Students Share Creative Passions at White & Gold

Sophomore Arnav Bokil performed Scientist by Coldplay accompanied by Ellen Hawkins on piano.
Sophomore Arnav Bokil performed ‘Scientist’ by Coldplay accompanied by Ellen Hawkins on piano.
Amy Zhou

White & Gold was held on April 16 and showcased students’ unique artistic talents through captivating performances and an art gallery. 

Despite the hour of entertainment White & Gold offered, it was poorly attended. This seems to be an unfortunate trend in the last few years since the pandemic brought a halt to the show. 

The stage was adorned with golden stars falling from the dark blue background. 

Organizer Amy Schulte described it as an attractive complement to the performances, albeit minimalistic. 

“We tried to make the performers the ‘stars’ of the show and kept costs as low as possible. We were excited about how the stage looked,” she stated in an email. 

The show opened with a flute performance by junior Jessie Gao. 

Gao has been a flutist for over a decade. 

“I have been playing the flute for more of my life than I haven’t,” she said. “It’s hard to say how it’s affected me because it’s such a profound part of me.” 

Gao performed ‘Cantabile et Presto’ by George Enescu, a renowned Romanian composition written in 1904, which she had been working on since the beginning of the academic year. This piece is distinguished by its challenging tempos, intricate technical passages and deeply emotive melody. It was often used as a test piece for flute students at the Paris Conservatoire in the 20th century. 

Gao’s rendition of the piece was seamless, well-rehearsed and passionate. 

She appreciates the encouragement she received from others involved in the show. 

“The other performers were beyond supportive, and the rehearsals were relaxed,” she said. “If you’re thinking about performing, I would say go for it.”

In addition to playing for the BHS band, Gao is also a part of the Cleveland Youth Wind Symphony, which frequently performs internationally. 

In the next performance, senior Alexander Johnson, sang ‘Numb Little Bug,’ by songwriter Em Beihold. 

BHS parent and audience member Xiaoxu Yuan appreciated the cultural and philosophical significance of this selection. 

“It was a meaningful and expressive reflection from the current generation about the cascading impact of societal changes on personal growth, character development, and mental health,” she wrote in an email.

Junior Noah Isaacson wowed the audience with his solo Gretsch Streamliner Cateye guitar performance of the piece ‘Rain’ by Rob Scallon. Scallon is one of Isaacson’s favorite composers. 

“‘Rain’ is a wonderful talent show song because it strikes the balance between being enjoyable to listen to but still challenging to play,” he said. 

Isaacson began playing just five years ago at a summer camp. On April 16, he also played for the BHS jazz band concert. 

Isaacson’s next song was a collaboration with junior Rachel Kantarovich. They delivered a flawlessly coordinated recital of Taylor Swift’s ‘Dear John.’

Isaacson’s accompaniment beautifully complimented the poignancy in Kantarovich’s voice and her exceptional interpretation of the lyrics’ emotional undertone. 

Katarovich then did a solo performance of Taylor Swift’s ‘Champagne Problems,’ in which she accompanied herself on the piano. 

Her performance displayed a dynamic range, and the audience responded, waving their flashlights and applauding with a standing ovation.

Kantarovich has been participating in White and Gold since her freshman year. Last year she was a part of the high school’s celebrated teacher-student band, Rachel K and the Four, including social studies teacher John Perse on harmonica, English teacher Todd Butler on guitar, choir teacher Darlene Haight on keyboard and student Arianna Rose on drums. 

She began singing when she was three years old. 

“Singing is something I can always turn to whether it’s to cherish or to cope,” she said. “It’s really taught me to believe in myself and showed me that if you can’t hit a note or sing a song, that doesn’t mean you never will. You can always work toward it and challenge yourself.” 

For theater productions or talent shows, Kantarovich hopes the audience recognizes what it takes to bring creative visions to life. 

“It’s not the performance or the applause itself but rather everything behind it — the community, the dedication, and the diligence,” she said. “It’s because of that that you grow confidence and are able to trust others as well as yourself.”

Junior Chengyu Li performed Cello Concerto No. 1 by Camille Saint-Saëns, which is almost twenty minutes long. This piece is unconventional because it is one continuous movement rather than the traditional three-movement concerto form. 

Li described the emotional trajectory of the piece. 

“The dramatic opening of the minor key is tumultuous; it is almost as if you have to try to find yourself amidst the chaos,” she said. “The fast triplets get higher and higher. This can be analogized to a spiral of self doubt. Then, the piece becomes playful, which is representative of self-exploration. Finally, by the end, the deep, calming rhythm is indicative of finding self-discipline.” 

Li learned and practiced this piece her freshman year, and because it quickly emerged as one of her favorites, she wanted to share it with her peers. 

Her intonation and her emotional expression were a testament to her years of practice. Li began playing six years ago, and has since channeled her talent in numerous professional avenues. 

In 2019, when she was in sixth grade, Li was a part of the Cleveland Pops Youth Orchestra. 

