Christmas Wishes for Our Troops

On Wednesday, December 5, Oakcrest students wrote a total of 162 Christmas cards to U.S. soldiers deployed to foreign countries!  The entire school participated in sending holiday cheer to our service men.  All of the cards were sent to the Red Cross today, so that they could be mailed to the soldiers on time for Christmas.  Special thanks to Oakcrest mom, Mrs. Dort, for organizing this service project.  Thank you for supporting our troops!

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Holiday Magic: Oakcrest Chorus to Perform with McLean Orchestra

Immerse in the magic of the holidays with the McLean Orchestra, once again joined by the Oakcrest School Girls’ Chorus. Revel in the joy and solemnity of the season and bring your best voice to join in on our traditional holiday sing-along which will include the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s beloved Messiah. As always we offer free parking and our popular post-concert cake and champagne reception, open to all.

McLean Orchestra flyer

Saturday, December 8, 2012  8:00 p.m. Sunday, December 9, 2012  3:00 p.m.

Oakcrest School – 850 Balls Hill Rd. McLean, VA

For more information and to purchase tickets, click HERE.

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Jeanne Monahan, President of the March for Life, Speaks on the Role of Young People in the Culture of Life

By Laura C., Student Writer

Jeanne Monahan has considerable experience in the public eye for the pro-life cause; however her speech to Oakcrest students on October 26 addressed the role of ordinary, young people in building up the Culture of Life.  Formerly the director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council, Ms. Monahan steps into Nellie Gray’s shoes as the new President of the March for Life.

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To begin, Ms. Monahan gave an overview of abortion in the United States.  She pointed out that, after Roe v. Wade, it has been said that abortion is “safe, legal, and rare.”  In reality, abortion is not safe, legal, or rare.  Monahan asserted that, besides the killing of innocent life, abortion has resulted in hundreds of maternal deaths in the United States alone.  Side effects are not only physically painful and dangerous, but psychologically harmful as well.  Abortion may be legal, but the United States has more relaxed regulations for abortion clinics than any other country.  Lastly, abortion is simply not rare: about 55 million babies have been aborted since 1973.

Ms. Monahan challenged us to contribute to the growing Culture of Life.  She related inspirational stories, like the invention of mobile ultrasounds.  When stationed outside abortion clinics, it changed the minds of so many women seeking abortion that eventually the clinics shut down.  Another story was of two kids in Michigan who fundraised to buy billboards along country highways, and who received calls from women who had changed their minds about abortion from seeing those billboards.  With these examples, Ms. Monahan encouraged us to become active pro-life advocates.

Besides increasing our involvement, Ms. Monahan urged us to search for our vocations and to grow in virtue.  Whether or not we enter the public square, she assured us that living life according to God’s plan will be the most exciting adventure we could ever dream for.  To illustrate this, she presented the moving story of Pope John Paul II’s visit to communist-controlled Poland.  Thousands of people responded to his words with thunderous chanting: “We want God!”  Thus, one man’s courage sparked the fall of communism.  Ms. Monahan told of another modern spiritual giant: Immaculée Ilibagiza.  After hiding in a bathroom with seven other women for three months during the Rwanda genocide, Immaculée wrote Left to Tell, and even today she speaks about how she found a way to forgive the people who killed her family.  These stories show that even if we face threats from the government or from the culture, we can do great things through courage, forgiveness, and trust in Our Lord.

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At the conclusion of Ms. Monahan’s engaging talk, students and faculty asked several important and insightful questions.  Ms. Nussio asked Ms. Monahan about her vision for the March for Life going forward, and Ms. Monahan answered saying that a major area she would like to focus on is influencing policy in Washington D.C.

We are so grateful for the valuable lessons and stories Ms. Monahan shared with us.  Now it is up to us, we who are called the most pro-life generation, to live our vocations, grow closer to God, and witness openly to the dignity of every human person.

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Oakcrest Cappie Publishes in Washington Post

Frequent murders and hilarious hi-jinks pervade Bishop Ireton’s musical comedy, ‘Something’s Afoot’

The Washington Post, November 26, 2012

All reviews are written by Cappies student critics and edited by Cappies adult mentors prior to publishing.  Access online HERE.

Sophie Buono, a student at Oakcrest School, reviews “Something’s Afoot” performed by Bishop Ireton High School as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program.

Photo by Catherine Schreiber

An old mansion, an unlikely mix of guests, and the unexplained death of a host seem to form a recipe for suspense and screams.  However, these elements actually make up the lively and comical musical “Something’s Afoot,” Bishop Ireton’s recent production.

“Something’s Afoot” was written by James McDonald, David Vos, and Robert Gerlach, with additional music by Ed Linderman.  It became a dinner theater favorite after its 1976 showing on Broadway.  The story, which pokes fun at Agatha Christie’s murder mystery “And Then There Were None,” begins with the arrival of six guests at the Lord Dudley Rancour’s mansion.  Unfortunately, the guests quickly discover that their host has been murdered, and as one person after another mysteriously dies, suspicions heighten.  While the guests and servants of the house hunt for answers, they face personal encounters with each other.  All the while, the show exaggerates the shock of murder, the uncertainty of finding a culprit, the wittiness of a detective, and the spontaneity of love in order to add spicy humor to the story.

