones so well. And when they became the audience they showed the pride and respect that we give to others at AJ Middle School. This was just one of the many musical experiences to share with others here at an Arts Focus school” said Dr. Moncrief, Strings and Chorus teacher.

Ms Van Arsdale played dance and folk music of Scotland and Ireland as Great Britain is the focus country this year at AJMS. When she heard that at the Middle School we were doing Mary Poppins Jr. in May of 2019 with Mr. Skinner directing, she immediately played “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” Students learned why some strings are colored and how the pedals of the concert harp work.

The highlight of the residency with Ms. Van Arsdale was the student performance. The 7th & 8th Grade Strings class played “A Fig for a Kiss” and soloists and sections of the string orchestra got to play with Ms. Van Arsdale. The 7th & 8th Grade Chorus sang an English Festival song entitled, “Good Cheer” with the harp accompanying and members of Ms. Brown’s 8th Grade Band Percussion section. The residency was a success and a powerful way to connect students at Andrew Jackson Middle School to working professional musicians. Thank you to Ms Van Arsdale for visiting us at AJ Middle School.


Kershaw Tree Lighting Ceremony

After a huge parade through downtown Kershaw, AJMS Fine Arts students brought in the holiday spirit with music on Sunday, November 25th. The AJHS Marching Band, which includes many AJMS band students, got everything started in style. Then, Chorus student Da’Rissa Izzard joined in a duet sing-a-long of Christmas favorites as a snow-machine on the Town Hall made all of the snow songs so much more realistic! Then our outstanding band students, led by Ms. Michelle Brown, played a set of holiday favorites on the stage for all. With Santa hats and holiday spirit they supported our town of Kershaw, South Carolina and gave a great performance to kick off the holiday season.

Stevens Park

On a wonderful fall day in Stevens Park the music of strings, amazing voices, and artistic talents were on display. Focus Arts students from Andrew Jackson Middle School performed on the stage at the wonderful Amphitheater of Stevens Park at 1pm. Visual Art students from Ms. Rapposelli’s Art class painted faces.

The performance began with 8th Grade String Quartet (Da’Rissa Izzard, Karli Rathel, Lilly Horton, and Luke Benfield) performing two selections. 6th Grade Chorus Focus student, Eliana P. then sang “America the Beautiful” while 7th Grade Chorus student Gracie R. performed American Sign Language. This was an amazing treat to "see" music, so thank you Gracie for the fantastic gift you shared with our community.

6th Grade Focus student Jiltoria Johnson sang “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music and did a fantastic job!

The Andrews Sisters would be proud to hear Emma E, Lilly H., Olivia N., Da’Rissa I., and McKibben W. sing “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” The crowd enjoyed this great tune and the students are looking forward to performing it with our Dance Focus students during the Veterans Day Program on November 8th at 10 am.

A group of 7th grade students (Kamille C., Layla S., and Seneca S.) then sang “Carolina on my Mind” they are performing for the Veterans Day program.

Seneca S., 7th Grade Chorus Focus student, also sang “I’m not that Girl” from the musical Wicked. To conclude, Dr. Moncrief and all of the students joined with the audience to sing “Do-Re-Mi” from The Sound of Music. It was a fantastic day in the park and a wonderful opportunity for students to perform. Many thanks to the Kershaw Park for organizing this event and giving our students the opportunity to perform! Way to go, AJ!