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Ms. Allen Departs Belmont Hill

Coming into Belmont Hill last fall, Ms. Allen quickly became an active member of the school community. Known across campus as a passionate and friendly figure, Ms. Allen will sadly depart from her one-year role as Interim Instrumental Music Director. However, she has significantly impacted the music community at Belmont Hill during her time here. 

Throughout her stay at Belmont Hill as Mr. Fiori’s sabbatical replacement, Ms. Allen has used her background as a professional jazz pianist and her degree in Music Education from Berklee College of Music to make new and innovative contributions to the Belmont Hill music program. She directed Belmont Hill’s jazz bands, Orchestra, and rock bands. She also organized important events traditionally held throughout the year, such as concerts, recitals, and coffee houses. Aside from these traditional responsibilities, one of her main goals was to provide student musicians with “as many performance opportunities as possible” from the get-go. When she arrived on campus, Ms. Allen quickly realized there was room to build and expand the school’s instrumental music programs. As she stated in an interview, “I had expected to be ‘maintaining’ something when I got here, and I got here and realized that perhaps there was more room for ‘building’ than I realized.” She strove to create extra music events to provide opportunities for student musicians to play and improve.

Ms. Allen organized and hosted the Jazz Festival at Belmont Hill in March, one of her goals coming into the school year: “I also wanted a festival opportunity. I didn’t know if [the Jazz Band] had already had that or not, but that was something I wanted regardless.” The event included live demonstrations from the professional band Vesuvio, improvisation workshops hosted by professional tenor sax player Jess DeStramp, and friendly adjudicators to provide feedback for the Upper School Jazz Band and Newton South High School guest players. A student ‘jam session’ capped off the festival, where musicians from Belmont Hill and Newton South joined to play and improvise casually on various jazz standards. Ms. Allen’s efforts in organizing and promoting this jazz festival resulted in an enjoyable learning experience for all involved.

When asked whether she found her time at Belmont Hill helpful, Ms. Allen unequivocally responded, “the fact that there was a lot of building opportunity was huge in [my] first full year of teaching, because I got to learn what sort of things are going to work.” Commenting on her experiences directing the orchestra and jazz band ensembles, she continued: “I kind of got to test-drive some classroom management routines and some warmup routines for the year, and I think we saw a lot of positive benefits from it. So now I’ve kind of built a toolkit.”

Reflecting on her experiences as the director of various ensembles on campus, Ms. Allen stated that she was proudest of her teaching work when members of her ensembles asked to practice more: “For me personally, it’s actually really specific days—times when people ask to do something again. Like when we’re in jazz and we run something in How Insensitive and somebody asks to run what we did again. Because [students] are now existing in this place where [they] are aware that the ceiling of [their] own potential is higher than [they] thought it was.”

Ms. Allen has undoubtedly impacted the Belmont Hill Music Program and many members of the school community in her one-year stay as a teaching fellow. Many will miss her presence, and The Panel wishes Ms. Allen the best of luck in her new position as the middle school general music director at BB&N.

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