TNCS Bids a Fond Farewell to the Class of 2023!

Another first has just transpired at The New Century School: the first-ever student to start at the then-brand-new TNCS campus at age 2 and ascend all the way through the preprimary, primary, elementary, and middle school divisions has just graduated 8th grade. Yes, the class of 2023 has done it: they are high school bound. They are TNCS’s fourth graduating class.

This school year at TNCS has been a transformative one, and, as TNCS Head of School Erika Johnson eloquently stated at Wednesday’s 8th-grade graduation ceremony, endings are really only beginnings. One chapter closes to allow another to open. This is true not just for the 2023 TNCS graduates, but also for the school itself. Refer to the retrospective post to revisit all the heights scaled, victories achieved, and obstacles hurdled in TNCS’s first 13 years as a school, and then just reflect back on this 2022–2023 school year to really see TNCS coming into its own. We owe this to all of the vision; love; nurturing; energy; passion; and, yes, sometimes, headaches, that go into founding and then sustaining a school from TNCS community members both past and present.

Class of 2023 Ceremony

As always, the ceremony was heartwarming and bittersweet, engendering as many (joyful) tears as smiles. The graduates were dressed in white from head to toe, with bright yellow sashes around their shoulders. They were resplendent.

TNCS Dean of Student Support Alexis Boyd was Master of Ceremonies, while speakers included Head of School Erika Johnson with the commencement address and other beautiful speeches from TNCS Music Director Martellies Warren as well as from various TNCS students. The graduating 8th-graders passed the baton to the rising 8th-graders, and the rising 8th-graders to the rising 6th-graders (who very, very solemnly “accepted”). Ms. Johnson’s ask of the graduates is that they move through their next chapters as “trustworthy,” “steadfast,” and “true” human beings. They fervently promised to do so, one of many very touching moments.

Some rousing musical performances followed, and then each student gave a bouquet of flowers to their teachers, who were sitting opposite from them on the stage. Finally, each student was presented with their graduation certificate and had a photo op with Ms. Johnson on stage. At this point, smiles had reached maximum width! For your viewing pleasure, here are the wonderful photos gathered from parents, Ms. Boyd, and even some students.

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Scholarly Pursuits

With this post, we also want to share TNCS’s accomplishments from a different perspective—that of the graduates themselves. They’ve been active participants in not only blossoming within its walls but also in shaping the school from the inside out. So let’s hear it from them! They are each true TNCS originals.

From DM

My fondest memory at TNCS is this one time where me and [M] would ‘go to the bathroom’ and stay outside for like 15 minutes, thinking we were so cool. Some VERY found memories that involved me getting into trouble include me stealing Kate’s gel pens and REFUSING to admit I did it, stealing [I’s] squishy toys and iPod, and the uh…van incident (I’m so glad I am not that type of troublemaker anymore). Every second hanging out with the 4th and 5th grade classes was incredible. All of them were like my long lost cousins, and felt like a second family. The amount of times we burst out laughing and supporting each other through our hardships will forever warm my heart.

From CH

One of my favorite memories from TNCS was when the 7th and 8th grade classes went to Puerto Rico. This was such a special experience and to be on vacation with all of my friends was something I wasn’t expecting to happen. I will always remember this trip.

From KW

Whether it was playing games at recess, having hotdog eating contests at the Spring Fest, or us goofing off during dismissal, there was never a dull moment with these 8th-graders!

From NM

Coming into my 8th grade year, I didn’t expect much. I was ready to get over this grade level and go on to the next. I didn’t expect to meet the people I did. This year hasn’t been the greatest, but I don’t think I would change it. Maybe some bits, but I really am grateful for the time I have had. I remember graduation, and my parents got the time wrong so they came after the event. I told Ms. Boyd and Mrs. Johnson, and at first I thought they were joking when they brought up the idea to redo the graduation for my parents to see, but to my surprise they weren’t. We redid the graduation, and I think that’s one of the nicest things someone did for me. So in other words I really am grateful for the time I was given at The New Century School.

From DD

My fondest memory was when I went on the Superman when we were on a field trip to Six Flags, I was excited to go on the ride and I enjoyed it 😄!


Editor’s Note: More quotes will be added as they come in. Some students were not ready for more homework so soon after graduating 😅🎓! Indeed, we owe a very special thanks to CH and KW for collecting the student quotes!

Mr. Warren Goes to Washington!

And just like the 1939 film, this story is worthy of Hollywood!

