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UCC celebrates “World Languages Week”

There are 36 languages spoken or heard in the homes of Upper Canada College students, according to a survey of parents conducted last year.

That linguistic diversity was recognized during the school’s “World Languages Week” from Jan. 23 to 27, which was organized by Grade 12 students Loic Martin, Samuel Morin, Ian Pepin and Vladimir Chindea with support from UCC language teachers.

“We decided to change the name from ‘International Languages’ to ‘World Languages,” says French teacher and chair of classical and modern languages Sophia Berezowsky. “We are celebrating all languages, including international ones.

“The latter are languages associated with former empires that through colonization imposed their culture upon others. There are only about 20 international languages. However, we celebrate all languages, which are up to 3,000.”

Traditional teacher, mentor and healer Cat Criger was a guest speaker at both the Prep and Upper School assemblies on Jan. 23, representing Canada’s Aboriginal languages. He did a land acknowledgment in Ojibway and then spoke about his culture, language and ways of living.

Colombian dancers

Indigenous performers from Colombia met with students following their performance.

The Spanish Club invited dancers from Colombia for a concert in the student centre that included indigenous dances from Venezuela and Colombia that were presented for the first time in Canada.

“We are happy to have been involved in a great initiative that brings attention to indigenous issues not only in Canada but in South America also,” says Berezowsky.

The French Club showed the 2006 Canadian film Bon Cop Bad Cop, which features dialogue in English and French, on Jan. 25. The dark comedy/thriller, about a police officer from Ontario who reluctantly joins forces with a partner from Quebec, revolves around the concept of mixed cultures and languages.

The Chinese new year was highlighted at a Jan. 27 assembly.

“In the morning we learned how to create a ‘Lion Dance’ with drums, gongs, symbols and, of course, a lion costume,” says Foundation Year student Rodney Chan.

“We then presented it at assembly and everyone loved it. I thought it was an amazing way to learn about Chinese culture.”

A Quebecois song titled “Gens du pays” was performed to the accompaniment of Peter Merrick’s organ playing in the same assembly. French teachers taught the song to students ahead of time and explained its importance to Québécois culture. Martin, a boarding student from Montreal whose English wasn’t very strong when he arrived at UCC, introduced the song in a speech about French-English relations in Canada.

“Today, I am proud to be bilingual,” he said. “But the path towards bilingualism has had its challenges.

“I was surprised by the stereotypes and mockeries that circulated around the school concerning Quebecers. We often get referred to as Frenchies. Even though it might not sound offensive, the idea that we are differentiated just because of the language we speak is still confusing to me. Just as you, I was born and raised with the same Canadian values, under the same flag, and singing the same national anthem. And today I am standing here in Laidlaw Hall as a proud Canadian.”

You can watch Martin’s speech and hear some of “Gens du pays” here.

Chinese dumplings

UCC and Havergal students made dumplings.

Later that afternoon, 34 UCC boys went to Havergal College to celebrate Chinese new year with female Mandarin students through playing games, singing Chinese songs and making dumplings.

By the way, in case you’re wondering, those 36 languages mentioned in the first sentence are Arabic, Bengali, Burushaski, Cantonese, Dutch, Estonian, French, German, Greek, Gujerati, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Katchi, Korean, Mandarin, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Shanghainese, Shina, Slovak, Spanish, Swahili, Tagalog, Tamil, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu, Vietnamese and Yoruba.

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Jazz Cafe gets the audience swinging


Family and friends gathered for a lovely evening of jazz at UCC’s Club Bluenote on Wednesday, Feb. 1 at the Prep. Weston Hall was transformed into a candlelit jazz café, complete with coffee and desserts for the audience to enjoy.

Our dedicated and talented boys in the Grade 7 jazz band and the Upper School’s jazz ensembles performed to a packed house. Ashley Scott’s junior jazz band opened the show with “Love is Here to Stay” to much applause, followed by “Goodbye My Heart” featuring solo performances by Noah Verhoeff on alto sax, Mitchell Sabadini on trumpet and John Lu on piano. Many accomplished soloists performed throughout the evening including Grade 7 boys Jason Gao on alto sax in “Autumn Mist” and Kevin Liu on clarinet in “Valero.” Other notable soloists include drummer Kurt Karul and tenor sax player Phillip Kong from intermediate jazz, as well as senior boys Kal Shaw on alto sax and Josh Neufeldt on piano.

The Prep choir also performed at Club Bluenote, charming the audience with its swinging renditions of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and all-time favourite “Blue Suede Shoes.” The senior jazz ensemble closed the show with Bob Washut’s “Ciudad De Oro,” highlighting the musical talents of Jayson Dale on piano and JC Chung on tenor saxophone.

Many thanks go out to our incredible music teachers Peter McGarr, Kathryn Edmondson, Tony Gomes, Peter Smith and Ashley Scott for organizing this wonderful and fun evening.

