Mr. Grillo: 2013 Teacher of the Year

by Jeff


Every year, Rumson Fair Haven Regional High School recognizes the hard work and dedication of one staff member, and names him or her “Teacher of the Year.” This year, that award was given to Bill Grillo, RFH’s resident music man.

Growing up, Mr. Grillo did not always want to be a music teacher. While majoring in Jazz Performance as an undergraduate student, he decided to enroll in a five-year program to get his Masters degree in education. He looked to many teachers as inspiration, specifically his longtime percussion teacher, who taught him from eighth grade and throughout high school, as well as as a professor at his college.

Mr. Grillo teaches AP Music Theory, Music Theory, Songwriting and Recording, and Percussion Ensemble. On top of teaching these electives, he also is the fearless leader of the Marching Band, Jazz Band, and Pit Orchestra. While juggling these classes with these time-demanding activities can be a struggle, Grillo feels as if now is the perfect time in his life to take on such a heavy workload.

“I don’t have a family of my own yet, so I’m at a good point in my life where I can dedicate a lot of time to this school.”

Grillo has always had a passion for jazz bands, as it was his major in college. However, recently he has found more and more enjoyment from being the conductor of the pit orchestra.

“Throughout my life, I’ve worked in a lot of theaters, mostly as a drummer in a pit orchestra. I never ever saw myself conducting a pit orchestra; that’s something I really thought I would never have to do. Now, I really enjoy doing that because the culture here is really supportive of theatre.”

Conducting the pit orchestra led to one of Mr. Grillo’s proudest accomplishments at RFH, conducting the score to the 2011 spring musical, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

“Personally, there were many points throughout that production that I thought there was no way that I could do it, and there was no way that the pit orchestra could do it. It’s some of Stephen Sondheim’s hardest stuff. When we finished that Friday night performance, I couldn’t believe that we not only got through it, but it was extremely, extremely good.”

According to Mr. Grillo, the best part about his job is working with extremely talented people. The worst part of his job is paperwork.

“I do significantly less [paperwork] than, let’s say, a math teacher or an English teacher. I could never do their job because of all the paperwork.  But then again, they also really love to teach math and English, so that’s the tradeoff.”

I asked this year’s Teacher of the Year to offer advice to any RFH students who are considering teaching as a profession.

“You have to find a balance between being a friendly person and being a straight-forward teacher. You’re with your students 180 days of the year, so it can’t be all business all the time. You have to develop a relationship, but you can’t let that relationship get out of hand to the point where they don’t respect you or do any of your work.”

Over the past four years, Mr. Grillo has gotten better and better at developing this balance with his students.

Grillo is thrilled to be working here at RFH. He has developed an outstanding relationship with the administration.

“The fact that the administration here trusts me to do what I do makes me really proud. On a daily basis, they don’t bug me, they don’t look over my shoulder, they put a lot of faith in me to run everything smoothly and run the department how I want.”

While Mr. Grillo loves it here at RFH, he offered me some things that he would like to have added to the school.

“I would like to see some days built into the schedule that break the regular mold of the routine. When I was student teaching in Cherry Hill, they had a multi-cultural day where, basically, they had a bunch of workshops and assemblies that were based around other cultures.  It was really educational and it broke up the regular routine.”

While he’s not molding the minds of young musicians or winning awards for his masterful conducting, Mr. Grillo enjoys cooking with his girlfriend. The best meal that he ever made was a linguini with a white wine butter sauce and scallops. However, he is clueless when it comes to baking.

“I can’t bake. I literally tried simple brownies from a package, and I screwed it up.”

Mr. Grillo’s passion for music and teaching was extremely evident during my interview. I encourage any underclassmen who are remotely interested in music or music theory to sign up for one of Mr. Grillo’s classes. Prospective students need not to worry, Grillo does not play favorites. When I asked him who his favorite students were, he respectfully declined.

Clearly his passion has rubbed off on many of his students.

“Grillo is a great guy because he’s just as much a musician as he is a teacher–he’s always eager to learn about new music and talk about different musicians. Aside from that, he’s just a gentleman and a scholar. He can bring out the music in anyone,” said senior Ben Sherman.

“I’ve been with Grillo since his first day at RFH, and I have loved every moment of it,” said senior Josh Reed.

“Grillo is an amazing music teacher who can work in a classroom setting yet also is always available for extra help. No matter how hard a topic may seem, after Grillo has explained it, it’s simple,” said senior Clare Fitzgerald.

Award-winning thespian Harry Best also chimed in on Mr. Grillo: “Mr. Grillo is wonderful to work with during the musicals. Over the years he has taught me so much about music, and he’s always patient and understanding while students attempt to grasp some of the more difficult songs. His Teacher of the Year Award is well deserved.”

