High School News

Orchestra Concert produced sound performance at Festival of the Arts
Bruce Moran



The floor in the main gymnasium at Bridgewater-Raritan High School was transformed into an orchestra pit that produced powerful but soft and elegant sounds of music.

This was the performance that was enjoyed by the audience who sat through another memorable show during The Festival of Arts 2023, sponsored by the Fine and Performing Arts Department of the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District.

The Orchestra Concert on Wednesday, March 29, was the second of three performances delivered by the gifted students in the school district. The third and final evening performance is the Band Concert that is scheduled to be held on Thursday, March 30.

The Festival of Arts 2023 was launched by the Chorus Concert on Thursday, March 23. All of the events were held in the high school gym, a venue that could accommodate the overflow crowds.

 Matt McCarthy, who is going to complete his first month in his role as the Supervisor of the high-profile Fine and Performing Arts Department In the school district, kicked off the Orchestra Concert with an introduction statement.

 “Studies have shown that the complexity and nuance of orchestral compositions can improve cognitive function and lower blood pressure. So it’s good for our heads and our hearts,” Mr. McCarthy said.

Once the high school’s Symphony Orchestra performed a beautiful verse of The Star Spangled Banner, the music generated by the orchestras that covered Grades 6-12 in the school district were extremely well received by the heads and hearts of the captivated audience.

The crowd included the person who has coordinated the Festival of Arts, Dr. Laura Bassett, the former Supervisor of the Fine and Performing Arts Department and who is now the Principal at the Eisenhower Intermediate School.

Eisenhower and its sister-school, Hillside Intermediate School, teamed to form the 6th Grade Orchestra that was conducted by Thomas Pepitone, a teacher at Eisenhower who is the Orchestra Director for both schools.

 That unit performed a fine rendition of Exhilaration by Cooper Ford.

The Bridgewater-Raritan Middle School 7th Grade Orchestra, under its director, Catherine Butler, played Toccatina by William Hofeldt.

“I was  incredibly proud of how hard the students worked,” Ms. Butler said. “Even in the last couple weeks since our Middle School Orchestra Festival, they have grown in confidence and ability to play through our piece. We are looking forward to applying this to other pieces and having a great spring concert in May!”

The high school’s Ninth Orchestra followed in the lineup and played under its director, Ms. Hsiao-yu Lin Griggs, The Emerald Falcon by Richard Meyer.

The 8th Grade Orchestra from the middle school then performed Kilimanjaro by Alan Lee Silvai.

“It was amazing to have the orchestra students from grades 6-12 showcase their musicianship for each other and for the community at the district Fine Arts Festival Orchestra Concert,” said Ms. Maria Ramsay, who is the 8th Grade Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra Director. 

The high school’s Concert Orchestra then played Lion City by Soon Hee Newbold, followed by the Chamber Orchestra from the middle school that performed Fire Dance, also written by Soon Hee Newbold.

“The level the students ultimately perform at once they reach the high school level never ceases to astound me,” Ms. Ramsay said. “However, every group played passionately and with artistry. The 8th Grade and Chamber Orchestras put on a truly beautiful performance and I am particularly proud of what they have accomplished this school year as individuals and as an ensemble.”

The memorable evening was capped by the high school’s Symphony Orchestra that produced a fine rendition of a sweet version of Symphony No. 4  IV. Finale. Allegro con fuoco by the famed composer, Pyotr IIlich Tchaikovsky.

"All ensembles sounded amazing! The Intermediate and Middle School students played wonderfully, and I am especially proud of the High School ensembles. I know how hard they worked leading up to the concert, and they gave me their heart and soul on Wednesday night!! Thank you BRHS musicians! You made me proud!!" Ms. Griggs said.

“What a sublime evening of music I’m so proud of the hard work and talent of our students” Mr. McCarthy concluded. 

High school artists receive awards at Mount Olive exhibit
Bruce Moran

Another art gallery resulted in yet another award-winning exhibit by the gifted students at Bridgewater-Raritan High School.

In her role as a teacher in the high school’s Art Department, Ms. Elizabeth Stutzman, has guided numerous students to various exhibits where their fine works have often been recognized. 

