Category Archives: Alumni

All-school ‘Seussical’ a District Who’s Who

Adam Hallenbeck as a beleaguered, true-blue Horton the Elephant. He’s got his hands full with bird girls, the Jungle of Nool citizens, cadets, and Circus McGurkus, and of course the spirited Wickersham Brothers.
Adam Hallenbeck as a beleaguered, true-blue Horton the Elephant. He’s got his hands full with bird girls, the Jungle of Nool citizens, cadets, and Circus McGurkus, and of course the spirited Wickersham Brothers.

MOHAWK—Amar Abbatiello is the Cat in the Hat and Laura Purington is Gertrude McFuzz in Mohawk Trail Regional High School’s “Seussical the Musical,” the dazzling show by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty based on several of the books of Theodor Seuss Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss.

More than 85 students from grades 5 through 12 joined in the fun on stage March 6-8, and members of the Mohawk Concert Band performed alongside professional musicians.

Even the set was an all-school production, with digital, Seuss-like dreamscapes projected behind the players. Costuming, lighting, sound, choreography, and makeup and hair shone as stars in their own right.

Concessions were staffed by the Mohawk Music Association and parents. David Fried’s photographs of dress rehearsals are for sale as an MMA fundraiser.

Each performance sold out. This was a a smash hit.

Director was Shelley Roberts. Assistant director was Eva Otten. Music director was Scott Halligan.

And the elementary school liaison, who shuttled hither and yon and made Whoville happen with grace and cheer? That was Gina Glover.

Gina Glover Seussical
Elementary School Liaison Gina Glover corrals dozens of kids from across the district March 6 during the all-school production of ‘Seussical.’

“It gets them excited.
‘This is what I can do…’ ”

WE CAUGHT UP with middle school music teacher Gina Glover on opening night of “Seussical,” just after her charges — the Whos of Whoville (upper grades from the district’s elementary schools) had finished their first number to tremendous applause and swirled into the school cafeteria.

Glover — elementary school liaison for the Mohawk Music Association — managed the sea of energetic performers with a cheerful, crackling efficiency.

The next day we asked Glover to tell us what she and the kids are tackling next and what’s valuable to the community in seeing greater collaboration in the arts among the elementary schools and Mohawk…

GLOVER: We try to make a lot of connections with all of our schools in the district. April 30 we have our annual Kids in Concert event. This is a culmination of the year’s work — all our kids’ work. I collaborate with Joan Fitzgerald, who is another elementary music teacher, and Sandy Carter. We each teach general music, chorus, and elementary band in our own schools. We combine chorus students and band students in grades 4-6, and have two rehearsals and a concert. We pull it all together with 125-plus band students on stage and 80 to 100 chorus students.

We also have our Heath string program, led by David Haskell. They perform as well. In the elementary school world, that concert is the next big thing coming up. It’s huge.

FLOW: What’s the benefit to these younger kids in working on these larger, all-school productions?

GLOVER: It’s a huge benefit. They get an immediate connection to the school. The majority of them will be coming to this school. The connection that these guys have with me being the middle school music teacher, they know me coming in. I’m a known quantity. It’s welcoming. It helps with the transition.

And it helps with retention, definitely. I have about 40 kids in my chorus between seventh and eighth grade, and about 30 in the band. There were some years in my band I only had, like, 15 kids, and even 20-25 kids in the chorus. This works.

And it gets them excited. They say, “This is what I can do when I get to Mohawk…” In [2014’s] “The Wizard of Oz” they were in two scenes. They get to see, “Well, there are seventh-graders on stage, so when I’m in seventh grade I can have maybe a larger role, and then when I get to high school I can have this really big role.” They can see this natural progression.

FLOW: And the benefit to the older students?

GLOVER: I think the older kids take the younger kids under their wing. I think they like to be an inspiration for them as well.

FLOW: Is this a formal plan? Are we going to have a K-12 music department?

GLOVER: That’s our goal: to have it streamlined K-12, and I think we have a fabulous group of teachers who really want to work together to see this come to fruition. And Mr. [Scott] Halligan at the high school is doing his thing — we’re banding together and seeing what we can do to help each other out and make the department even stronger than it’s become.