-Arts Booster Club


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The Harvard Krokodiloes start 2017 on the right musical note

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The new year got off to an incredible start as famed a cappella group, the Harvard Krokodiloes kicked off the first Upper School assembly of the year on Monday, Jan. 9. (Scroll down for video and photos.) The spectacular group has played for audiences all over the globe. Presented by the Arts Booster Club, the group made up of 12 tuxedo–clad male undergraduate students from Harvard, all pursing different areas of study, charmed the boys with their unique blend of harmony and humour.

In addition, the Kroks held a special working session with UCC’s Bluenotes, inspiring the boys with their talent and teaching them some new techniques. Working in both small groups and all together with the Kroks, the Bluenotes  had an experience they’ll never forget. It was a wonderful event for all those lucky enough to attend the concert and a memorable way to start the new school term.

Arts Booster Club
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More than 86 per cent of parents very satisfied or satisfied with UCC

Parents are becoming more pleased with Upper Canada College, according to an online survey conducted last June with support from the United States-based National Association of Independent Schools.

There were 362 responses (evenly split from the Prep and Upper Schools) to the survey, and parents’ overall satisfaction with the College rose to 4.4 out of five, compared to 4.2 out of five in a similar 2011 survey. More than 86 per cent of respondents were either very satisfied or satisfied, and just two per cent were dissatisfied.

“It was very helpful to have access to these results early in my tenure,” says principal Sam McKinney, who also counts himself as a member of the UCC parent community.

“Overall we are very pleased with the results of this survey, but there are always areas for improvement and we are continuously striving to be better,” says vice-principal of advancement and strategy Jim Garner. “The results of this survey, along with those from our student, employee and Old Boy surveys, provide important feedback as we work towards setting UCC’s future strategic directions over the coming months.”

Parents were also asked to rate on a 10-point scale to what degree they would be inclined to recommend UCC. The average response was an encouraging 8.8, with 71 per cent of answers in the two highest categories.

Quality of teachers, a challenging curriculum in core academic subjects, small class size, technology/computer skill development, library and research resources, and learning spaces are among the academic and non-academic factors that parents have identified as important to them, and UCC received high satisfaction ratings in all of those categories.

When asked how well UCC was preparing their sons in 25 different academic areas, responses levelled out to an average score of 4.01 out of five. The school performed similarly well on several similar questions related to student preparation in such areas as using technology, working collaboratively on a team and being open-minded.

UCC received an average 4.08 out of five satisfaction score for the way it delivers: athletic programs; co-curricular arts programs; other co-curricular clubs and activities; individual psychological or social counseling; school safety; and academic support services.

Parents of boarding students were asked to rate their satisfaction in nine categories — including facilities, meals and weekend activities and programs — and the average score was 4.28 out of five.

Another interesting finding from the survey was that 36 languages were identified as spoken or heard at home: Arabic, Bengali, Burushaski, Cantonese, Dutch, Estonian, French, German, Greek, Gujerati, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Katchi, Korean, Mandarin, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian,  Shanghainese, Shina, Slovak, Spanish, Swahili, Tagalog, Tamil, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu, Vietnamese and Yoruba.

UCC aims to conduct comprehensive stakeholder surveys with employees, Old Boys, parents and students every four to five years, with periodic shorter “pulse” surveys being issued from time to time in between. The last major parent survey was undertaken in 2011.

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True West showcases theatrical talent

True West was the first play of the year in the UCC-BSS co-curricular program. From the stellar performances, to the excellent stage design and overall production, it was an impressive night of theatre by any measure.

Sam Shepard is one of the most important American playwrights of the twentieth century, and True West is the playwright’s/actor’s masterwork. The play appeared in 1981, soon after the Reagan years began in the United States, and not long after Richard Nixon resigned as President in the wake of Watergate. The play takes place in southern California, still a mythic location: the Gold Rush, Hollywood, the American Dream; the play includes humour and culminates in confrontation. And there are also more toasters in True West than in any other American play.

True West examines a clash of ideas and values between brothers Austin, a screenwriter (Theo Iordache, IB2), and Lee, a drifter (Devin Lee, IB1). Finding his way into the mix is Saul Kimmer, a Hollywood producer (Charlie Hughes, IB1); and eventually “mom,” (Naomi Chen, grade 11), mother of Austin and Lee, appears on the scene as well. The intimate lecture theatre space placed the audience in the middle of the maelstrom.

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UCC Prep School’s fall plays are big hits

Upper Canada College’s Prep School fall plays were staged on Nov. 3 and 4 in Weston Hall.

The Grades 4 to 6 play is an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s BFG. It involves a girl named Sophie who’s whisked away in her bed and learns about the BFG (Big Friendly Giant) and the mysterious land of giants. The boys in the production explore the magic of dream-catching, problem-solving and how to have tea with a queen.

The Grade 7 play, Good Cop, Bad Cop, involves two rookie detectives grilling a motley crew of suspects and witnesses about a catastrophic street sign switch. Everyone from the high school mascot to a guy who may be Super Mario is pumped for information. And while these suspicious characters are combative, ridiculous and downright incompetent, none of them seems guilty. With the clock ticking and their jobs on the line, can this good cop and bad cop collar a suspect before it’s too late?

