My winter band concert

By Madeline Jackson

Today, I had my winter band concert. For the past four years, I’ve been in concert band, and all year, besides during the marching band season, we practice our music to prepare a concert in which the chorus, concert band and steel drums band performs in. 

I am only in concert band, so all year, I am practicing music that seems to get harder and harder as time goes on, but at the same time, it’s easier for me to play. I remember back in seventh grade, when I first joined high school band, I was afraid to play and especially afraid to perform. As time goes on, the anxiety of performing faded away until it’s barely anything, just a nagging emotion in the back of my mind, telling me that I am going to mess up.

One of my favorite parts of band, besides the music itself, is performing. When you perform, you finally get to show everything you worked on to an audience. No matter how many people you are performing with, or what role you play, part of it is yours, and you probably put a lot of effort and worry into that little part you have. Every part, no matter how small, is  important.

Like I mentioned, my favorite thing about band is the music. Even if you are not playing at that moment, you can just enjoy the music. When the sound  you  make with your instrument gets mixed in with others, it is all the more enjoyable. One thing I  learned is that after lots of practice, when you put it all together, it sounds amazing. One of my favorite parts of the concert season is the rehearsal before the concert, when we miss a period of class and practice in the gym where we perform, which is the first and last time before that night’s concert that the junior high and senior high classes get to play together.

This morning, I walked into school, and the first thing I noticed was everyone helping  set up. And, naturally, I joined them until it was all complete. The first thing I did when I entered the school again that night was get out my flute and wait to warm up. And the last thing I did before I went home was tell everyone that they did a good job, received hugs, accepted compliments and put away my instrument.

The day of the concert is possibly one of my favorite days throughout the school year.

The quest to find the Christmas spirit

By Julia Felton

“It is so cold!” I shiver in my coat as I rub my gloved hands together. My fur boots shuffle along the snowy sidewalk reluctantly. “I am going to freeze to death pretty soon,” I whine.

It happens every year, just like that.

My dad takes the family out in the cold every year to get into the Christmas spirit, no matter how cold it is or how much I complain about the frigid temperatures. There’s nothing that can stop him – not snow, not wind, not fingers numb from the cold. When my father begins his quest for the Christmas spirit, long about the last week of November, there is simply nothing that will stand in his way.

The journey towards holiday joy typically begins on Thanksgiving Day, when we get Christmas decorations out of our attic.  The Christmas festivities begin simply enough, with a fake pine tree in our living room, covered in lights and tinsel and every ornament imaginable. Our “exterior illumination,” as my overly festive father calls it, includes colorful Christmas lights on every tree and every bush, along with a light-up deer, a light-up Christmas pig and a white nativity. Our house turns overnight into a winter wonderland.

The next step in Christmas tradition is Christmas cookie baking – chocolate chip cookies, sugar cookies and gingerbread cookies, just to name a few. The kitchen counters will be lined with colorful icings, festive sprinkles and ingredients to basically every cookie you could imagine. By the end of the night, there’s flour on the floor and icing all over the kitchen table, but if it’s part of the Christmas festivities, it doesn’t matter how messy it gets, as long as it’s merry. Within a few hours, we’ll end up with a huge mess and more cookies than we could possibly eat.

On another night, the family crowds around the TV to watch the same Christmas movies we’ve watch every s year. Some of them, we can quote by heart  But, again, if it’s part of the search for the Christmas spirit, it is a mandatory family activity.

Many families would end their list of holiday traditions right about there. Not my family. We’re only getting started.

Every year, we take a trip to the Strip District in Pittsburgh. This is typically the part where I start complaining that it is incredibly cold and that I will freeze to death before Christmas can come. We walk down crowded, snow-covered sidewalks to purchase our annual Christmas biscotti. After a brief stop at the nearest Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts for a cup of hot chocolate or coffee to help our bodies thaw out, my family walks to PPG to look at their Christmas display. Then, we head down to the life-size Crèche. And after all of that, we head back to the car, where we blast the heat and Christmas carols all the way home.

Our family activities aren’t finished there, though. We typically make a trip to Oglebay and other light displays to drive through the decorated scenes. Sometimes, we’ll make a stop at Kennywood, which also decorates for the season. Plus, we always drive through random neighborhoods to see other families’ decorated and brightly lit yards.

And don’t forget about shopping! Around Christmas time, the malls are packed with people carrying shopping bags stuffed with gifts for friends and family. Every year, my family is one of those families rushing around in a bustling shopping mall in search of the ideal gifts for every relative.