The latest in their skilled line of work came during the Mount Olive High School National Art Honor Society 36th Invitational Competition on Tuesday, March 7.

Four Bridgewater-Raritan High School artists received awards in the Drawing, Painting and Open categories while six students were granted a total of seven scholarships during the competition at the high school in Morris County.

Two of the four award-winning artists had their works place first.

Julia Mitchko finished first in the Open category and Jennifer Niu placed first in the Drawing category.

Diya Hunashimarad placed second in the Painting category and Shawanya Ram ended in third place in Painting.

Scholarships were provided by the four colleges and universities that participated in the competition in Mount Olive.

The four schools were the University of Hartford Art School from Connecticut, the Moore College of Art & Design in Philadelphia, Montserrat College of Art in Massachusetts and Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia.

Diya Hunashimarad and Srinija Chowdavarapu each received two scholarships. Diva was awarded scholarships of $25,000 per year at Moore College of Art & Design and $5,000 per year from Montserrat College of Art, while Srinija received scholarships of up to $25,000 per year from the University of Hartford and up to $265,000 per year from Moore College of Art & Design.

The other Bridgewater-Raritan High School students who were granted scholarships were Julia Mitchko, who was awarded up to $29,000 per year from the University of Hartford; Jennifer Niu, who obtained a summer seminar scholarship from Savannah College of Art and Design; Sharanya Ram, who was awarded up to a $25,000 per year scholarship from the University of Hartford; and Kaitlyn Pello, who received up to $25,000 per year scholarship from Moore College of Art & Design.

The celebrated evening of March 7 for Ms. Stutzman and her students was just one of the numerous events when Bridgewater-Raritan High School artists have thrived during this school year.

The Emerging Artists 35 Annual High School Art exhibit at Kean University and the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, both contested in January, featured prized works by the Bridgewater-Raritan High School students., And two works from Ms. Stuttzman’s students have been placed in the exhibit at the Morris Museum.

“Please join me in congratulating juniors Jennifer Niu and Sharanya Ram, along with seniors Srinija Chowdavarapu, Diya Hunashimarad, Julia Mitchko, and Kaitlyn Pello,” Ms. Stutzman stated about her artists’ achievements at Mount Olive.


Think fast and think when driving were messages delivered at entertaining assembly
Bruce Moran

The mission was to engage the students and have them educated on the rules and the safety of the road.

And think was the word mostly used by an organization that carries that crucial term in its title.

ThinkFast Interactive, which is headquartered in Michigan, is focused on numerous challenges that confront teenagers.

Here is a summary that is published on its website:

ThinkFast was developed in 1997 as a program that would non-intrusively expose participants to and educate them on important information on hard-to-tackle topics, i.e. the consequences of underage drinking, drug use, bullying, traffic safety distracted driving, etc., while simultaneously entertaining them in a safe, relaxed and fun environment. The goal was to use our expertise in entertainment production to develop an interesting educational program that would directly engage hundreds of individuals for the entire duration of the presentation.

On Wednesday, March 22, the sophomore students from Bridgewater-Raritan High School experienced this lively and informative program when ThinkFast representatives put on an educational and fun performance on the stage of the school’s auditorium.

The students, who were divided up into two sessions on March 22, have recently completed their drivers education course.

Kathy DeBonis, one of the high school’s Health and Physical Education Teachers, revealed how ThinkFast made a pit stop at Bridgewater-Raritan.

“We received a grant from the Traffic Safety Program from Somerset and Hunterdon counties,” Ms. DeBonis said. “The ThinkFast Interactive presentation is one hour and they are customizable regarding the subject matter. We choose Distracted Driving, Impaired Driving and GDL (Graduated Driving Licensing) as ours.”

She explained further.

“The information was presented to the students in the form of a competitive game show with students split into teams of three or four. The game show was fast paced and very much designed to connect with the students at their level through music and pop culture subject matter.”

During this robust presentation, the students merged as teams of four and each squad received a remote to click on answers to various questions that dealt  with safe driving as well as some that directed students off the road and were under that category of pop culture. A DJ played lively music throughout the show.

