Salome Leon, '26
Pickleball combines elements of tennis and ping pong. Before the sport earned its reputation of being the fastest growing in the US, I played my first pickleball match. To me, it soon became known as the sport that had the ability to surpass age barriers. I was the only person under 60 to play for my first year. However, I was shocked by the reflexes of my opponents, who would be considered elderly by most standards.
At the age of 11, playing with people 6 times my age or more seemed bizarre. I hesitated to join as I was surrounded by people who had been playing pickleball longer than I had been alive. Pickleball may no longer be considered an obscure hobby, however the age range of people who I gather to play with initially made it an atypical environment.
I spent most of my weekends and summers playing pickleball, gradually strengthening the relationships I had with my fellow “pickleballers.” It may sound basic, but playing pickleball with 70+ year olds is so much more than just playing the sport. Although I have learned much about pickleball rules and techniques these past 4 years, I have also learned valuable life lessons from my wise opponents who have lived and experienced much more than I have. The stories they have told and the advice they have shared with me has changed the way I perceive life and the way I act.
People who were once my competitors have become a part of my family and treat me like I am one of their grandchildren. Since I have no grandparents who live in the US, I am grateful for the opportunity to have multiple sets of grandparents on the pickleball court. To me, these relationships have redefined the meaning of traditional family.
Sammy Miller, '25
The summer of third grade was a simple time to be alive. After a long year of learning my times tables and reading the Magic Treehouse books, I was finally rewarded with three months of play, exploration, and freedom. To cap it off, my family took a trip to the Dominican Republic; it was my first time out of the country. The bustling bazaar in Punta Cana felt like an extraterrestrial planet compared to the Kensington farmers market my parents and I would frequent every Saturday back home. Having lived in Europe most of her life, my mother swiftly engaged in a series of skirmishes with sly vendors trying to rip us off for one thing or another. After a long day of negotiating, arguing, and bargaining, in the markets, I got home and laid out my treasures on the hotel bed. One item stood out like a single star in the midnight sky. One of the vendors had boasted a mountain of coconuts that he could carve into anything the mind could imagine; naturally, I asked for a carving of a monkey holding a baseball bat. Maybe the countless non-alcoholic strawberry daiquiris I had drank on the beach had finally kicked in. Still, I thought this funny-looking monkey covered in brown and bristly coconut fibers was the most hilarious thing ever. He became an instant hit with my family and I settled on the perfect name: Howard.
In 2016 the Phillies playoff hopes were looking hopeful; my favorite player, first baseman Ryan Howard, was leading the charge and putting up MVP numbers, so it was only fitting for him to be Howard’s namesake. Howard may have been something of a practical joke to me and my family, but somehow when I got home he ended up on the top shelf of my bookcase with other nostalgic items from my childhood. Like a time machine, whenever my gaze falls across Howard I am transported to 2016. Every time I look at his baseball cap and his hands that grasp a baseball bat I’m brought back to my little league days: I am playing first base, surrounded by my friends at their positions, throwing the ball back and forth. I can hear the shouts and cheers from the parents and taste the sweet orange slices after a hard-fought victory. When I see the words “Punta Cana” carved into his side in chicken-scratch writing I am back in the Dominican Republic playing soccer on the beach with a group of kids my age, scarfing down early 6 a.m. breakfasts with my grandpa, or playing cards late into the night with my family. He is the portal between the past and the present; a reminder that life isn’t all that serious.
Now, each weekend, his confused frowning face glares at me as I bury myself in a glob of schoolwork. Eventually, I spot him perched on the edge of my shelf and remember the beautiful day outside, my dog waiting to play fetch, or my friends I promised to hang out with. Stressed, overwhelmed, implacable, we often hyperfocus on deadlines and due dates, sacrificing the few opportunities we have to create memories and replacing them with drudging chores. What seems like a piece of my ancient past helps me every day to remember to stay loose, relish the day, and teleport back into my younger body for a few minutes. The youthful mind truly loves adventure, so embracing juvenile vigor lets us approach life with passion instead of dread. After all, what is life without a bit of monkey business?
