• Jam Bake Heading to Berklee

    Posted by Mark Messer on 1/11/2019

    Jam Bake

    Jam Bake Combo will compete in the Berklee High School Jazz Festival in Boston on Jan. 26. Back, from left, Duncan Howell, Edward Conte, Quinn Stabler, and Tess Williamson. Front, from left, Erika Hipsky, Elana Williamson, LeeAnn Varnum, and Courtney Bianco.


    Jam Bake to compete in 50th Berklee festival

    A George Stevens Academy jazz combo will compete at the Berklee High School Jazz Festival on Saturday, Jan. 26. Thousands of musicians from 131 schools across the country are expected to participate at the largest festival of its kind in the United States.

         Jam Bake Combo is composed of Courtney Bianco ’19, alto sax; Edward Conte ’19, drums; Erika Hipsky ’20, alto sax and flute; Duncan Howell ’20, trombone; Quinn Stabler ’20, bass; LeeAnn Varnum ’19, soprano and tenor sax; Elana Williamson, ’19 vibes and piano; and Tess Williamson ’19, piano and vocals.

         Combos from GSA have competed at the prestigious festival for many years. In 2017, the school took second place in its division, it’s best finish so far. That year, Yvonne Rogers and Joseph Boulet both received Outstanding Musicianship Awards, “a huge honor,” said Steve Orlofsky, “as only five awards are presented per division.” Orlofsky directs the jazz program at the George Stevens Academy.

         The school placed third or fourth in 2004, 2005, 2010 and 2011, and Ross Gallagher is the only other GSA student to earn an Outstanding Musicianship Award, in 2004.

         School officials hope that alums and other supporters of the music program will show their support by attending the festival and watching Jam Bake Combo compete at 11:45 a.m. The festival, held at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, is open to the public, and no tickets are required to attend. Performances take place throughout the day. For more information, visit http://festival.berkleejazz.org.

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  • Poetry Out Loud Winner Named

    Posted by Mark Messer on 1/2/2019

    Magnolia Vandiver

    Magnolia Vandiver ’21 competes in the Poetry Out Loud competition at GSA.


    Vandiver Will Represent GSA at Regionals

    Magnolia Vandiver ’21 was selected the winner of the George Stevens Academy schoolwide Poetry Out Loud competition in December. Asha Kirkland ’19 was named runner-up.

         Poetry Out Loud, a poetry recitation competition organized at the national level by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, is administered in Maine by The Maine Arts Commission. English teacher Maria Johnson organized the GSA event and introduced the competitors.

         Vandiver, Kirkland and Jon Robbins ’19 each recited two poems, one contemporary and one from before the 20th century, in front of a panel of judges. Vandiver recited “Author’s Prayer,” by Ilya Kaminsky, and “The New Colossus,” by Emma Lazarus, the poem cast in bronze for display at the Statue of Liberty.

         “I was shocked to win,” said Vandiver, who chose “Author’s Prayer” for its imagery and “The New Colossus” because, “although it was written in the 1880s, it seemed so fitting and apropos” to today. To practice, she said she repeated the poems aloud for 30 minutes to an hour each week.

         Kirkland recited “No Coward Soul Is Mine,” by Emily Brontë, and “The Albatross,” by Kate Bass. Robbins’ two poems were Rita Dove’s “Banneker” and “A Birthday,” by Christina Rossetti.

         Every competitor, said judge Michael Kazmierczak, made a “wow-level connection to the audience” at one moment or another during their recitations. Kazmierczak and the other judges, Martha Horne and Bill Case, all GSA teachers, praised the participants and encouraged them to continue reading and reciting poetry. Accuracy judge Sue Jellison, score tallier Elisabeth de Sévigné and prompter Lucy Morison ’20 helped with the event. Jellison and de Sévigné also are teachers at the school.

         Vandiver will compete in the Northern Maine Regional Finals at the Hampden Academy Performing Arts Center on Tuesday, Jan. 29, at 3 p.m. For this, she must select and learn a third poem, which she said will be longer than the first two. If for any reason she cannot compete, Kirkland will take her place as runner-up.

         Five finalists from that competition and from the Southern Maine Regionals will go on to the state finals in Waterville on March 11, from which a student will be selected to represent Maine at the national competition in Washington, D.C., in mid-spring.

