I just can’t say enough good things about Symposium 2000 (S2K). I want to start this retrospective by thanking the people who made it possible.
Randy Foy: First and foremost, the Symposium was his idea, and he has been the guiding spirit behind it. He has rallied the faculty to the cause, and was instrumental in choosing the theme for the Symposium: re: 20th c. It was only fitting that Lucy honored him for his 30 years of dedication to the Governor’s School.
The Faculty: Randy may have led the charge, but the entire faculty helped carry the event. Special thanks to those who presented seminars.
Salem College: For allowing us the use of their campus and facilities for the event.
Lucy Milner: For her guidance and assistance in getting the event organized, for her willing help, and for her enthusiasm for the program and the alumni.
Holly Hallman: Holly coordinated all the activity of the weekend, provided facilities, had all the answers, and knew what to do when. And she did it all with a big smile and a great attitude, even when things got hectic. Her abilities and attitude were a great benefit to an otherwise bewildered alumni staff.
Sonja Williams: Our Vice-President, who collected all the registrations and organized things on the GSAA side, so that all was in readiness when Saturday rolled around.
And finally, a big, big, thanks to Robyn Johnson, the Teacher/Counselor who acted as our liaison between the Alumni Association and the GS faculty and staff. Though she was unable to attend the Symposium, she put long hours into creating it, scheduling it, organizing it, and making it happen. There is no greater dedication than to work very hard to create something that you yourself will not be able to enjoy. Like Beethoven, she orchestrated this work, and yet could not hear it herself.
I arrived in Winston-Salem Friday afternoon, a brand-new 175g World Class Frisbee in hand. In shorts and T-shirt (from GSE 1996) I headed to the soccer fields. As dinner ended, students began to show up. Most were from the 2000 class, but some were alumni, including a couple of the faculty. After tossing a few discs around for half and hour, we chose sides, squared off, and began the Ultimate Challenge.
With about 20 spectators on the benches, 20 or so of us, on two teams, kicked off the disc. Over the next hour, we ran, sweat threw, caught, and had a great time. Most of the alumni team was from 1999, excepting myself, the faculty members, and Brandon Wu (1998). (Good luck at Yale, Brandon!) The alumni started off well, but as time wore on, so did we. In the end, the enthusiasm of the 2000 class won out, and they started scoring on us easily. We lost track of the score, but that didn’t matter. What counted was that we had fun, and that the students were introduced to the alumni in a friendly, fun, and spirited way. We’re not all old and stodgy, you know. Congrats to Caroline for winning the Game Disc.
After the game, there was a small ensemble concert. Unfortunately, I was too tired, sore, and sweaty to attend. I heard it was great.
Next morning, I got up and trooped out to the Fine Arts Center to set up. Holly showed up soon after my own arrival and helped me get tables, chairs, string, wire, and rubber bands as needed. She brought all the work that Robyn had performed (Schedule of Events, maps, name tags, etc.). When Sonja arrived with the registration lists, we were ready.
One hundred and eight alumni signed in, at least 20 of which were walk-ons. As they wandered in, there were shrieks, hugs, and handshakes as people met friends they had not seen in nearly a year. They milled about, visited some Area I classes, watched the chorus practice in Hanes, or attended a math and science presentation in Shirley. At 10:30, we all trooped into Hanes for the Opening Ceremony.
Lucy Milner gave the opening speech, in which she recognized several people who were instrumental in starting GS and in leading it through the years. Joe Milner spoke in his capacity as Director of GS East. I did my own welcome and hello.
Then Lucy led us all in a tribute to JoAnne North Goetz, a tribute long-awaited and well placed, especially in light of the alumni present. JoAnne began the Alumni Association in the mid-1980s as an organization to oppose the then-current political climate, which was cutting educational spending and threatening to cut GS completely. Through her efforts and those of the alumni she organized, GS was saved, but not undamaged: the budget was cut deeply, a cut that we are still struggling to heal. I did not get a chance to make my own speech, but I do want to take this opportunity to thank JoAnne for all her hard work and dedication. (In honor of her services, I have asked her to serve again. See the GSAA Meeting for details.)
