What The Student Body Has To Say
On Friday, August 28, La Cañada High School held our first-ever virtual assembly. Even as education has shifted to an online environment, our longstanding tradition of a schoolwide Welcome Back Assembly could not be broken. ASB worked extremely hard despite these chaotic circumstances to put together an online performance for the start of this extraordinary school year, reviving school spirit and allowing students to stay updated, not only with schedule-related matters, but also with a few of our beloved teachers whom we have not seen since March.
Spectator Kera Finnigan (10) recalled, “I honestly really loved the teacher interviews because it gave us a lot of insight into [what] the teachers are doing in this difficult time.”
Featuring five teachers – Mr. Geckle, Mr. Valassidis, Mr. Stone, Mr. Beaty, and Mr. Mispagel – the teacher autocomplete interviews were parodies of the popular celebrity interviews by Wired on YouTube. In these interviews, rare pieces of information were disclosed, such as where Mr. V. is from (his mother), Mr. Stone’s McDonald’s order, and the reasoning behind Mr. Geckle’s hatred for mumble rap.
This year’s assembly also continued the tradition of Senior Spotlights, starring guitarist Andrew Chi (12). Chi has only been playing guitar for a year, but due to ample practice, he is now able to play at impressively high levels.
“I love playing the guitar and find myself practicing for hours on end,” he explained. “I think the endlessness and versatility of the guitar is what makes it so enjoyable. I can play whatever genre of music I want on a guitar. From indie to blues to rock, the guitar can achieve it all.”
For the assembly video, Chi played a self-arranged mashup of “Cherry Wine” and “Like Real People Do” by Hozier.
He recounted, “I was given short notice that I would be playing for the senior spotlight and did not have enough time to learn the second half of ‘Cherry Wine’, but I already knew how to play ‘Like Real People Do’. I saw some similarities between the two songs because they are written by the same artist and found a way to merge them together into one piece.”
Performing inside his own home was not nearly as nerve-wracking as an in-person performance would have been, but it still takes incredible time and skill to pull off.
“At first I was very excited about being spotlighted,” saidys Chi. “Then, as I started to record I felt some nervousness and anxiety, which may have been in part due to the fact that I was the opening spotlight for the year.” Nevertheless, Chi’s music was definitely a highlight in the assembly, and we look forward to seeing where he will take his talents.
This year, ASB also put on a flawless rendition of Scooby-Doo, and it was certainly a crowd-pleaser.
“We all met up before filming and read through the script a few times, at first just reading and then trying to act it out,” Carolyn Gordon (12), who played Daphne Blake, said about the process of filming. “I’ve never been in theater or anything like that, so Ali [Flynn] was really helping me along the way. The filming was a new process for me but it was cool to see the assembly commissioners work on something they’re passionate about, it made the long hours all worth it.”
The actors and actresses, along with the behind-the-scenes crew, worked for around a week, according to Audrey Melillo (12), before releasing their final production.
Melillo, playing Velma Dinkley, said, “I think just seeing the final product was so exciting! I had a faint idea of some of the videos they might be including but didn’t know everything, so it was really awesome to see how seamlessly everything fit together!”
Despite the entertainment value, some students have expressed safety concerns along with inadequate role modeling within ASB due to the lack of mask-wearing and social distancing demonstrated in the film.
Gordon explained, “If we had been in masks and six feet apart at all times it would have been hard to understand what we were saying and the video may [have looked] awkward. I also thought that it was nice to have at least one normal part of the assembly.” She assured us that they “all signed waivers before filming which is why we were able to not wear masks during the filming, but we did try to stay separated and put on masks in between takes. We later all got tested to be safe.”
Overall, Melillo and Gordon agreed that the process was a fun experience, Gordon stating that “It was definitely a learning curve for me, but the filming process was super fun. Since it’s the mascot video, we plan to do another ‘episode’ for each assembly. So stay tuned!”
The assembly also featured our La Cañada Marching Band, Pep Squad, Drumline, and Colorguard in a student-made video of recordings meshed together by band member Henry Thuss (11).
He told us of the week before the assembly, saying, “I received and watched through all 200+ video submissions and started to assemble and mix the audio with Mr. Stone. After about 18 hours of mixing and editing audio, I started to assemble the video […] The challenge with this was that my computer doesn’t have the power to replay the videos as I’m editing, so I can’t see what it will play like until I fully render it.” After 27 hours of editing, Thuss was finally able to complete the piece.
Despite the insane amount of time and effort Thuss put into this project, his answer to whether he would be interested in helping out with future assemblies was an enthusiastic yes: “I totally plan on making more band videos for the assembly and promoting the band [along with] any other musical groups on campus!”
Thuss was not the only person impressed with the feature. Samuel White (9), a member of the drumline, said, “For me, the most memorable part of the assembly was the marching band performance at the beginning.” Of the assembly as a whole, he remarked, “It was actually better than I expected. It was unfortunate that the assembly had to be online and all that but the skits were pretty entertaining. Overall, it was a nice first impression for my first virtual and high school assembly.”
From their flawless rendition of Scooby-Doo to the entertaining Speed Sports Interviews we all needed in our lives, ASB undoubtedly made this moment in history memorable.
“It was different to be sure, but a welcome kind of different. Less cluttered definitely, but I do miss being able to interact with my friends in person, which was a big part [of it] then,” Kourosh Salahi (10) admitted. He added that “it definitely could’ve been better, but for the situation they were in, they delivered a good experience. I didn’t feel like I was there, but that’s something they can’t help.”
Kera Finnigan expressed that she feels “so grateful because I know we are one of the few schools that could produce such an awesome virtual assembly,” and described her own experience watching it, noting, “In the comfort of my own house, I was able to eat some yummy food as I watched the assembly, which was something you normally wouldn’t be able to do at a normal school assembly. Also, I was able to watch it with my family, so it was a great family experience as well.”
The overall student opinion of the virtual assembly varied, but one thing is agreed upon – ASB did a stellar job transforming the limited time and resources they had into a masterpiece for our school to remember.
How did they accomplish this while following social distancing requirements?
“Zoom, like everyone else, has been our main way of communicating,” JT Salcido (12) said. “The virtual environment changed how we worked with the different groups involved and filled time. Instead of allocating time to each of the sports/cheer teams to do their own thing, we had to organize the content and create most of it. So, the commissioners produced about twice the amount of content they normally do.”
Another problem posed was that the assembly was deemed optional, forcing ASB to create more incentive for people to watch their creation. They tried to include as many students and teachers as possible for maximum turnout.
Salcido told us, “Personally, I was really surprised at how many people tuned in – we had about 1,300 viewers, 70% watched the whole thing – and how excited people were. It was really inspiring, and going forward, we can’t wait to make the next assembly the best you’ve seen!”
It’s still unclear of how many assemblies we will have before school can resume in-person, but this very first virtual assembly has set the bar high for the future.