Finally, Christmas Eve rolls around, and by that time, we’ve done enough Christmas activities to be in the Christmas spirit. But the Christmas festivities are not yet finished.

Every Christmas Eve, we have lunch at my grandparents’ house, complete with a desert of – as you probably could’ve guessed – homemade Christmas cookies. Then, we go off to Christmas Eve Mass. And from there, we go to dinner at the home of my grandparents on the other side of the family.

By this point in time, the entire family is exhausted from all the holly, jolly Christmas festivities.

Though some of the traditions might have resulted in numb fingertips or too many cookies or even entire weekends spent outside in the cold, it wouldn’t feel like Christmas without those traditions.

Even if they start a month early, each Christmas festivity is a little stop on the quest to the Christmas spirit. The Christmas spirit does not revolve simply around old Christmas movies or a string of lights on a fake tree in the living room or even the messy nights spent baking cookies. Certainly the Christmas spirit isn’t about trudging down icy sidewalks or slowly letting your fingers freeze in their gloves.

Yet, somehow, as my family and I go through these annual events, we get closer and closer to Christmas. Somewhere among all of these crazy festivities, we always succeed in the quest to find the Christmas spirit.

Music and madness

By Jenna Campbell

A giant crowd of people. Strangers. They all have their own stories,  lives, tastes and styles that you will most likely never know anything about. But in that moment, you don’t care.

Yes, you probably won’t see the majority of these people ever again, but you leave knowing you have something in common with each and every one of them.

How can that be when there are hundreds of people surrounding you?

Well, when you and those hundreds of people are standing together in a giant cluster, shoulder to shoulder, body to body, jumping up and down, stepping on one another, throwing up your hands and screaming at the top of your lungs in a wave of unison, you tend to feel a sense of unity with those strangers, and somehow, in some way, everyone is connected.

Okay, well maybe not everyone, but if you have ever been to a concert, you understand what I’m talking about.

So, I guess I should explain why exactly I’m talking about this. I suppose I’m a little excited because I attended a Say Anything concert Dec. 5, and there is  something thrilling about that thought.

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However, when I’ve mentioned to people where I’ll be Friday night, I was surprised to hear so many people say “I’ve never been to a concert,” and that’s the true reason why I felt compelled to write about what one is like. This will be my seventh concert (I’m an amateur concert-goer) in all and my third time seeing this band (which happens to be my favorite). I saw the band I’m going to see tomorrow perform over the summer, and that’s the concert experience I’m going to focus on now, mostly because it was truly unforgettable.

I’ll begin with the buildup. There is just something thrilling about going to see your favorite band live, and to most people, it’s a big deal. You anticipate the day your concert arrives from the moment you buy the tickets, and that could be months in advanced. That was me all summer waiting for the day I’m talking about. I just wanted it to be here, and when it finally was, it was so worth the wait. So, my brother, who bought me the tickets for my birthday, and I finally made it inside the venue, which was a smaller venue than usual. Our plan from the beginning was to somehow make it to the front by the time the main act came on.

So, we listened to the opening acts and slowly worked our way toward the stage. (There weren’t any seats in this venue, all standing.) At one point, the crowd started getting really excited with anticipation and this giant gap opened up. When it did, two girls darted forward into the gap and we followed them. When the main band finally came on stage, the entire crowd surged forward and “rushed the stage,” as it’s called, and my brother and I got pushed up even more. Which is where I must give a word of warning: if it is your first time at a concert, and you decide you want to be in the front of the pit, be prepared to get pushed…a lot.

Anyway, by the time a few songs were played, I found myself in the second row behind the people up against the barrier. Being that close to the stage is exhilarating. It’s where the true concert experience began.

I forgot about all the people around me, or how I was being pushed and even how sweaty I was getting because nothing else mattered. Maybe it sounds disgusting, but trust me, if this is your favorite band, you don’t care about anything except the music.

No matter how loud it is, you have to try to yell the lyrics louder – that’s your main goal.

If you do get as lucky as I did and get to touch the hand of your favorite musician or get a mic held out right in front of your face, it will feel like it didn’t even happen until after the show when everything sinks in. All I can remember is leaving the stage in absolute awe as to what I actually just happened.

It wasn’t until my car ride home when I realized how I didn’t have a voice, or how hot I was or how much I needed a drink, and even then, it was still worth it. I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.

In fact, I am.

Being in a place with your favorite band on stage live, surrounded by a whole bunch of people who love that band just as much as you do is an experience like no other. Somehow, in a weird way, it’s like you’re home, but maybe that’s just me. Nevertheless, you will get concert withdrawal the day or even a few minutes after the show ends, and that isn’t just me.