Grillo has left his mark on many alumni. Class of 2011 alum Gabby Kenny told me, “Grillo has actually been one of those teachers that was a life-changer for me and my friends who knew him during my time at RFH, and I didn’t even have him for a teacher! I worked with him in the musicals and concerts, and he was the first person in my life that empowered me to think about pursuing vocal music as a career. No matter how sassy he may get at the end of the day at a long Tower Players practice, I have a deep respect and my hat’s off to one of RFH’s finest. Congrats Grill, YOU DID IT!”

This positive sentiment was echoed with every student and alum I spoke to. When asked what winning Teacher of the Year meant to him, Mr. Grillo responded in an expectedly humble and endearing manner.

“Since being given the award, it’s been really nice to have the other faculty say ‘Congratulations’ and ‘Well deserved.’ Obviously, there’s so many other teachers who have been here longer and work equally as hard, and maybe they’re not as noticed in the community because they’re in a classroom all day.  But it’s definitely nice to go to work and know that people respect what you do. It’s nice that people have faith in you.”

In a world in which the arts are growingly and unjustly perceived as less and less important, it is wonderful to see a music teacher as dedicated and beloved as Grillo receive this recognition. Congratulations, Mr. Grillo, on a well deserved Teacher of the Year Award.


This is…Teacher Jeopardy!

by Jeff


Millions of Americans turn on their TV’s to watch the hit trivia show Jeopardy every night. On Thursday, February 28, over 100 people packed into the RFH auditorium to watch Teacher Jeopardy, which was hosted by the Social Justice Club. The whole event was the brain child of Ms. Burke, head of the club and Jeopardy enthusiast.

A preliminary set of Jeopardy questions were sent out via email for all teachers willing to compete in the event. Teachers were sorted by department, and the two highest department averages were selected to partake in the competition. The three highest scores from the winning departments represented their departments in the actual event.

The participants from the history department were Mr. Beatty, Mr. Emmich, and Ms. Lerner. The participants from the science department were Ms. Foster, Mr. Pennetti, and the legendary Mr. Margolis. In addition to the two winning departments, an “All-star” team of teachers was assembled, comprised of Ms. Flecca, Ms. Hansen, and Ms. Flanagan. After this collection of talent came together, the competition was ready to commence.

The Social Justice Club divided up into different committees and worked tirelessly to prepare for this event. Ms. Burke and some students formed a question committee to write the actual questions the teachers would be asked during the competition, while other members of the club focused on advertising and concessions.

The competition was a hit among both students and teachers. Mr. Wilson and Ms. Okeson served as the hosts for the event, and they certainly did not disappoint. They kept the audience laughing while the contestants answered a slew of difficult questions. There was a diverse array of categories, such as photography, classical music (which seemed to stump most teachers), 2000 Census data, and superheroes.

The “Final Jeopardy” category was “Greek Gods and Goddesses.” The question asked which Ancient Greek deity was depicted on many early Olympic gold medals. Think the answer is Athena? Well sadly, you, as well as the rest of the teachers, are incorrect. The correct answer was Nike, the goddess of victory.

Despite losing the Final Jeopardy question, the history department was able to maintain their early lead and hold on to become the victors of the first annual Teacher Jeopardy competition. However, the real winner was Pratham, an organization that promotes literacy in impoverished areas of India. The event raised over $570 to help their cause. On top of all this, many RFH students had a great time.

“I thought it was a lot of fun! It was interesting to see RFH’s intelligent teachers compete in Jeopardy style play,” said senior Andrew Faett.

“Exhilarating… A gut-busting, fun-filled event for the whole family,” said senior Julia Imperatore, “It was one of the most spectacular, exciting evenings in all my four years at RFH. I hope to see many more events like this.”

Overall, Teacher Jeopardy was an enormous success. However, the Social Justice Club is looking for ways to make it even better next year. Club member Elizabeth Bricker says that there will hopefully be a student team involved next year. Additionally, the club might consider adding categories that apply to RFH, such as teacher backgrounds. An example of this would be “this teacher was born in the year ______” or “this teacher graduated from ______.” The sky is the limit for this great new fundraiser.


Girl Power Song Power Rankings

by Jeff


Let me start this article by addressing a few things. I am not a female. More specifically, I am not a girl. I am, admittedly, just a foolish 18 year old man. I am not a feminist (just kidding, ladies!); I’ve even been called a misogynist. What I am, however, is a lover of music; girl power songs included.

