All-State Orchestra and Choir Exceed Expectations

By Amanda Malnik

From Jan. 8 to 11, Oak Hall students, juniors Amelia German and Anya AitSahlia, sophomore Asher Dobrin, and eighth graders Elizabeth Offerle and Jamie Robinson Wilmott, attended the All-State Conference in Tampa, Fla., where they performed in either an orchestra or a chorus. Because the aforementioned students placed so high in their designated talents, this is Oak Hall’s first time celebrating such success. 

German, Dobrin, and Robinson Willmott were the three instrumentalists from Oak Hall that attended the conference. German received the top spot for the Second Flute section, Dobrin received the Principal Chair for the double bass section, Robinson Willmott received the top spot in the Orchestra (First Chair and First Violin) which titled him as Concert Master of the Orchestra. AitSahlia and Offerle attended the conference as vocalists and did not receive any additional rankings once being accepted into All-State. Throughout their All-State process, Jason Stahl and Dr. Dominique Clance, Oak Hall Music teachers, supported the Oak Hall students as well as took part in the conference in the position of Music Directors. “It’s kind of unprecedented; we’ve never had students place in the top like that ever before consistently,” Stahl reflected. “We’re just really pleased and happy with all their’s really an honor,” he continued.   

The process began in September when students in middle and high schools from all across the state auditioned to qualify for All-State. The instrumentalists received prepared pieces ahead of time, with one large excerpt, as well as a practice book. The audition entailed playing the pieces they were given ahead of time as well as a sight-reading test, where they played a piece they had never seen prior to the audition. 

The vocalists’ auditions, however, differed from the instrumentalists. To be selected for the All-State vocal ensemble, students must pass two auditions. “At the first audition, which is local, you must first pass a musical theory test (written and aural theory) and then pass a sight-singing test (you’re given a sheet of music with 5 previously unseen passages on it and have to sing a certain number of measures correctly (both rhythm and melody) in order to go to the next audition),” AitSahlia explained. 

Instrumentalists received the news that they were accepted into the High School Honors Orchestra, for students that deserved an honorable mention, or All-State Orchestra, by Stahl in November. Vocalists, however, discovered they passed their first audition, and then prepared for and attended their second audition in October, where their vocal quality was tested. After the vocalists’ first and second auditions were judged, the students learned if they had been accepted into the All-State Chorus, the highest chorus one can be accepted into. 

Once at All-State, instrumentalists and vocalists rehearsed eight to 10 hours daily for the next few days depending on which day a specific chorus or orchestra performed. AitSahlia found the chorus rehearsals to be the most rewarding and stimulating part of the few days she attended. “Being in a room with 200 other girls who love expressing themselves musically as much as I do under the direction of an inspiring conductor was an experience like no other,” AitSahlia expressed. Dobrin found the experience to be one of the best he’s ever had and an opportunity to meet other high school students that share the same passion as him. 

We are so proud of our talented students’ success at All-State this year and hope for continued success in the years to follow. Congratulations, Eagles!

Oak Hall Alum Rejoins Baseball Team as Coach

By Shailey Klein

The Oak Hall baseball team welcomes a new head coach in alum Kevin Maris for the upcoming season. Maris returns after not coaching high school baseball for four years. He was the head coach at St. Francis Catholic High School most recently, but coached at Oak Hall from 1997-2008 leading the Eagles to its last district championship. The Oak Hall baseball field is named after his father, Major League Baseball great, Roger Maris.

Maris’ baseball career as a coach began at Oak Hall. In 1990, he was asked by head coach Mac Hall to join his staff. It was then, that he fell in love with coaching the game of baseball. “It was a real privilege to mentor all the young men that came through the OHS baseball program for the 18 previous years I coached at Oak Hall,” Maris said. 

In his previous time with the Oak Hall baseball program, Maris helped produce a handful of successful baseball players, who went on to play at the collegiate level as well as professionally in Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball (MLB). Most notably, Brian Ellington was drafted in 2012 by the Miami Marlins and holds the franchise record for the “Fastest MLB Fastball Average” in a season with a velocity of 98.6 MPH.

New OHS baseball coach, Roger Maris

Maris’ philosophy when it comes to coaching baseball revolves around the concept of building young men into “first class” individuals to help them succeed on and off the field. His priority is “to teach [the athletes] to play the game hard nosed and clean, [and] to create a winning environment which comes from learning that adversity is an opportunity to succeed, and realizing that you’re only as good as your next opportunity,” he said. “I want my players to understand that talent is God-given, but that talent can be polished,” Maris continued. 

