Wednesday, 11 January 2023

J is for Joy - Thoughts on my final year at NYO

Let me ask you a question. 
Who in their right mind would celebrate New Year's day in a cramped hall in Kilkenny College with a hundred other young people, most of whom you've met only three days prior? Guilty. When I was twelve years old, my mother packed me a suitcase, shoved me in the car, drove me down to Kilkenny and left. I, three months into Form 1, royally done with social interaction and utterly ready for a well-deserved Christmas break, was disgusted. 

I feel some context is urgently needed. Hello, I'm the girl with the violin. If you've seen me around the school building, you probably see my instrument case before you spot me.  At seventeen years of age, I'm lucky to know what I want to study, I'm lucky to know what I want to do in the future and I'm lucky I know what I'm going to do for the rest of my life. But as you probably know by now, with every hobby you've tried out, with everything you've ever committed to, it's never that easy. When I was twelve years old, I'd already had experience that I would never have gotten without music.  Competitions, concerts, recitals, travelling abroad, playing chamber music - to me, it was all the same.  Practise, practise, practise. Play, play, play. Make the famous "I can't go out, I need to practise," excuse and then sit at home and do nothing. The one thing I had never experienced before was playing in a symphony orchestra, and I was decidedly not looking forward to it.  

Well, you know what they say about mothers always being right.  I auditioned for the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland, was among 105 or so teenagers from across Ireland who got admitted, and embarked on my first residential, seven-day course.

Two hours. Two hours in, and I was no longer worrying about if I'd practised enough, if I'd miss my parents, if I'd make friends. For someone who detests change, is a raging perfectionist, and lives inside a comfort zone so small that I'm essentially caging myself into a corner, I cannot tell you what happened in those two hours. But I can tell you with absolute certainty that never in my nine years of violin playing had I ever experienced anything like I experienced that week.  After those two hours, when I'd settled in, hurried off to my first rehearsal and tentatively made friends with two girls, that was it. Life is a series of moments. We don't go through it mentally documenting down every detail because we know it will be important later. No, we just go about our daily routines, and suddenly there are moments. Let me tell you about just one.

My first rehearsal with the full orchestra was New Year's Eve, 2017.  Now, I don't know what you've heard about symphony orchestras, but let me tell you.  They are loud.  We had spent two days rehearsing in smaller sections, but this was the day where we would meet our conductor for the first time, and play through as a complete orchestra. I will never forget this moment for as long as I live. Maestro Gearóid Grant strode into the room, told the people from Cork to stand up, got the entire orchestra to hiss at them while saying some words I am not able to repeat on paper, and sent us crashing into Dvorak's New World Symphony. Again, I don't know how much you know about classical music. I certainly knew next to nothing about repertoire and symphonies back then, but Dvorak's 9th is a world-changing way to start. 
 
Playing in a symphony orchestra for the first time is a spiritual experience. The sound that envelops you is overwhelming, you can barely hear yourself, you're narrowly missing stabbing your desk partner in the eye, struggling desperately with the notes. It's messy, crazy, and probably the worst we ever play, but it's glorious. So there I was, playing along, sort of terrified, sort of in awe, and then the fourth movement began. For the first time ever, I heard the famous trumpet melody shine through. The sound was triumphant, everyone around me was grinning, Gearóid was dancing up on the podium, and everything felt - it felt as if everything I'd questioned about music, every time I refused to practise, every time I considered giving up - it all made sense right there and then. 

This was the first moment in my life that I thought to myself, "This is why I do music."

There's something really special about feeling at home. There's something really special about returning to a place and people year-in and year-out, and knowing there's nowhere else you'd rather be.  You see, it wasn't as if that moment turned a switch on inside my head and made me decide right there and then that music was it for me. Of course not. We don't actually live inside YA novels, you know. However, after that first moment, I knew that I would do whatever it took to feel like that again.  I knew that I could not let this feeling go, and this is the most important thing the National Youth Orchestra has taught me. 

