Mr. Grillo: 2013 Teacher of the Year

by Jeff

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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.

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This is…Teacher Jeopardy!

by Jeff

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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.

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RFH Tower Players Perform “Aida”

by Emily

On March 22-24, the Rumson-Fair Haven Regional Tower Players performed their spring musical, Aida. Written by Elton John and Tim Rice, Aida takes place in an ancient Egyptian setting.  English and Drama teacher Mrs.Sweeny directed the play, as she has been for past musicals.

The plot of Aida revolves around a Nubian princess, Aida. Aida is captured by a powerful Egyptian war captain, Radames, while their countries are at war. As Radames takes Aida under his wing as a personal servant for his fiancee, a forbidden love evolves between the two. Despite their different social statuses, Aida and Radames’ profound romance paves the way to bring peace and civility to their war ridden countries.

The elaborate costumes, tribal music, and exciting choreography made the audience feel as though they really were in ancient Egypt. Aida was extremely successful and a truly great performance by the Tower Players.

The core cast of Aida included senior Clare Fitzgerald, starring as Aida and senior Harrison Best as Radames. Both lead performers have been participating in the RFH productions since freshman year, and lit up the stage one last time in their last musical.

“I’m really happy with how Aida turned out. It was a lot of hard work and long rehearsals, but it was definitely worth it,” said Best.

For the senior cast, the final performance of Aida was bittersweet.  However, many were glad their time with the Tower Players ended on a successful note. Sophomore Julia Mosby held a lead role as Radames’ fiancee and gave a stellar performance for one of the younger Tower Players. Other roles included a washer woman, servant, model, and other minor parts played by many freshmen and upper classmen within the ensemble. After seeing the play, it was apparent that Aida took many months of preparation by all Tower Players.

“We rehearsed nearly every day, perfecting every little detail in each musical number,” said senior, Shannan Kirchner. This was Kirchner’s first year doing the spring musical, and she described the experience as strenuous but rewarding. Like Best, Kirchner was very proud of all the Tower Players, and all the dedication hard work that went into Aida.

Each intricate detail of the performance went smoothly. Of course, the play would not have been such a success without the backstage work of stage craft and tech crew. The set of the play was very complex and detailed, making it look extremely authentic. Similarly, all lighting and microphone work ran smoothly, making for awesome performances all three nights. Last, but not least, the orchestra pit led by Mr.Grillo performed all musical numbers. Pit members included students who take various music classes at RFH and have volunteered their time. It was the work contributed by these “behind the scenes” Tower Players that helped the play become such a success.

Overall, Aida was a theatrical success and was nearly sold out all three performances. Those who saw say the play would agree that the Tower Players’ countless rehearsals definitely payed off. Congratulations to the Tower Players on a wonderful performance.

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The RFH Annual Blood Drive Saves 219 Lives

by Emily

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On February 25, Rumson Fair Haven High School held its annual blood drive. In the week leading up to the drive, students and staff members could make an appointment to give blood during lunch periods or in the nurse’s office. Throughout the day, students and staff members attended their respective appointments to donate blood in the auditorium.

The blood drive was held by the Central Jersey Blood Center. The CJBC has sixteen service centers throughout the state of New Jersey. According to CJBCblood.org, its mission is, “to provide an adequate, high quality, and safe supply of blood, and other related services to meet the needs of area hospitals.”

There is no doubt that hosting blood drives at institutions like Rumson Fair Haven High School is extremely beneficial to these organizations and their mission to save lives. The donated blood will go to cancer patients, trauma victims, and others that need life-saving blood. The entire process is free and those as young as 16 can participate with a parent-consent form.

“The entire process was very quick and painless. Everything went very smoothly and I was happy to donate what I could,” said Shannan Kirchner, an RFH senior.

To sign up, students simply made an appointment with the school nurse, received a pass in their homeroom, and attended the drive at their respective times, bringing a parent consent form and ID. This was Kirchner’s second year donating blood, and she encourages all students 16 and over to participate in next year’s blood drive. Donating at the blood drive is simple, convenient, and an effective way to raise awareness.

“By having the blood drive at RFH, we are exposing students to the importance of donating and they can donate in a comfortable environment,” says the RFH school nurse and Health Club advisor, Mrs. Nill.

This was Mrs.Nill’s tenth year running the blood drive with the Health Club, and she was eager to be a part of the cause. Mrs.Nill believes that by bringing the blood drive to the school, we are leading the way for students to become lifetime donors to a great cause that is always in need of aid. If students miss the annual blood drive they can donate at any other Central Blood Center in New Jersey just by calling and setting up an appointment.