Mishah Hamid, ‘26
Performing arts on the cathedral close is a huge deal- whether you are participating in an acapella group, chorale, orchestra, choristers, etc., you know that being part of a music group requires practice, general commitment, and sometimes a usage of a free period block. Personally, I take part in many music groups at NCS, but I wanted to hear the different perspectives of my peers, and what they had to say about their performing arts groups.
To begin my journey with interrogating the sophomore class, I spoke with one of my friends in orchestra who requested to remain anonymous. When asking her why she chose to participate in the orchestra, she responded, “I honestly don’t know why I am in Orchestra”. I asked her what motivated her to keep going to rehearsals if she doesn’t really know why she is a member of the instrumental group. She said, “Literally just attendance like why else would I be going to orchestra, cause as long as I attend orchestra, I’ll get a pass”. It is usually expected of orchestra members to dedicate a good chunk of their time to practice their instrument and music, and so I asked my peer if she enjoys playing and practicing her instrument. She began to laugh, and responded by saying “I mean like, no, but because it’s difficult, I guess. I guess it’s just difficult because I don’t practice”. I asked her if she would rather play another instrument, to which her response was “um, honestly the oboe sounds really cool- I kinda wish I played that instead”. When I asked her if she liked the orchestra pieces this year so far, she formed a frown, and said “I feel like it’s too early to tell, but it’s better than last year because last year the music was so difficult to learn *smacked the table in frustration as she spoke*. Thank you for those wise words.
The next sophomore I spoke to was my fellow Sarsaparilla singer, Adele Muoio. First, I asked her why she decided to join SASS, to which she responded, “I am in SASS because it sounded like a really good opportunity last year, and I have always loved singing and acappella and I’ve always wanted to do it”. When I asked her what motivates her to attend evening SASS rehearsals, she said, “initially I wanted to see what it was about, but now I’ve gotten to know a lot of the people in it, especially people across different grades, and it’s fun to harmonize and sing with other people all together”. When asked about her first impressions of the acapella group, she responded, “its fun, but its kinda hard, to be honest-like I wanted a solo- well I didn’t get it, but ultimately it was for the better, and I was really glad to be part of the ‘support crew’ if you will, and we sounded really good at recent performances,” she continued, “overall I think its really good, I really like our presidents because they do a really good job- for example, we spent a rehearsal searching through different songs to perform for the fall concert, and [the presidents] really wanted to know of the group consensus on different pieces to make sure we were all happy about our next performance”. After this response, I asked her what her hopes are for the future of Sarsaparilla, to which her response was, “I think we need a beatboxer, because our song choices are good and we can sing well, but without some rhythm, everything is slow. And I remember before I was in SASS, they did Water Under the Bridge, and it was really good (of course she would say that, she literally has the same name as the singer), but it was slower than I expected, so maybe, I will be our beatboxer in the future”. Personally, I cannot wait to see Adele convert to a beatboxer.
After I spoke to Adele, I realized that my free 5th period was over, so I had to rush over to my math class where I found my friend, Julia Mumford heading off to her chemistry class. Julia was taken aback when I began to interrogate her about her journey as a chorister. First, I asked her why she initially wanted to join the choristers. To this, she responded in a nervous manner: “Um, I really love music, and it’s a great opportunity-oh, and my mom also thought it was a great idea, so a combination of those two things led to my decision of trying out, and I really liked it after I tried out”. I asked her if she still enjoys it, to which she said, “yeah, but it can be difficult sometimes, especially because it’s a particularly busy season”. As she said this, she spotted Annie McBrady across the hallway and said “Annie! Come over here we are being interviewed about being a chorister for the Exchanged”. Annie willingly came over, and I asked her why she decided to become a chorister. She responded by saying, “I decided to be a chorister because I thought AnnaSophia Nicely was really cool when she left Spirit Day early to act in a chorister skit for Music Day”. That was genuinely the best thing I had heard all day. I asked Annie if she still likes it, and she said “yeah, I love it, it’s like the best part of my life”. I asked both Julia and Annie if they regret their decision of auditioning, and Julia said, “I don’t ever regret my decision because I think there are some really cool things we get to do”, to which Annie added, “it just gets hard, especially during Messiah week”. I asked them if it restricted them from participating in any activities on the close, and Annie said, “It restricts us from doing sports a lot”, to which Julia added, “we have to miss two days of sports each week which is really hard because you can get cut from a team or you have to practice alone without the team”, and Annie said, “[being a chorister] gives you a not good reputation with some coaches”. I hope Messiah week went well!
