The upper school’s 2012-13 year began in earnest on Aug. 27 when the entire student body and faculty gathered at the upper school campus quad for this year’s matriculation ceremony. Grades 10-12 greeted the faculty with applause as they carried the flag of the class of 2013. Shortly after, the students cheered for the incoming class of 2016 as they took their seats.
Chris Nikoloff, head of school, greeted the students with an opening speech about jam sessions of the musical and non-musical varieties. He reminisced about his days in junior high and high school, playing both improvised and popular music with his friends. “We played music just to play music,” he said. He also enjoyed talking with his friends through the night, “just to talk, and this too was a form of improvisation.”
Both of these, he said, were activities done for their own sake. “Whatever you call them, I wish for you today that you get lost in some activity for its own sake, and not regard the grades, popularity, college admissions or outcomes of any kind,” he said. “If you have a jam session, you just might find something bigger than yourself to love, or you might find that you yourself are more, way more, than you ever imagined.”
Following Nikoloff’s opening remarks, Cantilena, the upper school all-female vocal group directed by Susan Nace, sang a spirited rendition of Stephen Hatfield’s “Run, Children, Run,” complete with improvised passages and raucous audience participation.
Butch Keller, upper school head, then took the stage to deliver his matriculation address, which focused on two lessons he felt were particularly important. The first was the importance of having goals. “There is no achievement without goals,” he said. He then related a story he’d heard about a Harvard graduate with a business degree who met a fisherman one day and offered to help him to start a business that would make him rich, only to realize that the fisherman would do the same things he does every day even after becoming successful.
The second lesson Keller wanted to get across was the importance of being able to react to tense situations in a calm and rational manner. He related a personal anecdote about a time he went golfing with his two sons. At one point, a particularly irate golfer started a confrontation that could have potentially ended in violence. “That wouldn’t have been right. Think of the litigation,” Keller joked. Instead, he and his sons defused the situation by walking away and notifying those in charge of the golf course about the troublemaker, who was escorted off the premises.
“It’s not the situation that’s important,” he said. “It’s your reaction to the situation.”
The final speaker of the ceremony was ASB president Raghav Sehtia, grade 12, who warmly welcomed the class of 2016 and said that the best way to enjoy their years as high school students was to be themselves. Sharing a story about a bike-related accident he’d suffered, he said, “I had decided that I wasn’t going to pretend not to cry because it would make me seem manly or strong. Don’t waste your time trying to be someone you aren’t.”
He also advised the students not to be afraid to get involved and to participate in the many activities available to them, something he learned during his freshman year. “I realized that if I did not go out and participate in those skits and spirit events and try new sports, my high school experience would not be a cherishable one,” he said.
Sehtia concluded by introducing the students to this year’s class officers before inviting ASB vice president Maverick McNealy, grade 12, to the stage for the recitation of the matriculation oath. The class of 2016 then signed the matriculation book while the Harker string quartet performed, directed by Chris Florio.
After the students had returned to their seats, the upperclassmen performed the time-honored “Freshman 101” skit, wherein the students, dressed as various superheroes, offered advice to their new friends through a series of humorous sketches, covering topics such as the dress code, honor code and student clubs.