After Randy Foy went over the schedule of events, Mark Dixon and Kate Burnet (Art) gave a presentation entitled “Art from 1955 until this Morning.” This presentation, which the students had seen on their first day of the program, concentrated on the latest developments in art, and ended with the failure of a 40-foot teddy bear to inflate. However, one did inflate in the lobby, and people had to pass through it (that’s THROUGH, not around) as they exited.
Then began the sessions. Unlike the 1999 seminar, there were three session times on the schedule, so that people could see more than one presentation. Many were put on by the faculty, but some were done by alumni and visiting speakers. To give you an idea of what they were like, here are the topics.
Exploring Movement: Kelly Knox and Dierdre Smith lead people in using their bodies as a work of art through music and dance.
Narrative and Consciousness: Chris Bachelor and Cynthia Nearman lead reading as discussions of several works of short fiction that explore representations of consciousness.
Black Mountain College: Robert Shaw discusses that famous experimental North Carolina College of the 1940s-1950s whose faculty included John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Joseph Albers, and Buckminster Fuller.
Living Artistically in Everyday Life: Julnar Rizk gives perspectives of a violinist and physical therapist.
Ethical Dilemma in Genetics: Chad Chadbourne leads a discussion of the moral and ethical implications of new genetic testing methods that will allow you to determine the characteristics of your baby: from hereditary medical conditions to hair color.
The Changing Nature of Memoir: Alumnus Theresa Bowers Noble discusses what memoir is, how people read it, why people write it, and the cultural importance of it.
Patriotism and Philosophy: Veteran Area II instructor Bob Vorsteg leads people to examine their definition of patriotism, and how that definition fits into a personal or national moral philosophy.
Different Trains: Nathan Finke leads a performance of this Steve Reich work for electric string quartet, with spoken commentary of survivors of Holocaust transport trains.
Science Fiction? A Genetic Scenario: GS students Laura Caruso, Andrew Smith, and David Bruzina lead a debate over whether the gene for aggressive behavior should be eliminated from the gene pool.
Le Chien Angelou: Phillip Haigh shows a film and discusses the unconscious.
School – Liberator or Oppressor: Jonathan Milner analyzes the role of the schools in reproducing social structures.
Psychotourism: Kate Burnet and Mark Dixon discuss the psychological difficulties of breaking habits.
Performances of Student Compositions: Robin Cox introduces works composed and performed by the GS Class of 2000.
Borges’ and Escher’s Virtual Reality: GSW Director Lucy Milner explores selected works of the Argentinean writer Borges and the Dutch artist Escher, with attention to the interplay between everyday realities and the vision of infinite possibilities.
Mystery Contemporary Theater 2000: Amelia Rosenberg leads a performance and discussion of a contemporary short comedy, with audience participation.
Free Speech and the Supreme Court: A last-minute addition to the agenda, a discussion of the issues of the First Amendment and the direction in which free speech issues are being moved by Supreme Court decisions. (Free Speech became quite a hot topic at GS this year.)
I personally attended the talk on Patriotism and the one on the Ethical Dilemma in Genetics, for nostalgic reasons: Chad was an instructor of mine when I attended GS in 1979. (He was VERY young then. Twelve, maybe.) And Bob Vorsteg has been with GS for years, yet I had never had the pleasure of attending one of his lectures. Both were lively discussions dealing with knotty problems and definitions, and we dove in to the gray areas between the opposing views. Like any other GS event, we were challenged to think and examine our own value systems, and relate that to what society calls the norm, and ask if that norm is good or bad. Both were quite fun and thought-provoking, and for a moment I almost thought I was back at GS. The great thing, though, was the Class of 2000, all of whom were just as ready to jump in with an opinion and tell old gray-haired me that I was way off base. It’s a pain to have kids argue with you, but it’s very refreshing to have kids challenge you and your unreasonable beliefs. I was again amazed at how smart and discerning the students were, and I contribute that to the five weeks they have spent at GS.
