April 18, 2018
Arts Jam Reflections
by Olivia Landrum ’11
My first Arts Jam performance as a student was in the gym with no lights or elaborate costumes. Now, it is a full production with all of the performing arts programs involved, and it has been incredible to see how it has evolved over the years. I remember being a Senior the first year we held Arts Jam at George Mason and how thrilled everyone was to perform on a big stage. It has always been my favorite experience at Flint Hill, not only as a student but also as a teacher and choreographer. The opportunity to perform, on a massive stage, for our school community and collaborate with other artists is unique and special. I remind my students not to take this for granted, as most people do not get this chance, even as a professional. I feel extremely fortunate to have experienced it from all angles — as a performer, teacher and choreographer.
Since graduating from Flint Hill, I obtained a degree in dance from James Madison University and a degree in corporate communications. It was always my dream to dance professionally, and I have been able to fulfill that dream here in the D.C. area. In addition to coaching the Upper and Middle School dance teams at Flint Hill, I am a member of the ReVision Dance Company in Washington.
Last year, I traveled with the company to Pretoria, South Africa, where we collaborated with an African dance company, taught children with disabilities at the Tiqwa School, and performed at the South African State Theater. I’ve also enjoyed spreading my passion, for dance, to students at many local dance studios and at the Madeira School. I still call Flint Hill my home though and love that I can continue to stay involved with my alma mater. It is fun to be on the other side of the stage and share my excitement for the show with the students.
The collaborative aspect of Arts Jam is what I find most rewarding. The performers of each discipline are so dedicated to their craft; to see two or more of those groups come together is truly special. This year, I choreographed a dance piece and mentored student choreographers. Dancing to live music is a rare treat, and these students have pieces sung by the choir and played by the orchestra. Students have been working on the show since January, and many are involved in multiple numbers with other disciplines. I think it is a great example of the high level of talent and versatility that is created at Flint Hill. They spend many hours after school rehearsing and choreographing, in addition to their class time. They also get to be a part of a creative process — from planning and rehearsing to lighting design, costumes and the set. It is inspiring to see their creative process come alive and watch the development of their work, from start to finish. As we prepare for the big night, I notice how dedicated they are to coming together and creating their best work. They are learning to perform at a professional level, and it has been a privilege to watch their growth.
I am excited to choreograph every year, because this concert ignited my love of performing while I was at Flint Hill and reminds me of how much the dance program means to me. Now I get to see that love of performing come alive in these students. The buzz is beginning, and everyone is anxiously anticipating the show. Having been a performer in the show, I understand the stress the students are under and the difficult task of juggling a heavy workload, on top of a busy rehearsal schedule. This is an exciting opportunity for them to showcase their many talents. All the pieces are coming together, and I know it will be a fabulous culmination of the arts at Flint Hill you won’t want to miss. It will become a memory these students will hold dear just as I have done, and I look forward to another inspiring night of performance.
About the Headmaster
Since 2005, John Thomas has served as Flint Hill’s Headmaster. He is a graduate of the McDonogh School in Baltimore, Maryland, and holds degrees from Randolph Macon College and Towson University, with a certificate in school psychology from the State of Maryland. He is the co-author of “Psychodiagnostic Evaluation of Children: A Casebook Approach,” and has articles published in the book “Parenting Teens: Collected Essays by Independent School Educators,” published by the Secondary School Admission Test Board. John has served on the Board of Trustees for the Virginia Association of Independent Schools (VAIS) and the Association of Independent Schools of Greater Washington (AISGW), and is a current Board member for Emerging Scholars. He and his wife Emily, a former teacher, have three grown sons, three daughters-in-law and four grandchildren.