         The state competition involves approximately 10,000 students per year, according to The Maine Arts Commission. The “program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence and learn about their literary heritage.”

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  • Middle School Appreciation Night

    Posted by Mark Messer on 12/20/2018

    Regan Libby and Varsity Team

    Regan Libby, Knockout winner, with the boys' varsity basketball team.


    Game vs. Bucksport a Nailbiter

    The Middle School Appreciation Night game between the GSA varsity boys' basketball team and Bucksport was a close one indeed. It started off well enough for the Eagles, with our boys taking and maintaining an early lead through most of the game. The fourth quarter saw Bucksport make up the gap and then take a 47-45 lead with a three-pointer. The Eagles tied the game 47-47, and then when the Eagles were on the offense, a foul was called against Bucksport with 4.8 seconds left in the game. Caden Mattson sank both shots, giving GSA a 49-47 win. The JV game also was a close one, with GSA taking that game 57-54.

          Middle School Appreciation Night gave about twenty seventh- and eighth-graders from area sending towns free admission to the game, a free slice of pizza and drink, giveaways, and a chance to see our teams in action.

          At halftime, four names were drawn for a game of Knockout. Each competitor got a GSA Together T-shirt, and the winner, Regan Libby of the Surry Elementary School, also won a black, long-sleeved shirt from GSA's collection of spirit wear. (Visit GSA Spirit Wear to find out what's available.)

         Our student guests also were entertained by the GSA Band, directed by Steve Orlofsky. The band peformed two sets, one before the varsity game and another at halftime, to keep the crowds pumped up, and there was "even more cowbell," said Athletic Director Larry Gray. When the game got tight in the fourth quarter, some of the band members and other fans got into a back-and-forth cheering contest with the Bucksport fans. "E-A-G-L-E-S Eagles!" 

         Middle School Appreciation Night, organized by Michael S. Foster and Christie A. Snow of GSA Admissions, was a chance for area seventh- and eighth-graders to get a glimpse of what it's like to be an Eagle. Another Middle School Appreciation Night will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 30, when the girls' basketball teams take on Bucksport High School. The GSA band also will play that night, and there will be other giveaways and contests. 


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  • Three Headed to Jazz All-States

    Posted by Mark Messer on 12/17/2018 1:00:00 PM

    Jazz All-State

    From left, Elana Williamson, Edward Conte, and Gabe Hall are among the best high school musicians in the state. The three GSA students will participate in the Jazz All-State Festival in South Portland in early January.


    Three Headed to Jazz All-States, Williamson for 2nd Time

    Elana Williamson ’19 has been chosen to play vibes in the All-State Honors Jazz Band for the second year in a row. Williamson is one of three students from George Stevens Academy selected for the Maine Music Educators Association Jazz All-State Festival, scheduled to take place at South Portland High School Thursday through Saturday, Jan. 3-5.

         Williamson, who started playing piano when she was 9 or 10 years old but was introduced to the vibes in fifth grade, said that she loves “the interesting rhythms” of Latin jazz, as well as classic jazz.

         Auditions were held at the University of Maine at Augusta on Oct. 12. Williamson said that Steve Orlofsky, who directs the jazz program at GSA, “helped me prepare for my audition,” which “went pretty well” but still made her nervous enough to come to the audition room without her mallets and to have “to run back to the practice room to grab them.”

         “Mr. O is a great band director,” she said, and she hopes that he will help her prepare for the festival once she gets her music so that she’ll be as ready as possible for what she looks forward to most, “rehearsing with the entire Honors Jazz Band, a group of “very talented musicians that push you to be better.”

          Also selected to participate in the festival was Edward Conte ’19, who will play drums in the rhythm section of the All-State Jazz Choir. He took up drumming because he wanted to be like his older brother Peter, who also played drums at GSA. Like Williamson, it’s Latin jazz that appeals most to him.

          Gabe Hall ’22 will play trumpet in the Jazz Band, a rare honor for a freshman.

       “I’m very proud and happy for Elana, Gabe, and Edward,” said Orlofsky. “The festival accepts only 11 trumpets, and Gabe is considered one of the best trumpet players in the state; the festival only takes five drummers, and Edward is one of those drummers; and the festival only accepts one vibes player, and Elana is the one and only. A remarkable achievement by these three students.”

