Spring brings new life to Mayfield’s performing arts 

As our community comes closer to in-person learning this spring, the performing arts Conservatory programs at Mayfield have been pioneering new ways to rehearse, perform and engage with audiences, while abiding by pandemic restrictions. This week, vocal music instructor Andrew Alvarez conducted rehearsals as part of a “car choir” with members of the Women’s Ensemble, and theatre director Maryanne Householder launched the first-ever Cubs Cabaret, which was open to all Mayfield student artists who wanted to take on some of Broadway’s milestones in monologues, dances and songs. We caught up with Mr. Alvarez and Ms. Householder to hear more about their recent projects.
What inspired you both to try these new approaches? Did you see it working somewhere else or was it something pulled straight from your imagination? 

Maryanne: My inspiration has, and always will be, the students. Their drive and determination towards the arts is always where I draw my inspiration from. I started seeing large-scale theatres promoting and continuing to work during this pandemic and I knew that I had to do the same, not only for my students but for myself. I’ve been working in theatre for over 10 years now and I can say without a doubt the reason why theatre has lasted as long as it has is because it adapts to the current situations of the world.

Andrew: Kate [Morin] had sent me a video from NPR, which had a professional choir conducting rehearsals and performances safely in their vehicles, and asked me to look into it. I talked with [Conservatory instructors] Kimberly Gomez and Christin Hablewitz regarding the possibility for the in-car rehearsal and they were monumental in helping to make it happen.

Because of pandemic restrictions, singing—inside or outside—has been considered a high-risk activity. But choir rehearsals over Zoom face all sorts of sound and sync issues. A “car choir,” where each student sings into a microphone inside a car, allows singers to see each other in the same physical space, sing together safely and get simultaneous feedback from their choir director. Would you consider your experiment successful? 

Andrew: It was the first time the students had an opportunity to see each other and sing together in real time. They were so happy to finally hear what the music is supposed to sound like together. They commented how it felt so awesome to sing together again and how much they missed each other.

Last year’s musical, Oliver!, was the final performance in Pike before Mayfield’s physical theatre went dark. Instead of tackling a virtual musical this year, you decided to take on something brand new—the Cubs Cabaret. Can you describe what a typical "rehearsal" looks like?

Maryanne: Since the fall production, I have been able to master the virtual rehearsal! I worked with the girls on selecting a recurring time slot each week where we met and went over their pieces. We worked on a variety of things throughout the rehearsal process ranging from voice, breath, movement, pacing, emotion, costumes, etc. Theatre is centered around communication and collaboration. With the help of Zoom, we were able to successfully have rehearsals and create a connection as well. As for the performances, it definitely has been a learning curve. The students were excellent about submitting their performances and following the guidelines for filming. Then I had the greater task of editing over two hours worth of footage and piecing together what I hope viewers will enjoy as if they are in a live audience. 

They say that “necessity is the mother of invention”—what have you been doing with your students over this last year that you never imagined doing before but seems to be working well?
Andrew: I have been conducting my classes more like private voice lessons. The students have learned quite a lot of music this year.

Maryanne: I never imagined doing any of this with my students, especially in my second year of teaching. Almost my entire teaching career has been through remote learning. I am forever grateful for the growing resources and technology that has helped myself and my students create theatre. I definitely can add film editor to my resume after this unique experience!

It has been a full year of constant reinvention for our Conservatory faculty and students, but regardless of what the future holds, Ms. Householder is confident that Mayfield performing arts “will be ready for the challenge.”
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Established in 1931, Mayfield Senior School in Pasadena, CA is a Catholic, independent, college preparatory school for young women grades 9-12. Noted for its rigorous academic program, which includes 28 Advanced Placement and Honors courses, Mayfield’s curriculum is underscored by a philosophy of educating the “whole child,” which also encourages commitment to and excellence in the arts, athletics, community service and spiritual growth. The nurturing environment at Mayfield Senior School allows each student to flourish in an atmosphere of personal attention.