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By Jocelyn Cote
After a day of doorbuster deals and early-morning shopping, many local teenagers chose to spend their Black Friday evening at Westford’s Parish Center for the Arts for a joint acoustic night and rock show.
Another Westford Teen Arts Council sanctioned event, the show featured an interesting mix of open mic acoustic performances and two bands: newcomers Shirts and Shoes and local favorites The Cranks.
Attendance at the show was higher than ever, with the PCA packed to the brim with audience members. The night was a success for both WTAC and all musicians involved.
Chris Carpenter is no stranger to Westford Academy. As an alumnus of the Class of 2004, he has traveled these halls many times before, first as a student, and now as a teacher. Recently, he was hired as part of the school’s Student Support Services department.
“My experiences here were great, so I felt I was part of this community and the opportunity to come back was pretty cool,” said Carpenter. “It’s been great coming back here and having all the teachers still know you. It’s kind of the whole package, I thought.”
Carpenter attended college at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, where he received his undergraduate degree in Business and Math. After spending some time in the business world, he decided it was not something he loved. He then shifted his focus to teaching, and attended Salem State University, where he received his master’s degree in Mild/Moderate Special Education.
As some might suspect, Carpenter is related to WA math teacher Bob Carpenter. In fact, he is his son. Carpenter cites his father as an inspirational figure in his decision to become a teacher.
“My dad actually teaches here, too. He teaches in the math department, so I’ve kind of always had an understanding of what he does and how much he loves doing it,” he said.
Carpenter’s work in the school is somewhat different from that of a traditional teaching position, but it has its similarities as well. He works with students in both student support services rooms and inclusion classroom settings, helping the students figure out their best learning style.
“It’s a little different in the sense that you’re sitting in different types of classes,” he said. “You really get to know the students very well, too, and their learning habits and skills.”
On an average day, Carpenter travels around the building to multiple classes with his students. He works in inclusion classes with teachers such as Chris Connole and fellow 2004 WA graduate Jeff Bucchianeri.
“I get to work with [Bucchianeri] in one class, which is awesome because he’s a great teacher. I learn a lot from him, too. I’m with Mr. Connole for another inclusion class, and I actually teach a [...] math class with Mrs. Robinson, which is great too,” he said. “I’m kind of a nomad a little bit. I get to wander around the school, which is great, because I get to see more people.”
So far during his time at WA, Carpenter has yet to find a least favorite part of his job, but says his favorite part is working with the students. He is also looking forward to coaching hockey, something that his father does as well.
“Obviously, I’m really excited to be here. I have utmost respect for everyone and the teachers here, and it felt great coming back. Just having everyone so welcoming was awesome,” he said.
By Jocelyn Cote
The afternoon of Friday, October 11 brought the annual Spirit Rally celebration to Westford Academy to conclude a successful Spirit Week.
As per usual, the Seniors walked away with the title of Spirit Rally champions, winning seven of the twelve events; however, they found unlikely rivals in the Juniors, who won five events. The Freshmen and Sophomores struggled throughout the rally, and walked away with zero wins to their name.
The rally included events such as tug-of-war, limbo, potato sack races, and the infamous greased watermelon toss. After nearly two hours of competition, the Seniors brought the day’s events to a close with their traditional storming of the field in celebration of their win.
By Jocelyn Cote
On Wednesday afternoon, Westford Academy varsity field hockey faced off against the Newton South Lions. The Ghosts had a strong lead early in the game, and ultimately defeated the Lions with a clean sweep of 7-0.
Varsity’s next field hockey match is on Friday at 4 PM at home against Lincoln-Sudbury.
By Jocelyn Cote
Sherley Blood-Thom is no stranger to the world of Latin. She has been teaching the language to students for nine years, first at Andover High School and now at Westford Academy. At Andover, she created an elective class where students studied the ancient world and the impact of Greek and Latin on our language today.
Outside of school, she enjoys playing the flute, gardening and riding horses.
