April 6 was unofficially “Horizons Day” at Upper Canada College, as the learning partnership program to assist students from Toronto inner-city schools was involved in four separate events on campus.
The day got underway with girls from Thorncliffe Park Public School taking part in a “swim to survive program” in which UCC boys were in the pool with them and acting as lifeguards. IB1 student Benji McLean came up with the idea, and he received support from his twin brother Nathan. (See full story here.)
Fifty-three students from G.B. Little Public School enjoyed some macaroni and cheese and then received math tutoring and assistance with some of their classroom work from older UCC students during the lunch period.
All UCC Year 1 students have taken part in this program. One class took part in the program starting at noon that day, spearheaded by CAS director Craig Parkinson and civics teachers to help the boys develop empathy and a respect for learning differences.
“They worked with younger students with special needs from a developmental disabilities class for kids from Grades 1 to 6 who have something that affects their learning,” says Sehgal.
“It could be Down syndrome, autism or something congenital. It doesn’t matter. It’s about boys working with younger kids who learn differently.”
The boys spent about 90 minutes with their “little buddies,” eating lunch, doing table activities and helping the kids with a circuit program in the gym involving various physical and mental activities.
UCC hosted young Syrian refugees for the third time when about 90 of them who are living in the Plaza Hotel until their families can find more permanent accommodations arrived at 2:30 p.m. to either skate at the William P. Wilder ’40 Arena & Sports Complex or take part in art activities organized by the Prep School.
It marked the first time on ice for most of the kids, who ranged in age from three to 13 and used skates and helmets donated to Horizons by the Prep Parents’ Organization as well as those collected during the annual drive on Association Day. Upper School history teacher Reem Aweida-Parsons speaks Arabic and was on hand to translate and break down any potential language barriers, while five instructors from Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment joined UCC and The Bishop Strachan School students to ensure that the skaters were safe and had fun.
“The tutors were so patient and warm and inviting,” says Sehgal. “You see the full range of what they’re capable of.”
There are two more major Horizons events coming up at the College this month.
The first is a computer science conference hosted by 14 UCC students who will lead 55 Grade 5 and 6 students from Sprucecourt Public School from noon to five p.m. on April 12. They’ll all have lunch and then engage in rotating sessions covering topics including virtual reality, software planning and web development. Google and the University of Toronto’s science department have been supportive and donated items that will be given to participants.
UCC hosted the Ontario Model United Nations conference on April 16 and 17, and 15 Horizons participants from The Elms Middle School who’ve been part of a six-week program to develop debating skills and learn more about Model UN will be part of it. Several students from the Horizons high school program, who’ve gone through all three Horizons summer programs and are now in high school, also took part.
“It’s been a busy term, but there’s been a lot of support for these programs from the faculty, administration, parents and the boys,” says Sehgal of what Horizons has to offer the UCC community and the students from other schools who benefit from it.
“It’s a synthesis of all the good that’s going on around here. It builds character. It involves community outreach and awareness of the different lives that people are living.”
Nicholas Mountford won the contest with his “smallest face” entry. (See macro view below.) Featured image shows “farthest away” face by Takoda Kemp.
A concern by Upper Canada College art department head David Holt that people spend so much time staring at screens that face-to-face communication is suffering led him to create a fun contest to show how important faces are and encourage people to think about them.
“Kids will look at you as if you were a screen and they’re not really reading your face expression,” says Holt. “They hear the words but they’re not really reading your expressions.”
This phenomenon isn’t restricted to young people however, and Holt believes this “lack of appropriate behaviour” can have an adverse affect on both individual relationships and a larger sense of community.
Holt made a presentation at a Feb. 26 arts assembly where he talked about the “communicators” component of the International Baccalaureate learner profile and why paying attention to someone’s face during a conversation is important. He pointed out that many muscles of the face connect directly to the skin, allowing an array of meaningful facial movements to accompany vocal intonations.
Early French neurologist Guillaume Duchenne de Boulogne pioneered using electrical charges to stimulate facial muscles, producing the appearance of different emotional states that were recorded in photographs that Charles Darwin used in his 1872 book The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals.
Some researchers think facial recognition is less about familiarity and more about how the proportions of facial features relate geometrically to one another. Such patterns are the basis for the facial recognition software you see being used on television shows like Bones and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.