         With their respective ensembles, the students will rehearse with guest conductors Thursday evening, all day Friday, and Saturday morning to prepare four or five musical selections. They will play these sets during a grand finale concert open to the public on Saturday, Jan. 5, at 2 p.m. in the South Portland High School auditorium.

         UPDATE: Click the following link to see a brief Facebook post about their mentors at the festival Jazz All-State Facebook Post.

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  • Pajama Game Plays to Big Crowds

    Posted by Mark Messer on 11/15/2018

    Pajama Game Curtain Call


    Management and Union Reach Deal in Pajama Game

    The GSA drama group’s fall musical was about mounting tensions at an Iowa pajama factory as workers demanded a raise, management opposed it and love bloomed. The play is based on George Abbott and Richard Bissell’s book 7-1/2 Cents and features a Richard Adler and Jerry Ross score that includes classic numbers like “Hernando’s Hideaway” and “Steam Heat.”

          The student leads were Adam Mathewson, Asha Kirkland, Ian Howell, Zeke Sacaridiz, Magnolia Vandiver, Jennifer McNamara and Jack Gandy. Marie Louise Boulet, Julianna Allen, Cassidy Carlson, Nyamh Wolf, Jeremiah Scheff, Ivy Manner, Ellie Larrabee, Misty Chase, Michelle di Pretoro, Hattie Slayton, Haleigh Young and Ryan Bechard had speaking roles and comprised the chorus. Musical combos under the direction of Steve Orlofsky played for the production, as did accompanist Scott Cleveland. A group of about 10 students made up the backstage, light and sound crew for the two performances.

          The show was directed by Moira McMahon. Deborah Reinke was the musical director, and Marianne Vandiver was the costumer. Julie Jo Fehrle was the set designer.

          Congratulations to the staff, cast, crew, and musicians, and all the parents and other volunteers, who helped make this very entertaining show such a success for our school and community. To see a gallery of more images from the show, read this story in Arts in the News.

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  • Carter Grant Buoys Boatbuilding Course

    Posted by Mark Messer on 10/29/2018 1:00:00 PM

    boatbuilding class


    Grant To Fund Second Year of Program 

    BLUE HILL — A boatbuilding class at George Stevens Academy will run for a second year thanks to a $10,000 grant from the Charles Wentz Carter Memorial Foundation.

          In the class taught by master boatbuilder John Brooks of Brooks Boat Design, students will build a 14-foot Sundog Skiff with oars. Construction and fitting of the boat will take two semesters, and students can enroll in either or both terms.

          In the first year of the program, also supported by a Carter grant and taught by Brooks, 12 students spent last spring building the boat’s hull. This fall, 10 students are completing the skiff, which will be used by GSA’s Ocean Studies and Marine Research classes. The second boat, to be built next year, will be sold to help pay for materials for future boatbuilding courses.

          Not only is the course valuable to students considering a career in Maine’s boatbuilding and maintenance industry, but the math, engineering, drafting, and materials knowledge that students learn in the class can be applied in other fields, such as aviation, the arts, wind energy, theater production and building construction. Students also learn to focus on client needs and to negotiate; students in the current boatbuilding course and GSA’s Ocean Studies course have been meeting to discuss custom options and design decisions.

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  • Cimeno Shares Gap-Year Experience at Assembly

    Posted by Mark Messer on 10/29/2018 4:00:00 AM

    bella at end of trip

    Bella Cimeno at the water’s edge in Yorktown, Va., after her 4,210-mile ride to raise money for the Maine Women’s Fun. Cimeno recently spoke about her journey with students at George Stevens Academy. PHOTO COURTESY OF BELLA CIMENO


    GSA alum shares story of cross-country bike trip

    BLUE HILL — Bella Cimeno, a 2017 graduate of George Stevens Academy, returned to the school on Oct. 17 to speak to the student body about her extraordinary gap-year experience.

    In August 2017, the then-19-year-old embarked on a 68-day, 4,210-mile bike ride from Astoria, Ore., through Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky to Yorktown, Va., where she dipped her tires into the Atlantic and went for a swim on Oct. 31. While traversing thousands of miles over the Cascades, Rockies, Ozarks and Appalachian ranges, and across deserts and the plains, she encountered wildfires, a rodeo, plenty of dogs, and the kindness of strangers.

