Category: Feature

The Matchim Advantage

Words: Celina Wong

Photos: Zach Grable

What was your life like eight years ago? Many of us were in elementary or middle school, when our biggest concern was who we were going to sit with at lunch. For teachers and parents, many of you were in the process of building your careers and families.

Eight years ago, David Matchim walked through the doors of Centennial High School and vowed to create a prestigious band program. Now, Matchim has been named Music & Arts 2018 Music Educator of the Year and has created one of the best wind ensembles in the entire country. He attributes the foundation of his success to the book, The Happiness Advantage, written by Shawn Achor. The book describes seven basic principles that readers can use to create a more positive outlook on their lives. Its purpose is to correct the idea that happiness leads to success, not that success leads to happiness.

Matchim stumbled upon this book during a rough time in his life when he needed guidance.

“I had a tough year where I was feeling particularly negative, and I was questioning whether or not I still wanted to be a music director,” Matchim stated. “I was searching for ways to change my outlook, or perception, on what I was experiencing. I ended up doing an internet search, and that’s when I came across The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor.”

The Happiness Advantage is based on the philosophy of positive psychology. It proves that people function and perform better when they are in a good place emotionally.

“It’s kind of like a car. When it’s well-tuned, it operates better,” Matchim illustrated. “For me, I needed to see that there was actual research done that shows that physiologically we do better, if we think positively. That’s what really sold me [on the book].”

The book has changed Matchim’s perspective on his life.

“What I like is that the book isn’t about being positive all the time. It recognizes that we’re [all] human,” Matchim explained. “The book really talks about living life with rose-tinted glasses, rather than with rose-colored glasses. It’s not about being naive and thinking that everything is going to be perfect all the time, but seeing the good things that are happening that we may have been blind to otherwise.”

Javeria Diaz-Ortiz, a four-year band student, struggled in her sophomore year and voiced to Matchim that she was considering quitting band.

“[Matchim] said, ‘Everything is fine. You can do whatever you need to make yourself comfortable, but I just want you to know that I want you in this band,’” Diaz-Ortiz recalled. “I will always remember that interaction because I feel like I can depend on Mr. Matchim. It really changed my opinion and perspective on him and I know I can go to him if I have any problems.”

Diaz-Ortiz is not the only one who has experienced the pressure that comes with a competitive band program. As a result, Matchim has found an approach that helps his students relieve some of their stress.

“I have recently had a number of teachers come up to me and say, ‘What is the magic trick?’ Some people who don’t know me think I run the program kind of like a dictator and that I’m really hard on people all the time,” Matchim said. “But, I don’t think that’s the case.”

For Matchim, the key to helping students achieve their goals is to be involved in the process.

“I can have high expectations, but I think the difference is that some people put the expectations on others, and don’t try help them achieve it,” he shared. “That’s the biggest thing. People have to feel that you’re on their side. If I set an expectation, I try to make sure I’m an active participant in getting people there.”

Similar to Diaz-Ortiz, Matchim faced a few obstacles where he too felt like he was not doing the best he could to succeed. He related this back to one of Achor’s principles, Falling Up.” It discusses the idea that failure and suffering teaches us how to be happier and people are ultimately more successful because of it.

“I would say, probably four years into my career here at Centennial, I wasn’t meeting my own expectations about where I wanted the program to be. I got very discouraged because I thought I wasn’t doing a good enough job, as I was constantly looking ahead and I wasn’t looking at where we came from,” Matchim noted. “I think that for me, reading the book, and the whole “Falling Up” principle, made me realize that failure is okay, and it is a part of learning. That is something that a lot of people are really afraid of. After reading the book, I understood a little bit more that even though we are not meeting the expectation yet, we’re making progress there.”

One idea that Achor emphasizes in The Happiness Advantage is the idea of a support system. He thinks that “the most successful people invest in their friends, peers, and family members to propel themselves forward.”

Matchim applied a similar approach with his ensembles.

“The joy is that [the students] have relationships with each other, and not just me. Sometimes, they are honest with each other. I’ve heard students tell someone they need to work harder. I have also seen people say, ‘You’re doing a great job; keep doing what you’re doing. You sound amazing,’” Matchim added. “I think the community we have in the band program is why we are largely successful because they want to play well for each other. It’s not about me. It is more important to me that they feel like they have each other.”

Matchim takes the main idea of the book that happiness creates success and applies it to how he teaches his students and creates a safe environment within the band room.

“It’s really about community. I would like to see it happen in other places in the school too because we’re better with each other,” Matchim said. “I think there are a lot of insecurities to try to keep up, and at the end of the day, going back to the book, I think it is because everyone is feeling like they are going to be happier if they are more successful. But, every time they are successful, they move the goal post further away. [They] keep doing that and [they] aren’t ever happy. [They] have to be happy in [their] own shoes.”

Before Matchim established a sense of community within the band program, he used competition to fuel his students, as that was the broad stereotype of Centennial that was painted before he began to work there.

“I figured that I was going to use [competition] and they’re all going to try to be better than each other all the time, and that’s why the band is going to be good. We were good, but we weren’t great. My numbers in the band program were staying about the same,” Matchim explained. “Then, I realized that something that was missing, that what they needed in band was the sense of community. That’s when I shifted gears and a lot of that had to do with the book. I tried to get them to be supportive of each other, and not just better than the person next to them.”

