Even with the first edition of The Edge in October, 1997, which featured the drama production of Waiting for Lefty, Gleneagle has always had a formidable reputation in the performing arts sector. Even the mention of “Gleneagle” leads to positive connotation within the arts, visual and performing.
Originally, drama was not even a course. It was an extracurricular acting group, run by Richard Dixon, who at the time was an English teacher.
Dixon largely preferred a theatre style that focused on the actor’s voices and actions with minimal distractions from props or backgrounds.
“I like the idea of simplicity,” said Dixon. “The students should be able to wear black clothes, perform on a black set and still be able to perform a good show. The good stuff, the real stuff is acting, right in their bodies and voices.”
Even though Dixon did direct the musicals Bye Bye Birdie and ‘57 Fairlane in May 1998 and 1999, the following ten years of his teaching time at Gleneagle used the black box style. Perhaps this might have been the reason at the time that the theatre was renamed “The Broken Wing Theatre”.
After Dixon retired in 2008, Ashley Freeborn became the new drama teacher. While Dixon preferred simplicity, Freeborn preferred grander theatre productions with increasingly bigger sets, more costumes, and even special effects.
With productions like The Wizard of Oz in 2011 and Seussical the Musical in 2012, the department showed off with bright handmade props and movie-inspired costumes.
“It’s been so much fun because everything is so colourful and bright and you can really use your imagination to create all of the props,” commented Freeborn on Seussical the Musical.
Freeborn tackled a period musical with Thoroughly Modern Millie and a jukebox musical with Footloose before turning to fantastical musicals with Shrek and then preparing to do Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
However, In 2015, Freeborn left Gleneagle due to health reasons and Amy Clausen stepped in to complete Beauty and the Beast.
While Freeborn was known for her large extravagant productions, when Clausen was able to choose her next musical she opted for the traditional musical Guys and Dolls. She then followed up with choosing Sister Act for this year.
Much like her predecessor who had to leave for medical reason, Clausen herself is now on maternity leave and Zelda Coertze is now running the drama program. With professional experience, she will be adding to Gleneagle’s illustrious reputation.
This year, the drama department is gearing up for MetFest with The 146 Point Flame by Matt Thompson and also the musical Sister Act due in May.
Just like the drama department, the music department also has an amazing reputation right from the beginning.
The music department back in 1998 had Brent Hughes and Evan Bueckert teaching.
Their course offerings were slightly different, offering Music Composition which allowed novice students to create their own music which was then distributed on CDs. Courses such as vocal jazz did not even exist yet.
In May 1999, choir and grade 10-12 bands went for the first time to California.
They visited Disneyland and also got to go behind the scenes and be treated like professionals. To have this opportunity, the department sent in audition tapes.
“The trip is going to be like no other trip the band or choir has ever taken,” said Hughes before the trip.
This was the first of three trips to Disneyland, the second in 1999 and the third in 2013.
In 2003, Bueckert left to teach in the Okanagan, followed by Hughes in 2008 who left for Charles Best.
Former Terry Fox teacher, Edward Trovato, then took over the program, along with having various other teachers offering guitar classes.
Band and vocal jazz won numerous awards from festivals such as the Kiwanis Music Festival and the Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival.
Highlights include a school-wide anthem writing contest in 2011. The contest titled “Defining Ourselves, Defining Our Purpose”, received three submissions.
The three submissions named “Talons Pride”, “Go Talons Go” and “Gleneagle Pride” went on to the voting stage. Yet, no winner was chosen.
In 2011, over 86 band, choir and vocal jazz students travelled for the first time to Cuba.
In addition to playing music while visiting two fine arts schools, the music department also donated medical, school, and music supplies.
The next trip to Cuba occurred in 2015 and another is underway for next year.
Last year, the entire music department traveled to Whistler to perform at the Con Brio Music Festival.
All ensembles practiced rigorously in preparation for this festival, and their hard work paid off.
Concert band received a gold award, and vocal jazz, concert choir, and jazz band all received silver awards.
“Whistler was a great experience,” commented Claire Moon, grade 11. “Even though it wasn’t competitive, we were still performing in front of judges, so it was quite exciting,” added Moon.
“Whistler was my first music festival that I’ve participated in alongside a band,” said Gregory Choi, grade 11. “It was a good first experience to play with so many other bands, and it brought into perspective the competitive yet fun aspect of playing music,” added Choi.
With concerts and events occurring frequently, the department once had a “music council” created by Trovato.
Formed in 2011 and just like student council, the music council dealt with the organization of concerts and events, but was eventually discontinued.
“I enjoy band because I’m able to show my love for music in a community of fellow music lovers,” said Amanda Ding, grade 9. “Music is a great way to alleviate the pressures of high school,” added Ding.
“Band is really enjoyable because [Trovato] really focuses on improving everyone involved,” said Han Sol Jin, grade 10.
Gleneagle’s music and drama departments are a prized and vital component of the school’s history. The performing arts department continues to carry on its 20-year-old legacy of being the best in the district.