“I have long heard about Westford’s fine reputation. It has a strong Latin program,” said Blood-Tom. “When I interviewed for the position I [was happy to find out] that you have so many kids taking Latin in the upper-division classes – Latin IV, Latin V, Latin Honors – and that is really phenomenal. “
Blood-Thom, a Lincoln native, is a graduate of the University of California, Irvine, which she attended after graduating from Lincoln-Sudbury High School. There she majored in both classical languages and classical civilization.
From an early age, Blood-Thom knew she wanted to teach professionally.
“My 4th grade teacher [...] inspired me to become a teacher. His name was Jeff Drury, and [he taught at] Lincoln. After that, I knew I wanted to become a teacher. Then in Latin later on, I had a wonderful mentor; a teacher who’s taught for forty years in Pennsylvania at a private school. Her name was Jane Dunlap,” she said.
This year, Blood-Thom hopes to adjust to her new teaching environment and become involved with both the Latin Club and the Debate Club. She also wants to become involved with the Art and Theater departments, and is looking into putting on a play in the Black Box with her students.
Blood-Thom’s love of the Latin language is evident from her enthusiasm.
“I think Latin is a phenomenal language because of its strength. It has persisted for 2,300 years because of its strength. It is an incredible language to learn. [...] It really drives home some of the most important wisdom we’ve come across,” she said.
By Jocelyn Cote
On the evening of the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy, Westford residents and emergency services personnel gathered in the Westford Police Department courtyard for the unveiling of a new memorial to honor those lost in the attack, including two Westford residents.
The memorial was designed by fireman David P. Christiana and features a piece of a support beam from the World Trade Center surrounded by stainless steel flames.
Multiple guests spoke at the event; notably senator Scott Brown and nominee Gabriel Gomez. Brown’s daughter, former American Idol contestant Ayla Brown, also performed.
By Anastasha Echavarri
After three years of writing, interviewing, editing and storytelling, I am saddened by the thought that my career as a journalist at Westford Academy has come to an end.
My experience as a staff writer and editor has not only instilled in me confidence in my writing abilities, but it has also given me confidence in myself, a gift that I intend to carry with me throughout college and the years that follow.
The short four years that I attended WA has changed me in a profound way. Coming to this school has not only taught me about the importance of motifs in novels, mathematical equations and scientific theories, it has also taught me how to find a voice.
No, I will not forget the fundamentals of what my teachers have taught me in the classes I have taken. But this voice, which I stumbled upon during my time as a writer for the school newspaper, is able to elicit thoughts and beliefs that I will carry with me much longer than I will remember the lectures I heard and the tests I have taken.
This voice, this conviction in one’s beliefs, is impossible to teach in a classroom setting.
But while I was a part of the Ghostwriter, I was suddenly able to write about topics that I was invested in. If I wanted to discuss the latest GOP debate during the 2012 elections, reflect on the pertinence of gun control after the Newtown Massacre, or simply review the latest WATA production, I could.
No matter how controversial the topic, I could always express my opinion. It did not matter that I was only 18, because the newspaper was not a paper dictated by the school administration, but rather by the students who created it.
With any luck, I hope to continue my career in journalism when I attend college this fall, because I believe that everyone should have an outlet in which to voice their beliefs. Not everyone has to be a journalist, but it is a gift that we have the right to speak our minds.
We are blessed that in Massachusetts the press has, for the most part, the ability to practice free speech. This freedom must not go to waste, and I hope that the class of 2013 agrees with me and will continue to fight for what they believe in.
Although the members of the class of 2013 are going in many different directions, even in opposite parts of the country, we will hopefully be able to remain connected by our shared pasts. We have bonded over studying for AP exams, practiced together for DCLs, and have, most importantly, experienced the many opportunities that our school has offered us.
I, myself, will take away from these few years the most important opportunity that I was given. I was given the chance to find my voice, and I will never give it up.