You might be asking yourself, what exactly does he mean by a “girl power song?” A GP song empowers women of all ages. It teaches us that we don’t need no stinkin’ man in our lives to be happy. They are perfect to listen to after a breakup, at a slumber party, or cruising around town. There have been countless amazing girl power songs that will never get old, but I attempted to narrow it down to the top ten.

Honorable Mentions
The following songs are girl power classics, but did not quite make the top ten.
“So What?” by P!nk
“Chain of Fools” by Aretha Franklin
“Run the World (Girls)” by Beyoncé
“I’m a Survivor” by Destiny’s Child
“We are Never Ever Getting back Together” by Taylor Swift
“Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” by Kelly Clarkson
“I Love It” by Icona Pop

And now, without further ado, I present the top ten girl power songs of all time.

10.) “Man! I feel like a Woman” by Shania Twain
We start out our top 10 with a little bit of country flair, courtesy of Shania Twain. In this upbeat country song, Twain sings about going out with her girls, feeling alright, and having a fun time. While this song might not be universally appealing to non-country fans, we can all agree that its message is timeless and simple.

9.) “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper
The title basically speaks for itself. This 80s classic is simple in nature, yet serves as a lighthearted reminder to sometimes let go and just have fun.

8.) “Hollaback Girl” by Gwen Stefani
Many people have mixed feelings about Gwen Stefani’s break from No Doubt and question her solo career. However, nobody can deny the legitimacy of her 2004 song, “Hollaback Girl.” In this urban-pop song, Stefani tells the world that she isn’t, in fact, a hollaback girl. She also ensures that none of her listeners will ever misspell the word “bananas” again.

7.) “Irreplaceable” by Beyoncé
Number 7 on our list is unlike most of the upbeat, peppy songs on our list. It is actually relatively slow, but just as empowering to women. In this song, Beyoncé is in the process of kicking her boyfriend out of her house. All of his stuff can be conveniently found in a box to the left. This song is so good because it reminds us that nobody, no matter how special they may seem, is irreplaceable. Except Beyonce herself; she seems as close to perfection as possible.

6.) “Before He Cheats” by Carrie Underwood
Vandalism is rarely a good thing. Under normal circumstances, it is NOT a good idea to dig your key into the side of a car, carve your name into a leather seat, take a baseball bat to both headlights, and slash a hole in the car’s tires. However, if you are country star Carrie Underwood, and your boyfriend cheats on you, then by all means, go ahead and do so. Normal people would probably have charges pressed against them for such actions, but after listening to this song, I doubt any police officer would want to mess with my girl Carrie Underwood.

5.) “Fighter” by Christina Aguilera
In this girl power anthem, Christina Aguilera tells her listeners about how her breakup with a man has made her more powerful than before. She has now become stronger, harder, wiser, faster, smarter, and most importantly, a fighter. Aguilera uses her powerful pipes to empower women and make any girl out there going through a breakup feel better about herself. This song has an awesomely turbulent mood to it that leaves all jerk guys out there shaking in their boots.

4.) “Since U Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson
Coming in at number 4 on our list is American Idol season 1 winner Kelly Clarkson’s 2004 hit “Since U Been Gone.” If you’re able to look past the text lingo in the title (Really, Kelly? You didn’t have time to type out “You?”) you’ll definitely realize how amazing this song. In this song, Clarkson belts out how happy she is now that her ex-boyfriend is out of her life. This song is uplifting, and perfect for screaming along to.

3.) “Single Ladies” by Beyoncé
According to Kanye West, this song produced one of the “best videos of all time.” While Kanye might have been a tad hyperbolic in his praise of the video, the song is certainly an all-time great. It calls for all the single ladies in the club to band together and show the world how dope they really are. It is literally impossible to listen to this song and not dance. Seriously, try it. If you were successful, then you likely have no soul.

2.) “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor
This classic disco song takes the silver medal of girl power songs. Gloria Gaynor admits that while at first she was afraid and petrified, it is possible for all girls to grow strong and learn how to get along without their men. So whenever your stupid boy comes crawling back from outer space, put on this song, tell him to walk out the door, cause he’s not welcome anymore.

1.) “Respect” by Aretha Franklin
The top spot on the Girl Power Song Power Rankings is this iconic anthem by the queen of girl power, Aretha Franklin. Aretha doesn’t ask for much, but she does demand respect from her men. This upbeat song is literally impossible to not sing along to, and it also provides a helpful spelling lesson while doing so. As an all time great vocalist, Franklin delivers a powerful vocal performance which echoes the powerful sentiment of her song. “Respect” garners the respect of all its listeners.