You all know Martellies Warren as the beloved long-time educator at and Music Director of The New Century School. Many of you even know of his second career as a member of the three-time Grammy nominated Anthony Brown and Group TherAPy. But did you know that Mr. Warren just sang in person for President Biden and Vice President Harris?

In honor of Black History Month (and what a way to close it out!), Anthony Brown and Group TherAPy were rather suddenly invited to The White House to perform on Monday, February 27th, but they really don’t know fully how or why except that it probably had something to do with their single titled “Call to Action,” a powerful song inspired by the George Floyd tragedy but that exemplifies what Black History Month is all about: righting social injustice and advocating for equity.

Someone in Washington contacted the group’s management, a performance for around 200 to 300 guests was arranged, and the rest, well . . .  we’ll let Mr. Warren take it from here!

What had been proposed as a 45-minute set got whittled down to one song, but they said that’s pretty normal and they have to be flexible given that it’s The White House. So, we sang, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” The experience was amazing. Although it was not my first time being at the White House, this was the real deal. I literally stood on the South lawn, and we were escorted around like famous people. Then we were brought into this room, and there they were—President Biden and Vice President Harris! They shook our hands and asked us where we’re from and what we do. Of course, I had to tell them I’m from Montgomery AL, the birthplace of the civil rights movement, and President Biden was like, wow! I also told him that I’m an educator a The New Century School, and he was really intrigued that I teach and have a musical career.

Then, Vice President Harris gave me the warmest hug, and I was able to tell her that before she passed, my mom got to see her become the first African American Vice President and the first woman Vice President. She then wanted me to tell her about my mom, so I shared how she was my cheerleader, and now it’s a little different because I don’t have her here. But Vice President Harris said, “she’s always with you; don’t ever forget.” It was a really heartfelt moment with her. I know my mom would be smiling.

As Mr. Warren recounted this amazing experience to his family, his brother reminded him that as a child, he always claimed that he’d meet the president one day. And here we are. He didn’t just meet the president, though—he conversed with and sang to the president and the vice president!


What an honor indeed, and thank you for name-dropping TNCS, Mr. Warren! You’re never far from our thoughts, either!



For the full event, watch this video. Mr. Warren appears at 1:06.

Music Is in the Air: TNCS Welcomes Back Martellies Warren!

As mentioned in a previous post, the 2022–2023 school year at The New Century School promises to be its best so far (and, if the trend continues, next year will top even this year!). Amidst all of the excitement of celebrating its 10th anniversary and welcoming a new Head of School, TNCS got some more good news: Martellies Warren rejoined the fold!

He’s Baaack!

As for how Mr. Warren returned to TNCS, we have TNCS Head of School Erika Johnson to thank. . . and maybe some cosmic good luck. “This is a period in my life where things are aligning,” said Mr. Warren. “I’m learning that what looks at first to be an obstacle can sometimes be necessary to have you in place for your next step.”

The sequence of events goes like this: Mr. Warren was about to start working at a Montgomery County Montessori school and had come to TNCS during the first week of the school year to gather some required paperwork for his new job. He encounters Ms. Johnson, whom he had coincidentally met briefly years earlier, and they strike up a conversation on realizing the acquaintanceship. “We had an existing connection that opened the door for us to sit and talk,” he explains. After they caught up a bit, Ms. Johnson realized she was talking to “the” Mr. Warren, the former TNCS Music Director who everyone still speaks so lovingly about, and she didn’t hesitate. They discussed Mr. Warren’s professional goals, and, it just so happens that one of his big goals—a leadership position—was put on hold temporarily due to an unexpected life event. This pause was going to mean that Mr. Warren was going back into the classroom full time, instead of joining the high school’s administration team. He was completely fine with this, but when Ms. Johnson offered him a spot back at TNCS as Director of Music and Extended Activities, he saw that maybe this is how it was supposed to be: one door closed in order to open a better one.

Mr. Warren describes his decision-making process as typically very deliberate and unhurried, and he asked Ms. Johnson for some time to consider her offer. He ended up not needing much and got back to her the same day. “I let her know I’m very interested, but my main concern is doing this right and not letting down the other school,” he explained. With his return to TNCS destined to be, however, the Head of the other school was nothing but supportive, telling Mr. Warren he couldn’t pass up this wonderful opportunity.