By Jocelyn Cote
The evening of Sunday, May 26th marked a celebration amongst local fans of distinguished Chicago pop-punkers Fall Out Boy. Nearly five years and one hiatus later, the band was scheduled to make their long-awaited return to Boston at the House of Blues.
Fall Out Boy released their comeback album Save Rock and Roll in April, and embarked on a club tour in support of the record this month. The 2,500 capacity venue was intimate for such a popular band, and likewise the show sold out in less than 20 minutes when tickets went onsale.
The relatively unknown post-hardcore band NK opened the show with an abrasive and loud set. The crowd seemed to be split over whether or not they were an appropriate opener, but the band managed to win over a few more fans when they were joined onstage by Fall Out Boy guitarist Joe Trohman for three songs. NK played for a half hour before handing over the stage to Fall Out Boy’s crew.
An extended period of setup time agitated many anxious concertgoers, but the crowd roared with deafening applause as the house lights went dim and the band stood silhouetted behind a giant curtain, which then dropped to reveal them against sparkling LED screens.
Infinity On High opener “Thriller” began the set, and every person in the audience belted its lyrics word-for-word back to lead singer Patrick Stump. Excitement radiated off of the entire band – a welcome change compared to previous tours. The set continued with two From Under the Cork Tree numbers, “I Slept With Someone In Fall Out Boy and All I Got Was This Stupid Song Written About Me” and “A Little Less Sixteen Candles, a Little More ‘Touch Me’,” along with Folie à Deux gem “Disloyal Order of Water Buffaloes”.
By this time, every person in the house was up and on their feet, and the floor transformed into one giant pit of dancing and moshing. This was only exasperated when the band broke into recent single “The Phoenix,” which remained one of the highlights of the main set.
The band continued to deliver a crowd-pleasing setlist spanning across all five of their albums. By now the crowd had settled down, even going as far as creating a huge group hug during an emotional performance of “What a Catch, Donnie”. However, the fans were once again riled up as the band tore into the one-two punch of “Death Valley” and “Hum Hallelujah”.
Another highlight of the main set was the appearance of fan-favorite “Grand Theft Autumn/Where is Your Boy” off of the band’s 2003 debut Take This To Your Grave.
The main set was rounded off with popular singles “Dance, Dance” and “I Don’t Care,” and the band bid the stage farewell with Save Rock and Roll‘s lead single, “My Songs Know What You Did In the Dark (Light ‘em Up)”.
After a short encore break, the band returned with a dazzling performance of “Save Rock and Roll” flanked by images of famous rock idols of the past and present, then closed out the show with a bang with “Thnks fr th Mmrs” and “Saturday,” the latter featuring an impressive performance by bassist Pete Wentz on vocals.
As a whole, the show was a crowd-pleasing performance that showcased the band at their best. Despite Save Rock and Roll’s mixed reviews, the new material came to life within the live set. Even songs as mediocre as “Young Volcanoes” turned into snappy, enjoyable numbers.
With their four year hiatus behind them, Fall Out Boy have shown that they ready to once again become forerunners of the pop-punk scene and stay household name for years to come.
The band will return to Massachusetts in September at Lowell’s Tsongas Center as part of Save Rock and Roll‘s arena tour.
Author’s note: For more photos from the show, check out my photo set on Flickr.
By Jocelyn Cote
Today, May 14, indie rock sensations Vampire Weekend release their latest album, Modern Vampires of the City. The New York City natives have become forerunners of the city’s indie scene since their formation in 2006. Both their 2008 self-titled album and 2010 follow-up Contra have achieved both chart and critical success, and Vampires is set to continue that streak.
Style-wise, the album picks up where Contra left off. The band has expanded upon its original straight guitar/bass/drums formula to include more electronic elements such as additional layers of synthesizers and artificial beats that only add to their already unique sound.
Lyrically the album shows a maturation of the band – while previous efforts often dealt with frivolous affairs, Vampires deals with more serious subjects such as death, questioning the world, and even borderline religious undertones.