Another outreach we do, Scott Halligan and I, at the end of the year we team up and take both of our ensembles and tour the elementary schools and have performances. It’s a great way for the kids to see what we do and to see what their next step is as musicians.

For more information, visit mohawkmusicassociation.org.


RELATED: Amar Abbatiello: ‘Singing and dancing is always good for any kid’

Sixth-grade families get the scoop at Mohawk’s first ice cream social

Top: BSE kids Gavin Crehan and Matthew Herron play “People Bingo.” Above: PBL teacher Samantha Lydiard and ELA teacher Leanne Blaszak serve ice cream. “We’re having a great time,” Blaszak said. Then she corrected herself: “We’re having a ‘sweet’ time.” Center: Carlito Hernandez is considering Mohawk. Right: Sage Spitzer is a yes.
Top: BSE kids Gavin Crehan and Matthew Herron play “People Bingo.” Above: PBL teacher Samantha Lydiard and ELA teacher Leanne Blaszak serve ice cream. “We’re having a great time,” Blaszak said. Then she corrected herself: “We’re having a ‘sweet’ time.” Center: Carlito Hernandez is considering Mohawk. Right: Sage Spitzer is a yes.

MOHAWK—Families flowed in from BSE, Colrain Elementary, Sanderson Academy, Rowe Elementary, and Heath Elementary. One hundred fifty people mingling and on a quest.

“Do you like to dance? Do you play a musical instrument? Do you have more than five cousins? Do you speak another language?”
The game was “People Bingo,” and there were two versions: One for students and one for parents. Yellow and pink handouts gave 25 “icebreaker” topics each, and they got people talking.

(For parents: “Do you still have your Christmas lights up? Have you watched ‘Goonies’ more than five times? Did you attend Mohawk?”)
There was ice cream too, and plenty of it — Bart’s — with a rich variety of bring-your-own sundae toppings: sprinkles and Gummi Bears and hot fudge, of course.

Sean Conlon looks on as Mohawk Principal Lynn Dole introduces the ice cream social event plan at a recent School Committee meeting.
Sean Conlon looks on as Mohawk Principal Lynn Dole introduces the ice cream social event plan at a recent School Committee meeting.

And so went Mohawk’s first-ever ice cream social Jan. 29, an evening in the cafeteria just for the district’s sixth-graders and their families to meet each other and Mohawk’s family of seventh-grade instructors and students.

It was the first in what Mohawk Principal Lynn Dole described as a series of activities meant to show families all the ways they can be part of the Mohawk community.

“On March 3 we’ll have the more formal, ‘This is what you learn in seventh grade’ orientation, with questions and answers. Then ‘Seussical: The Musical,’ our all-school musical that will be staged on March 6, 7, and 8, where a lot of these fifth- and sixth-graders are starring, which is very exciting.”

At the end of May, Dole said, is the traditional Step-Up Day, which will be full of activities.

The ice cream social, she said, was for that first social connection, “getting to know other families of sixth graders who will become seventh graders; where they’re coming from small schools to what can seem like a big school but just what is really just a bigger community.”

Afterward, there were free tickets to the varsity basketball game taking place that night: Mahar visiting.

Dole said the social was the vision of Mohawk seventh-grade social studies teacher Sean Conlon, ELA teacher Leanne Blaszak, special educators Julia Lignori and Dianne Cerone, science teacher Jeff Johansmeyer, PBL teacher Samantha Lydiard, and math teacher Alyson Patch, all of whom, she said, “go above and beyond to build bridges between our elementary schools and our middle school.”

And the evening was a hit with families. Many alumni parents said they were delighted with this new effort. Other families said Mohawk had made an amazing first impression and was strongly in the mix.

Sage Spitzer, from Sanderson Academy, making her way down the ice cream line with friends, said she’s definitely going to attend Mohawk.

“This is fun. I’m looking forward to it,” she said.


— John Snyder, words and photos.

Kwanzaa for a principled life, with gifts

Kwanzaa-Tradition
BSE and Mohawk alumna Rhonda Stowell Lewis with kids Iris and Isaiah. Kwanzaa is about principles, she says.

RHONDA STOWELL LEWIS is a BSE alumna and 1989 Mohawk grad, Today she’s the principal of Hiram L. Dorman Elementary School, in Springfield’s Pine Point section.