The host of the show for ThinkFast was Peter Giambalvo, whose energy was absorbed by the attentive audience. That, he confirmed, is a reason for this type of presentation.

“We want to get them to think. It is important to make this information for the kids fun and entertaining,”  Mr. Giambalvo said. “We want to keep them engaged and they are interactive with the remotes they use throughout.”

During the presentation, a few of the Bridgewater-Raritan students competed in a dance contest and a question-and-answer test on stage.

 At the conclusion, one team was brought  to the stage and was crowned the overall champion. The award was a $100 gift card to Amazon.

Dave Guglietti, who is the school district’s Supervisor of Health and Physical Education, took in the presentations and came away impressed.

“The students enjoyed the experience, they were able to work with each other to answer trivia questions, some were even able to show off their talents, but each and every one of them walked out of the assembly with more knowledge to ensure they are safe behind the wheel,” Mr. Guglietti said. “We are all very excited about that aspect and the message this program put forth.”

He placed the credit to the success of this project to his staff.

“The Drivers Education Teachers, Ms. (Kathie) DeBonis, Ms. (Sandy) Baranowski, Ms. (Lydia) Pinto, Ms. (Michele) Kussmaul, Mr. (Dylan) D’Ambrosio and Mr. (Mike) Denver did an incredible job coordinating this assembly and making it happen for our students,” Mr. Guglietti said.  “They deserve all of the credit.”






High school Academic League Teams complete successful run through Somerset County
Bruce Moran

An impressive report card was produced by the Bridgewater-Raritan High School students who matched their knowledge against their peers this winter in Somerset County.

The Bridgewater-Raritan High School Academic League Team completed a successful campaign under the guidance of its advisor, Dr. Eleni Arapaki.

The Bridgewater-Raritan High School’s JV Academic League Team was crowned the champion of Somerset County with its undefeated matches it scored against other schools in Somerset County.

Meanwhile, Bridgewater-Raritan High Schools Varsity Academic League Team placed a very sound fifth place in the county’s final standings.

Dr. Arapaki, who is the AP Physics 1 & 2 Teacher at the high school, explained how the league and the team both operate.

“The Academic League brings students from different backgrounds together and the team is so diverse,” she said. “We have kids who know sports, kids who know music and kids who know current events.”

During the course of the season, teams would meet each Thursday in the winter when one Somerset County school would each serve as the host .

Rooms are set aside at the schools where the challenge matches, which unusually lasted just over one hour during that Thursday afternoon, are broken into two parts of the game, each with 14 categories. Students are asked the questions by their team advisors/coaches.

 The questions cover multiple subject areas ranging from sports to literature to movies to entertainment to arts and sciences, to history and to government. 

 Bridgewater-Raritan High School was the host to the competition on December 8, when 10 rooms in the 1000 Building were the venue for the matches.

Here are the students who competed this winter for Bridgewater-Raritan High School.

Varsity Team: Seniors Jonah Betron, Evan Gillmurray, Jerry Liu and Parth Kheni.

JV Team: Juniors Rhea GandhiTiffany Li and Marcus Vecchiarelli and Sophomore Foteini Gallou.


Festival of Arts 2023 kicked off with fabulous Chorus Concert at high school
Bruce Moran

Matt McCarthy struck a chord.

Then a collection of gifted choir students and their impeccable directors and teachers struck their chord.

Mr. McCarthy, who is only a week into his high-profile position as the Supervisor of Fine and Performing Arts for the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District, kicked off The Festival of Arts 2023 when he spoke just before the Chorus Concert launched this priceless showcase on the evening of Thursday, March 23

His opening speech contained both his introduction of himself to the audience that crammed into the Bridgewater-Raritan High School main gymnasium as well as how precious fine and performing arts can be.

 “It occurred to me tonight that as we go through life we spend an awful lot of time alone and even more time feeling alone. But not when we sing,” Ms. McCarthy spoke. “Every culture and every religion around the world has traditions that involve individuals coming together in song and that is because when we sing together connections are formed and the more we sing the stronger those connections grow. The young people here tonight have devoted hours of hard work and practice in order to do what they are about to do. I suspect along the way they experienced a lot of joy. I hope you enjoy yourself tonight”

The tone was set for the evening.