The importance of facial expressions has also been long recognized in dance and theatre, where masks conveyed forceful emotional messages in the days before film close-ups.
All of these points, which Holt illustrated with examples and graphics, led him to introduce the concept of pareidolia: the imagined perception of a pattern or meaning where it doesn’t actually exist. It’s this idea that accounts for people’s propensity to see faces in inanimate objects.
Pareidolia sparked Holt’s conception of a contest where people could take photos of things that they see faces in and then email them to him in hopes of winning a $20 prize. Holt contributed several photos, even though he wasn’t eligible for the contest, and about 30 other entries were submitted by students and staff members.
The photo chosen as the best featured the smallest face submitted. It was announced in assembly on April 11 that a shot of a face on a cactus made IB1 student Nicholas Mountford $20 richer.
Greg Eckler ’87 is in the running for UCC’s “funniest assembly speaker in a long time” award. One of The Rick Mercer Report’s head writers, he spoke on Monday, April 11.
He had a hilarious bit about being exclued from UCC’s Wikipedia page. Perhaps, he suggested, we might unceremoniously replace our Oscar winner Melvyn Douglas (1913) on Wiki’s UCC list of illustrious alumni. Greg, we heard you and we attempted to enscribe your name-especially because your famous Mercer spoof of Capital One’s “Hands in my Pocket,” called “Knee in my Package,” is Oscar-worthy (see below). Sadly, the good folks at Wikipedia deleted it. (Our resident web guru Simon McNeil understands the adjudication process; for a full explanation, please feel free to ask him directly. In the meantime, this address is awesome:
Upper Canada College’s second annual “Mother-Son Dinner Theatre” event was another smashing success on March 30.
“The sold-out event had 220 moms and sons enjoy an evening of laughs together,” says Laura Dallal, chair of the Arts Booster Club. Along with ABC co-chair Amelia Rattew, they were the driving force behind Big Time Murder Productions’ murder mystery presentation of The Silence of the Hams at UCC’s student centre.
The night began at 6 p.m. with Upper School boys and their mothers enjoying a gourmet taco buffet dinner and designer doughnuts for dessert. Teacher Dale Churchward then provided introductory remarks that focused on the importance of the relationship between mothers and sons.
From there, the play’s plot involving UCC being sold began to unfold. The College’s new owner invited losing bidders to the evening’s events to bask in his glory as he shared his plans for the school, and it was up to those in attendance to sleuth out who did what. Teachers Julian Bauld and Judith Macdonell respectively played a victim and witness, and displayed some comedy chops, as part of the show.
While most of the day students who attended the $60 a head dinner were able to do so with their birth mothers, that wasn’t the case for the boarders interested in the show whose families are far away from Toronto. Not to fear, however, as UCC staff members Chantal Kenny, Julia Kinnear, Jody McLean and Tricia Rankin stepped up and became stand-in moms for four boarders.
Kenny volunteered to be IB2 student Charlie Yang’s substitute mother for the night since his real one lives in China.
“Without a doubt, it was the most rewarding event I attended this year, thanks to Charlie,” says UCC’s executive director of admission. “He was humble, smart, funny, thoughtful and completely at ease with our mom-son status for the night.
“I learned about his home and his family and how grateful he is for his parents to offer him this opportunity of a lifetime to live and learn at UCC. I was able to connect with other moms and sons who also went out of their way to get to know ‘my Charlie.’”
The Silence of the Hams carried on the momentum of last year’s inaugural show, A Brimful of Asha, starring Old Boy Ravi Jain ’99 and his mother Asha. With the glowing reviews received by this most recent “Mother-Son Dinner Theatre” production, it seems pretty certain that UCC has another tradition on its hands.
Upper Canada College private music teachers Trevor Hogg and Mackenzie Longpre ’06 were involved in musical projects that were up for Juno Award consideration in Calgary over the weekend.
Hogg is a saxophone teacher and member of Peripheral Vision, which was nominated for the group jazz album of the year for its independently released Sheer Tyranny of Will. The award ultimately went to Allison Au Quartet for Forest Groove.
Still, it’s been a good run for Peripheral Vision. The Toronto-based quartet of Hogg, guitarist/composer Don Scott, bassist/composer Michael Herring and drummer Nick Fraser performed last Friday night as part of the JUNOFest music festival that was part of last weekend’s celebration of music.