After a productive interview with Julia and Annie, I spoke to Jax Vivatrat about her late-night thespian experiences at Trapier theater. I began her interview by asking why she decided to join theater. To this, she responded, “well, my first theater production was in seventh grade during COVID times, so I just wanted to do something because I was bored, and then it ended up being really fun”. I asked her what kept her motivated and excited to attend late night theater rehearsals, and she said, “it’s definitely my favorite part of the day-it’s really fun, and it’s my favorite thing about school”. The theater community is known to be very close knit, so I asked her if she would like to give any special shoutouts. She said, “shoutout to all my friends in theater- you guys make theater so fun, and the theater community high-key is such a great place, um but yeah, since Mr. Bishop is retiring, I should also probably be like ‘yooo’”. I asked what she wanted for the future of the thespian society and Trapier theater, to which she responded, “okay, so there are a lot of freshmen theater kids so I have hope that it will last for a long time, and I don’t see a big dip in theater kids anytime soon, so I would like theater to keep going”. I asked Jax if theater restricted her from doing any other activities at NCS, to which she responded “well no, because I don’t really want to do anything else because theater is kind of, you know, my thing, but yeah, at this school at least, I don’t really want to do anything else”, and added, “no offense, NCS”. Thanks for letting me interview you in the middle of class, Jax!
Through interviewing multiple students in the NCS sophomore class (even those I was not able to mention in this article because I am already over my word limit), I have learned that for each student, aside from THAT one anonymous orchestra student (you know who you are), that performing arts groups are usually the highlight of their NCS experience.
Mishah Hamid, '26
I have listened to Taylor Swift for as long as I can remember. Whether I am in my mother’s car, working out, completing my math homework, or deciding what my first Exchanged article should be about, the first option that comes to mind is Taylor Swift. Even as I am writing this article, I am listening to her evermore album.
Swift is seen by many as a feminist model that can inspire everyone, specifically teenage girls my age. Her music is an art form that can resonate with all of us, from turning fifteen years old and experiencing the beauties and challenges of young friendships, to the struggles of growing up and experiencing the treacherous or gorgeous (see what I did there) outcomes of romantic relationships.
I wanted to dedicate this article to deep dive into the “feminist” values she represents; obviously, we all know that she is currently re-recording her earlier albums to gain rights for her music, and it is known that she tries her best to express feminist morals that can be inspiring to everyone, specifically the younger generations in our society. However, as I’ve grown older, watched some of her older interviews and music videos, and learned at NCS more about what it truly means to be a woman in society, my opinions on Swift have slowly pivoted away from praising her every action to questioning her feminism and how she chooses to express it.
Let’s talk about Swift’s dating history. In the past eighteen years, Taylor Swift has dated at least fourteen men. In an interview with 2DayFM, Swift responds to the allegations that she only writes songs about her ex-boyfriends: “Frankly, that is a very sexist angle to take, no one says that about Ed Sheeran. No one says that about Bruno Mars". Swift is basically saying that people only criticize women about their dating histories and ignore men’s. Personally, I would disagree. People point fingers at Leonardo DiCaprio and Pete Davidson all the time, and they have dated almost the same number of people that Swift dated. Sure, people do not accuse men like Bruno Mars and Ed Sheeran of writing songs about their exes, but both did not have a dating history of fourteen romantic interests. In this interview, Taylor Swift is using sexism as a cover- up to tell people to stop being mean to her. She needs to accept that her dating history is problematic and unusual, which is why she is always asked about it. The longest she has gone without dating someone was 6 months, establishing the fact that she has a problem with being alone. It is evident that Taylor Swift always needs a guy beside her, indicating that she can never be alone. Additionally, as Swift feels that she always needs a man to feel complete, a woman calling other people sexist for recognizing the fact that she has dated a long list of men does not sit well with me. Swift is only covering up her exposure of her different boyfriends by calling other people sexist, while not holding herself accountable for the truth; that at least ¾ of her discography is about some boyfriend or love interest. As Swift expresses that people are sexist for claiming that she is only writing songs about her exes, she is portraying a false example of femininity and feminism: you cannot use feminism to defend yourself and your own problems that do not have to do with you being a woman- it paints a false and demeaning picture for other women, and Taylor Swift does not represent all women.
