Amid the festivities leading up to graduation, seniors active in the performing arts have a pre-graduation of sorts: they graduate from the Harker Conservatory’s certificate program, signaling their successful completion of a four-year course in dance, technical theater, theater, vocal or instrumental music, or musical theater.
The evening before their Harker graduation at the Mountain Winery, 23 seniors performed selections from their portfolios to a packed house at the Mexican Heritage Plaza Theater in San Jose, and received their plaques from the performing arts faculty.
Acts ranged from a Shakespearean monologue, divided into two parts performed toward the beginning and end of the show by Damon Aitken, to a clarinet sonata during which the instrument was slowly dismantled section by section, leaving Daniel Pak with only a mouthpiece. Four dance graduates, Anishka Agarwal, Pooja Chirala, Jennifer Dai and Gaurav Kumar, called upon non-senior friends to accompany them in numbers that incorporated Bollywood, hip-hop, classical and modern grooves. Musical theater students Shenel Ekici, Anna Kendall, Sean Knudsen, Ian Richardson and Namrata Vakkalagadda enacted moments from Broadway shows.
Avinash Nayak and Stephan Pellissier showed off their vocal chops with a jazz standard and Italian aria, respectively, and Callie Ding wowed the crowd with a hauntingly beautiful piece played on a traditional Chinese harp. Pianist Justin Young transported the audience with a devilishly difficult piece by Paganini, adapted by Liszt. The robust instrumental department was rounded out by Krishan Kumar (flute), Nathan Dhablania (violin), Meena Chetty (saxophone), Sahithya Prakash (bassoon), Renu Singh (violin), Andrew Wang (jazz trumpet) and Dennis Moon (cello). The show was stage managed by technical theater graduate Nicky Semenza, and juniors Ishanya Anthapur and Jai Ahuja brought humor and energy to their roles as masters of ceremonies.