Peripheral Vision previously received the Galaxie Rising Star Award at the 2012 Montreal Jazz Festival and the group has maintained a busy touring schedule in support of Sheer Tyranny of Will and the earlier Spectacle: Live! and Peripheral Vision albums.
Hogg also contributed to Tara Davidson’s Duets, which lost out to Robi Botos’ Movin’ Forward in this year’s solo jazz album of the year Juno competition.
Longpre is an Old Boy who teaches percussion at UCC and performed on the vocal jazz album of the year nominee Some Version of the Truth from Tara Kannangara. Emilie-Claire Barlow’s Clear Day ultimately took the Juno in that category.
Longpre has had an eventful career since taking music classes at UCC with Tony Gomes, Myles Crawford, Peter Smith and Peter Merrick. He studied drums in the University of Toronto’s jazz program, performed with a variety of people in different genres as an in-demand sideman, and started teaching drums at UCC to supplement his income.
“Like most freelance musicians in town, I’ve always been a part of roughly a dozen different groups,” says Longpre. “This constant playing has also afforded me the opportunity to travel and tour.
“I’ve played in Chile, Japan, Europe and all over the U.S. and Canada. I also started writing my own music and leading my own groups and have put out an EP and full-length record.”
Longpre appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! earlier this year, backing alternative pop artist Banners, who released a self-titled record in January and has been touring extensively in support of it.
The Winter 2015 edition of Upper Canada College’s Old Times alumni magazine featured an article on Old Boys involved in theatre and how they’ve maintained connections to the school and helped students. That tradition is continuing, as you’ll find out below.
Several Old Boys contributed to the recent UCC and The Bishop Strachan School production of Hamlet, clearly illustrating the strong bond that alumni feel for their alma mater and its theatre program.
Justis Danto-Clancy ’07 helped with design and technology implementation. Chris Tully ’15, who’s studying at the University of King’s College in Halifax, spent a day working with and training the tech team. Andrew Musselman ’99 sat in on a rehearsal. And James Graham ’07 ran workshops for the cast and worked one-on-one with Grade 11 student and aspiring actor Theo Iordache. Others also lent a hand and several theatre alumni returned to the school to watch the play.
Andrew Musselman ’99 and Dale Churchward
Such involvement has been an important component of UCC’s co-curricular theatre program since Dale Churchward became its director in 2000.
“To a man, they speak of the value and satisfaction of returning to mentor young students,” Churchward says of the Old Boys who come back to share their knowledge. “Students feel a kind of kinship to alum with theatrical expertise beyond their obvious respect for guests who are experienced in their field.”
The International Baccalaureate theatre course includes a history component within an academic program of study, while the co-curricular program is focused on practical aspects of theatre, including tech as a major component of design. So while there’s overlap, there’s a clear difference between the academic program and the co-curricular program, the latter of which is available to all students interested in some aspect of performance or production.
Churchward encourages students to ask questions of Old Boys who’ve attended a variety of theatre programs in Canada and abroad, both through universities and conservatory programs. Since 2000, alumni have attended The National Theatre School, the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, New York University, Julliard, the University of Chicago and many other institutions to pursue theatre.
Iordache is looking to follow in their footsteps.
“UCC is the place that introduced me to theatre, and my passion for it grew out of my involvement in drama classes and co-curricular shows,” he says.
Iordache started at UCC in Grade 7 and joined a production of Molière’s The Forced Marriage because he felt the need to be more involved in his new school. He appeared in the musical Tom Sawyer later that year and, after playing Horatio in Hamlet, is working on his eighth show at the College.
“We’ve got exceptional teachers at the College, as well as great facilities and resources to work with,” says Iordache. “The David Chu Theatre, for example, is better equipped than many professional theatres I’ve seen.
“Being able to work with that level of hardware under the supervision of the amazing faculty we’ve got is something other high school students would only dream of.”
The Old Boy network also plays an important role, and Iordache and Graham (who studied theatre at Northwestern University) hit it off quickly when they were introduced to each other late last year.
“We sat down at a coffee place and talked about his college experience and the reality of working as a theatre practitioner in Toronto,” says Iordache. “He’s given me a lot of great advice as well as practical information, and even offered to let me help out at his theatre company (The Howland Company) this coming summer.”