    There are a lot of bad people out there, a man warned her, but, she told him that there are a lot of good people out there, too. She was helped by many of them along the way, and often was offered shelter at churches and fire stations.

    During the trip, she told the students, she grappled with whether fear, comfort and discomfort, and other feelings and thoughts, come from within or are imposed by society. Some of the men she met during her trip were surprised that a woman would take on a solo trip like this, but Cimeno insisted that being female should not limit what she can do.

    Her efforts raised $5,000 for the Maine’s Women’s Fund, which supports women’s education, health care, leadership, and safety across the state.

    During her talk, Cimeno also detailed a later trip across the Southern Tier of the United States, which started in February 2018. Her gap year behind her, she is now enrolled at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, N.C.

    Cimeno’s presentation was part of the Lilla Bowden 1904 Memorial Speaker Series, established by Rebecca Wanbaugh ’41 and her husband, Robert.


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  • Tenney Named Trustee, Parson Honored

    Posted by Mark Messer on 10/12/2018 2:00:00 PM

    Zoe Tenney



    Alum To Strengthen Already Strong Board

    Zoe Robbins Tenney, a 1993 graduate of George Stevens Academy, joined the school’s Board of Trustees at the same September meeting at which Katrina Parson stepped down and was named an honorary trustee.

         Parson served two terms on the GSA board. “Her energy, enthusiasm and insightful thinking were the equal of anyone’s,” said Head of School Tim Seeley. “She brought … common sense as well as experience to her work. Although I know she will stay involved, I will miss her frequent presence, her good sense of humor and her unflagging dedication to the education of children on the peninsula.”

         After Tenney joined the board, she said, “I feel a deep responsibility to contribute to GSA’s successful education of the creative, compassionate, intelligent and courageous citizens of the world that these present and future students must become. … I’m honored … to be working in concert with the countless others who share their energy and resources, both locally and from afar, in support” of George Stevens Academy.

         “Her presence makes an already strong board stronger,” said Seeley. “It’s always a good thing when a graduate of a school joins its board. Graduates have a special connection to and knowledge of the institution that no one else has.”

         Tenney earned a bachelor’s in economics from Wellesley College and bachelor's and master's degrees in nursing from the University of Pennsylvania. From 2002 to 2017, she worked as a family nurse practitioner, primarily at Blue Hill Family Medicine. She is now the director for primary care clinical quality at Blue Hill Memorial Hospital. Tenney has served on various committees and boards at the hospital, for the Wellesley College Alumni Association of Eastern Maine, at the Bay School and for the town of Sedgwick, where she lives with her husband, Keith, and her children, Oliver and Ansel, future GSA students.

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  • Donation Helps Students Eat Well

    Posted by Mark Messer on 9/18/2018 4:00:00 PM

    Kristin LaPlante


    GSA Parent Gives More Food for Thought

    A $50,000 gift from the parent of a George Stevens Academy boarding student who graduated in 2018 has boosted efforts to make sure that all students are able to eat lunch at the school.

          The donor, a businessman from China, made the gift partly to honor what he said was the wonderful experience his child had at GSA and partly because of a lifelong interest in feeding people. The man grew up in a small town where many came to school without food. When his mother saw them going hungry, she insisted that they share their food with these schoolmates. She knew how important good nutrition was to education, and the lessons she taught her son about hunger and giving to others have stayed with him.

          The gift substantially expands GSA’s Food for Thought Fund, which was established last summer when Blue Hill resident Dorothy “Dottie” B. Hayes made a major gift to the school as an expression of her lifelong love of the Blue Hill Peninsula and strong commitment to education. Her experience in schools informed her belief, like that of the recent donor, that a hungry student cannot be a focused learner.

          Hayes passed away in August, but her support for the program lives on. Her family has asked, in lieu of flowers, that contributions be made to the GSA Food for Thought Fund, Friends of Blue Hill Bay and the Blue Hill Concert Association. Contributions to the school have already been made in her memory to help feed hungry students, of which there are more than some might expect.

          In Hancock County, the rate of child food insecurity, or not having dependable access to nutritious food, was approximately 20 percent in 2016, according to Feeding America. Information from a 2017 needs assessment by Downeast Community Partners revealed that more than 42 percent of Hancock County students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.

