By Mark Vruno
With the start of the 2017-18 school year only five weeks away, Fenwick is pleased to announce the return of Choral and Theater Teacher Melanie Lamoureux to its Expressive Arts Department. Before taking a two-year sabbatical to further her studies at Northwestern University (NU), Lamoureux had been Fenwick’s Director of Honors Choral and Theater Studies from 2012-15. A 2005 graduate of Hinsdale Central High School, she says she is looking forward to working with Choir Director/Fine Arts Teacher Sue Senese and Department Chairperson Rizelle Capito to continue to build on an excellent program here. Ms. Lamoureux again will be teaching junior and senior choir classes as well as an acting class.
“When Ms. Lamoureux came to Fenwick we already had a strong choral program in place,” explains Principal Peter Groom. “In her short time here, she added a Madrigal Choir section and a Theater course. She made an immediate impact, and our students really enjoy working with Ms. Lamoureux,” Mr. Groom adds.
Lamoureux also has directed the last three spring musicals at Fenwick: “All Shook Up,” featuring the songs of Elvis Presley, in 2015; the satirical comedy “Urinetown” in 2016; and, on the opposite end of the spectrum, the Biblically inspired “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” which set a Blackfriars Guild (BFG) attendance record earlier this year, reports longtime Moderator Roger Finnell.
“As far as I know, the 2,300 total audience members in 2017 were the most for any show in BFG history, or recent history at least,” notes Finnell, who also is Chairman of the Mathematics Department. This tremendous success “was due, in large part, to Melanie’s creative and tireless efforts in working with our very talented students and especially with the 67 grade school members of the cast,” Finnell adds. “I am looking forward to another great production in April. I am sure our kids will be looking forward to working with her, too.”
Fenwick All-State singer Tom Latz ’18 definitely is. “Working with Ms. Lamoureux is always fun,” says Latz, who had one of the starring roles in “Joseph” as a junior last year. “You … don't even realize it, but you learn an immense amount of music theory. Ms. Lamoureux is so clearly passionate about music, and she brings her love of music everywhere she goes. I and my fellow students are very excited to have her return for a, no doubt, amazing year in choir and the musical!”
A scene from Fenwick's 2017 musical production of "Joseph and the
Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat." (Copyright Time Stops Photography)
The admiration is mutual. Fenwick’s Friars inspired her to pursue her latest graduate degree in music education, according to Lamoureux, which includes a State of Illinois Teaching Certificate (grades K-12). “I wasn’t necessarily planning on being a teacher,” she recalls, but interacting with FHS students helped her to understand the potential of education. “I decided that teaching fits my personality well.”
The M.M. (Master’s in Music Education) program at Northwestern can be intensive, but Lamoureux knew what to expect. Trained as a soprano, she already held two music degrees: a Bachelor’s of Music Education (Voice) from the University of Toronto and a Master’s of Music (Musical Theater) from the Boston Conservatory. “My other [advanced] degree is in performance,” she explains, “and Northwestern is a research-based institution; so there was a ton of reading.” The NU faculty nonetheless is progressive, she notes: “It is not only about classical music and teaching theory. There is a lot of emphasis on getting to know your students; on relating to them and their musical ‘personalities’… and especially getting them to grow beyond what they think is possible for them.”
The obvious question for Ms. Lamoureux may be: Why teach at Fenwick and not some other high school? “My experiences at Fenwick have been so different from my own public-school experience,” she explains. The community members truly support one another, like [in] a family. It’s a special feeling and a great thing to be a part of.
“And the students of Fenwick are such hard-working individuals,” Lamoureux has observed. “Their course loads are dashed with Honors and AP classes; then there are multiple sports and other activities. These young women and young men really are amazing!”
Lamoureux also is the Founding Artistic Director of BAMtheatre, an educational theater program based in the western suburbs. This past June, BAM presented “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” a musical production featuring high school and college talent. Rehearsals recently began for its youth theater presentation of “Grease” (August 4-6). Based in Hinsdale, BAM also offers one-week “Broadway” workshops for aspiring actors and singers. www.bamtheatre.com
“This year marks our 17th season at BAM, and there were a significant number of Fenwick students involved from the start,” Lamoureux says. “It is many of those students and their families who have made the connection with the faculty here [at the school].”