She tells the Flow how she and her family celebrate Kwanzaa, which celebrates African heritage, runs Dec. 26-31, and culminates in a feast.

The holiday revolves around seven important principles called Nguzo Saba: They are umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity), and imani (faith).

“We celebrate Kwanzaa every year. We have the candle holder, kinara, and the seven candles. There are three green, three red, and one black in the middle,” Lewis explains.

“We have a friend who I taught with for six years who provides us with our gifts. She brings us a basket with seven gifts wrapped up. We read our book, one principle a night, and discuss what it means and how we can follow it during the year.”

Then they open a gift.

“The kids take turns opening the gifts, which of course is their favorite part,” Lewis tells the Flow.

If you wanted to say something cheery to someone who celebrates Kwanzaa, the holiday greeting is “Joyous Kwanzaa.”


BSE Flow staff, with appreciation to Amy Roberts-Crawford for introducing us to her classmate and pal Rhonda.

Charlemont’s Holly May Brown is going places!

“Go Big or Go Home” hit national and international radio this summer. A national and international tour is introducing Holly May to the world.
“Go Big or Go Home” hit national and international radio this summer. A national and international tour is introducing Holly May to the world.

CHARLEMONT—Holly May Brown started playing music when she was 3 years old. The first song she wrote by herself was “Tonight,” a love song.

Now she’s 17, a senior at Mohawk Trail Regional High School, and is becoming a country and pop music star. We spoke with her at Brooke’s church, West County Baptist, in Charlemont, where she was playing a benefit concert.

Holly got her start performing around Shelburne Falls and Vermont, and will be playing in New Jersey and Tennessee. She is also going to be touring Europe for two weeks.

She has music videos for her songs, “I’ve Been on the Run” and “Go Big Or Go Home,” which has more than a million views on YouTube [adjust volume; link opens video].

She said she looks up to Carrie Underwood and Luke Bryan, who also sing country music.

She added that she does have stage fright but is getting over it.
When we saw her, somebody told her, “We need to buy you a new wardrobe,” because her pants were all ripped.

Trivia for her fans: she plays field hockey and rides horses; her favorite color is baby blue; she used to play flute and clarinet; and she is not double-jointed.

“It has always been my dream to sing and perform,” Holly said, “ I can’t wait to see where it takes me.”


— By Brooke Looman and Joy Bohonowicz.

Una Jensen, BSE ‘08, in tune with her dream

“I write because it feels amazing to sit down and put together something that makes you, or someone else, feel a certain way,” says BSE graduate Una Jensen, now 17. // Photo: Highlight Magazine
“I write because it feels amazing to sit down and put together something that makes you, or someone else, feel a certain way,” says BSE graduate Una Jensen, now 17. // Photo: Highlight Magazine

AT 6, many girls have on their Christmas lists Barbie dolls and other toys. Una Jensen wanted a guitar.

Having an excellent ear as a child, Una quickly learned the four basic chords and started putting vocal melodies to rhythm structures. She was turning out vocals and arrangements far beyond her years, and with only little training.

With strong support at home, the preteen began dominating local talent competitions. The first time Una took her gift to the public was an appearance at the local singing competition Valley Idol. She practiced hard on a few selections and pulled out a first-place victory.

Una tracked her first demo at age 12, and shortly after that caught the attention of top music producers, who invited her to Orlando, Fla., to co-write and record two more songs.

The collaboration was an eye-opener, she says.

“I write because it feels amazing to sit down and put together something that makes you, or someone else, feel a certain way,” she explains.

Una, who graduated BSE in 2008, is focused on her art. Now 17, and home-schooled in Shelburne, she’s eager for more. This BSE graduate isn’t done learning by a long shot.

“I want to record more and learn more about the process of recording. I want to collaborate. I want to be experienced. I want to know more about music in general,” she says.

Since her days as a student at BSE she’s gone on two national tours, met some of her musical heroes, and worked hard. She also remembers one of the first times she performed for an audience.
“It was right in the auditorium of BSE. I remember my days there like they were yesterday. And here I am, about to graduate from high school and on the verge of releasing my second single and music video,” she tells The BSE Flow.

“I still love visiting BSE and I’m proud to say I was a student there.”