          In a public school, the federal lunch program helps keep students fed, but as an independent town academy, George Stevens Academy does not participate in that program. Some of that need at the school is met by income from the Food for Thought Fund. While the approximately $7,500 generated by the fund helps tremendously, Head of School Tim Seeley has estimated that it will take nearly three times as much revenue to meet the need completely. Still, the school is committed that no student will go hungry.

          The anonymity of recipients of help from the fund was important to Hayes and is important to the school. A confidential survey went out in the school’s back-to-school mailing to determine eligibility for support. An application for help paying for lunches was included with that survey.

          Parents who have not yet applied for help can contact Fred Heilner of the business office at f.heilner@georgestevens.org or at 374-5081. The survey and application also are available for  download from the Documents, Back to School section of the GSA website,  www.georgestevensacademy.org.

          Anyone interested in supporting GSA’s efforts can mail a check made payable to “GSA-Food for Thought” to the GSA Development Office, 23 Union St., Blue Hill, ME 04614 or visit www.georgestevensacademy.org/onlinegift and specify the Food for Thought Fund.

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  • Duane B. Gray '64 Tournament

    Posted by Mark Messer on 9/9/2018 2:00:00 PM

    am champs

    Morning champions Adam Gray '94, Mark Leonardi, Ron Allen '58, and John Bannister with Tom Gray of Community Pharmacy of Blue Hill.


    pm champs

    Afternoon champions Alex Drenga, Ebb Walton '08, Percy Zentz '19, and Finn Russet '19 with Tom Gray of Community Pharmacy of Blue Hill.


    Golf Tournament Sees Record Participation

    BLUE HILL — Eighty-eight GSA alumni, students, parents, faculty, and friends took part in the sixth annual Duane B. Gray ’64 Memorial Golf Tournament at the Blue Hill Country Club on Saturday, Sept 8.

          The tournament honors George Stevens Academy alumnus Duane B. Gray ’64, who was an avid golfer and pharmacist at Community Pharmacy of Blue Hill, lead sponsor of the event, before he passed away in 2012. Duane Gray’s nephew Tom Gray represented Community Pharmacy at the tournament, which raised money for the GSA Annual Fund to provide essential support for all areas of school life, including academic programs, arts, athletics, and upkeep of buildings and grounds.

          A volunteer committee led by GSA golf coach and club manager Dwayne Carter ’80 and GSA Trustee and Development Committee Chair Phyllis Taylor organized the tournament, which was supported by hole sponsorships and other contributions from over 60 local businesses, including hole-in-one sponsors Darling’s and Stanley Scooters.


    Morning Results

          Champions: Adam Gray ’94, John Bannister, Ron Allen ’58, Mark Leonardi.

          First low net: Rob Clapp ’73, Mark Clapp ’03, Homer Lowell ’73, Josh Gott ’03.

          Second low net: John diPretoro, Frank Hull, Rick Ferretti, Adam Palmer.

          Third low net: Chris Pickering ’97, Erik Fitch ’99, Ryan Welch, Russ Flewelling.

          Individual morning winners (women, men) for closest to the pin on No. 5 were Libby Rosemeier ‘77 and Josh Gott ’03. Closest to the pin on No. 3 were Kitty Clements and Mark Rosenthal. Longest drives on No. 7 were by Jodelle Austin ’83 and Dan Walker ’87.

    Afternoon Results

          Champions: Percy Zentz ’19, Finn Russet ’19, Ebb Walton ’08, Alex Drenga.

          First low net: Tom Morris, Mike Rioux ’78, Jil Blake, Christine Russell.

          Second low net: Paul Raspante, Laura Pellerano, Michael Miller, Doug Wellington.

          Third low net: Phyllis Taylor, Will Taylor, Bebe Moulton, Terry Moulton.

         Individual afternoon winners (women, men) for closest to the pin on No. 5 were Christine Russell and Larry Flood. Closest to the pin on No. 3 was Larry Gray. Longest drives on No. 7 were by Bebe Moulton and Ebb Walton ’08.

          To view a complete gallery of photos of the tournament, visit www.georgestevensacademy.org/DBGtournament2018.

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