“30 Rock” Says Goodbye

by Jeff


On Thursday January 31, 2013, NBC aired 30 Rock’s 1 hour series finale. 30 Rock was created and produced in 2006 by Emmy and two-time Golden Globe winning comedian Tina Fey, who plays the role of Liz Lemon, the producer of an NBC sketch comedy show, TGS with Tracy Jordan. Network executive Jack Donaghy, played by two-time Emmy and three-time Golden Globe winner Alec Baldwin, becomes Lemon’s mentor, and helps her juggle her personal life and the ridiculous antics of Tracy Jordan (played by Tracy Morgan) and Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski), the two unpredictable stars of TGS. Also featured in the cast is Kenneth, played by Jack McBrayer, a lovable yet naive NBC page.

30 Rock has been praised by fans and critics alike. It won the Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Comedy series, and it has been nominated every year it has been eligible. Fey has been nominated for awards 12 times for her portrayal of Liz Lemon, and 9 additional times for her work as a writer on the show. Baldwin has also received 12 award nominations. As of February 2013, the show has received a whopping 145 different nominations, and has won 39 of those awards.

One notable aspect of 30 Rock has been its guest stars. The show has featured countless celebrity appearances, such as Betty White, Oprah Winfrey, Kelsey Grammer, James Franco, Kristen Schaal, Denise Richards, Matt Damon, Jennifer Aniston, Will Arnett, Steve Buscemi, Jason Sudekis, Mary J. Blige, Adam Levine, Salma Hayek, Jon Hamm, Emma Stone, Julianne Moore, Steve Martin, Jim Carrey, Jerry Seinfeld, Tim Meadows, Will Forte, Matthew Broderick, Tony Bennett, Ryan Lochte, and many more.

Saying 30 Rock has been a successful TV show would be an understatement. However, on January 31, the show’s seven-year run came to an end with an hour long finale special: “Hogcock/Last Lunch.” The finale was a hilarious and fitting end to the classic sitcom.

With TGS recently cancelled, Liz struggles to adjust to her new life as a stay-at-home mom. Meanwhile, the recently promoted Jack Donaghy struggles to find true happiness in his life. When a clause in Tracy Jordan’s contract is discovered that says the show will violate their agreement unless they can produce one more episode, the cast and crew reunite to say goodbye and produce one final show.

Overall, I could not have wished for a better finale. It was on par with the humor of the series, while providing near perfect resolutions to each and every character. The only negative aspect of the finale was that it was the finale, and it means no more 30 Rock. However, all good things must come to an end. Thursday nights will never be the same without 30 Rock.


Mustache Mania Takes over RFH

by Jeff


Throughout the month of November, many of RFH’s teachers grew mustaches, competing to earn funds to aid victims of Hurricane Sandy and to win the title of “Mr. Mustachio.” The rules were simple enough: each participant was given the same amount of time to create a display of masculinity upon his upper lip. Jugs with photos of the participants were set up in the cafeteria. Students were told to place money in the jug designated to their favorite mustache. Whoever raised the most money won, and was crowned Mr. Mustachio. However, nobody could have predicted the lasting impact this competition would have on the very fabric of RFH’s culture.

Eleven brave souls embraced the challenge: Mr. Lippart, Mr. Hudson, Mr. Pennetti, Mr. Wilson, Mr. Componile, Mr. Lanzalotto, Mr. Margolis, Mr. Pagano, Mr. Emmich, Mr. Beatty, and Mr. Messinger. Each teacher tried to create a unique mustache that would garner the most money from students. However, due to follicular limitations and social norms, many teachers had similar mustaches. The student body found itself divided as to which mustache reigned supreme.

“Mr. Hudson has my vote,” said senior Matt Kelly, “He definitely deserves to win.” Many people disagreed.

Senior John Edler declared Margolis to be his favorite.

“Margolis takes the title hands down. 100% Risk success. Veteran mustache.”

Unfortunately for Kelly and Edler, neither of their favorite mustaches took the crown. Mr. Componile’s signature “Speak Easy” style mustache won over the hearts of many. 

On November 26, 2012, life returned back to normal.  Spouses of teachers welcomed back their clean-shaven husbands with open arms. All participants shaved their mustaches. Mr. Hudson claimed they called off the competition early because they started earlier than expected, but something tells me these teachers were looking for any excuse to shave. A month of facially derived humiliation finally came to an end.

“I’m just happy to have regular, handsome Mr. Emmich back,” senior Ben Sherman told me, “It’s been a long ‘Movember.’”

Overall, all funds went to the victims of Hurricane Sandy, a cause every RFH student can relate to. However, this was about more than the money, this was about winning. Congratulations to Mr. Componile, RFH’s Mr. Mustachio 2012.


