Both inside and outside of the Performing Arts wing at Wellesley High School, Nora Jarquin ’22 has dedicated her time at the high school to building a better community in the department. Jarquin participates in numerous performing arts offerings, from chorus groups, including the Keynote Singers and the Rice Street Singers, to the selective a cappella group, Ladies First, to winter and spring musicals.
“I stay involved because of the community. All these activities have given me my best friends and a place where all types of students collaborate and bond over a shared love for music and art. I love feeling connected to every person I share these experiences with and feeling a sense of place,” said Jarquin.
Dr. Kevin McDonald, the choral director at the high school, has witnessed Jarquin’s commitment to those around her. “What makes Nora different from most is her passion for making this place better. It isn’t just about her‒she was trying to make it better for everyone involved, and she was successful in doing so. She is wanting to leave a legacy here that carries on for younger singers. She took an enormous amount of responsibility on herself to build up singers not just as singers but as people, so she has had a real lasting impact.”
Jarquin’s parents signed her up for piano lessons at the age of seven, which she continued until her sophomore year. Along with playing the piano, she joined the chorus at the middle school and began acting in eighth grade. But observing the high school’s performing arts community was what encouraged her to continue after middle school. “Hearing, standing, and singing with the high schoolers as an eighth-grader is such a crazy experience because the middle schoolers are very quiet when they sing,” said Jarquin, “And then all of a sudden, you’re surrounded by all these older kids who actually sing loud, and are having so much fun, and it makes you want to do it.”
Jarquin auditioned for both Keynotes, which focuses more on classical music, and Rice Street, which is a jazz group, and was in both for three years. This year, she was an intensive for Keynotes. Dr. McDonald noticed how exceptionally committed she was to these groups. “Nora came in with that love of singing and that love of performing, and a desire to do well. She leaves never having ever given less than 150,000% each and every day, in each and every class, in each and every rehearsal.”
Jarquin appreciates the interconnected communities that have been a part of her high school musical experience. “[Keynotes] became this massive family. And it’s really awesome because we spend time in class together and then we perform together. And most of us are in a cappella groups too, so we see each other outside of school,” said Jarquin.
She auditioned for Ladies First, an all-female a cappella group, at the beginning of her sophomore year and remained in the group for the next three years of high school. “You see how much fun these people are having when you see them perform. I remember seeing Ladies First before I was in it, and they were just so cool [and] having so much fun and you want to be a part of that so bad,” said Jarquin. “And so I immediately was like, ‘Yep, I’m auditioning.’ And I just love spending time with it and making connections and Ladies and Keynotes are unlike any other class in school.”
In her senior year, as the Ladies First music leader, she can choose songs that the group sings. For example, in October she arranged songs by Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea for the group to perform in a small concert. However, Dr. McDonald has noticed that her abilities as a leader go far beyond the music she arranges. “To me, leadership comes with two things, the desire to serve and the willingness to sacrifice, and the way that Nora went about her business is that, because she was so generous with her intentions of wanting others to experience joy and wanting others to experience success, she put the focus on other people.”
When faced with the challenge of COVID, which had shrunk performing opportunities significantly, fellow Keynotes singer Lucy Calcio ’22 was impressed by Nora’s commitment to ensuring that everyone participating would be able to experience a full year of choir. “She dove in head-first when it was getting really difficult, she ran the Instagram, she would tell all her friends to sign up for the chorus classes, and her dedication to recruit more people and get people to come to the concerts really built up the environment this year,” said Calcio.
Jarquin was also able to think creatively, coming up with activities that were both COVID-friendly and effective in developing the musical skills of students.
The virus, however, was not the only challenge Jaruin faced in her time at the high school. After participating in the musical, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, her voice started to feel tired. “Instead of letting it rest, I just kept singing on it, which was a learning curve on my part. And when you do it again and again for like, multiple weeks at a time, it [creates] calluses,” said Jarquin. When Jarquin finally went to the doctor, she was diagnosed with nodules and lumps on the thyroid. She did vocal therapy for eight months and eventually had surgery to remove these lumps. Jarquin could not talk or sing for two weeks following her surgery.
In her most recent musical, Mamma Mia!, she played understudy Donna. “I’ve never had a lead role like that. And it means a lot after having come such a long way with my voice,” said Jarquin. Despite the challenges she faced because of her surgery, Calcio noticed that being able to overcome this obstacle so well helped her develop as a singer. “Seeing her get back into it, while taking care of her voice, her confidence has grown so much,” said Calcio. “She has grown from being a person who did choir freshman and sophomore year, to being a leader in everything she does and taking a front position.”
Jarquin is continuing her performing arts career at Washington University, where she will be majoring in Global Studies. She hopes to join an a cappella group and perform in musicals in college.
Article written by WHS Bradford Staff: Adam Juma ‘23