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Get Into The Holiday Spirit With The Arts: Accidentals Light Up #OurNA This Saturday

By Hannah Tarr

With Thanksgiving over, it is the most wonderful time of the year: the winter holidays. FC’s arts department is getting involved this year in raising holiday cheer, and this story is the first in a series previewing those events.

In past decades, it has become a tradition for cities to host a public event the night they turn on their holiday lights around the city. Crowds gather in a park to enjoy live holiday entertainment, and children jump and cheer at the season’s first sighting of Santa Claus. The same is true at New Albany’s annual event, Light Up #OurNA. Light Up #OurNA is special to FC not only because it is the most local Light Up event, closer than Light Up Louisville or Light Up Jeffersonville, but because some of the featured entertainment is FC’s own Accidentals choir.

“There are several reasons people should go Light Up New Albany, but the most important reason to go is to get involved and support your community. Also, it will be a ton of fun,” said junior Nick Landrum. “The program overall is filled with a lot of quality entertainment.”

Senior Haley Sieg, a self-proclaimed lover of anything involving music, hopes people will be drawn to the program by the variety and talent of music groups performing. She also notes the convenience of the event’s location: Bicentennial Park, where Light Up #OurNA is held, is on the corner of Spring Street and Pearl Street in the heart of downtown New Albany, so Sieg recommends getting some holiday shopping done and then coming to check it out.

Whatever the reason for attending, audiences are in store for a treat. “The Accidentals have been putting a lot of time and effort into this set to bring top notch entertainment to the people in attendance for this show,” said Landrum.

The 15 member a capella choir performed at the event last year, and it was such a success that the organizers invited them back. They have been rehearsing Monday afternoons to prepare for the big night– plus a three hour rehearsal last Saturday, which was like a pajama party. The Accidentals have four songs in their repertoire to perform and are excited to show them off.

“We’ve been spending a whole lot of time on what we’re doing, and I personally think that our songs are really good,” said junior Maddie Hankins. “We have some classics, like ‘Carol of the Bells,’ but then we also have modern bops like ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You,’ and ‘Up on the Housetop,’ the Pentatonix version. And I really think that it has something that everyone’s going to like.”

The performance is rounded out by the addition of sleigh bells and even choreography. Landrum says that all of this character really rounds out the performance.

“What I have personally learned from my preparations for this event is that in order to get the highest amount of energy from the audience, I really needed to get some movement in the pieces of music,” he said. “While it is entertaining to watch an ensemble of singers stand around and beautifully sing their songs, it is much more enjoyable when that group is moving to the music.”

While it is a lot of fun, it also requires a lot of skill and concentration from the performers. There is no conductor in front of the group while they are performing. And there are very few people on any given part, with “Up on the Housetop” even featuring solos from Hankins, Sieg, and other members of the choir.

“I’ve learned how to be independent,” said Hankins. “There’s only like 15 people, there’s only three second sopranos. Sometimes, I’m the only person singing a certain part. It’s that way for most of the people in the choir too, you have to hold your own very very well and be able to be confident.”

The unique style of the Accidentals’ music presents a learning opportunity for all of its members. This is Sieg’s first year in the choir, and it is unlike her previous experiences in other choirs at FC.

“I’ve learned a lot just about this more jazz/ pop style of singing,” said Sieg. “Additionally, I sing as a tenor in this choir, which uses a whole different part of my range than I am typically used to.”

The skill of the Accidentals combined with the beauty of the Light Up #OurNA experience makes for a truly memorable night. Consider bracing the cold this Saturday, Nov. 24 at 6:00 p.m. and come out to Bicentennial Park to spread some holiday warmth.

FC loses to Columbus East 45-0 Friday Night

By Brooke Miller

Q&A with President of the LDA of Indiana Patty Useem

By: Natalie Clare

Bagpiper: What is the LDA?

