High School Musical: We did it that way

As 40 cherubs gathered on the second floor of the dorm after 10 p.m. check-in, Zach Newman of Bayside, Wisconsin, started strumming the chords to “Story of My Life” by One Direction. The moment the first verse hit, students belted, “Written in these walls are the stories that I can’t explain.”

“When anyone bursts out into song that you didn’t realize sings, or likes music or likes a certain song, it’s really funny,” Newman said. “It’s so much fun when we all meet together and sing and play.”

Each floor had its own jam sessions, singing songs from “Mamma Mia” to the Backstreet Boys. “I Want it That Way” and “Phineas and Ferb” were favorites among the boys after hours.

“All the guys stood up and yelled together,” Carlos Stinson-Maas of Tempe, Arizona, the cherubs’ Troy Bolton, said. “It was really good to have the full community of the third floor making a rally cry through music all together.”

A boy plays the guitar while his friends sing along.

Zach Newman plays the guitar as other cherubs from the third floor sing along. Photo by Noah Somphone

The biggest bonding moment for the first-floor girls was singing and dancing to Rednex’s “Cotton Eye Joe” while working on their trend stories, said Rachel Carlson of Los Angeles.  “It was two in the morning, and it wasn’t the song that you’d expect you’d want to hear, but it fit the mood.”

None of this would have started without Dylan Carlson-Sirvent of Upper Arlington, Ohio, who brought his classical guitar from Mexico, where he used to live. Once Carlson-Sirvent found out that other cherubs loved the guitar, he was encouraged to perform in front of everyone.

“Even if people aren’t talking or it’s a little bit awkward, you just play a song that everybody knows and everyone starts singing,” Carlson-Sirvent said. “The first day, there were still some groups and cliques. I was so happy I was able to bring something that brought people together.”

Even while instructor Carlin McCarthy was teaching students how to broadcast on television, Disney songs like “Colors of the Wind” and “A Whole New World” rang from the newsroom during breaks.

“In broadcast labs, they’re very enthusiastic, eager and good at writing,” McCarthy said. “I was very excited that there was a musical singalong. I think that just brings up the spirit of the room.”

Taylor Schmitt of La Grange, Illinois, brought her talents to the piano.

“I was playing the beginning of ‘All of Me,’ and people were like ‘Oh, I know that song,’ and joined in and sang,” Schmitt said. “I don’t know the whole song, so I just played the intro the entire time they were singing, but it was really fun and energetic.”

Overhead shot of three students play piano at the same time in the common room

Olivia Demetriades (left), Andrew Kwa (center), and Avery Maslowsky (right) play piano in the East Fairchild common room. Photo by Liv Jenks

Melanie Lust of Westport, Connecticut, played her viola in the second floor’s “Call Me Floor Two” music video. She brought the instrument with her because she came directly to cherubs from an orchestra trip in Spain.

“I’m learning the Wii music theme right now, so I plan to bring that out,” Lust said. “It is pretty encouraging if people hear me and compliment me about it, and it’s helping me to start practicing outside the confines of my really small room.”

It was inspiring to see people who weren’t similar act energetic about any song that was played, said Kacee Haslett of Indianapolis, Indiana.

“You say journalism camp, and you think it’s all about writing,” Haslett said. “Turns out that we had a party at 11 at night.”