Art is an all-encompassing medium: one that includes a wide range of activities, from painting and acting to music and dance. The arts program at PHS is one of the most rigorous, and inspiring, that the high school has to offer. Internationally-travelling bands, orchestras and choirs, showcasing musicals, drama shows, art exhibitions and installations — PHS truly epitomizes what it means to have a great art program. And with any great art program comes equally great teachers. This issue hopes to shine a light on those very teachers and display their tremendous passion for teaching and for art.
Robert Loughran is the Director of the Orchestral Program at PHS. He also teaches at Westminster Choir College of Rider University as an adjunct assistant professor. Over the years, he has helped the PHS Orchestra tour internationally, bringing the orchestra to Austria, England, Scotland, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France, China and Argentina.
Music is something that Loughran has carried with him his entire life. However, it wasn’t until attending Gettysburg College that Loughran chose music as his career path.
“I’ve been active in music all my life … since elementary school. But, the priority of me having to pursue music … was in college,” Loughran said.
Originally, Loughran was a biology major before acquiring a double major in biology and music. He chose to pursue music, teaching both the PHS Orchestra and an orchestra in Pennsylvania.
“It’s called the Youth Orchestra of Pennsylvania. I’ve had it for 25 years, actually. And, we rehearse on the weekends, so I do this during the week and on Sunday I go to Bucks County,” Loughran said.
After choosing to work in music professionally, Loughran knew he wanted to do it through teaching.
“Music and teaching go together so wonderfully well. They’re symbiotic. And so with that, it’s beautiful to produce music and also teach at the same time,” Loughran said.
Scott Grimaldi is the director and conductor of four bands at PHS — Tiger Band 1, Tiger Band 2, Nassau Band 2, and Jazz Ensemble. Throughout his teaching career, Grimaldi has taught privately, at the college level, and at the middle and high school level.
However, Grimaldi has been and always will be a professional musician. He has performed with various artists that include Frank Sinatra and Etta James. For a period of time, Grimaldi was a saxophonist with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.
“In addition to teaching for many years, I’ve been a professional musician for even longer than that. I used to do a lot of subbing on Broadway and recording studio work,” Grimaldi said.
Even today, Grimaldi still plays on his own outside PHS, through various gigs and performances.
“To this day, I still perform and I have my own woodwind trio … I was just performing with the Four Tops and Temptations once again. I’m still performing with Aretha Franklin,” Grimaldi said.
Still, for all of his successes, what drives Grimaldi is his love and passion for music.
“With music, you never get old. It’s not about the money, it’s never been about the money. It’s always about the playing and I love playing,” Grimaldi said.
Matthew Pembleton teaches both Studio Art 1 and AP Art History at PHS. He has been teaching at PHS for three years.
It wasn’t until high school, however, that Pembleton realized his passion for art could be combined with his love for teaching.
“I think I realized the end of my junior year in high school that I wanted to teach art. At that time, I think that’s when I realized I really liked helping people learn and grow as artists,” Pembleton said.
In teaching, Pembleton wants a personable and positive experience for his students.
“It’s important to me, getting to know you as a student and a person. Also, I always try to be positive. Especially in art classes, I feel like it’s a different way of learning than math, or science or english. It’s very important to me that you have a positive experience,” Pembleton said.
As an artist, Pembleton specializes in integrating sculpture and performance art.
“As a practicing artist, especially in my undergraduate art career, I focused on creating installations that addressed issues of the human body through performance … [it had] a lot to do with the idea of building. I grew up in a log cabin that my parents built. I think that left a mark on me. I would often film myself building something and call that art,” Pembleton said.
Patricia Wray is the drama teacher at Princeton High School. Before teaching at PHS, Wray worked professionally in movies, television, and on Broadway.
Originally, Wray wanted to be a dancer.
“I started out as a dancer. I started dancing when I was four. Then, when I graduated from college … I ran a dance studio for a couple of years. I was choreographing college shows, high school shows, and semi-professional shows,” Wray said.
After running her dance studio, Wray began to act and dance professionally.
“I did a tour of My Fair Lady. I was cast in two Broadway shows that opened and closed within a week. I did a movie called the World According to Garp with Robin Williams and John Lithgow. I did a TV show called Nurse, also,” said Wray.
Despite Wray’s successful career in acting and dancing, she knew she wanted to return to teaching.
“I majored in drama with a minor in dance … if I’m going to do shows I’m gonna need to do it all. Then, I got my master’s in educational theater … how can you teach if you haven’t had the experience of doing it professionally? Before I left the business and [started teaching], I wanted to experience it all,” Wray said.
Sarah Pelletier is a choir teacher at PHS who obtained her Master’s in music from Westminster Choir College. She is also currently a lecturer at Princeton University in the vocal music department.
During college, Pelletier had some uncertainty regarding her career path.
“I was at Wellesley College, and I changed my major so many times — math, economics, and English. My goal was to be an accountant. Finally, all of my music teachers asked me what I was doing. They all said I should be majoring in music,” said Pelletier.
After deciding she wanted to pursue music, teaching came as a clear next step.
“For a musician, teaching is a logical profession and a much better option than waiting tables! My dream was to perform, and the teaching aspect of my career fell into my lap. I have always done both, so I guess I actually have two careers,” said Pelletier
Pelletier is still very active in performing and singing. Most recently, she sang Mahler’s “Third Symphony” with Boston Ballet. She has also released two CDs: “The Complete Songs of Virgil Thomson,” and one of his operas, “Four Saints in Three Acts.” Next year, Pelletier will be singing Britten’s “War Requiem” as part of the opening season for the new Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University.