Music is really, really tough. As is everything you do. You go through your off-seasons, you have thousands of days where you wonder why you are still doing this, you wonder why you can't just let it all go and have fun on Friday nights instead of trudging along to your lessons. You burn out, you lose friends, you're forced to push yourself because no one else will do it for you. But you love it. Because for every time where you want the ground to swallow you up because you've made a fool of yourself, there's a moment like I had, with the National Youth Orchestra. And when you've experienced that, you will chase it again, and again, because it is so worth it.

I've just returned from my last Winter course ever. I have one more in the Summer, and then I will have reached the upper age limit of the orchestra. My first course post-COVID, there are no words to express the week that I had. It's unconventional, and frankly very strange, but everyone feels it. "The J", as we dub it, is ours, in all its incredulous beauty. From the minimum four cartons of Kulana apple juice we down a day, and the way we all sit around doing the Circle K Spin 'n Win hoping to get something from the petrol station across the road, to the ridiculous house cup challenges of drawing staff family portraits, the infamous New Year's Eve section dance off, and the Summer's rounders tournament. From being the youngest member of the orchestra at the age of twelve, with no expectations and a truckload of fear, till now. The friends we make for life, the passion we share, the mutual understanding and support we give each other. It might not be much to you, but I hope you find something like this. I hope there is something in your life that gives you as much joy as the J gives me.
 
When we stood on the stage last Wednesday night after performing Mahler's 1st Symphony, and the entire audience got on their feet. When I took in the sheer happiness and pride that was reflected back to me on every single musician's face. When our conductor Mihhail Gerts presented me with his flowers.  I have never been in love, but I think it would feel just like this.
 
Daimee Ng

Thursday, 10 November 2022

Thoughts on The Recent All Ireland Hockey Final

On Friday 28 October  a group of tired but excited senior pupils boarded a bus to Cork at 7:30 am to watch our Senior 1 hockey boys in the semi-final stages of the All Ireland Schools (Boys) Hockey Championship for the second consecutive year. 

Our  first stop was Ashton School to face fellow Dublin opposition Kings Hospital in the semi final.  The bus on the way down was filled with a surprising amount of energy and chatter for such an early hour, face paint was handed around and by the time we exited the bus at 10:30 am in Cork we were all covered in red and black. 

The first game was a very close affair, the only score separating the teams was a brilliant penalty stroke converted by captain Ben Pasley in the 2nd quarter.  The first quarter was mainly dominated by the oposition but High School pulled back taking over the second.  At half time the score was 1-0 thanks to a goal scored by Ben Pasley.  The High School dominated the 3rd quarter, unlucky not to score several more goals and creating numerous opportunities for themselves.  In the final quarter the oposition started strongly, throwing everything at their last chance to make the All Ireland semifinal.  However, despite their efforts, thanks to brilliant defending and goal keeping, The High School managed to keep them at bay until the final whistle.  Relief was felt all around and the anticipation began to grow for the All Ireland final.  After waving goodbye to our Senior 1 players, full of excitement, the group of supporters headed to the Marina market in Cork's harbour for some well-earned food and rest after all of our cheering.  Voices were beginning to get  hoarse but we didn’t let that stop us as we boarded the bus again at 2:30 pm, refuelled and ready to go to UCC for one last big game.  

The atmosphere on the bus was one we will never forget, every single person was both proud and excited to get to see yet another game of incredible hockey, we exited the bus with banners and music in tow.  We firmly positioned ourselves against the fence of the pitch and began to cheer on the boys as they warmed-up. Our opposition was the Senior 1 boys team from Banbridge Academy, a very strong team from Northern Ireland.  Banbridge started well and went 1-0 up after just 5 minutes. At the end of the 1st quarter the score was 1-0 to Banbridge.  In the second quarter Banbridge scored again but just a few minutes later The High School pulled one back through Ben Pasley making it 2-1 at half time.  Despite Banbridge dominating the first half, The High School team were not deflated, cheered on ecstatically from the sidelines, they came out fighting in the second half, every single player gave their all, although they were exhausted from their 2 intense games.  They put their bodies on the line and earned themselves a well deserved goal through a short corner from Charlie Beatty.  