After the sessions were over, we held the GSAA Annual Meeting. The majority of the attendees were, of course, from the Class of 1999. They were very fired up. I will report the meeting’s minutes in another message, but suffice it to say that the Class of 1999, if they hold to their fire, will become a very active group, indeed. (And also, it is up to me and the other officers to keep them involved. If we ignore them, they will quite correctly ignore us back.)
The dinner was next, and I’ll say very little about it other than, I was misled. I did not think that we would be getting the same Refectory food, but we did. Fortunately, most of the attendees were understanding and I got few complaints.
After dinner, we split up. Many of the Class of 1999 went to a special meeting time/place just for them. Others went to watch a dress rehearsal in the Drama Workshop. (I talked business with the officers. Sometimes it’s no fun being in charge.)
Then we went to Hanes for a combined Chorus/Orchestra performance. It was great. Excellent material, excellent performances, and just what you would expect from the Governor’s School. Under the direction of Leandra AnafShalom and Steven Thomas, the chorus performed:
Ave Maria (1996) by William Hawley
Lied vom Winde (1938-39) by Hugo Distler
Gentle Visitations (1953) by Ned Rorem
A Far Island (1953) by Ned Rorem
Black Mountain Epigrams (2000) by GS Alumna Jennifer Fitzgerald
Ave Maria (1900) by Gustav Holst
I will mention one performance in particular, that of Black Mountain Epigrams. Jennifer Fitzgerald, a GS alumnus now at Duke University, wrote this piece based on her research into the Black Mountain College. The music combined jazz rhythms with excerpts from the Black Mountain College Catalog, and was very complex and though-provoking. It was also the World Premiere of the piece. And of course, wouldn’t you know it, near the end of this world premiere of a piece by a GS-bred artist, being recorded for posterity, a moment of pride and personal achievement, someone’s cell phone went off and they made a great noise and disruption leaving the auditorium to answer it, the phone buzzing all the way. (What is this fascination with cell phones? I get enough annoying calls at home…why would I want to get them everywhere?) As the phone continued its buzzing, I saw Leandra’s head slump: whether in dejection or annoyance I could not tell.
But the show went on. After a brief intermission to get the stage ready, the Orchestra came on and played. As usual, they were excellent. The selections for this year were:
Searching for Roots (1990) by Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tuur.
De natura sonoris (1996) by Krzysztof Penderecki
Hormonielehre, Part III: Meister Eckhardt and Quackie (1985) by John Adams
The piece by Tuur was a US premiere.
When these three pieces were over, and after Randy Foy received a special recognition for his 30 years of service to Governor’s School (and his reply: “In the words of John Cage, ‘I have nothing to say, and I am saying it.’”), they cleared the stage, brought out the piano, and began Pages Mystiques, by Erik Satie. This piece is noteworthy in that its second movement, entitled Vexations, is one minute long but repeated eight hundred and forty times. Thus, the completion of this piece would take place sometime early Sunday afternoon. After about the fifth time through, most of the audience got up and left for the party.
And there was a dance, with DJ and refreshments provided by the GSAA. The current students and the Class of 1999 had a great time. Most of we older types sat and watched, or guarded the punch bowl. Special thanks to JoAnne Goetz for arranging the DJ and the punch-and-cookies.
And then the clock struck midnight, the music stopped, and everyone had 30 minutes to get to their rooms.
The next morning, tired and sleepy, I made my way to Hanes in time to catch the end of Vexations and hear the third movement, Harmonies, of the Satie piece. Sleepy music students napped in the aisles until, around repetition 830, someone went around and woke them all to hear the final cycles and the third movement. When it was over, everyone gave each other a standing ovation, there were hugs and yawns, and everyone went back to the dorms for a change of clothes and maybe a nap. And with that, Symposium Weekend was officially over, until next year.