Where He’s Been

Mr. Warren used his 3-year hiatus from TNCS to develop professionally and to tie together all of the various threads he had been exploring. He is a certified Montessori teacher and taught as Montessori Lead Teacher for several years at TNCS—some of his former primary students are current TNCS middle schoolers, in fact! Teaching in a traditional classroom was a new skill he honed while at Woodlawn Middle School from 2019–2022. “I learned a lot there,” he said, “especially how important understanding the culture is and building relationships with students in order to be effective in that environment. You have to earn students’ trust.”

He says his experience at Woodlawn rounded out his knowledge of the school setting so that, in addition to being an expert in the Montessori method, he also knows state standards and the public school perspective. This well-rounded view has meant that in returning to TNCS, he is able to help out in all sorts of ways, where and as needed.

This versatility is actually nothing new. It may surprise no one to learn that Mr. Warren positively thrived in the all-virtual and then hybrid live/virtual instructional environments the pandemic demanded. “I absolutely loved it,” he said. “It took a lot of preparation, but I would have my fun slides ready, and then it’s just all about personality!” If anyone knows how to engage an audience, it’s Martellies Warren!

Speaking of engaging an audience, Mr. Warren is still vocalizing with Anthony Brown and group therAPy*, and they have earned an additional Grammy nomination since we last checked! Just as exciting, Mr. Warren is the proud recipient of a gold record for 2015’s “Worth”!

A new album is due out next year along the theme of affirmations. Performing in a musical group wasn’t easy during the pandemic, of course, but they held it together. “It made me realize how fragile the music industry is,” he said. “The pandemic took us off the stage, and fortunately that’s not what I was solely depending on for my livelihood. It helped me realize how lucky I am to have my other work. It also forced us to figure out how to make this work and do a lot of virtual things. It made us all technology experts,” he joked. So, affirmations is about finding the positive among the seeming negative.

Where He’s Going

At TNCS, Mr. Warren is teaching music classes twice weekly to all students except those in the preprimary division. These classes will start with some music theory, sight reading, solfège skills, and so on and then get right to singing. “I want to make sure that they’re getting the music skills they need. Especially my middle school students—I want to make sure they’re not walking into someone’s choral program ill-equipped. I want to give them everything to make them feel more confident if they want to pursue music,” he said.

Mr. Warren has also instilled in his students the importance of maintaining professionalism on stage, and many of his former students still remember this. When an artist is performing, we owe them respect, which means staying quiet and letting them do their thing without distraction. He says that, since back at TNCS, he has heard an older student tell a younger student, “You’ve already had recess; it’s time to pay attention. Music is serious.”

As if that isn’t adorable enough, it’s a sign of wonderful things to come: the return of the exalted winter and spring concerts. These are still very much in development, but “stay tuned.”

Also on the horizon are Fine Arts–related field trips, which fall under his Extended Activities hat. Those, too, are still TBD, as Mr. Warren navigates how to safely resume such excursions with vestiges of the pandemic lingering. On campus, extended activities means more than extracurriculars. He is seeking alignment between what students do in class and out (One school, One program, One community). This means talking with teachers, understanding their daily curricula, and incorporating those themes and reinforcing those lessons in all of the fun supplemental activities available at TNCS. “We’re trying to structure this in a way that it runs as smoothly as possible by taking the information that they’re getting from the school day and now applying that in a different way,” said Mr. Warren.

Finally, Mr. Warren is back not just for his former and new students, but also for the TNCS community, including faculty and staff. “Even if it’s not in my job description, what can I do  to help? The leadership team is amazing, and I’m so lucky to now be part of it.”


*Why is the AP in group therAPy capitalized? It stands for “Answered Prayers,” and how very fitting is that?

Musical Theatre Camp 2019 Welcomed Some Very Special Visitors!

The New Century School is special for a great number of reasons, and several of those reasons come together in this week’s Immersed. To start with, TNCS offers hands-down the city’s most varied and exciting lineup of summer camps, and Musical Theatre camp led by the always marvelous Martellies Warren is a perennial favorite. Then there’s all that goes into what makes such a camp so effective and so wonderful for young learners—the arts, the music-making, the mixed ages collaborating so beautifully! Not to mention skills relating to the camp  theme! But there’s one extra-special aspect to this year’s Musical Theatre camp that elevated it even further: four attendees from China joined the fun!

Meet Mike, Jane, Coco, and Alex!