At the end of the day, RFH’s blood drive was very successful. According to Mrs.Nill, despite the limited 72 appointments available, 81 people donated, collecting 73 units of blood in total. With one unit of blood saving three lives, that’s 219 lives saved.

The Central Jersey Blood Center was very happy with the success of the blood drive. The entire RFH community was eager to donate and as a whole made a big difference. Mrs.Nill and the Health Club encourage all eligible students and staff members to participate in next year’s drive. 219 lives saved is a tremendous accomplishment and those who donated or worked the drive should be extremely proud. With the generous and big-hearted RFH community there is no doubt that next year’s blood drive will be just as prosperous.

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RFH’s 2013 Talent Show Doesn’t Disappoint

by Myles

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During each school year, students dedicate themselves to earning the best grades they can possibly get, and deserve something to show for it. This is something that not only entertains whoever comes sees it, but that also allows them to participate in what we know as “The Talent Show.”

For many years, RFH’s students and teachers have done their fair share to present their amazing talents and have received recognition in and out of school. Some examples of teachers in the Talent Show is history teachers Mr. Beatty and Mr. Galante, as well as foreign language teacher, Mr. Herman.  They have performed in the Talent Show for many years and continue to participate so students can see their favorite teachers show another side of their lives.

In 2011, Mr. Beatty and Mr. Emmich, another RFH teacher, performed two favored songs from the “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” and “Stu’s Song” from the movie, The Hangover. Their act was great and entertaining.

AT this year’s Talent Show, freshman pianist Matt Hughes performed a piano solo and sang“Mad World.” It was an incredible performance that everyone was moved by. Being able to listen to a beautiful instrument that’s not on the radio, but up close and in the auditorium, is an amazing experience to enjoy.  It allows you to appreciate the years it takes a person to master that skill, and clearly Hughes has done just that.

Though from what he has learned and practiced for many years, Matt continued to practice for many weeks to perfect his act and finally auditioned for the Talent Show. So once it was time to present, he was mentally prepared so that Mrs. Maglione and the other selection committee members could decide who could be in the Talent Show and in what order.  I, similarly, auditioned with a karate act and was able to participate in the show.

The day before the Talent Show, there was a rehearsal where everyone would practice getting on and off the stage until it became presentable to the audience. Originally, I believed being one of the participants would spoil the actual day of the Talent Show, and planned to ignore the acts. However,  everyone’s talent was so amazing that  I couldn’t keep myself from watching.  The actual day of the Talent Show would take hours; the acts taking place in the rehearsal would be cut off in the middle to save precious time. Even with this great opportunity to preserve what I hadn’t seen yet, I was disappointed from how amazing the other performers were when they had to be cut off.

As each performer went on and off the stage, I realized how great everyone’s full acts were.  I began to forget why I came to Talent Show in the first place: to win the competition!  However, I then regained my focus. With that being said, I, Myles, had won the 2013 Talent Show!  I enjoyed every part of everyone’s acts and can’t wait to see who else has something to show next year.

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NHL Lockout Ends, Hockey Commences

by Billy

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For those of you who know, and those of you who don’t, the NHL (National Hockey League) was in a lockout for a little less than half of the season, which is usually comprised of 82 games. The 2012-2013 season, however, will only have 48. All of those games will be played within the team’s respective conference, meaning the East and West teams won’t meet until the finals.

The lockout resulted due to the expiration of the previous contract between the players and the owners, which expired on September 16, 2012. Both the players and owners desired better benefits from the new deal, and therefore agreed to disagree until the matter could be resolved, meaning the players wouldn’t play, and the owners wouldn’t own.

At one point, the 2012-2013 season was in jeopardy of being cancelled completely. The owners and players realized that total cancellation would exact a huge toll on every party that benefitted from the NHL, whether it is the vendor who sells beer at the game, or the owners and players themselves. Despite countless negotiations and a failed mediation attempt, the players and owners were finally able to reach an agreement.

The dispute existed because the owners were not satisfied with their share of hockey related revenues, contract limits, salary caps, and free agency rules. The previous split of hockey related revenues was in favor of the players, at 57% to 43%. The owners’ new proposal basically flip-flopped the split, and when the players viewed it, they came to the conclusion that the new split would simply not suffice. Both parties were able to agree that 50-50 was fair. In my opinion, the revenue conundrum was the foremost concern of both the players and owners, considering it directly affected their respective salaries.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with sports terminology, a cap is a limit on the amount of money an owner can spend on his players collectively throughout the season. The salary cap disagreement was settled at $64.3 million per team, as opposed to the 70.2 million dollar cap that was utilized in the previous contract. The new cap is in effect next season, however. To most of us, $64.3 million is unfathomable, but to owners of professional hockey teams, it teeters on the brink of becoming insufficient. For example, in previous seasons, NHL teams would be allowed to send some of their players to minor leagues, in order to stay below the cap. This sneaky trick is no longer allowed.