So, with that said, I’m going to end this, but before I do, let me say one more thing: If the opportunity arises where you can go to a concert, go. Trust me, you will not regret it. That, and beware of crowd surfers because a kick in the head is never fun.

‘The Blood of Olympus’ book review

By Amanda Reilly

“The Blood of Olympus” by Rick Riordan is the fifth and final installment in the “Heroes of Olympus” series.

WARNING: This book review contains spoilers!

The bad

First, I’m going to talk about the main things I disliked, kind of like giving the bad news before the good.

Let’s start with how rushed the book felt. Every other chapter, it was either the next day or three days later. I did read the book in three days,  so that could have been an issue, but people who read it in a few weeks said it felt rushed, as well.

Next, I want to talk about how out of character the characters seemed. Percy just grabbing Annabeth and making out with her in front of Piper then saying “I love you” … what? They never were a lovey couple. Also, did they seem to get over Tartarus a bit quickly or was that just me? The fact that Leo was mad at Percy for meeting Calypso? What was there to be mad about, besides nothing? Where was the huge sacrifice were were all expecting? I mean, Gaea awakened from Annabeth cutting her leg and Percy getting a nosebleed? Then, to lull her back to sleep, they just hold her down and have Piper tell her to go back to sleep. I’m pretty sure none of us expected that.

Okay, so the gods are going through a personality switch because of Greek and Roman, but then suddenly everything is fine and they fight side by side with their kids.

Lastly, Leo letting everyone thinking he is dead so he could be with Calypso. How did he find her exactly? We may never know.

The good

Now that my rant about the bad things is over, let’s get to the good stuff.

I loved that we got to know Reyna better, that we got to understand some things in her life that created her cold exterior. The relationship she now has with Nico after neither of them got close to others is perfect. Nico was always cold and isolated, then he sees Reyna upset and comforts her.

I loved the battle with Nike, goddess of victory. I mean, Hazel with her powers was epic. Leo getting over his anger and fighting with Percy instead of against him and Frank morphing into animal after animal was a good combination.

Also, Piper and Annabeth going off by themselves was great. We always see this tough side of Annabeth and Piper, but instead we got to see Annabeth break down and let her feelings out and Piper comforting her. Also, Piper taking charge and Annabeth holding back was an interesting switch in roles. Isn’t Athena always suppose to have a plan?

I loved Reyna getting her own battle. We get to see how powerful she truly is. She defeated Orion, with the help of the Athena Parthenos.

Lastly, Nico admitting to Percy that he had a crush on him. Key word being “had,” now with Will Solace in the picture. I found it funny that even though Percy and Annabeth are a couple, Percy was offended when Nico said he isn’t his type, and Annabeth finds the whole thing amusing. Now, Nico just has to tell everyone else.

Overall, I found good and bad things in the book. We all had expectations for this book, which Riordan normally lives up to. Maybe readers just expected too much this time. Honestly, for this being the end, I feel like it was rushed and had barely any detail. I mean, I was expecting to be sad that it ended, but love the way it ended. Instead, I’m disappointed in the way Riordan ended the book. It wasn’t the same as the others. At least we have Annabeth’s cousin in Boston to look forward to next year, as well as the Greek heroes book next summer.

This may be the end of the “Heroes of Olympus” series, but it’s not the end for the characters or for Riordan.

A tribute to Jamie

By Lydia Grant

Hi guys, today I saw something coming back from my orthodontist appointment, a dog.

At first I asked questions. Is it alive? Does it have a collar? Is it mine?  Was it run over? It doesn’t look hurt. Wait, did it move? No, no it didn’t.

My mom parked the car, she was asking all the same questions. She prayed for a heart beat, but it didn’t come. No collar, and the eyes were almost frozen open. It was gone, we got some old blankets and picked it up taking it to a whole across the street by an abandoned house right below the walnut tree, the house didn’t look abandoned and the yard was nice, but it certainly was abandoned. I wasn’t scared of the dog, I stroke its back and told it I loved it. We buried the dog.

It was brown with a white belly, pointy brown ears and cold black eyes. My mom hugged me, knowing how desperately I wanted it to live. It was sad.

Im writing this post dedicated to the dog. We are pretty sure it was homeless but if it was yours check Brady St., across from the house with the white fence; you’ll see it. I’m naming the dog Jamie. The name is unisex, seeing as I was too upset to check the gender. I’m sorry, Jamie. I love you. See you soon.