Maris brings a wealth of knowledge about the game to the program, which he attributes to his father. Maris also brings Bobby Hill into the program as an assistant coach. Hill was inducted into Alcorn University’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2010 for his baseball brilliance and was previously a scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The two have worked together coaching for many years and Maris believes he will be a great addition to the team.

Looking ahead to this season, Maris has his sights set to win a district championship this year and ultimately reach the state championship. “As a coach, this makes me very excited to get back to working with and developing these young athletes in hopes that they will love and respect the game the way I do,” Maris said. “2020 is going to be a great season for the Eagles,” he exclaimed. 

A Patriot-less Super Bowl

Much to the dismay of New Englanders, it might be time for Brady to hang up his cleats

By Aiden Wacksman

The New England Patriots are one of the greatest NFL dynasties to ever exist. In the last two decades, the Patriots have been to nine Super Bowls, winning six of them. Ever since 2000, New England has been led by one of the most consistent quarterbacks to ever play: Tom Brady. The Patriots’ dominance, however, is coming to an end, and its end begins with the star quarterback.

Let’s flash back to Super Bowl LLI. The Patriots traveled to U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota to face the Philadelphia Eagles. The last time these two teams met in the championships was in 2004, where Brady led the Patriots to a 24-21 victory. In Super Bowl LII, the Patriots were considered the likely victors. To the shock of many, the Eagles won that night in high scoring fashion, 41-33. Early in the game, the Patriots had a chance to take the lead, marching down the field to the Eagles 35-yard line. New England devised a trick play in which wide receiver Danny Amendola attempted to pass the football to Brady. The play had unfolded perfectly, and the ball was thrown accurately, but the unthinkable happened: Brady dropped the pass. This one play determined the outcome of the game, as on the very next play, New England failed to get a first down.

Brady passed for 500 yards and three touchdowns, but this is where the stats lie. The Patriots’ quarterback cost New England the game with two “turnovers”: His inability to catch the pass from Amendola, and a fumble late in the game that gave the Eagles an eight-point lead. Did Brady have a great game when it came to passing the football? Absolutely. This, however, wasn’t enough to lead the Patriots to a victory. Head Coach Bill Belichik’s usually stout defense didn’t do New England’s offense many favors, but with such a stellar performance, Brady shouldn’t have lost the game. Super Bowl LII served as proof that the Patriots’ dynasty was coming to an end.

Gisele Bundchen shares emotional post of Patriots QB Tom Brady coping with defeat
Tom Brady sits on the bench after having the ball stripped by Brandon Graham of the Philadelphia Eagles late in the fourth quarter in Super Bowl LII
Photo courtesy of Christian Petersen/Getty Images

In Super Bowl LIII, the Patriots ended the regular season with an 11-5 record, but miraculously found a way to a championship win against the Los Angeles Rams.

The 2019-20 season for the Patriots was disappointing more than anything else. New England opened the season with an 8-0 record. This excellent start, however, was overshadowed by a 4-4 finish. The Patriots lost to the likes of Kansas City, Houston, and Baltimore. The worst loss suffered, however, was to the Miami Dolphins (5-11) in week 17. New England failed to produce much on offense, as Brady passed for a mere 221 yards, and the Patriots defense couldn’t stop quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who passed for 320 yards and a touchdown. For the first time in ten years, the Patriots failed to clinch a spot in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. Instead, New England faced the Tennessee Titans in the Wild Card round. 

Entering the game, the Patriots were considered favorites to defeat the Titans. Little did New England know, Tennessee had a secret weapon: running back Derrick Henry. He carried the ball 34 times for 182 yards and a touchdown in a 20-13 Titans victory. For the first time in three years, the Patriots didn’t make the Super Bowl, and for the first time in 10 years, New England lost in the wild card round of the playoffs.

Brady can be inconsistent at times, but this game showed his age (he’s 42). He passed for 209 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception. The interception he threw was returned for a touchdown, which sealed the game for Tennessee. His ability to compete is admirable, but his talent is now hindered by his age. No one can judge a quarterback due to one bad game, but he was inconsistent during the majority of the 2019 season. 

Yet another issue with New England’s normally balanced offense was Brady’s tendency to turn the ball over in crucial moments. His game-deciding interception against the Titans was just one example of this. He made the exact same mistake against the Miami Dolphins, and threw an interception against the Ravens that shifted the momentum of the game. One of Brady’s greatest weaknesses that NFL teams have failed to exploit is his inability to throw once he is hit by a defensive player. 

