By Caroline Kirk
On Dec 9 and 10 Leon Performing Arts put on their annual Performing Arts Winter Showcase (PAWS). Over 20 acts and 500 students came together to perform a two and a half hour showcase.
Junior Alex LaJeunesse was in a total of ten performances, the most of any student, ranging from chorus to percussion to a special “pan groove” performance. He even directed the percussion performance himself.
“While it can be exhausting constantly running around getting ready for the next act, performing is one of my favorite parts of being a musician,” LaJeunesse explained in regards to his long night. “I get a lot of energy and enjoyment from playing music and being in front of an audience.”
The percussion performance that LaJeunesse composed and directed actually began on a whim, as a fun side project he wrote in a couple of days.
“I got four of my friends together and we started working on it,” LaJeunesse said. “Half as a joke, we asked the percussion teacher if we could play it in PAWS. I was surprised when she agreed but it turned out to be a really cool experience to perform my own piece.”
At this long standing Leon tradition Friday night there was not a seat open in the auditorium. The energy was hopping and spirited as The Madrigal singers greeted the audience in the Leon lobby with Christmas carols.
The Madrigals are an upper level chorus group made up of junior and senior girls and boys. They have their own traditions, such as dressing up in full “Renaissance” costume to sing the carols.
Leon English teacher Martha Towey encourages her students to go to the event every year.
“What I love about PAWS is how it showcases Leon’s amazingly talented student body,” Towey said. “I can see hundreds of my students, and students can see hundreds of their friends, in one night of entertainment.”
“At Leon, our professional music staff encourages one another and are comfortable with students being involved with more than one discipline.”
Junior Jack Byerts and senior Hannah Prasse were close in competing for the most performances, with nine acts each. Their teachers encourage them to participate in as many acts as they are comfortable.
“PAWS is a lot of fun but involves tons of work and awareness,” Byerts said. “I always have to have a plan for my night on when I’m switching instruments, if someone has to take my instrument for me so I can run to the next act, where I’m supposed to be…or else my night would fall apart.”
For Prasse, this is one of her “first lasts” in the performing arts realm at Leon. As a senior, whose father is the guitar teacher and very involved, Prasse was anticipating Leon performing arts, specifically this showcase, her whole childhood.
“My last PAWS is such a bittersweet experience,” Prasse said. “It’s a super streeful season for me, so it’s always kind of a relief when it’s over.”
“It kind of marks the beginning of my time at Leon coming to an end which is hard for me.”
The show was started with a “Combined Ensembles” performance including the many Leon choruses, the steel drums, and percussion band. When these groups come together it is evident the depth and expertise Leon has in their performing arts.
“PAWS draws together our student body like nothing else does,” Prasse said. It involves a quarter of the student body, all their parents, and their friends. The combination of music and student involvement is so unique to Leon, our staff and our students.”