The score on 2-2 tensions were high, but The High School were well on top and the supporters continued to cheer and the boys continued to throw everything at the game. Despite several efforts and brilliant defending especially by Sam Maxwell as first runner in the short corners, we were unable to score a 3rd.  A short corner for Banbridge in the last two minutes created a moment of fear for The High School supporters but goalkeeper Luke Stevens pulled off an incredible save to keep us in the game.  The full time whistle went with the score at 2-2.  The game went to 1v1s, despite some brilliance from Adam Hearne as goalkeeper and great goals from Alex Lynch and Tom Whelan, Banbridge emerged winners.  

I think if you asked anybody at that game they would tell you that The High School could not have given more of themselves to the tournament.  From the very first game every single player did everything they could for the team and brought so much joy to all of us who were lucky enough to watch the games.  Hockey has given all of us so many great memories in school and on behalf of Form 6 pupils I would like to thank all of the boys for all of the joy they gave us watching those games.  It was a special experience get to see the boys we have grown up with for the last 6 years, make us so proud on such a massive occasion. 

Moya Quigley (Head Girl)

Thursday, 20 October 2022

Form 6 French Production

On Friday 14 October Ms Roullet and Ms Concannon's Form 6 French classes went to see a production of the classic novella Le Petit Prince by famed author and former World War II pilot Antoine de Saint Exupéry at St Andrew’s College. In preparation for our trip we learned the significance of the story and the effect it has had on French culture and society. Le Petit Prince is actually the second most translated book in the world, just behind only the Bible and has been adapted into a film, television series, and opera as well as theatre productions. After a quick bus ride to the venue, we sat down to watch the play. Without giving away too much of the story Le Little Prince is a story about loneliness, friendship, death, and love. The prince is a small boy from a tiny planet who travels the universe, planet-to-planet, seeking to understand how things work. On his journey he discovers the unpredictable nature of Earth's inhabitants. It’s easy to see why the story is so popular with universal and relatable themes and a simple to follow story that anyone from a young child to an adult can get something out of. It was a nice and different way to spend a Friday morning and certainly has helped prepare us for our upcoming mock Leaving Certificate examination in the New Year.
Luke Murphy