Patty Useem: LDA, the Learning Disabilities Association, is a national association, and we have state affiliates. So, I’m the president of the Indiana state affiliate. It is a nonprofit that is led by individuals with learning disabilities, parents of individuals with learning disabilities, and professionals. We strive to provide information and workshops and support to promote individuals with learning disabilities reaching their potential.

BP: What do you do at the Indiana branch?

PU: I answer questions about learning disabilities that people either phone in to our national office or they email me from our state webpage or the national webpage. I’m one of the principle players of organizing the state conference. I’m also sort of the bridge to the national conference. So, every year the organization sends me to the big national conference, where I gather new ideas or new printed materials, or I find new keynote speakers for our conference. I run our board meetings, and I also have a now monthly E-newsletter. I write articles monthly for that.

BP: What resources are at the LDA for students with learning disabilities? Is it a place students with learning disabilities can go to?

PU: In Indiana, it isn’t. In Indiana, we’re kind of a virtual board of directors, so we don’t really have a physical place. Our information is written information and, in Indiana, we have a state conference every year. In the present time, it’s taking place in Carmel. People can also access a lot of information on our national website and support. People also write in questions, and they get forwarded most times if they’re people from Indiana who have questions about services, or the rules about kids who have special education. They’ll come to me and I’ll answer them, and also give them referrals of maybe they want to get testing done if they’re looking outside the school to do testing. But we don’t provide direct services like help kids with learning disabilities or anything like that. We’re just an information and like I said we have a conference. Some other states provide services, but very few do. Most of it is information.

BP: You said you refer people for testing, but the LDA doesn’t do any testing?

PU: Correct, correct. Sometimes, people are also going to college, so there are rules on how to get services at college. Sometimes, universities have clinics where they can get testing done as well. It’s all referral.

BP: Does the LDA set up events for kids with learning disabilities?

PU: Sometimes we will promote other agencies presentations, but we will do presentations. If people want us to come and talk or be involved in doing presentations to families or to kids about their learning differences and give them some strategies. We’re trying, actually, to do those kinds of services. As a nonprofit, as you can imagine, all those things take money. There are some grant opportunities, where, in fact, we presently have a grant that helps us pay for mileage etc and printing to be able to get information out to people. Sort of not just in the major cities, but more statewide. But that’s something that we’re really interested in doing much more outreach. People don’t have a clear understanding that people with learning disabilities have at least average, if not higher, thinking abilities, they just have a specific weakness in something like reading or writing or in the field of math and number knowledge or organizational skills. Even though the field has been well established since the 1940s, people still think that when kids struggle with reading, they’re just not trying, or they’re not paying attention. That shouldn’t be happening. Part of our difficulty, or part of our challenge, is to get that kind of information out across the state so that teachers and parents realize that these are weakness that can be worked on and can become not such a learning problem. Our outreach is really something we’re working hard trying to develop.

BP: What challenges do students with learning disabilities experience?

PU: I work with a lot of students who have learning disabilities, and one of their biggest challenges is convincing people that they really are trying and that they really do need to have specialized help. That they really are going to go to college and they are going to be successful, so their disabilities aren’t going to limit them.

BP: How would describe a learning disability to someone who doesn’t have one?

PU: I’d say that, and I do this a lot, that the individual has an intellectual ability of at least average and they have a problem or difficulty in a specific set of skills. Probably the most common learning disability is a reading disability, sometimes called dyslexia. In a reading disability, many times the learner has a really hard time, and not really successful, in linking all those letters with specific sounds, so as a hard as they can try when a regular teacher tries to help them, they need special instruction. So, people with learning disabilities often need to have accommodations, such as having extra time, having things read to them, as well as them reading the material themselves. They also need remediation, and that involves specialized teaching. So, for people with learning disabilities, it’s not that they can’t learn because they have the intellect to learn, but they need to have specialized instruction. Sometimes that involves one-on-one.

FC beats Providence 30-17 in Friday night’s football face-off

Photos by Sophia Perigo