Bishop Ireton’s production of “Something’s Afoot” shone with impressive talent in multiple areas.  The cast as a whole sparked laughs through their body language, sharply performed in dramatic unison whenever something suspicious occurred.  The choreography, though simple, captivated the audience through each character’s enthusiasm and almost consistently spot-on timing.  In spite of a few microphone issues, the cast’s diction carried through quite smoothly, and most of them engaged strikingly accurate accents.

Miss Tweed (Sarah Moffit), the sprightly and witty old lady, performed with particular confidence and ease.  Each of her mannerisms, from her hunched walk to her wily facial expressions captivated the audience, making her death both hilarious and sad to see that such an entertaining character had to die.  The tender-hearted Hope Langdon (Brenna Carroll) also livened up the stage with her brightly optimistic face and melodious voice that made singing high notes seem like a walk in the park.  Her heartfelt yet juvenile relationship with the spirited Geoffrey (Joey Ledonio) both touched and tickled the audience.

Other characters shone despite shorter stage time.  Lady Grace Manley-Prowe (Kaitlin Hamer) displayed strong vocal talent in her solo “The Man with the Ginger Mustache.”  Servants Lettie (Catherine Schreiber) and Flint (Joseph Green) grasped their cockney personas and ran with them, shown in their accents, attitudes, and comical song “Dinghy.”  While some characters sang a bit weakly in the upper register, their skillful expression drew significant attention.

The set of “Something’s Afoot” wowed the audience from the moment the curtain opened.  The two levels, complete with stairs, decorative paintings, and several functioning doors, portrayed Lord Rancour’s mansion with astounding realism and beauty.  The costumes, almost all student-made, from hats to shoes, drew the reader into the 1930s time period. The special effects, timed precisely, included amusing and surprising elements such as smoky explosions and poisonous gas clouds.

From beginning to end, Bishop Ireton’s “Something’s Afoot” flipped Agatha Christie stories upside down with dexterity, and so brought several audience members to their feet at the curtain call.

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Oakcrest Music Program Featured in Connection Newspaper

An Instrumental Program at Oakcrest School: McLean independent girls’ school enjoys its musical reputation

By Lori Baker, Connection Newspapers, November 5, 2012

The sixth grade chorus class, including students Kiley Hatch, Maddy Conroy, Lily James, Julia Cipollone, Emma Pelletier, Caroline Dauchess and Grace Talbott, practice one of their more challenging pieces, Laudate Dominum.

Photo by Lori Baker: The sixth grade chorus class, including students Kiley Hatch, Maddy Conroy, Lily James, Julia Cipollone, Emma Pelletier, Caroline Dauchess and Grace Talbott, practice one of their more challenging pieces, Laudate Dominum.

When music teacher Anne Miller came to Oakcrest School 11 years ago, there was no formal music program. The small Catholic girls school in McLean had no formal chorus, no band and no orchestra. So imagine her delight at the school’s current reputation.

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Photo by Lori Baker: Sixth grade students Maddy Conroy and Lily James.

“It’s been said that it’s become a singing school,” Miller said. “Which I think is beautiful,” she added. Miller said the girls are constantly singing in the halls. They leave class singing.

As director of the school’s music program, she built the program from the ground up.

The program started slowly. Middle school girls, grades sixth through eighth began with chorus. A music appreciation course was soon added. “They develop an understanding of the great classics as well, and some of them might come in thinking I don’t want to learn this music,” said Miller. “But invariably they leave saying, ‘wow, I want to keep listening and going to concerts.’”

Though the school historically produced one show per year, Miller is proud that the girls now put on Broadway musicals, and present musical shows throughout the year. In fact, last year’s Seussical production resulted in four Cappie award nominations for the school. Miller said that could not have been done without Oakcrest Theater Director Jessica Carey.

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Photo by Lori Baker: Oakcrest School’s music team, Joanna Iwaskiw, Anne Miller and Elizabeth Black.

“I have never liked music class,” said sixth grader, Caroline Dauchess. “But I like this music class. It’s fun. We learn all these songs, like staccato.” At the mention of the word, the students spontaneously belted out staccato demonstrations, which were quickly followed by giggles.

EACH CHORUS CLASS begins with a series of warm-ups, also cause for stifled giggles. The warm-ups feature a wide variety of stretches for not just the vocal chords, but for posture as well. “I think we learned a lot of cool techniques that help us sing a lot better,” said sixth grader, Maddy Conroy. “It’s a lot of fun. It’s cool learning all of these songs that you never thought would exist.”