Wednesday, 7 September 2022

The Irish National Rowing Championships 2022 - By James Arthur


It was a hot and sunny day on the 8 July. My crew and I had been training hard for Neptune Rowing Club and it was coming to the end of the season. I had my bags packed in the boot of our car and a sick feeling in my stomach. It was at around 1pm when me, my mam and one of my crew mates, Tommy left town for Cork. For the whole journey down there we talked about the race that we were going to be in the next day. We got to ‘The Oriel Hotel’ in Ballincollig in only 3 hours despite taking a quick break along the way. We arrived at the hotel earlier than the rest of our crew so we dumped our bags in our rooms and went to the swimming pool to relax our nerves. When everyone else arrived at the hotel we sat down for dinner but some of us didn’t have an appetite. That night we all went to bed at 11pm to get a nice long sleep before the big day but I struggled to settle and ended up falling asleep a lot later. The next morning we went to breakfast at 8am and our coach told us to eat lots so we ordered foods like porridge and fruit but I couldn’t eat. After that we all went down to ‘The National Rowing Centre’, which is located on the Taiscumar Reservoir at Farran Wood near Ovens. When we got down to the water, there were boats, trailers and people everywhere and everyone you looked at was busy doing something. We found our trailer and coach and got prepared for the race. Thirty minutes before the race started we launched our boat and rowed out onto the reservoir to warm up. At this point my head was filled with so many thoughts. We were in a quad, a boat with 4 rowers and a coxswain. I was in bow, which is at the back of the boat. Lochlann was seated in front of me in the two position, then came Hugh in the three position, and then Tommy in Stroke, with MacDara coxing.  It was a 1km race, a lot shorter than most of our races and there were 6 other boats racing against us. When we reached the start line the sun was beaming down on us and then everyone went quiet as we all got mentally prepared. When the umpire screamed “attention… go!” all of a sudden those nervous feelings disappeared. We started off behind the other boats which gave us a lot more work to do. After the first 250m we gained on the other boats and by 400m it turned into a race between us and one other crew, St Michael’s from Limerick. At the 600m mark one of two commentators lost hope and said “I think this will be a win for St Michael’s”, which only made us push harder and by the 900m mark we were neck and neck with the other boat. At this point I looked over at the boy rowing parallel to me and we locked eyes, then I shouted to my crew mates “One last big push!”. At this point our fore arms were aching from holding the oars too tight, our hands were bleeding from blisters and cuts and our legs were sore and cramped. Ten strokes later when both boats hit the finish line at the same time every rower felt relieved that it was over but neither crew knew who had won. As we gently rowed back into the slip we saw other club rowers and supporters run down towards us telling us we won and we were all in complete shock. After we took the boat and oars back to the trailer all the crew ran down to the reservoir and jumped in the water in our kit, and swam with the kids from other clubs. After that we went to the podium where we were presented with our medals and at around 7pm we left to go home for Dublin. We had gone into the season inexperienced and not expecting much but thanks to our coach Dermot, and the determination of the boys we had come out of it as a successful crew and really good friends.  

Wednesday, 12 January 2022

National Poetry Competition

Once again, PDST is inviting pupils s to Write a Poem under two categories: Junior Cycle and Senior Cycle.  We hope that this popular competition will encourage young writers to compose poetry and assist teachers in supporting the writing of poetry. Rules of the Competition.  All entries must be submitted electronically via email and typed (not scanned or handwritten).

Each entrant may submit one poem.
Each entry must include:  a. the Title of the Poem b. the Name of the Entrant c. the Name and Address of the School d. the Category e. Teacher Name, email address and mobile number.
Emailed entries must be sent by the teacher or school and not by the pupil. 

Where an entry is inspired by or written in response to a particular poem, the name of the poem and the poet must be clearly stated on the entry and, where possible, a copy of the original poem should be attached.

The competition is aimed at individual writers.  Class sets of poems will not be considered as entries for the competition. Please note that entrants should keep a copy of their poems, as poems will not be returned. 
Prizes for the Writers The winning poets in each section will receive a commemorative plaque and their poem will be published on the PDST Post-Primary website and printed in the PDST National Poetry Award booklet.  Prizes will be presented at an online award ceremony organised by the PDST in association with Laois Education Centre in March 2022.   All entries should be emailed to margaretmary@laoisedcentre.ie
​Closing date for receipt of entries is Friday 21st January 2022

How to Deal With Stress

What is Stress/Anxiety?
Physical or mental stress and the emotional anxiety that often comes with it is a normal, usually temporary and a sometimes-healthy response to challenging moments or situations we all experience in life. All young people feel stressed and anxious at times, and it is very common among students in school and at examination time. However, stress and anxiety can become problematic when we become overwhelmed, and when it becomes debilitating in terms of our general sense of personal wellbeing or our ability to function effectively.

It's fair to say that the combination of the normal stressors on young people generally and in our schools specifically with the extraordinary lived-experience of COVID-19 is unprecedented in terms of its negative impact on this generation of young people. The ‘new-normal’ is actually abnormal. Many feel powerless and frustrated in the face terms of what has been lost in terms of experiences and important rites of passage and in terms of the practical disruption to what might reasonably have been expected to be their experience in the normal course of events. Worst of all is the uncertainty-not knowing how things will be-to have at least some chance to prepare for what is to come.