Graham says he jumped at the chance to help out with Hamlet.
“I remembered why these shows had been important to me when I was a UCC student, and what the guidance of Old Boys such as Andrew Musselman and Ravi Jain had meant to me at that time. Their passion and joy gave me a glimpse into what it was like to care about something so deeply.
“Back then, it gave me permission to find my voice, to be vulnerable and to think it might be possible to travel a road less taken. For my teenage self, that was what had meant the most to me.”
The conversations between Iordache and Graham helped lead the young thespian to decide that he’ll attend theatre school instead of a conservatory after graduating from UCC.
“I can get a double major and study something more practical as well, such as economics,” says Iordache. “Theatre will always take the number one spot for me, however.
“I’ve been eyeing a few schools in the U.S. that provide a great theatrical education coupled with strong academic programs — Brown, Yale, Northwestern and NYU chief among them. I’ll still apply to Juilliard, however. What actor can resist?”
While Graham hopes that “in some small way I did my part to carry the torch forward,” he’s also looking to the past by working with Phil McKee ’01 on a Howland Company production of The Glass Menagerie that will be performed in September at The Theatre Centre. McKee will direct, Graham will act and UCC theatre students will be in the audience.
“Alum know that UCC continues to support their work as they move on from the College,” says Churchward. “That is perhaps a small point, but it seems to me an important one.”
The accomplishments just keep coming for our Model United Nations club. Our team took the “best club” award at the University of California, Berkeley Model United Nations (BMUN), held March 5 and 6.
The success is even more incredible as UCC was the only Canadian school represented. This accomplishment means our team has won a best delegation award at every major conference attended over the past three years, at McGill University, Harvard University, Columbia University and now again at UC Berkeley.
BMUN is the oldest Model UN in the world, started in 1952, with more than 1,800 students from around the globe participating. “Model UN in California is like nothing else you’ve seen,” says faculty adviser Matt Griem. “Many schools have Model UN as a full-credit high school course, and most, if not all history classes use Model UN in the curriculum.
A fellow teacher from Wisconsin told Griem that BMUN is the “Super Bowl” of Model UN. Schools from Southern California, such as Huntington Beach High School in Orange County and Mira Costa High School in Los Angeles are extremely competitive and are known around the world.
There are individual awards, awards for schools that take Model UN as a class and awards for schools that have clubs (like UCC). The boys fought hard in their respective debates, showing a strong knowledge of international affairs, the skill to convincingly speak in front of hundreds and the ability to negotiate and broker compromise with people holding very different points of view.
“This year, we ‘chipped away’ at the BMUN big prize,” says Griem, earning points for one first place finish and many second and third place awards. This disappointed some of our boys, who tried their best, but for one reason or another (and sometimes for reasons totally outside their control) couldn’t capture the first-place gavel.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been so proud of UCC boys as when I watched IB2s such as Justin Lu and Joe Noss encourage and coach the younger boys, telling them to keep their head up, to be proud, and most importantly to be respectful, even when things didn’t go your way,” he says. “We’ve been talking about character lately- and these guys demonstrated it!”
The team this time round was:
For the IB2 guys, this will be their last conference of their high school career. Please congratulate all of them when you seen them at school.
All Upper Canada College Grade 6 and 7 students discussed whether resume virtues are more important than eulogy virtues to have a purposeful life, and that formed the basis for the 13th annual colour house debating tournament.
“At UCC we value boys becoming their best self,” says Wernham West Centre for Learning Primary Division coordinator Tina Jagdeo, who oversaw the program and worked with the students along with Prep character program director Laurie Fraser and Kassie Dwarika of McLeese Debate. “We saw the house debate as an opportunity to explore this concept.
“It provided an opportunity for the boys to reflect on what values are important in their lives. Do they prioritize academic grades and success or their internal value and relationships with family and friends?”
The boys have been preparing for the debate since the first week back to school in January, doing much of the work on their own time and during lunch and recess periods. Some of the key materials they explored to help them were David Brooks’ The Road to Character, Martin Seligman’s Flourish, George Vaillant’s “Grant Study” and biographies of a number of successful men and women.
“They were working on all of the IB approaches to learning skills, including their thinking skills, their research skills, their communication skills and their self-management skills,” says Jagdeo.