The staff member whom Mr. McCarthy replaced was Dr. Laura Bassett, who continued to spearhead The Festival of Arts 2023 while she began her new role as the Principal of the Eisenhower Intermediate School in the school district on February 1.

She, too, expressed the special feelings that the sweet sound of choral students can produce while she cited the tireless work of the teachers and directors who fine-tuned the four choral squads who performed on this special night.

The high school’s splendid choral team sang a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem, a performance that energized the crowd and sparked the first group who sang—the 4th Grade Choir.

The 4th grade singers teamed up from all seven of the primary schools to form one cohesive unit on March 23.

Heather Diaforli-Day, who is the highly regarded K-4 Music Teacher at Crim Primary School, served as the lead director during the concert.

She and the other directors from the six primary schools—-Janice Williams of Adamsville,

Alex Holland of Bradley Gardens, Rina Sklar of Hamilton, James Cicchino of John F. Kennedy, who accompanied Ms. Diaflori-Day up front during the performance, Brianna Super of Milltown and Gian Sari of Van Holten—-were thrilled in not only how they sang but how they meshed so well.

“All of the 4th grade choral directors are so very proud of our students' performance at the festival,” Ms. Diaforli-Day said. “They came together quickly as an ensemble, with a short amount of rehearsal time, to share their music with the community.  They were truly in awe of the high school singers!  It was a wonderful experience for all last night.”

The lineup was then turned over to the Intermediate School Choir, which was composed of the students from both Eisenhower and Hillside Intermediate Schools.

Again, the sounds were clear and quite pleasant under the guidance of Tony Sgro, the charismatic Music Teacher and Director at Hillside, and Lisa Rotondi and Lauren Smith who are the superb Co-Directors and Music Teachers at Eisenhower.

Mr. Sgro, Ms. Rotondi and Ms.Smith all joined in to provide this statement about the wonderful evening.

“We look forward to the Choral Festival because our students have the opportunity to see the entire Choral Program come alive in one musical experience. Our students not only add their own beautiful music but they also gain the context of the music-making opportunities ahead of them at the BRMS (Bridgewater-Raritan Middle School) and BRHS (Bridgewater-Raritan High School).”

A delightful evening of singing continued when the Middle School Chorus delivered their terrific performance, which featured an opening song that was accompanied by a soothing playing of the violin by a female student.

This group of 7th and 8th Graders followed the lead of Gabriel Hingelberg, the vigorous Music Teacher and Choral Director at the Middle School.

"I was so proud of the Middle School Choir and the Festival was as good as it gets!" Ms. Hingelberg claimed. "My favorite part of the evening was seeing my students’ reactions to hearing the other choirs, especially the High School. They were so happy and impressed with the sharing of music. A wonderfully successful event! "

The high school students, who launched the concert with their fantastic delivery of the National Anthem, closed with their fine-tuned production under the astute command of Dr. John Wilson, the Bridgewater-Raritan High School’s spirited Music Teacher and Choral Director.

Mr. McCarthy absorbed his first Festival of Arts and came away quite impressed.

“What an amazing performance from our students tonight. It is a testament to the high caliber of instruction that our teachers provide and the talent, hard work, and passion of these young people,” Mr. McCarthy said.

Dr. Wilson was quite impressed with the outstanding performance, starting with the 4th Graders up to his high school students.

“It was such a joy to see all of our wonderful singers, from grades 4 through 12, assembled together. As our new supervisor Matthew McCarthy said, "when you sing together, you make connections." This event strengthened those connections between singers, teachers, parents and our community as a whole.”

The Festival of Arts will continue with the Orchestra Concert on Wednesday, March 29, and the Band Concert on Thursday, March 30, both slated to start at 7 p.m. and will be staged at the high school's main gym. The District Visual Art Exhibit, the fourth and final event of the Festival, will be held on Wednesday, May 17, at 6 p.m., also at the high school.