This article was written by Otis Loga, a senior in Journalism class at U-32. Both images were taken by Julia Fortin.
Word of Mouth has been a tradition in U-32 Middle and High School that was absent during the time of COVID that saw a lack of performances at the school. Thanks to students and faculty members it is back now after so many years!
On January 18th, 2023 all high school students gathered together to watch Word of Mouth get presented. Jasmine Gruen, a senior at U-32, planned a callback performance that she and her friends who she was in Pilot with had an idea to do.
When Jasmine saw the Word of Mouth banner hanging in the back of the library classroom, she asked Meg Allison about it. Meg told Jasmine that this banner was gifted to her.
Once Jasmine saw the Word of Mouth poster that Ben Heinz, a former U32 teacher, gave to Meg Allison, one of the school’s librarians, she was determined to get Word of Mouth back into the school community. Jasmine started looking for performers that would be interested in bringing back Word of Mouth, “Jasmine actually asked me about performing,” U-32 junior Willow Mashkuri said.
Willow added, “[I] did a ton of practicing before to the point where I didn’t like the song anymore because it was just so annoying to hear again.”
Word of Mouth was supposed to take place on Friday, January 13th. Jasmine said, “My date was Friday the 13th, which was supposed to be the last day of the semester.” When she woke up in the morning to a snow day, she was freaking out because she spent a lot of her time planning this special day.
“I wake up to my phone ringing at six o’clock in the morning on Friday the 13th, there’s a two hour delay.” This threw a wrench into Jasmine’s plans.
“I planned an event on Friday the 13th. What did I think was gonna happen?” said Jasmine. She finally came to the conclusion that “there’s nothing I could do about it. I had no school.”
When the performance actually happened on Wednesday, January 18th, it was a stressed out moment. Jasmine said, “I get to school on Wednesday and I have to hit the ground running. My entire day leading up to callback was Word of Mouth.”
Jasmine and Willow did a lot of their own practicing because they could not really practice together; they had only “one sound check, just with the microphones and how the sound would work,” Jasmine explained.
But the minutes were ticking and ticking and they were getting closer to the performance. On top of all the stress, one performance dropped out last minute because of sickness. “I need to get this over with. I’m so nervous,” Willow said.
Jasmine came from a family of music, her dad is a musician and it was pretty special to have her dad alongside her school performance. She has recorded and performed alongside her dad, opening for his shows and recording an album of her own music with him.
This was the first time she played with the audience of her peers and her age group. Jasmine said, “The special thing about this event was it was my first time playing live with a band of my peers and [singing and] playing an instrument at the same time.”
Willow likes playing the piano because the “piano sound is so pretty.” But it was not just Willow who enjoyed the sounds, the whole school that attended this special callback enjoyed standing around with their friends and listening and watching their peers show off their work through performing.
Willow got to show her piano skills to the school doing the performance. “It was a bit of a shock to, first of all, share with people that I do play piano because a lot of people don’t know that I do music, let alone play piano.” Willow also said, “I took lessons when I was younger, till I was maybe in fifth grade. And then I stopped because I didn’t have time and I also can’t really read sheet music so I get frustrated with the notes and I would not like it. I started to play more and more on my own.”
The music was well-received, this was a trial run to see how the school would take it from taking a break for so many years due to COVID.
Going back to the day of the performance, Jasmine said: “I have these jitters, I get really shaky and nervous, not nervous, excited. It’s this weird, excited nervousness leading up to shows more so than public speaking.”
All of the performers had to deal with jitters and nervousness as performance time came closer and closer. Willow said: “Sitting at the piano is a very big discipline thing, because it really takes all my focus” which was helpful for Willow.
Hopes for the future are that the tradition will continue and more students will show off their Word of Mouth talent. Willow said: “I really hope a lot of new kids will do it because this round was more to inspire kids to do their own thing and sign up”.
Jasmine and Willow and all of the performers put in a lot of work and time practicing to make their craft perfect. They all hope that this “trial” run was enough to convince other students to put their names on the sign-up list for the next Word of Mouth.