Depending on the time of day, music of another sort can be heard coming from the school’s auditorium. Students with flutes, cellos, violins and oboes were spread throughout the room, focused on individual practice sessions.

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Photo by Lori Baker: Sixth grade cellist, Skye Hartsoe, learns a new piece on her brand new cello.

On one recent October morning, they were just given a new piece of music to learn. Oakcrest Instrumental Music Director Joanna Iwaskiw moved throughout the room, individually coaching each student. Iwaskiw was hired just this year to get the school’s new instrumentals program off the ground. Many of the students had previously played instruments, and Miller encouraged them to stick with those instruments until the school’s instrumentals program could begin. The students have greeted the new program with enthusiasm.

Iwaskiw enjoys seeing what the children learn. And it’s more than just music. “It is a place where the students really express themselves. Their character is very much shown while singing and playing music. And I’ve noticed also the girls’ really hard work ethic, which is lovely to have.”

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Photo by Lori Baker: Oakcrest violin students, Julka Syska and Sofia Summitt, at a recent practice session.

“I love music,” said Summitt. “It’s fun to listen to, and also it gives you a pleasure to play it for people,” added Syska.

THE GIRLS are beginning to prepare for a Christmas concert on Dec. 17. And Miller is pleased that the upper school chorus has been invited to sing for a third year with the McLean Orchestra, on Dec. 8 and 9, at Oakcrest. Both concerts are open to the public.

Miller said she is proud of the students, and the school’s music program. “I am very happy to be able to give the students the opportunity to learn music, to express their creativity, to experience the beauty of music,” she said.

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Oakcrest Respect Life Club Attends Vitae Anniversary Dinner

By Laura C., Student Writer

On Saturday, October 27, Oakcrest teacher and alumna parent Mrs. Bell treated the officers of the Respect Life Club (Laura C., Maria K., and Giorgina A.) to seats at the Vitae Foundation’s 20th Anniversary Dinner.  Mrs. Agostini, Mrs. Kehrli, and Ms. Lecuyer were also guests at the table.  Our table was surrounded by many familiar people from Oakcrest and from their parishes.  We even saw Jeanne Monahan, the new President of the March for Life who spoke to Oakcrest just the day before!

The Vitae Foundation was established in 1992 by Carl Landwehr.  Vitae’s mission is to use mass media to eventually make abortion “unthinkable.”  Vitae promotes the culture of life by using bus ads, TV commercials, radio, and Internet sites.  For example, www.GravityTeen.com was launched to help build teen confidence and ability to face peer pressure, unplanned pregnancy, and other problems.  Young women who may be pregnant and are looking for a place of comfort can go to www.YourOptions.com to read stories of other women’s choices.

The goal of Vitae is to convince abortion-minded women to choose life by appealing to human compassion and other similar sentiments.  This unique method of “right brain” motivation has yielded incredible results: in New York City, Vitae’s 2009 campaigns saved an estimated 1,323 babies from abortion.  Internet advertising in Los Angeles and Dallas/Fort Worth increased visits to www.YourOptions.com by over 66,000.  A DC bus campaign generated at least 2,300 calls to the Pregnancy Centers in the metro area, and saved an estimated 150 babies.  Vitae’s Atlanta billboard campaign generated nearly 2,000 calls to the local Pregnancy Centers.  These are just a few of the fruits of Vitae’s work over one year.

At the dinner, the Keynote Speaker was national pro-life figure Jill Stanek.  She told her story of being a nurse in the Labor & Delivery Department at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Illinois.  She discovered that the hospital provides abortions, and not only that, but that the method of abortion is to force the baby to be born prematurely and leave the baby to die.  She related many tragic stories.  Jill Stanek fought from the inside, publicized Christ Hospital’s practices, and testified before Congress to pass the Born Alive Infant Protection Act.  She was eventually fired from Christ Hospital and now speaks openly about the horrors of abortion.  At the end of her speech she received a standing ovation from the immensely grateful crowd.

The night’s stories were a mix of tragedy and success, and everyone in the room was charged with the mission of defending life with increased vigor.  We have faith that with God’s help we can restore the culture of life.  As Jill Stanek said, “One + God = the majority.”  Many thanks to Mrs. Bell for her invitation, and many thanks to Vitae for its abundant contributions to promoting the culture of life through their pro-life efforts.

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Oakcrest Families Provide Hurricane Sandy Relief

On Tuesday, November 6, Oakcrest parents and students donated much-needed items for those affected by Hurricane Sandy.  Students, parents and family members collected items donated from the entire Oakcrest community and brought them to the House of Mercy on Tuesday for next-day transport to New Jersey.  There were two and a half van-loads of donated items, including dry and canned food, water, toiletries, toilet paper, towels, batteries, flashlights, clothing, blankets, shoes, baby items and more.   Special thanks to Danielle Jones, Pam Morrison and the 7th grade parents for organizing this service project.  Oakcrest is happy to help those in need, and we continue to extend our prayers to the hurricane victims.

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