The album’s opener, “Obvious Bicycle,” begins with an ominous ticking sound as vocalist Ezra Koenig croons, “Oh you outta spare your face the razor / ‘Cause no one’s gonna spare the time for you.” It’s certainly a mellow way to start off a Vampire Weekend album, but sets the scene for how the listener will spend the next 45 minutes.
Standout track “Unbelievers” follows, and steers the album in yet another direction. Here, the band returns to its “classic” sound filled with piano flourishes, fast-paced vocals, and a simple yet catchy synth line. Double-A side singles “Step” and “Diane Young” follow, the latter being especially noteworthy. Upbeat and catchy, “Diane Young” grabs the listener if they haven’t been captured by the album already and makes it hard to resist the classic “baby, baby, baby” refrain.
Vampires features a fairly even amount of slower songs and memorable dance numbers. A couple of highlights include “Hannah Hunt,” which details a cutesy tale of two lovers moving cross-country and the delightfully raucous and jarring “Finger Back.”
Interestingly, the album ends on a much bleaker note than ever before. Penultimate track “Hudson” is brooding and grim, with lyrics that paint a picture of a city in shambles. However, the final track, “Young Lion,” is a glimmer of hope. The single repeated line of “You take your time, young lion” accompanies a simple piano line and bass track, letting the listener know that in the end, all is not lost.
The album’s biggest flaw is its use of exaggerated vocal effects, especially on lead singles “Diane Yong,” “Step,” and “Ya Hey.” In the two former songs, it is still discreet enough to be considered bearable, but by “Ya Hey,” the backing vocals are nearly ‘chipmunked,’ taking away from what is otherwise a strong single.
Aside from this, the album is a true accomplishment and is already a strong contender for one of the top indie albums of 2013. It is extremely well-crafted and thought out, and is filled with catchy earworms and future classics that make the listener want to press the repeat button over and over.
By Jocelyn Cote
The Westford Academy Grey Ghosts varsity baseball team faced off against Lawrence Academy on Monday night. Unfortunately, the Ghosts lost 10-2 against the Spartans.
The Ghosts are currently 3-6-0 this season, and their next game is away versus Newton South on Wednesday.
By Jocelyn Cote
On the evening of Tuesday, April 9th, the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island was abuzz with music fans young and old numbering over 10,000 gathering to see one of the most popular modern punk bands of all time, Green Day. Some went as far as camping out overnight to have the chance at a front row seat, and a line stretched around the block hours before door time.
This was Green Day’s first show in Rhode Island in sixteen years – the last being at downtown club Lupo’s in 1997. The band is currently embarking on the “99 Revolutions Tour” to promote its recent album trilogy of ¡Uno!, ¡Dos! and ¡Tré!, released late last year.
Although originally scheduled for January, the show was postponed to April due to lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong’s treatment for substance abuse. Armstrong has returned to the stage triumphantly, and gave one of his most impressive shows in recent memory to Providence’s crowd.
Opening for the band was Best Coast, an indie pop group hailing from Green Day’s native California. Although they delivered a great performance filled with cute, sappy love songs, their musical style just wasn’t a great match for Green Day’s jarring punk rock. Unfortunately, much of the crowd was unimpressed with their set, and sat in awkward silence for the half hour that they played.
Following the set-up for Green Day’s stage, speakers across the stadium blasted Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” prompting an arena-wide singalong. Afterwards, Green Day’s mascot, the pink “drunk bunny,” took the stage to the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop,” a tradition for every show.
Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt, and drummer Tré Cool barreled onto the stage along with guitarist Jason White (who was recently admitted as an official member of the band) and touring musicians Jeff Matika and Jason Freese, and quickly broke into the tour’s namesake song, “99 Revolutions.”
The floor instantly turned into one giant, churning mosh pit as the band followed suit with “Know Your Enemy,” the lead single from 2009′s 21st Century Breakdown. Armstrong invited a small boy onstage to sing along with him, and then had him stage dive at the song’s conclusion in true punk fashion, but not without accepting a bear hug first.