Next, I want to address the Bad Blood music video. There are multiple issues I have with this music video and the concept of the song. So, what is Bad Blood? It’s a music video full of badass-looking and dangerous-cool fighter women that are played by many of Swift’s big Hollywood friends like Cara Delavigne, Selena Gomez, Gigi Hadid, Zendaya, etc. This video so far may seem feminist because Swift gathered up her model friends and had them dress into “badass” outfits while they rode motorcycles and threw knives. This concept explains a very surface and superficial understanding of feminism- a modern day feminism that expresses that women are empowered when they wear short, latex outfits and knee-high boots while learning how to fight. I am sorry to say this, but a woman does not need to feel powerful if she dresses sexy and wears clothing that resembles lingerie. I think that if a woman feels this way, then that truly unfortunate, because a woman’s empowerment should come from within her own mentality and mindset. The music video does not demonstrate this idea at all, but instead instills an idea that woman are only powerful if they choose to expose their bodies, and enforces an idea that empowerment comes from a woman’s appearance.
Secondly, the concept of Bad Blood does not represent feminism because it completely sets women against each other. For background context, Swift wrote this song to bash Katy Perry because she used Swift’s background dancers for her own Prismatic World tour midway the Red tour, without her knowledge. Swift perceived this incident as Perry trying to sabotage her Red tour, so she wrote Bad Blood to justify that she was hurt by these actions, and to basically portray Katy Perry as a villain. At the time, Taylor Swift had a larger following than Katy Perry did, and Taylor Swift writing this song caused all her fans to turn against Perry. Because of this, Perry received a lot of hate messages and death threats. In an interview, Swift was asked about the music video, and responded, “we have to stop making it a girl fight, and we have to stop seeing girls try and tear each other down. It has to be more about cheering each other on as women”. To me, it is questionable that Swift said this even though she initiated the “girl fight” by writing a diss track about Katy Perry and having the whole world turn against her. She is the one “tearing” Katy Perry down, instead of “cheering [her] on as a [woman]”, or as she describes herself, a “feminist”. In this situation, Taylor Swift sets women against each other, and was tearing a woman down to boost her following and her ego. This is not feminist.
Though I do not agree with Swift’s feminist morals and ideas, I still think she is a smart lyricist and songwriter, which is why I still support her music. Her songs help me through tough situations, and I think she always puts her all into a tour to make it a memorable experience for everyone in attendance. We all have to understand that there is no specific definition of what exactly feminism is, and I used Taylor Swift to express my own. I know that there will be many people who do not agree with this article, but I hope you can understand my points and opinions on feminism and why I believe Taylor Swift isn’t the right feminist model we need to inspire our generation, and the many generations that will come after us.