“Mike” (Zimo Han), age 11, is from Hunan. “Jane” (Xinyi Ma), age 11, and “Coco” (Jiarui Sunn), age 9, both live in Beijing. “Alex” (Qinghua Shang), age 6, is from Tianjin. The group was in Baltimore for 1 week, after which they headed to New York, NY for 4 days of sightseeing (Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Times Square, etc.). It was everybody’s first visit to the United States. Mike and Jane were accompanied by their mothers (Aili Mao and Jing Li), and Alex was accompanied by both his mother and grandmother (Yu Zhang and Aixian Zhang). The group also had a “handler” of sorts from the Harvest Company of China to help facilitate activities and make sure everyone was comfortable. They stayed in two furnished Baltimore row houses in the Bolton Hill neighborhood and enjoyed having three spacious floors of living space to run around in. Their evenings after camp were mostly spent relaxing at home, playing chess and other boardgames and watching tv—they even learned the idiom, “to click around” when referring to not watching anything in particular but channel surfing. The adults in their party cooked breakfast for them each day, but they had plenty of opportunity to eat their favorite food—pizza! Lunches and dinners were often enjoyed out at restaurants.

tncs-musical-theatre-summer-camp

The kids spoke wonderful English as a result of lessons in school, but they also appreciated the chance to speak Mandarin Chinese with TNCS students. They reported having a great time and made lots of friends at camp. Back at home in China, their hobbies included playing basketball (Mike), drawing (Alex), reading (Jane), and figure skating (Coco). See some of their other talents below! While the kids were in camp, the adults did some sightseeing around town, taking in Johns Hopkins University and the Peabody Library, for example, as well as visiting the Naval Academy in Annapolis and getting some shopping in at Arundel Mills Mall. A Target run was also de rigueur!

Behind the Scenes

Because Peter and the Wolf only has a handful of roles, the 25 total campers took on roles as a group, so, for example, the character of “Duck” was actually four campers. Campers ranged in age from rising 1st-graders to rising 7th-graders, and they hailed not from just China and TNCS but from schools all over the city like Patterson Park Public Charter School, Hampstead Hill Academy, St. Casimir’s, and the School of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen. Helping Mr. Warren lead camp was intern Carrie, who came to TNCS from China in early July and will stay for 1 year.

They learned important technical skills like stage blocking related to being part of a musical theatre production. Mr. Warren reported that they had the whole performance mapped out on the first day and so were able to devote their remaining days to rehearsing. After each rehearsal, Mr. Warren provided some debriefing notes for each group.

Comments like, “Wolves, wonderful job today! You were in time with the music, and you have amazing music to play off of!” and “Remember AIC? Always in character!” were common. The performers themselves likewise offered suggestions for how to improve a certain scene, like “Grandpa(s) should hang their heads and look disappointed in Peter.”

As per usual, campers made art to decorate the stage front. These are stunning!

They also crafted props and costumes and made great use of the Imagination Playground for set pieces.

The Play Is the Thing!

Mr. Warren introduced the performance and vowed not to interfere but to let his pros handle anything that came up. “They did an amazing job acting and putting up with my silliness,” he said. “It was wonderful!”

And now, we present Peter and the  Wolf, in its entirety!

Farewell, Friends!

On the last day of camp, after the performance of Peter and the Wolf, Mike, Jane, Coco, and Alex treated the audience to some performances of their own.

They were also presented with Certificates of Participation in their English language immersion camp.

The adults who accompanied them were thrilled by the whole experience and were kind enough to share some of their impressions of the program. Alex’s mother is an English translation teacher at a college in Tianjin. Mike’s mother both promotes literacy and runs an Adidas store in Hunan. She also takes her job as mother very seriously and was very happy to be able to spend mornings with her son, here in Baltimore, cooking special meals. Jane’s mother is also in education.

They had various reasons for wanting their children to attend camp at TNCS. They wanted the authentic experience of a customized trip and did not want to be stuck on tours such as what a typical travel agency would offer. They wanted the flexibility to be able to have their possibly changing needs met, as Mike’s mom described it. They also wanted the chance to practice their English. Furthermore, their children tended to be shy, they reported, and they were hoping that an immersion summer camp might bring them out a bit. An ancillary reason is that they were very curious about immersion-style learning itself, which is quite rare in China. “The way you teach students and the way you live so freely is totally different from China. It really impressed me,” said Alex’s mother.

At TNCS Musical Theatre camp, Mike, Jane, Coco, and Alex were doubly immersed, in a sense, because they also had to get comfortable being on stage and making new friends. For this, the adults were beyond grateful. They saw their children bravely trying new things and quickly becoming comfortable doing so. “I still remember the first day Alex went to school,” said his mom, “and when he came back home he told me he didn’t want to go again because he was too nervous. The next day he came back and something had changed. He tried his best to join the class, and he was so happy from then on.”