Trilogy songs “Stay the Night” and “Stop When the Red Lights Flash” followed suit, with “Letterbomb” off of the 2004 rock opera American Idiot and Uno‘s lead single “Oh Love.”
With a shout of, “Do you want to start a war?” the entire stadium was up on its feet as White strummed the opening chords of American Idiot gem “Holiday.” Once again, the floor erupted into a brutal mosh pit as Armstrong ordered the lights to go black, with nothing but a single hand-held industrial spotlight on the crowd. “The representative of Rhode Island now has the floor!” the singer barked as the crowd broke into the song’s final verse.
As the band followed with “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” Armstrong was caught off guard when the audience sang the entire first verse in unison before he could even approach the mic. With a smile, he simply stated, “They do it better in New England” and picked up where the crowd left off.
Continuing with Dos‘s “Stray Heart” and “Burnout,” the lead track on Green Day’s breakthrough 1994 album Dookie, Armstrong then looked to the crowd for requests. Two signs from the floor caught the singer’s attention, and he broke into Kerplunk fan-favorite “Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?” per their request.
This eventually turned into a smorgasbord of rarities, including “J.A.R.,” Uno‘s “Carpe Diem,” performed for the first time on the tour, and “Going to Pasalacqua,” which Armstrong introduced with an amusing story of the band’s first time in Rhode Island.
The rest of the main set mostly explored fan-favorite tracks, including Dookie‘s “When I Come Around,” “Longview” (during which Armstrong invited yet another fan onstage to sing), “Basket Case,” and “She.” The band closed with the Irish-tinted “Minority,” and returned shortly after for an encore.
All in attendance belted along to “American Idiot” following the band’s return to the stage and a rendition of the epic 9 minute long “Jesus of Suburbia,” during which the entire crowd waved their arms above their heads in unison, creating a sweet sense of unity across the arena.
The band closed the grandiose two and a half hour show with an emotional rendition of Tre‘s opener “Brutal Love” before leaving the stage for the second and final time.
Despite previous afflictions, Green Day have proved that they can pick themselves back up on their feet and continue to deliver some of the most memorable concerts in the business. The setlist provided a great mix of hit singles, rarities, fan-favorites, and new material to give everyone in the audience great memories of a favorite song. Providence received nothing less than a stunning show from some of rock’s finest.
Author’s note: For more photos from the show, check out my photo set on Flickr.
By Jocelyn Cote
Since the release of his last album, 2003′s Reality, Bowie has kept a low profile, leaving many to believe he had retired from the music industry for good. The Thin White Duke took both fans and critics alike by surprise in January when he announced the album, which was recorded over the course of two years in secret with producer Tony Visconti. Despite being 64, Bowie’s vocals are still as impressive as ever and retain the singer’s classic range.
Don’t let the thrown-together cover art fool you (yes, that really is a rehash of the sleeve for Bowie’s 1977 album “Heroes”) – this is a 2013 album not to be overlooked. It touches upon all of Bowie’s signature styles – overall, it’s 53 minutes of pure, unadulterated glam rock.
The album begins with a bouncy title track that perfectly sets the stage for what is to come. It then segues effortlessly into the funky, horn-driven “Dirty Boys” and standout single “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)”, which wouldn’t sound out of place on classic masterpieces such as Diamond Dogs.
With 14 songs, this album is no simple feat. Other standout tracks include the sweet, low-key “Where are We Now?” – the album’s first single released back in January, the fast-paced “If You Can See Me”, and the groovy “Dancing Out in Space”.
The album tops off with the fantastic trio of White Stripes-esque “(You Will) Set the World on Fire”, signature Bowie ballad “You Feel So Lonely You Could Die”, and finishes off with the grim but stunning “Heat”.
The album is already held in high regards, being hailed as one of the greatest Bowie albums in decades. In a sea of 24 studio albums, The Next Day will certainly be a standout of his discography for years to come.