Helix High Performing Arts Students Having a Banner Year

Despite all the challenges of the past few years, the performing arts students at Helix High have not let that stop them.

A number of departments have been busy practicing and mounting productions.

To dance

Katie Pipes, chair of the performing arts department, noted that she had more than 100 students involved in the dance program.

I started in January 2007 with 26 students and we have grown so much over the past 15 years,” Pipes commented.

Currently, Pipes is preparing dancers for a spring production of Storytime, May 5-7, centered on children’s stories.

There will be dances choreographed by teachers and students,” Pipes said. “It’s a really fun show that will feature all dance styles including jazz, hip hop, contemporary and modern dance.

Making this and other productions has been a challenge over the past few years.

During COVID, student engagement and motivation was definitely a challenge,” Pipes remarked. “During our Zoom classes, I did my best to stay motivated and excited for the students. We held an outdoor movie event where we showcased all the dance movies. The show was called ‘Dancing Under The Stars”. We did it in May 2021 and then we did the event again at the end of the summer in September 2021 because we had so much fun at the first event. My goal is to keep this dance film project going and be part of our “kick off” for the new school year. It’s really nice to organize a dance event where the students can see their work with the public at the same time. »

Anyone wishing to join the program should add this course to their course interest form.

Dancing is for everyone,” added Pipes. “We have an amazing dance community that loves and supports.

vocal music

When it comes to vocal music, the Michelle Tolvo-Chan-led program continues to move forward despite COVID.

This year we are at 42 students… but the vocal music department had over 120 students in previous years (before the pandemic),” Tolvo-Chan said. “All last year our performances had to be virtual, which is a whole different ball game and not conducive to choral singing. Anyone who tried to sing’Happy Birthday’ in a group meeting Zoom knows the only person you can hear is the loudest with the best microphone. This year has been full of transitions back to “normal”. We sing outside as much as possible in order to practice without a mask; however, we just entered a competition where performers were always required to wear masks, which made it even harder to be effective communicators through performance.

For any students interested in the choir, Tolvo-Chan encourages them to give it a try.

I just heard another story on NPR this morning about the power of music; because singing uses a different part of the brain than speaking, it can link neural synapses, helping people who have suffered from stroke or other ailments, both mental and physical,” Tolvo remarked. -Chan. “Simply put, singing changes lives. Singing in a choir in particular promotes teamwork, leadership skills, and meaningful involvement in something bigger than yourself.

Show Choir auditions are scheduled for May 14.

Allison Kerth, a member of the choir for four years, enjoyed her time with the group.

I choired at Helix for the four years I attended and I can easily say it was probably the best decision I’ve made in my entire life,” Kerth remarked. “The friends I’ve made, the thrills I’ve had, and the joys I’ve shared make Helix Choir a better choir than any other program I’ve ever attended.”

According to Kerth, the people she has met through the choir are well worth the time invested.

The best thing about being part of a choir at Helix is ​​meeting an incredible group of very different people who come together to do what we all love: to sing,” said Kerth. “We’ve had such a variety of people in our choirs in the past, from stump kids, to musical theater kids, to professional football players!”

Kerth also noted that an amazing feature of the choir program is that it gives its students the tools to build their confidence, whether it’s performing on stage for their families or working their nerves to audition. for solos and specialized numbers.


As for the theater, the department under Paul Reams attempted to return to a normal schedule.

We have three main shows on stage – ‘Twelfth Night’, which was produced in October; “Mamma Mia”, which will be played from April 20 to 23; and “The Laramie Project,” which will premiere in late May,” Reams said. “We also have a student produced ‘Coffee Break’, an annual variety show created by the Highway Players, our drama club.”

According to Reams, more than 100 students are enrolled in acting classes at Helix. Many students participate in productions without being enrolled in a course.

I’m guessing over 140 students are involved in some aspect of theater at Helix, whether it’s acting or teaming up in a show, opening or working at the box office for a production, or enrolling to an acting class,” Reams said.

Like many others, the COVID challenges have impacted theater students and staff.

COVID was really tough on the theater program,” Reams noted. “Theatre is, by nature, an ‘in-person’ experience. Mr. (Gregg) Osborn has made incredible and sacrificial efforts to maintain the theater over the past school year. He produced two full shows: “Clue” was produced while the students were still entirely on Zoom and “Working” (a musical) was produced in person but without a live audience. I am very grateful to him for his hard work over the past year to ensure the Highland Players produced a theatrical season.

According to Osborn, staff and students got creative in 2021 to make sure they could do it all.

We held auditions, rehearsals and the performances of mystery comedy ‘Clue’, mostly online,” Osborn said. “In the spring, we were able to meet for rehearsals, with the students masked and distanced. This year, rehearsals for Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” and the musical “Mamma Mia” were held in person with masked students. We had to cast stunt doubles for all lead roles to deal with students missing rehearsals/performances due to testing positive or because cast members were in close contact with other testing positives. During dress rehearsals and performances, cast and crew had to perform tests twice a week. »

All Helix students who wish to do theater must enroll in one of the classes, attend drama club meetings on Thursdays at noon, and audition for open calls.

instrumental music

Finally, the instrumental music department under Rachel Casey and Mike Benge has approximately 150 children in total in the program. This includes students who are part of the following ensembles: bagpipes, orchestra, color guard, jazz band, orchestra and percussion.

The band’s final concert this year will be their Pop’s Concert on Tuesday, May 17 at 7 p.m. at the school’s performing arts center.

The pipers will also perform at the school’s Foundation Highlander Open at the Chula Vista Golf Course on Saturday, May 21 at 1 p.m.

Finally, the jazz group will give a concert in April (date to be determined). It will probably be a combined gig with Grossmont College.

For more information on upcoming performances, visit: helixinstrumental.org.

Like other bands at school, the instrumental music department has faced the challenge of COVID.

During the pandemic, we had to change the way we teach and the focus of our teaching,” Casey said. “In all of our classes, we focus on creating an overall sound and how individuals work together to perform as one entity. Due to distance learning, we have had to pivot to focus more on the individual and how (they) hear music and analyze musical concepts.

COVID has also interrupted necessary practice before class.

A major challenge that COVID has created is the number of students able to practice,” Casey noted. “At school, a lot of students stayed and practiced in the music room because they can’t do it at home. When we went 100% online, they were no longer able to put time on their individual instruments. It was more difficult for the percussionists because most don’t own any of the larger instruments (mallets, timpani, etc.) which can cost tens of thousands of dollars. So, for them, teaching had to go back to the fundamentals and rudiments of music and rhythm.

Casey also thanked school officials for helping the students through these tough times.

We are very fortunate to have an incredible administration that hears our challenges and helps provide opportunities to resolve them,” Casey commented. “After meeting with our administration, they bought us the appropriate PPE to allow our students to finally play indoors. Through weekly testing and proper PPE, we have been able to bring all of our classes back into the classroom, where we can provide the best opportunities for learning and understanding music.

According to Casey, many students love participating in the program because of the family atmosphere.

Because the performing arts is a choice, students choose to be in our classes and most choose to say throughout their high school careers,” Casey noted. “We have done our best to keep students connected, but the nature of remote learning has made this very difficult and some have dropped out of music because of it. Although there have been challenges, our program continues to evolve and move forward. This is made possible thanks to the support of our administration, our staff and our parents. Thank you for your support. We look forward to continuing to create music and deliver performances to the community.

If you are interested in the instrumental program, visit: helixinstrumental.org.

(Courtesy of Helix High School)

– Reach editor Dave Thomas: [email protected].