Renee Prescott, '25
If you asked someone to talk about their sports experience, they’d probably talk about a sport they were currently doing. Instead of that, I’ll tell you about my experience watching our school’s volleyball team. Firstly, I went to tryouts. Sure, I had never actually played volleyball before and I very much don’t meet the height requirements, but hearing how close the team was and how much fun they were having, I had to see what was going on. Safe to say, I didn’t make the team, but I met the coaches and a lot of the other players, and they were all nice. Besides volleyball, I really didn’t have a sport I wanted to play so I took sports cut. This combined with my overall lack of time commitments meant I could just go to the practices. The coaches and players didn’t seem to mind and occasionally I’d help and shag balls. While helping, not only did I learn about volleyball, but I also learned about our team in general. This year’s volleyball team mixes hard work with a good time, always cracking jokes and not letting anyone be too down on themselves. The sport is high intensity and even higher speed, so it’s easy to get caught up in a few mistakes. But the team is always supportive, joining in a circle at every moment to lift each other up and prepare for the next serve. I also originally thought volleyball was pretty simple, just hit the ball and hope it hits the ground before they hit it. It’s actually much more complicated than that. There are many ways to score points: get an ‘ace’ by serving so well no one else can touch it, a ‘kill’ from someone setting it and another person hitting it down quick and hard, or block someone trying to hit the ball sending it straight to the ground. There’s also a lot more strategy involved. I’d watch the coaches explain who the defender on the other team with the slowest reaction time was and to specifically hit there and where their hitters would usually spot and to put their defenders there. What I most loved was going to the games and seeing all the work from practices in a real scenario. Before every serve I’d raise my hands and swish them to the side with an accompanying ‘whoosh’ sound, hoping we’d get an ‘ace’ because it was -and is- my favorite cheer. If not, I’d be sitting at the edge of my seat watching as the setter set up a hit and praying to everything that we’d get a kill. When we won, I couldn’t actually join them in their team celebration, so I’d wait until they were done to make my rounds and get out a couple of ‘good job’s, ‘you did great’, and ‘so when are you committing?’ While I’m a bit sad that I probably couldn’t play volleyball that well, I’m happy that our team is so amazing. It makes me want to learn.
Katie Jordan, '24
If you have ever heard of the spectacular choral piece Messiah by Handel, you have probably heard it through the extremely famous “Hallelujah” chorus. While this piece of music is iconic, it is not, by any measurement, the best chorus in Messiah. I would argue that it is one of the worst.
First, some context about the piece. Handel’s Messiah is a three-hour long oratorio that was composed in 1741 during the Baroque era by German composer George Fredrick Handel. This piece of music chronicles the story of Jesus’ life from his birth to his death, to his resurrection, and is generally performed around Christmas as a concert. It is composed of various arias (solo) and choruses (group) that detail various turning points in Jesus’ story.
But enough about the history of church music. “Hallelujah” is one of the many choruses in the piece and falls about halfway through the concert. At this point in the story, Jesus has died, and the chorus praises the eternal reign of God on Earth and in heaven. While this piece is certainly bombastic in its use of loud dynamics to hammer home the point of this eternal reign, it is one of the least vocally challenging and most boring choruses.
Unlike other choruses, it does not contain any runs or ornamentation which are characteristic of baroque music. This makes the piece less interesting to the listener when compared to another chorus like “All We Like Sheep” which contains numerous runs. In addition to being fun to listen to, these runs evoke the sense of waywardness that people face when they turn from God. Nothing close to the musical cleverness of “All We Like Sheep” can be found in “Hallelujah.” In many of the arias, or solo pieces, found throughout Messiah there is plentiful ornamentation (added notes), making the pieces more dynamic and personal. Ornamentation is integral to the baroque style and can be found in the chorus “He Trusted in God,” in which it is used to conjure the image of the crowd laughing at Jesus when he is on the cross. Although ornamentation is difficult to execute in choruses it makes them more dynamic, which is an area in which “Hallelujah” is lacking.
“Hallelujah” is also extremely repetitive. Although most choruses are based on a short phrase or sentence, the dynamic (how loud the singing is) varies throughout the chorus and there are fewer repeated notes. The soprano part of “Hallelujah,” spends about 30 seconds of a 3-and-a-half-minute piece reciting the same note (that’s about 15% of the piece). Although the lower parts have dynamic takes on the tired refrain, they are completely overpowered by the screeching sopranos. Unlike in other choruses where repeated words are set to different notes, in “Hallelujah” the same words are set to the same tunes over and over.
Although I have made my qualms with this piece very clear, I feel the need to assert my bias on the subject. I am a chorister and spend dozens of hours every year rehearing and performing Messiah. In addition to being the least musically interesting chorus, “Hallelujah” is extremely straining to sing as it requires repeated and sustained high notes which are vocally strenuous. Due to “Hallelujah’s” popularity, many people leave the concert after it ends. As a performer, it is a bit hurtful to see rows of seats empty out as the piece finishes, knowing that they will miss the best choruses that fall at the end of the concert.
This holiday season, I recommend that you listen to Messiah (or better yet, come see it live at the cathedral) all the way through and appreciate all it has to offer past the iconic “Hallelujah” chorus.