Coping: Managing Stress & Anxiety

How do we deal with stress and anxiety? As we begin the new school term, its timely to remind ourselves and young people to let go of the things we do not control and to focus on the things we can. Luckily, we have the power to manage our stress and anxiety. The experts generally summarise the coping strategies as: sleep well, eat well, exercise, talk about it and avoid things and situations (and sometime people!) that simply don’t help. Here’s some practical tips for managing stress and anxiety. 

Everybody is unique but the following is a summary of some practical actions we can all take:

· Identify your triggers for stress and anxiety and what helps with the feelings. When and where does it happen? What increases or reduces the feelings?

· Positive self-talk: We become what we think. Anxiety is often linked to what we are thinking and those thoughts or self-talk if negative impact on our feelings and behaviour. Say stop! Write down your thoughts. Ask ‘Is it really true?’, ‘Is it helpful to be thinking this?’ and consciously choose to replace those negative thoughts with positive self-talk-for example, ‘it’s tough but it’s going to be ok’, ‘it doesn’t have to be perfect but I can try my best’, ‘I’ve managed to prepare for exams before, I can do this again’.

· Relaxation Techniques: Make time to develop the habit of relaxation. Yoga, mindfulness, deep breathing, meditation, visualisation, etc help us to do this. Here’s a nice resource to get you started https://soundcloud.com/user-719669409/relaxation-techniques-30-03-2020

· Distraction: Take time out to focus on something else. This can be done as a ‘time-out’ activity like exercise, sport, walking, reading, puzzles, gaming etc. If you find yourself in the midst of a stressful moment and/or are experiencing feelings of anxiety choose to focus on your breathing, choose to count the number of red cars passing in the background, etc.

· Extraction: While it’s important not to run away from the challenges that we all have to face, for example examinations, there are micro-extractions we can choose everyday to help make that challenge more manageable. For example, if in the company of somebody who is always negative or the conversation is increasing your feelings of anxiety about something, choose to change the topic or politely leave the conversation.

· Notice it, Name it, Shame it (Let it go): Worrying is normal but actually changes nothing-save your energy for what you need it for. Every now and then, take time to write down everything you are worried about. This will make them less scary. Now that you have written them down tell yourself that you don’t have to worry about these things at least for a while and do something else. If you need to go back to them they are there. If a new worry comes up, add it to the list and move on. Ask yourself-can I do anything about it? Yes-do it. No-move on-let it go. Refuse to give power to your worries.

· Troubleshoot (Problem Solve): This helps reduce stress and anxiety. Write down the problem you have. Write down all the possible solutions and the pros and cons of each solution. Pick the best solution and try it. Ask ‘did it work?’ If no, try the next solution. The key is to get the problem out of your head and to do something about it.

· Ask for Help! Remember for some people these tips are not enough and you might need professional help. Talk to your parent or guardian, a friend, a teacher, the school counsellor, a therapist, your GP. Help is available.

(Adapted from: National Educational Psychological Service)

Friday, 17 December 2021

Leinster Hockey Association Senior Cup


Congratulations to The High School Senior 1 hockey team which defeated Loreto High School Beaufort 2-0 to qualify for the semi-final of the Leinster Hockey Association Schoolgirls Senior Cup. The team along with the entire school were all enthusiastically awaiting the match. We couldn’t wait to get on the pitch and play our hearts out. 
 As the whistle blew to begin the match our supporters did not fail to supply us with encouraging chants throughout. The HSD panther even made a special appearance!
A short corner goal executed by Zoe Dunne in the first quarter gave us a lead heading into the rest of the match. We were constantly hungry for another goal which resulted in many short corners and great passages of play. With minutes left in the match Ella Pasley sent an incredible shot into the back corner of the goal securing us a 2-0 lead.
The final whistle blew and the crowd burst into cheers. The team huddled together celebrating their victory while singing their hearts out.
Emily Pryce (Captain)