Jane had a lovely time, too. She wrote a letter to her friends back home completely in English, which made her mother very proud. She was having so much fun with them that she stayed up late to make gifts for them. “She really cherishes the friendships she has made,” said her mom.

Normally very independent Coco experienced some homesickness at first but quickly adapted and returned to her gregarious, social self.

Jane’s mom mentioned that she noticed a big change in all four of the children after their week at camp. At first they were reticent, but they very quickly embraced the experience and were livelier than she had ever seen.

Mike’s mom’s nicest surprise was the Orient Express restaurant owned by a TNCS family. She said the Chinese food there was better than what she can get in China!

Alex’s grandmother was most taken with the arrangement itself. She appreciated being able to learn from the trip on their jaunts, while the children were having such a rich immersion experience. She also enjoyed feeling so welcome and commented on how friendly and thoughtful everyone has been. Monica Li got an especially warm compliment for all she did to make their time comfortable and smooth. Monica is indispensable to TNCS!

On their last evening in Baltimore, they were going to Tokyo Seafood Buffet, where they would be trying their first taste of Maryland blue crab. We miss them all already and hope they remember TNCS and Charm City fondly, as we will hold them dear as well!

 

TNCS Debuts New Summer Camp: Musical Theatre!

For summer 2018, The New Century School expanded its already spectacular lineup of fun and exciting summer camps to include some new offerings. One of these was Musical Theatre camp, taught by TNCS’s amazing music director, Martellies Warren.

This camp focused on allowing campers free self-expression through exploration in set design, pairing dialogue with music and movement, and exploring the technical aspects of the performance stage.

Musical theatre is a form of theatrical performance that combines songs, spoken dialogue, acting, and dance. The story and emotional content of a musical—humor, pathos, love, and anger—are communicated through the words, music, movement, and technical aspects of the entertainment as an integrated whole.

Although musical theatre overlaps with other theatrical forms like opera and dance, it is distinguished by the equal importance given to the dialogue, movement, music, and other elements.

Exit Stage Left!

After first learning the all-important jargon–what upstage versus downstage means, for example—campers spent the week practicing a scripted humor piece as well as breaking out into groups to write, direct, stage, act (and even sing!) in their own short plays. They also designed their own playbills, which graced the front of the stage.

Here are two of the younger campers performing the humorous piece, to thunderous applause.

(Stars in the making?) All campers performed this piece. To see more examples of this funny little clip and maybe catch a glimpse of your rising star, visit TNCS’s YouTube Channel and look for “Annie Get Your Gun.”

Without Further Ado!

tncs-musical-theatre-summer-campAnd now for the four plays, which, to put it simply, brought down the house. They are brought to you here, scene by scene. Scene changes in between were handled by the set team of each group, and they did a wonderful job. Mr. Warren emphasized that he intervened as little as possible to let each play troupe own the production from beginning to end. He was called on to help out with some sound effects, however, and played both a very convincing doorbell as well as a rotary phone. Other props were contributed by the players themselves.

The Perfect Slice

First up was “The Perfect Slice”—a compelling food metaphor for what we all seek, deep down. (Or deep dish?)

Murder Mansion

Next up was “Murder Mansion.” tncs-musical-theatre-summer-campWatch out, Agatha—the horror genre apparently has crowned a new queen!

Warning, “Murder Mansion” may not be suitable for all audiences. Use your discretion. (Just kidding.)

One by one . . .

Finding a Pet

tncs-musical-theatre-summer-campThird on the roster was “Finding a Pet,” a delightful romp through the process of welcoming four-legged friends into the family.

It’s one that nearly everyone in the audience found relatable, and kudos to the way the actors really inhabited their roles as animals.

Watch Out for the Witch

tncs-musical-theatre-summer-campThe final performance of the day featured a solo sung by one of the actors.

“Watch Out for the Witch” starts out as a suspenseful nail biter, but, in the end, all is well. This heartwarming tale about witchcraft mixed with sisterly love is sure to have you spellbound!

(Psst—the solo is in Scene 2!)

 

Curtain!

What a wonderful week of musical theatricality and general hijinks upon the stage. Although Friday was the final act, let’s hope that summer 2019 will include an encore of this amazing camp!

tncs-musical-theatre-summer-camp