The plays were directed by Prep teachers Jennifer Harper, Carly Crippin and Peter Labancz. They were staged back to back from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Please view the gallery with images from both plays.

Arts News


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Fall music night hits the right note

Enthusiastic friends and family gathered in Laidlaw Hall for fall music night to celebrate our extraordinary student talent on Wednesday, Nov. 9. The audience enjoyed wonderful performances by our dedicated musicians in the junior, intermediate and senior ensembles, along with the UCC choir “The Blue Notes.”
The evening featured solo performances by Charlie Gage and Rex McArthur in the junior jazz band, Sahir Farooq and Henry Gage in the intermediate jazz band, and JC Chung in the senior jazz ensemble, to name just a few. The program also included a moving clarinet solo by Kyungphil Ko who played John William’s “Theme from Schindler’s List,” accompanied by Anthony Hua on piano.

Many thanks go out to our outstanding music faculty Tony Gomes, Peter Smith, Ashley Scott and Peter Merrick. What a terrific night!

Arts Booster Club


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UCC debaters place second and ninth at regional qualifier

Upper Canada College debate club members competed at the 2016 Oxford Cup Qualifier, hosted by the Ontario Student Debating Union at Havergal College, on Oct. 29.

Four teams debated a diverse and challenging series of resolutions that covered topics such as: legalization of performance-enhancing drugs; using trophy hunting to fund wildlife conservation in Namibia; and weighing the votes of youth twice as heavily as other citizens in elections.

The UCC students who attended were Malcolm Risk, Brent Leung, Emerson Braithwaite, Adil Natalwalla, Alex Quinn, Matthew Wang, Julian Samek and Shafiq Qaadri.

Risk and Leung were undefeated going into the semi-final round and won that to make it to the final, debating the challenging resolution of “This house applauds the rise of songs by female pop stars that promote assertive female sexuality.”

They pair lost in the final round debating the resolution “This house believes that governments of developing nations should actively encourage slum tourism.” Risk and Leung qualified for the national championships later this month in Winnipeg. That event will decide the top Canadian teams to send to the Oxford Cup in the United Kingdom.

Risk was ranked second speaker out of 104 students in the tournament while Leung ranked ninth.

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UCC student to have story professionally staged

Les ZinspiresUpper Canada College student Rob Dean will have his short story “Touchdown” brought to life on stage by Théâtre Français de Toronto from Nov. 17 to 26.

Each year Foundation Year French students are given the opportunity to participate in a creative writing competition organized by the Théâtre Français de Toronto, where they’re asked to write a story about the life and times of teenagers today.

Dean’s story of the trials and tribulations of a young athlete who suffers a concussion and a strained relationship with his father earned him a $500 award and the chance to work with professional francophone actors and playwrights who rewrote his story into a play and will stage it as part of Les Zinspirés.

The fifth installment of Les Zinspirés will feature “Touchdown” and four other stories written by southern Ontario teenagers. It will be staged upstairs at the Berkeley Street Theatre. Anyone interested in seeing Dean’s play may purchase tickets here.  ‎

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UCC appoints inaugural arts captains

img_3772-1Upper Canada College has its first two arts captains, who will play a similar promotional role to what the Blue Army generals do in raising awareness and enthusiasm for athletics.

Six IB2 students applied and were interviewed for what was originally supposed to be one position, but Jacob Gotlieb and Nicholas Czegledy so impressed the committee charged with making a decision that they were named co-captains.

“The two of them were so outstanding that it was hard to decide and we also thought that two people could create more energy together,” says arts chair and theatre coordinator Judith Macdonell, who was one of the five people representing the school’s arts department, the Arts Booster Club (ABC) and the student body who decided on the two boys.

The concept of creating an arts captain came from students, and the ABC executive collaborated with Macdonell, art department head David Holt and music department head Tony Gomes to make it a reality.

“The arts captains will exemplify school spirit and provide creative, inspirational leadership to the school in the field of arts by working with the board of stewards, faculty and administration, and the ABC to promote and highlight the outstanding artistic activities at the College,” says Macdonell.

“They’ll work to creatively inspire and motivate through existing channels, as well as find new and innovative ways to raise awareness in and encourage participation and attendance at events such as arts assemblies, Nuit Bleue, theatrical and musical performances, film festivals, modern language events, literary publications and a variety of other artistic performances throughout the year.”

Gotlieb and Czegledy have both been involved with sports as well as the arts at UCC and they’ve taken it on as a mandate to encourage fellow students to take part in both and eliminate any potential siloing of interests and aspirations. They also want to make sure that smaller arts-related groups, clubs and events receive the attention they deserve while still spotlighting the marquee shows and performances that take place throughout the year.

“We were really inspired by listening to these boys, who had considered that there was a lot happening and we just had to find ways to let people know what was going on and that they can get involved,” says Macdonell. “You don’t necessarily have to take classes in it, but you can be involved in a co-curricular sense.”

Arts News


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