Singing for Pope Francis

(One of the great things about the Rutgers Prep community is how long-lasting the ties that bind us are. Our alumni/ae return to visit with us on a regular basis, and when they can’t visit in person, they send us updates through our Facebook or Twitter accounts. This recent report from Daveda Browne ’06 is a wonderful glimpse into the way in which a passion-driven life can lead one to some unexpected places…) 15-10_RPS_Singing_for_Pope_Francis
How did your experiences at Rutgers Prep prepare you for your subsequent academic and vocal experiences?

Past experiences play a very important part in one’s present and future. My experiences at Rutgers Prep were crucial in laying my foundation academically and vocally to take my next steps in life at Lehigh University. My involvement in Women’s choir and the Women’s Chamber ensemble at Rutgers Prep enhanced my interest in classical music and vocal pedagogy, to the extent where my focus became improving my vocal skills and perfecting my craft. It was in the last semester of my senior at Rutgers Prep that I began to take private voice lessons with Susan Fanale. In addition, my experiences at Rutgers Prep prepared me to be a confident decision maker and a determined and diligent individual, all of which have helped me realize great opportunities. I went on to Lehigh University to acquire dual degrees in both Music (with a voice concentration) and Biochemistry.

What advice about following your passions would you give to current Rutgers Prep students?

Following your passions can be difficult at times, but I would tell current Rutgers Prep students – as I tell everyone – “Never give up!”

It’s your passion for a reason. This is something you love doing, so you will always be motivated to strive for more. Whether it becomes your career or just a very involved hobby, it is a necessary part of life, so again I say “Never give up!” Find your niche.

How did your time at Lehigh prepare you for what came after?

My time at Lehigh University encouraged me to hone in on and improve my skills as a vocalist and musician, and also as a scientist; it created an environment for me to learn more about myself and set the goals I wanted to achieve in life. There, I studied both my crafts more in depth. An important of my journey through my undergraduate career was taking risks and being open to discovery, this mindset helped see perspectives I may not have seen otherwise, and ultimately allowed me to know more concretely and confidently my aim in life.

How did you get to sing for the Pope and what was it like?!

My opportunity to sing for the Pope was one that came by surprise. The opportunity to audition for the United Nation Singers came my way in early July of this year. I went in for my audition and was immediately invited to join the group for two concert tours this summer. The first was a tour to Japan at the end of July for 10 days in commemoration of the atomic bombings 70 years ago and the second took us to China at the end of August for 15 days to commemorate 70 years since the end of WWII. The papal visit to the UN was the next important event that the UN singers were chosen to participate in. Only 20 of our 35+ members were welcomed to sing for the Pope, so there was an internal audition to choose the 20 singers that will sing for his Holiness and I was one of the members chosen. I am very grateful to have had this once in a lifetime opportunity, it was truly unforgettable.  

Rutgers Prep’s Place in History

15-1_RPS_Timeline As Rutgers Prep gears up to celebrate its 250th Anniversary in 2016, our Director of 250th Anniversary Celebrations Susan Gantz teamed up with Middle School Dean of Community Life Stephen Mitchell to create an activity that helped students gain perspective on our school’s place in history.

To initiate the conversation and activity, students were given a few framing questions: “Rutgers Prep was founded almost 250 years ago. What was happening 250 years before that? What happened in the 250 years since? What will happen in the next 250 years?”

Mr. Mitchell and Ms. Gantz showed students posters displaying significant events in world history. Randomly selected students tried to place them in the correct chronological order. When the order was set, “lifers,” students in 8th grade who have been here since kindergarten, were assigned the responsibility of putting events related to Rutgers Prep where they belonged.

When students realized that Ludvig van Beethoven was born after Rutgers Prep’s founding, a ripple of amazement moved through the crowd. Middle School Principal Mr. Marotto’s lengthy tenure at Rutgers Prep threw the students off; the “Mr. Marotto starts working at RPS” poster had to be moved back in the timeline multiple times!

As students settled on what they thought might be their final positions, they looked to their teachers and continued to make adjustments based on that feedback. Finally, the human timeline became an accurate reflection of the historical record. Our Middle School students now have a much clearer understanding of Rutgers Prep’s place in history… just in time to join in our celebrations!

Grand Piano Given New Life

Ganesh Ramanarayanan ‘98 makes his home all the way over on the other side of the country now, but he still feels connected to his Rutgers Prep experience. When he made a generous gift to the Music Department, in keeping with his wide-ranging involvement with the Music program during his time with us, the music faculty decided to use his gift to refurbish our Steinway Grand piano.

Rutgers Prep's Grand Piano restored to full splendor

In celebration of the Steinway piano’s return to its full splendor, seven student musicians at Rutgers Prep joined in to perform at a special “welcome back” concert, at which Dr. Ramanarayan’s father read a letter from Ganesh expressing his gratitude to the Rutgers Prep community. (During his time at Rutgers Prep, Ganesh sang in the Men’s Choir and Madrigal Singers, played the flute, and performed in the Upper School band. He is still very involved in Carnatic Indian music, singing and playing the mridangam.)

The celebratory concert was an intimate concert and fitting tribute in honor of both Ganesh and his gift to the Music Department. The student musicians who contributed their talents to the concert were Rebekah Park’ 18, Ty Garner ’16, Louis Petitjean ’16, Jane Ye ’15, Jina Hu ’15, Kelly Jin ’15, and Kelly Liang ’14 (NYU and Julliard, ‘18).

Thank you to everyone who helped make this special event a reality, and thank you again to Ganesh Ramanarayananan ‘98 for his generosity.

The musicians who performed at the celebratory concert