The Patriots ability to dominate on offense is coming to an end. New stars like quarterback Patrick Mahomes, running back Saquon Barkley, and wide receiver A.J. Brown are on the rise. New England’s bright light of victory is slowly burning out.

Remembering Kobe

By Cristina Alvarez
Oak Hall Journalism Teacher

I try to not write stories for The Talon, as I feel my students are incredible at journalism. But writing is what I do, and I couldn’t think of another outlet I could use to process this tragic event.

Since Sunday, I’ve been trying to put into words what the world lost when Kobe died. Now, I’m not the biggest basketball fan, but I was a fan of Kobe, just maybe not at first. The thing is, I watched as he came onto the scene as a young, arrogant kid who got in trouble by doing stupid things, to this adult who cared so much about his wife, his daughters, his friends, strangers, etc. He was not just a basketball player. And even though playing defined his occupation, it didn’t define him as a person.

On Monday, I gave a mini lecture to my journalism classes about how to handle rumors when breaking news happens. The reason for this was because of Kobe. When I found out on Sunday, I was in shock. One of my colleagues told me he read reports that all four of Kobe’s children were on the helicopter, which turned my shock into unbearable sadness. These reports weren’t from some bogus outlet either (I’m looking at you TMZ), it was from ABC News. Here’s the thing: imagine if Kobe’s wife was having a girl’s weekend, away from her children, and she first hears about the crash. Then, someone calls her saying they heard all four of her children were killed as well as her husband. That would have been even more unnecessary pain someone caused because they wanted to be the first outlet to report something, without even checking if it was true. Unfortunately, we live in a world where being first doesn’t always mean being right. This could be true for any aspect of life: accusing a significant other of cheating, blaming a friend for gossiping, etc. It is more important to be right than to be first, and that applies to more than journalism.

Now, I don’t normally cry or get upset when famous people pass away. In fact, I’ve only cried twice: when Stan Musial died (one of the greatest St. Louis Cardinals baseball players that has ever played the game), and when Chris Cornell died (lead singer of the band Soundgarden, a.k.a. one of the greatest voices of my generation).

I cried on Sunday, and yesterday. I cried for his wife and his three daughters. Not only did his wife lose her husband, but she also lost her child…her children lost their sister. I firmly believe there is no greater loss than losing a child. Just even thinking about not having my daughter in the world, well, that gives me anxiety about a sadness I hope I never have to feel.

This clip from “Ellen” about Kobe made me actually laugh out loud. This is the Kobe we should remember. Yes, he was a phenomenal basketball player, but he was an even better person. If anything, his death should remind us that life is an incredible gift. Don’t sweat the small stuff, don’t take life for granted, and be kind to each other.

We Remember the Holocaust

By Lauren Cohen

Yesterday, people across the globe came together to mourn the lives of those lost on the 75th anniversary of the Holocaust. The Auschwitz-Birkenau complex was liberated by the Soviet Red Army on Jan. 27, 1945 and became a symbol of Nazi Germany’s systematic murder of an estimated six million Jews — around two-thirds of Europe’s Jewish population. 

It is estimated that 1.3 million people were sent to Auschwitz. Those who died there included around 960,000 Jews, 74,000 non-Jewish Poles, 21,000 Romani people, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, and up to 15,000 other Europeans. Prisoners who were not gassed in chambers died of starvation, exhaustion, disease, individual executions, beatings, or were killed during medical experiments.

The faces of the Holocaust
Courtesy of Lauren Cohen

May we never forget the six million Jews and countless others murdered by the Nazi regime during the Holocaust. We remember the Jews, the Afro-Germans, the gays, Romani, the disabled, and all who were deemed as impure for the Aryan race. We mourn those who we lost on a personal level, and those who we never shared moments with but whose stories have been imprinted within our hearts. We mourn those who lost their lives due to fascist and anti-semitic regimes. We mourn those who lived in fear of being thrown into a gas chamber and sent to die. We mourn. 

There will be no end to this tragedy, as this genocide ripped our hearts in half and damaged our souls. We stand here today remembering these lives ripped apart and we understand that we are not yet fully liberated. We watch the rise of anti-semitism within this world and we fear. We should not have to live in fear any longer. We must honor those lost lives by fighting anti-semitism and other forms of hatred daily. I refuse to let these souls be forgotten. Fight intolerance with your Jewish brothers and sisters before it’s too late. To this day, anti-semites outnumber the Jewish people. To become complacent is to become complicit. Never forget and never stop fighting.