The Dawg Pound: An RFH Tradition

by Jeff


The “Dawg Pound” is a group of RFH students who gather at every RFH sporting event to cheer on bulldawg student athletes to victory.

“It’s basically a group in which we come together as one for one common good, and that is tcheer on our teams both physically, mentally, and verbally with different chants” junior Glen Wise said when asked how to describe the Dawg Pound. Wise and fellow junior Jack Wise are the co-leaders of the Dawg Pound, a prestigious position they have held for two years. They feel as if continuity amongst students is one of the many keys to the success of the student section. That continuity leads to a stronger showing of fan support each season.

“Compared to last year, this year we have a more core group of upperclassmen who enjoy cheering and making a fool out of themselves at the games,” Jack said when comparing this year’s Dawg Pound to its predecessor. However, there are many more elements that go into the fan section that make it so successful.

One important factor in the Dawg Pound is gameday attire. Some students, like Jack, enjoy putting in maximum effort for the Dawg Pound, sporting as ridiculous an outfit as possible.

“I like to go through my closet and find the most absurd thing I can get and I like to put it on,” said Jack on the topic of Dawg Pound attire. Glen, on the other hand, likes to “dig in the fro-fo-sho” and sport a variety of different afro wigs to the games. While extreme outfits are encouraged, they are not necessarily required, as the casual fan can stick to wearing the designated Dawg Pound color.

The “Color-Out” is one of the Dawg Pound’s longest traditions. Before each game, the crowd designates what color should be worn by each member of the student section. These colors include black-outs, white-outs, purple-outs, and even pink-outs to support breast cancer awareness. On top of this, fancy-outs, where students are asked to wear formal attire, are implemented each year for the annual homecoming game. Out of all these color themes, Herrmann feels as if the black-out is the most effective way for the crowd to impact the game.

“It looks like more of a unit,” Herrmann said, “We look more solid.”

While gameday attire is a major aspect of the Dawg Pound, one cannot overlook the impact of chanting. Several deafening chants can be heard over the course of a football or basketball game, such as a classic “Defense *clap clap*” chant, or maybe an inspirational “I Believe that we will win” chant. These chants inspire and unify both the crowd and the team. However, these chants also present a great challenge for the Dawg Pound.

Getting freshmen to cheer is one of the biggest obstacles the Dawg Pound faces. While Jack and Glen understand that some freshmen might feel embarrassed to get into the games, they want to stress to them that they respect those who cheer at the games. In order to combat the lack of freshmen involvement, one or two leaders might go up to the top of the stands into the freshman section and urge them to yell as loud as they can. This makes them feel less embarrassed and more comfortable, as well as strengthen the bond between upper and underclassmen. When the initial adrenaline of the screaming wears off, Wise goes up with his cowbell and fires up the crowd.

The Dawg Pound has united the RFH student body and led to many key RFH athletic victories. It started several years ago, and it is a tradition that is still kept today.


Schedule Changes a Necessary Evil at RFH

by Jeff


The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy left much of New Jersey in shambles, including the area of Rumson Fair Haven that many of us call home.  It left many without power, with damage to their homes and other property, and all of us with a new sense of priorities and New Jersey pride.

Rumson Fair Haven Regional High School was no different.  The school was without power for two weeks, and students were left wondering when they would return to school. After two long, cold, powerless weeks, RFH was able to return to normalcy. However, since we missed a fortnight of school, changes to the schedule had to be made. New Jersey law states that public high schools must have 180 school days in order for the school year to be complete. However, Sandy knocked out 8 full days from the schedule. This presented a daunting task for decision makers at RFH. They were able to come up with a solution, but it is one that leaves far less vacation days in the schedule.

In order to make up for the lost time, several school days were added throughout the 2012-2013 academic year. They did this by removing days off between January 2 and spring break, such as Martin Luther King Jr. day. Due to the removal of these days off, there is now a long stretch between January and March–13 straight, uninterrupted school weeks. Quite the grind for RFH’s student body. On top of this, an additional 2 days of quarterly exams will be added on June 23 and 24. Graduation will be pushed back to the 25th.

RFH students should be wearing their pajamas regularly every night during winter, because we cannot afford any more extra days off. According to the RFH website, there is a set order of school days that would be added in case there are more emergency days off (most likely because of snow). The first day added would be May 24, followed by April 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and March 29.

While many people are complaining about the schedule changes, I don’t see many issues with it. Sure, it is grueling to have 3 straight months of school without a day off, but this was a necessary evil. We experienced a major natural disaster and lost almost two full school weeks. Some people fail to see the magnitude of those two weeks. AP classes are scrambling to make up for lost time. Besides, students should enjoy coming into school every single morning anyway.