This year she joined the OMEA All State Orchestra and the OMEA NorthEast Region Orchestra (NERO). 

In addition, she has been a member of the nationally-renowned Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra (COYO) since 2022. Li auditioned for COYO with no prior orchestra experience aside from private lessons. Nonetheless, in her first year she ascended to principal cellist and this year is the assistant principal cellist. 

Her music journey has been instrumental in shaping her world view. 

“There’s so many different renditions of a single piece that can be played,” she said. “Similarly, there are so many perspectives [on any given] situation. This is just one of the many poetic, metaphorical and even literal lessons of music that seeps into my life, and it’s deeply tied to empathy and compassion.”

Through her performance, Li hoped to do justice to the structural and sound capacities of the cello. 

“I wanted to spotlight the individuality of [the cello] through Concerto No. 1 in A minor,” she said. “This piece has incredible ranges. It goes three octaves up in the treble clef and hits the lowest possible note a cello can in bass clef. It really shows the unique voice of the cello.” 

This is a field in a high school where you don’t get something tangible like a medal for the work you put in, so it might not be as attractive. Also, people may be hesitant to pursue their passion because they feel they must reach the best existing version, but I think the true essence of art is experimentation.

— Junior Chengyu Li

Sophomore Arnav Bokil sang in front of an audience for the first time, performing “Scientist” by Coldplay while sophomore Ellen Hawkins accompanied him on the piano. 

Schulte described that the moment his audition began, his incredible voice gave her goosebumps. 

Sophomore Charlotte Doughty felt the same. 

“I absolutely couldn’t believe it was Arnav, especially because it was his first time performing, and I am super proud and happy of both of them,” she said. 

Junior Eliana Worku concurred. 

“Arnav and Ellen’s performance was so captivating and moving. I’m stunned by the often overlooked and underappreciated talent of BHS’s students. I am so glad I was able to support and encourage my friends by showing up,” she wrote in an email. 

One surprise performance was by senior Probir Mukherjee, who joined the show at the last minute to perform a mashup of songs on his guitar, the Epiphone SG. 

Mukherjee performed in White and Gold his sophomore year, but decided to perform again this year. 

“Because it’s senior year, I wanted to end [the year] off by performing one more time before I graduate,” Mukherjee said. 

Mukherjee played the guitar for eight years and wanted to show the audience the range of styles that could be played on a guitar. 

 “A lot of people didn’t even know I played the guitar,” Mukherjee said. “Getting to show the videos and performing for them was a fun surprise and definitely the most rewarding part.” 

The night closed with a musical performance by sophomores Vega Craig and Sasha Kheyfets, juniors Ezrin Katz-Saltzman and Chengyu Li and senior Nishan Shrestha who performed ‘The Schuyler Sisters’ from Hamilton.

“I wanted an opportunity to do something for the school with my friends that was related to music,” Kheyfets said. 

Despite what their animated performance may suggest, Kheyfets said that the rehearsal process was not as demanding as some people may think. 

“We only had to practice a couple times, and that really fit into our busy school schedules,” she said. 

Kheyfets hopes that by alleviating the pressure of making a perfect performance, students may feel more incentivized to participate in the show. After all, the priority is to have fun and make great memories with friends. 

It’s not the performance or the applause itself but rather everything behind it — the community, the dedication, and the diligence. It’s because of that that you grow confidence and are able to trust others as well as yourself.

— Junior Rachel Kantarovich

The most rewarding part of the night for Kheyfets and fellow students was sharing their talents in hopes of inspiring others. 

“It felt really good to be around all these people who I just love being around, while all being cheered for at the same time,” she said. 

Many students enjoy White & Gold as an opportunity to demonstrate hidden artistic talents that others may not know about. 

Low attendance made some participants feel demoralized, but Li feels that art can be its own reward.

“This is a field in a high school where you don’t get something tangible like a medal for the work you put in, so it might not be as attractive,” Li said. “Also, people may be hesitant to pursue their passion because they feel they must reach the best existing version, but I think the true essence of art is experimentation.” 

She suggests that the influence of artificial intelligence also impacts how people perceive the arts. 

“With the development of open AI and generative AI, many are discouraged to pursue art because of the limited perceived job opportunities,” she said. “But, I think we need to keep at it because music and art are the embodiment of creativity, and more importantly, what it means to be human,” she added. 

Kantarovich reflected on limited curricular opportunities for acting and theater. 

“Having different classes for acting, public speaking, theater and poetry is so crucial for advancing skills applicable to the industry,” she said. “BHS used to have some of these classes in the past, and I think they are beneficial to students interested in different career paths, too. A lack of off-season theater and music activity is really isolating for many of us.” 

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    Alexander JohnsonMay 20, 2024 at 9:43 PM

    Imagine having a mental breakdown on stage and only getting a single sentence

  • A

    Amy SchulteMay 20, 2024 at 7:40 AM

    Excellent Article! Through your article I was able to relive this wonderful experience. Thank you!!!