Magnet Arts Night 2009

by Pinjoe Ko, courtesy of Silverquest

Magnet Arts Night 09, held the night of Friday, February 6th was without a doubt, a rousing success.

Due to numerous snow days, audition week was reduced to two days, putting strain on the schedule. With more than 40 groups auditioning, the judges, Mr. Kaluta, Mr. Donaldson, Mrs. Piper, Mrs. Duval and Elizabeth Fang, had to stay until nearly 10 p.m. to get through all of the auditions.

Despite the bumpy start, Mr. Kaluta went to great lengths to expand the show even beyond the acts on stage.

For the first time ever, MAN presented pre-show acts. Having musicians perform in the hallway was a clever maneuver that allowed more of the Magnet’s talented pianists to perform, and provided a great atmosphere to start off the night. The first act, an exciting and powerfully rhythmic presentation of Korean drums, energized the audience. Following the drums was “Replay”, by SHINee, performed by juniors Janice Lan, Elaine Lin, Lucy Liu, Xinhong Qiu, and Danielle Sok. Despite some pre-show trouble, the girls pulled through, and the in-synch moves, coupled with the catchy music, had the crowd going wild.

Unfortunately, due to a scheduling conflict with All-County Orchestra, freshman Enoch Hsiao did not perform. However, those of us who saw his Diablo at auditions and dress rehearsal can vouch that the only freshman solo performance of the night would have been a thrilling and gripping one.

Next was the seniors’ first appearance. Seniors Jessica Chen and Xin Shan combined the well-known Totoro theme song and Linkin Park’s “Numb” to enchant the crowd. Seniors Anton Frolenkov and Joseph Lynch’s Dead Calculator skit, a humorous parody of a favorite scene from Monty Python followed, providing the first non-musical entertainment of the night.

The mostly East Asian-themed acts continued with “Yearning”, a theme from the movie, “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon,” and senior Sally Huang performing “Fragrance of Jasmine Blossomes” beautifully on her guzheng.

The talent only continued as junior Scott Zimmerman astounded the audience with his lightning-fast fingers, simultaneously strumming, twanging and plucking at his guitar strings. I found myself unable to look away as his fingers danced across the strings, mesmerizing me in their agility and deftness.

In the history of MAN, we’ve had several kinds of dances, but Junior Laura Sirbu’s ballroom dancing was unprecedented. Her fast steps and flowing movements dazzled the crowd as she and her partner, Clive Butler, twirled and spun to the music. Next up were seniors Emily Hsiao and Ya Zhou, singing “For Good,” from Wicked, accompanied by senior Arlene Gao. That Zhou was suffering from a cold was hardly noticeable as the duo’s bright and clear harmonies filled the auditorium.

The greatest hit of the night was arguably Ravel’s “Bolero.” (YouTube video) This song is well known, quite overplayed, and the plain and simple tune played on a single cello might have bored the audience. However, the four performers created a new twist by all playing the cello at once. Senior Christopher Hsing began, playing the cello as if it were a solo. However, he was soon joined by junior Lawrence Cho (who added a second bow to the mix), freshman Daniel Hwang (who pizzicato-ed on the lower strings of the cello) and freshman Nathan Kung (who sat at the foot of the cello). Perhaps the act would have been audible had the audience not been applauding and laughing the entire time, but the humorous positions and antics of the four cellists would not allow otherwise.

Closing Act I with a bang was the juniors band, Taken by Five, who rocked the house with “Simple Life” by My Favorite Highway.

Magnet Arts Night coincided with Rick Astley’s birthday, and as a tribute, junior Yifan Li arranged and conducted the famous song “Never Gonna Give You Up” for the jazz band. After the up-beat piece that kicked off Act II, Mr. Donaldson and Julie Ufford performed the beautiful and harmonious “Early”. The next performance was the only other solo act of the night: Jenna Yi, playing Prelude in C# Minor by Rachmaninoff, on the piano.

Traditionally, MAN features classical Indian performances that dazzle audiences, and Nach Mayuri was no exception, as seniors Jitu Das, Rutvij Pandya, Anika Manzoor, Debattama Sen brought together Indian dance and music. The music then shifted from Indian to modern pop as seniors Bryan Huang and Ji-Hoon Jung cleverly mashed popular contemporary works like Howie Day’s “Collide” and Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” into a medley.

Like Nach Mayuri, the next act combined music with dance as junior Amy Liu gracefully danced to junior Peggy Houng’s performance of “Whirlwind” on the harp. The third to last act was the comical musical skit based on “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”, a Beatles favorite. It was also the largest act that night, having thirteen performers.

The senior band, including Aaditya Chandra-Sekar, Ji Jung, Anshul Sood, Victor Wang and David Wasser, performed “Dani California” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. After their performance, the band remained onstage as the senior act, a Magnet tradition, commenced. Seniors dressed up as and mimicked their favorite teachers as they acted out an exaggerated Magnet teacher meeting. The evening closed with all the seniors surging onstage to join in the singing of “We are the Champions” as Mr. Kaluta’s cohorts in the skywalk dumped bins and bins of confetti upon the audience.

Of course, who could forget the Emcees? Seniors Jason Arora and Elaine Chung and juniors Nader Behdin and Scott Yu tirelessly entertained the crowd the entire night with clever quips and punny jokes.

Magnet Arts Night is so special, because it shows that Magnet students have lives outside of math and science. Those outside of Blair also believed the showcase of talent was impressive. “I was a pleasantly surprised by all the creativity. It was interesting to see this dimension of the Magnet,” Femi Pai, a Churchill senior who has a younger sister in the Magnet, said.

Pai was not the only non-Blair student to enjoy Magnet Arts Night. In fact, some students make a point of attending MAN every year. Tiffany Lin, a senior at Walter Johnson has never missed a Magnet Arts Night while she’s been in high school. “I love to watch all the musical and humorous skits. Also, since I went to Takoma Park for middle school, coming to MAN has become a reunion of sorts.”