The first debating round involved six teams and 24 students, and the best of them made it to the final. The two teams were then asked to argue for the opposite side of what got them there.
“We wanted them to have a broad perspective and think deeply about both sides of the issue,” says Jagdeo.
Daniel Tang, Daniel Botros, Morley Roden and Dillon Aristotle (who stepped in for an ill Vikram Rawal) faced off in the final against Joey Katz, Drake Belanger-Polak, Jinoo Kim and Jordan van Slingerland. Toni Agbaje-Ojo moderated the final while Andrew Frith and Tim McCowan acted as timekeepers.
The boys exchanged their views in front of four judges: speaker, author, facilitator and well-being teacher Louisa Jewell, who founded the Canadian Positive Psychology Association; Piotr Pikul, a partner with McKinsey & Company in Toronto; UCC head steward Elliott Birman; and Dr. Greg Evans, the director of The Happiness Enhancement Group who also serves on the board of the Canadian Positive Psychology Association.
Both sides presented strong points and the judges were hard-pressed to come up with a winner. They did, however, and their decision will be revealed at the Prep arts assembly in April.
There are no other debates for students of this age to take part in, but this will provide valuable experience for Upper School debating, where the focus is on competing against other schools.
“There’s a track record of Prep debaters doing very well in the debating program at the Upper School,” says Jagdeo.
Upper Canada College hosted the Ontario Provincial Debate Championships and its debaters captured first and second places on Feb. 27 and 28.
Thirty teams from across the province took part in the tournament, which included five preliminary rounds, a semi-final and final. UCC’s two teams made it all the way to the end and squared off against each other to decide the provincial title.
The two UCC teams debate in the provincial championship final.
Kimathi Muiruri and Malcolm Risk faced off against Nitish Dhingra and Logan Ye to debate the merits of a progression toward a society without police. Both teams presented their arguments well, but it was Muiruri and Risk who came out on top.
Ye placed first among the 60 individual speakers in the tournament and all 10 of the UCC students finished in the top 10.
Both teams have qualified for the Canadian National Debating Tournament in Saskatoon on April 9 and 10. Courtney Turner, who coached the boys along with Lulu Wang, rates their chances of winning as fair.
“To be or not to be?” That question has gripped so many Hamlets throughout the ages. Audiences witnessed the stunning opening of Hamlet in the David Chu Theatre on Feb. 17 to 20.
This inspiring co-production, with the Bishop Strachan School’s theatre program, was a fitting tribute to the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. It kept audience members on the edge of their seats: the show was cast gender blind and included unconventional staging, physical and emotional combat, and wondrous technical achievement.
Under the skillful direction of Dale Churchward and co-producer Heather Crawford, the cast of 13 did not disappoint. Nicholas Czegledy was a convincing young Hamlet, tortured by the events that befell his father and family. Trish Rooney played Gertrude opposite her new husband and king Claudius, played by Atef Abedin. Jake Bradshaw appeared as the Ghost of King Hamlet, returning to remind young Hamlet to revenge his death. Jack van Nostrand provided perfectly delivered comic relief as Corambis.
Other key roles were played by Kate Urquhart in the role of Ofelia, Abigail Holland as Leartes, Theo Iordache as Horatio, Jocelyn Roy as Gilderstone, Isabel Coleman as Rossencraft, Jeff Collins as Marcellus, Kate Fanjoy as Cornelius and Max Allen as Bernardo.
The play came to a riveting finale with the final sword-fight scene and the tragic end to the state of Denmark as Fortenbrasse swept in with his thugs to clean up the remains. The stunning technical direction was carefully choreographed and planned by Imran Jessa and Ernest Leung with the guidance of Old Boy Justis Danto-Clancy and the support of stage managers Anne McGrath and Can Hepkarabelli. Jack Sarick and John Mace were the tech crew.
In addition, Tessa Oxtoby and Sean Manucha were the amazing stagehands, Simon Fon the fight director and Benjamin Caldwell the fight captain. Rindy Bradshaw and Diane Rothman provided costume design. The show was promoted with a highly stylized trailer produced by Robert Wong with the direction and guidance of David Crawford. James Potts created compelling posters and tickets; his photography captured the essence of this innovative production.