19 Dec Quadrangle: Around The Sundial 2012/13
As always the first major event of the academic year was the flagraising ceremony to celebrate Indian Independence Day. Guest speaker and alumna Bhavenesh Kumari Patiala ’50, one of the first women to practise in the Indian Supreme Court, urged the Woodstock community to work together to overcome problems and to “constantly reach out to people less fortunate than us”. She also read the poem Where the Mind Is Without Fear by Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore, which extols the idea of global citizenship which Woodstock seeks to promote.
There was much excitement around the fourth visit of the 14th Dalai Lama to Woodstock. During his speech in the Win Mumby gym, he reminded staff and students that we are guilty of forgetting that “we are fundamentally human beings and brothers and sisters”, and urged us to remember our common humanity rather than seeing difference in religion or nationality. He recognised the international diversity of Woodstock, a place he described as having “students from many different countries, where they stay and study to become brothers and sisters”.
The third annual student-organised Goalathon saw fancy footwork, flamboyant fouls and flying footballs in the Win Mumby gym, raising a significant amount for the Himalaya Trust charity, assisting those affected by the flooding in Uttarkashi. The overall winners were BDP2 for the boys, and Spartas for the girls.
September also saw the first visit of a team from the University of London’s Institute of Education, paving the way for the new staff professional development programme which sees the school returning to its founding vision as a teacher training college.
There was relief as monsoon abated to be replaced by the October sunshine, perfect conditions for the annual school Sports Day. Competitors looked like ants scurrying around Hanson Field when viewed from the school level, as a resurgent Merlins claimed victory.
Worldwide Woodstock Day was celebrated at more than 50 events on six continents: Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Europe, and Australia. Gatherings at Indian restaurants as far afield as London to Toronto to Melbourne to Hawaii were extremely popular, while about 70 alumni gathered on the hillside for a celebration in Mussoorie, including the visiting class of 1967.
The annual Mussoorie Writers Festival went from strength to strength, with a mountain theme this year, drawing in a host of outstanding speakers including American mountaineer Steve Swenson, Italian alpinists Herve Barmasse and Maurizio Zanolla, and Indian army hero Captain MS Kohli. Musical and poetic entertainment was provided by Grammy-award winning poet and lyricist Gulzar, renowned Indian playback singer Rekha Bhardwaj, and the Tetseo Sisters, who sang a distinctive form of folk music from Nagaland.
As part of the festival the inaugural Mussoorie Half Marathon took place, with around 250 runners taking part in the half marathon, 10K and 5K runs. PE teacher Shannon Schultz won the women’s race while head of PE Steve Luukkonen took second place in the men’s section. The route went from the Mall Road out to Everest House and back to the Woodstock main gate. It is hoped it will become a permanent fixture on the sporting calendar.
The high standard of drama productions continued under new Dean of Enrichment Bethany Okie, with a chilling production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth in Parker Hall, with senior Shalaka Ghiara putting in a powerful performance in the lead role.
The run up to Christmas saw the annual tradition of junior school students performing their Christmas presentations in the Quad, while for the second year running Woodstock was one of the destinations for Santa’s sleigh on the NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) Santa Tracking Programme.
The new term got off to a sad start with two deaths in a week. John Montgomery, a teacher at Woodstock from 2000 to 2007, died of a heart attack while back visiting the school. Shortly afterwards, longserving employee Sabal Singh Rawat died after a long illness.
Alumnus Paul Livingstone ’89, a professional sitar player who took up the instrument at Woodstock and went on to study under the legendary Pandit Ravi Shankar, returned to Woodstock to give a wonderful performance, as part of his concert tour of India. He was accompanied on the tabla by Atul Datta ’90.
We were reminded of the draw Woodstock has on its alumni when Frederic Osgood ’44 came back to the school for the first time since he graduated 68 years ago.
For the first time in around a decade a staff show was performed in Parker Hall. The musical You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, a series of vignettes based on the Peanuts comic strip, was received with great rapture by the community.
Meanwhile two long-serving and dedicated Woodstock School employees, Daulat Singh and Krishan Lal, with combined service of more than 50 years to the school, were honoured at a farewell tea.
School emptied on the March 1 for the annual outdoor learning day, with activities including a silent hike, a literary walk, a trek recording the sounds of nature, a hike up Nag Tibba, and an opportunity to build a labyrinth.
An activity offered for the first time which proved a great success was a re-creation of the Battle of Verdun of 1916 on Flag Hill. The brainchild of Academic Dean and European History teacher Amy Seefeldt, students were given roles such as German or French soldiers and commanders, medics, members of the press, or well-known artists of the time, such as Pablo Picasso. In a result which went against the historic reality, Germany won the battle! The exercise proved to be an excellent learning experience, helping students see the futility and boredom of war.
The first Carnatic music performance at Woodstock in several decades took place in Parker Hall, in conjunction with SPICMACAY and sponsored by the Festivals Committee, featuring Carnatic violinist Kumaresh accompanied by Sankaranarayanan on the mridangam, and Pramath Kiran on the ghatam.
Students in Grades 7 to 9 were in the limelight for the spring drama, with a terrific production of Disney’s Mulan Jr.
Easter was marked a few days early with a powerful and moving chapel service on Maundy Thursday in the Win Mumby gym. The theme of the service was A Journey With Jesus and saw a re-enactment of Jesus’ life in the final hours before the crucifixion, moving through to the resurrection on Easter Day. The drama was performed by students from Grade 10 while staff members narrated the action.
Woodstock’s first-ever story festival took place in April, and saw student and staff-created films, plays, poems and stories performed on the school theme for the year, Thought for Food. Linking into this theme, an international food festival also took place in the Quad with delicacies on offer from South Korea, Tibet, Nepal, India and Bhutan.
The annual Jazz Jam saw Parker Hall transformed into an atmospheric jazz club, with smooth sounds of the various jazz ensembles entertaining a packed auditorium. Another music group, Woodstock’s Toradaiko percussion group, drummed up plenty of new fans when they performed at local orphanage Firs.
Meanwhile Woodstock’s boys’ basketball team won their third Win Mumby tournament in a row with a 67-42 victory over Welham Boys’ School, after an excruciatingly close semi-final victory against Modern School. Alumni could listen to the action across the globe thanks to Head of PE Steve Luukkonen’s excellent radio commentary.
A staff cricket team had less success in the sporting arena, when they were soundly thrashed by an employee team on Hanson Field.
History was made in May when a new partnership was set up with Woodstock and the University of London’s Institute of Education (IOE), a world leader in educational research. The partnership will see the IOE run a professional development programme for Woodstock staff over the next two years, enabling them to gain credits towards international teaching credentials and Master’s degrees.
Meanwhile the Hanifl Centre for outdoor education and environmental study hosted 13 participants from across Uttarakhand and beyond for a unique training course in Hindi, which helped trek leaders brush up on essential outdoor living skills, wilderness first aid and rope use.
There was more sporting success in early May when the senior girls’ basketball team won the Lawrence School Sanawar All India Tournament.
The end of term saw the usual frenzy of activity for graduating seniors, with the Junior-Senior Ball, the Sports Assembly, induction into the alumni association at the WOSA assembly, and a series of outstanding advanced concerts.
On June 1 the mist descended and monsoon seemed to arrive early as the Class of 2013, Kairos, graduated. For the first time the Baccalaureate service and graduation ceremony took place on the same day, with Booker-winning author Kiran Desai was the graduation speaker.
And then after tears on the ramp and goodbyes another eventful and amazing year at Woodstock was concluded, and just the memories remained.
Ed Beavan, Communications Associate