Contract limits and free agency rules were the final two major points of contention between the owners and players. The contract limits were set at seven years for new contracts and eight years for contract extensions. Basically, these new limits were introduced to ensure that the players are not stuck with one team for a large portion of their career. While seven or eight years may seem like a long time, it is important to remember that those figures are simply a limit, and many players sign contracts that bind them for only a couple of years.
The seven year contract limit applies to free agents, as well. A free agent is a player that can sign with whatever team he wants, regardless of the owner’s desires, unless the player is already in a binding contract. A player can only become a free agent if he is 27 years old, or has played in the league for seven seasons. These terms have been in place since 2004, and were left unchanged in the new agreement.

The lockout could have been a more arduous process, if not for the combined determination and cooperation of both the owners and players. During the lockout, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman commented that, “The business is probably losing between $18 and $20 million a day and the players are losing between $8 and $10 million a day.”

If nothing else, money alone could have been an incentive to reach an agreement, but it is obvious that all parties involved really wanted to agree for the love of the game, a notion which was confirmed when many NHL players promptly left the United States to play in foreign leagues for the duration of the lockout.

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Hurricane Sandy: Returning to Normalcy

by Emily

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On October 29th 2012, a 900-mile wide storm struck the east coast and caused about $62 billion in damage and at least 125 deaths in the United States. Hurricane Sandy was an unexpected tragedy that affected millions of people, not only in the U.S but in the Caribbean, as well. Months later, the devastation of Sandy continues to linger over the New York- New Jersey area, as buildings and towns that have become ruins wait to be rebuilt, and those who have lost everything, try to return to normalcy.

Luckily, these people are not alone. Almost immediately after the storm, campaigns and fundraisers emerged that were both creative and successful. Some of the most successful efforts were led by the American Red Cross, opening public donation centers around the country where anyone could donate supplies that varied from articles of clothing to non-perishable food items. These generous donations,  collected throughout the nation were given to families living in shelters with very few items to call their own.

On a larger scale, celebrities did their part in raising public awareness, as well as money, for Sandy victims. On 12/12/12, a benefit concert was held at Madison Square Garden where all proceeds went to charities such as the Robin Hood Relief Fund. The Robin Hood Relief Fund is the largest organization in the New York area that fights poverty. The 12/12/12 concert featured Bon Jovi, Eric Clapton, Dave Grohl, Billy Joel, Alicia Keys, Chris Martin, The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Eddie Vedder, Roger Waters, Kanye West, The Who, Paul McCartney and even more. The fundraiser was more successful than anyone imagined; these musical icons came together to raise $300 million alone just in ticket sales. The concert was broadcast to about 2 billion people around the world, and merchandise is still being sold world-wide.

Other efforts included the “Restore the Shore” campaign led by MTV. On November 15th, MTV invited viewers around the country to tune in to watch special messages by pop-icons such as One Direction, Taylor Swift, Britney Spears, and Nicki Minaj. These celebrities, encouraged viewers to get involved in some way or another. The Restore the Shore efforts took off and began selling hoodies, T-shirts, and other merchandise with the Restore the Shore logo. Proceeds from the sales goes to Architecture for Humanity, a non-profit organization that helps rebuild communities in need or recovering from natural disasters, such as Seaside Heights. To get involved in Restore the Shore efforta, simply text a number to donate something as small as $10. In all, The Restore the Shore Campaign is still raising millions of dollars for Hurricane Sandy relief, making a big difference in the wake of this disaster.

Whether it’s multi-million dollar celebrities performing a sold-out concert, donating non-perishable foods to a community center, or even buying a Restore the Store T-shirt, anyone can aid in Sandy Relief efforts. Hurricane Sandy definitely took it’s toll on the east coast. Billions of dollars in damage and crushed dreams cannot be fixed overnight, but the fundraisers discussed in this article are sure doing a good job to get there as soon as possible. In the wake of such a devastating natural disaster, Hurricane Sandy has reminded Americans what really matters. It has reminded us that coming together to make a difference in any way is more powerful than any one could imagine.

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