Hawaii Bound!

February 28th, 2016

T-minus 5 days until I am on a 12 hour flight taking me to “One of the most beautiful places on Earth.” Of course its beauty was only one of the things drawing me to the middle of the Pacific Ocean, specifically the island of Oahu. Aside from that, I was captured by the leaps and bounds Hawaii is making in the renewable energy field. On June 8th, 2015 (about one year ago) the Governor of Hawaii signed four energy bills, one of which holds Hawaii to their goal of generating 100% of their electricity from renewable energy by the year 2045. They are the first U.S. state to set such a goal, and an aggressive one at that! By not having to spend $5 billion on imported oil a year, Hawaii will be able to invest more money into their economy. I will be visiting Makai Ocean Engineering to learn more about their current research and technologies being developed right now.

Along with learning about the business of renewable energies, I will be immersing myself in Hawaii’s unique culture by preparing cultural food and building paddles that the natives used when discovering the islands.

I am a very excited senior interested in our Earth, engineering, traveling, and what Oahu holds for us and our future. Keep coming back if you share any of these interests!




Live Music, Live Passion

Hello! My name is Amanda and I will be going to the South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival in Austin, TX for Senior Projects. I write for a music blog, When the Gramophone Rings, in my spare time (my posts can be found here) and I even dedicated a semester-long independent course to my blogging. In the fall, I did an Independent Seminar in English where I music blogged and researched what makes effective blog posts.

I love music and how it forces emotions upon listeners. In my opinion it’s the only art form that elicits specific emotions from audiences. One of my favorite quotations is, “[Music] has the power to command people how to feel. Imagery, words, they’re very suggestive, whereas music can command somebody how to feel on an emotional level, uncontrollably,” said by Matty Healy of The 1975. I decided to pursue SXSW because I love live music more than any other form of music. It’s much more personal than listening to music digitally, which is what we do on a day to day basis. Live music gives a space for musicians, their music, and their fans so that everyone can feel the same emotions and feel attached.

My personal goal for this project is to soak up as much music and fully live the experience since SXSW is such a unique festival. Other major music festivals like Coachella in California, Bonnaroo in Tennessee, and Glastonbury in England, are held in big open fields with multiple stages where artists play at all times of day. SXSW is different because it happens right in the heart of Austin in the hundreds of music venues that already exist in the city. These venues host showcases, which are basically like any normal concert but with about 4-5 bands playing in a night. During the day, companies and record labels host “unofficial parties” which allow companies to push their product while providing entertainment through the bands that are in Austin for the festival. Since SXSW is so different from other festivals, I want to take advantage of its set up and see as many artists as possible.

My more professional goal is to go see artists that I wouldn’t normally see and to push myself out of my comfort zone with music. I usually review similar songs (usually ambient/dark indie rock or beachy indie pop) for When the Gramophone Rings, so seizing this opportunity to really discover music will be an interesting and challenging change for me. My assignment from my editor at the site is to write something along the lines of a ‘Best Discoveries at SXSW’ piece. I think that works well with my personal goal and it will allow me to see artists I wouldn’t necessarily see if I was going to SXSW on my own, without an assignment from the blog.

One major obstacle that has come up already is that a large amount of venues for showcases and unofficial parties are 21+. I’ve had to narrow down which artists I can see since only some of them are playing venues I can get into. I thought that would limit me a lot, but after looking at the line ups for venues I can go to a little more closely, it looks like there’s a great range of smaller, unheard of bands. I don’t think any other obstacles as big as this will come my way but we shall see…

Going to SXSW is the main part of my project, but I will also be writing for the blog for the first week of Senior Projects before I go to SXSW. Since March 8th is International Women’s Day, When the Gramophone Rings will be doing a women-only week from March 7—March 13. All the female writers will be covering female artists for the whole week, no men allowed. I’m really excited to be writing for that week since I think it’s a great showcase of women in music. That will keep me busy for the first week then I’ll be off to Austin.

I’m really excited to start my project. I think that it will be a great opportunity for me to discover new music in a way that really interests me as well as a way for me to connect with artists and write about what I enjoyed at the festival. The women’s week will be really neat to watch unfold since there’s a ton of women getting involved, both writers and musicians. Writing for this Westtown blog will also help me process what I’m seeing and give me a way to reflect on what I see and do. T minus 16 days to Austin!


Ghana: One Week More

Lesson planning, meetings, shoe sorting, Yellow Fever vaccinations and Malarone galore. These past couple of months have been filled with ongoing preparation and a culminating excitement for our trip to Ghana. Seeing as we hop on our flight to Accra just a week from tomorrow, the project is starting to seem like more and more of a reality with each day leading up to it all. Now to start packing and put some finishing touches on our lesson plans!


While at Heritage Academy, I will teach Theatre classes to the students there. Recently, I’ve been asked to do a lot of reflection about my intentions for this trip and why it matters to me. I’ve realized I feel a real sense of gratitude toward my art and performance teachers and directors here at Westtown, from sixth grade theatre through the Outsider in Theatre Literature, and Directing classes in my senior year. They have taught me so much more than just stage-craft, or scene study, or even overcoming the challenge of hitting a high A in the opening number of a musical. Most significantly, they have taught me that acting is about sharing a story, and whatever story I have to tell is important. They have taught me that my voice matters. Those are the lessons I’ve learned that have inspired me to pursue theatre outside of Westtown, so among all else, I hope to pass down those same lessons that my teachers taught me, to my students at Heritage Academy.


As seniors move into our last week of classes before we head out, the anticipation is palpable throughout the dorm and the halls. I’ll be excited to blog about what I learn over the next couple of weeks. Please check back soon to stay updated on our journey in Ghana!  

Ghana: The Excitement Leading Up

Hello everyone! For the next couple of weeks I will be giving you the inside scoop on what is going at Heritage Academy in Ghana! With only a week and a half before we fly to Accra, the nine students and three teachers are getting final packing lists together as we pack for two exciting weeks. We are all teaching classes, in pairs or alone, and this past week has been full of writing lesson plans and meeting with teachers from Westtown who teach our subjects. In addition to preparing for our classes, we have been packing up shoes that Lower School collected, which  will then be donated to people throughout the village of Essiam. There are suitcases upon suitcases full with shoes that were donated, so many that we are struggling to find room for all of them!

Please check back often to find out what we are doing in Ghana!