Spotlight on Programs: AHLISA

I can still remember walking out of The Hunchback of Notre Dame at Paper Mill Playhouse almost four years ago and immediately knowing that I wanted to pursue the arts. The show’s brilliantly composed score and gut wrenching tale moved its audience a countless number of times, and I was no exception. The experience of watching that performance still resonates with me because from that moment on, I made it my goal to impact people just like the show impacted me.

Flash forward to about a year ago. RHS’s East 627 was choosing songs for the upcoming year. As we were figuring out which songs we should do, we realized we needed someone to arrange the songs for our group to sing. Sensing an opportunity, I asked if I could try arranging the songs. These two songs were my first introduction to composing/arranging.

Flash forward another 10 months to the beginning of summer 2017. I had finally gotten around to listening to the soundtrack for the musical Next to Normal when I had another revelation. Next to Normal involves many nonconventional topics such as mental illness, the medical field, and supporting someone whose case is hopeless. The show was incredibly powerful and resonated deeply with its audiences– I was no exception. Similar to The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Next to Normal is primarily composed of music. Thus, both the soundtrack and the plot of the show leave a very big impression on the audience. I realized that although I enjoyed acting and singing, I could achieve my goal to affect others through music composition. I personally have always been one to be moved by music, so I felt that I could impact others the most by the same means. Thus, I decided that I wanted to be a composer.

Since that moment, I have been working feverishly on any music project I can get my hands on. I want to try and gain as much experience as possible before I have to submit my portfolio for college. I have arranged as much music as I could for the a cappella groups at RHS, and even dropped my language to the Music Theory class that is offered at RHS as an elective. Another fun project I am working on is writing the score for an original musical scripted  by me and one of my friends to submit to the New Players’s festival of One Acts later on in the school year. Outside of school, I am working on a few projects in order to gain experience, refine my composing skills, and get a better sense of what I like to write. One such project is a song for the upcoming Night of Future Broadway Stars which will be performed by some of the students at RHS. I am also working on band arrangements for the upcoming Jamboree show.

One unexpected way that I learned about composition was through the AHLISA class here at RHS. AHLISA is an acronym for American History with Integrated Study in the Arts, and it is a program which allows for a study focused on the art components that relate to the traditional history and english curriculums. A former teacher of the art focused portion of the program (dubbed “ISA” by its students) Mr. Cronk, would always say “If you can talk about art you can talk about anything.” After being in AHLISA for over a year, I now understand what he meant. Art has the unique ability to cover endless topics. Any social idea, movement, or opinion can be shown through either dance, paining, writing etc. As AHLISA teaches me more about all types of art forms, I have realized my understanding of the world around me as well as the people in it has drastically increased. I am now able to connect with people and their opinions more due to my greater understanding of art. Since, in an ideal world I would become a Broadway composer, learning more about people and how they think and feel is incredibly important in developing characters in songs and so these skills are directly transferable to my future career.

The reason I try to work on as many things as I can possibly handle is because I want to keep learning as much as I can. In just the past few months alone, I have learned so much about music theory and composition and what makes music impact people, which is what I’ve been striving for all these years. As I move along in my composition journey I hope I can continue to learn and grow as a writer, but most importantly I hope someday to make people feel something when they listen to my work, because to me, that is what makes me want to compose.

J.T. Cambria
staff writer

Graphics: Maraea Garcia

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