Matchim has also seen the effects of this book in himself and others around him.

“If you want to do something that you are passionate about, you’re going to be successful in it. I think with the Shawn Achor book, the reason I am experiencing success is because I love what I do. Now that I am 35, I have a lot of people who are in pivotal places in their careers and I’m noticing that my friends that are nailing it —regardless of what field they are in— love [their jobs],” Matchim stated. “There are outliers. There are a lot of people who are successful and unhappy. But, the bulk of people who pick something that they love are doing that.”

Along with the book, the people of the community have helped Matchim win the award of Music Educator of the Year.

“What feels good about it is that these are community-nominated awards. There are a thousand plus people nominated for this, who are supported by people from their community, parents, graduates, administrators, other teachers in the county. Other people are recognizing what we’re doing,” Matchim explained. “What is cool is that the source of the award is that people are recognizing and appreciating the work that is happening. And I think that’s huge. If you love teaching, the way that I do, and if you love music, then you want to know that your community values you and values what you’re bringing to the table. That’s what feels really great about it.”

In an exclusive interview with The Wingspan, Achor expressed how he is moved by the work of Matchim, as he paved the path for thousands of students who have sat in his band classroom.

“I wanted to help the helpers by validating that their behavior and mindset really matter,” Achor said. “In a time when anxiety and depression are at historic highs in our schools, when you see champions like David Matchim, you realize that hope exists for positive education.”

As Matchim traces the foundation of his happiness and achievements back to the novel, Achor feels like the book has reached its purpose.

“If David was the only person who read The Happiness Advantage, I’d feel like the book was a success,” Achor said. “He took the words and made them come to life for the students and teachers in his life.”

With the title of 2018 Music & Arts Music Educator of the Year, Matchim has received recognition from those in other states who admire him and his band program.

“I think that’s cool for our students to know that there are other people, music teachers, and music kids who know about our program,” Matchim explained. “That’s more of an opportunity to feel thankful, and then people end up putting in more support. It’s just a nice cycle to be in. I hope it’s always this way. It may not always be this way, we’ll probably have highs and lows, but I think right now, this is a pretty cool place to be.”

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This article is featured in the 2019 Senior Issue.  To see the full issue, Click Here!

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

One-on-One With Editor-in-Chief: Maddie Wirebach 2018-19

Words: Julia Stitely

In this video, Maddie Wirebach, Wingspan’s Editor-in-Chief for 2018-19, is interviewed by her successor, Piper Berry, about her passion for journalism and what it took to become Editor-in-Chief.

To find all of our videos, click the link below!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDAPq5X7zp8GN4ThdL_9FQw

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For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

SGA Elections Results are Announced

Words: Sarah Paz

The students of Centennial voted for their local student government association (SGA) and Student Member of the Board on Wednesday, April 24. The voting window ended Friday, April 26 in which 75 percent of students from grades 9 to 11 voted.

On Thursday, April 25, the Howard County Association of Student Councils announced that Reservoir junior Allison Alston won the position of Student Member of the Board for the 2019-20 school year.

On Friday, April 26, the Centennial Student Community page released an announcement stating for each position where there are two candidates, the candidates would share the positions.

Students raised concerns about the results of the election to media specialist Michelle Van Gieson, saying that they couldn’t vote or complete their ballot due to technology issues.

“Some students alerted the folks in charge of the SGA of this issue, so we knew these missing votes were not all intentional,” said principal Cynthia Dillon.

During the voting window, the internet network faced issues, resulting in 85 students not fully completing their ballot. Some students were unable to vote for certain positions which led administrators such as Van Gieson and Dillon to believe the technology issues affected the credibility of the election.

“At that time, out of the 926 ballots cast (including 85 incomplete ballots), one race had a single vote difference, one race had a 5-vote difference and one race had a less than 30-vote difference,” Van Gieson remarked in an email interview. “When Mrs. Dillon and I looked at the incomplete ballots Friday after school, just completing those ballots could change the outcome of the election of all 3 races in either direction.”

Knowing that those few ballots could change the course of the election, the administration considered a new plan of action.

“Some of the options [Dillon] suggested were to re-open the voting window and to ask the 85 students with incomplete ballots if they wanted to complete their ballot,” Van Gieson explained.

In response, she reopened the ballots temporarily, extending the voting window from Monday, April 29, to Wednesday, May 1 at 12:16pm. Twelve additional students voted.

“By Wednesday, 5/1, when the ballot closed again, the margins for the two very close races had widened by a few votes and the third race’s margin had gotten smaller,” said Van Gieson.

The 85 students who left an option blank were contacted by Mrs. Van Gieson to determine whether they left the option blank due to technology problems or they intentionally didn’t cast a vote. The administration allowed the students to cast a vote on a paper ballot.

To determine the winners of this election, the school decided to follow the guidelines issued in the Maryland Association of Student Councils, which states that the candidate has to win by 50 percent and an additional vote.

On the afternoon of May 1, after a week of waiting, the final results of the Centennial SGA Election were revealed. Christopher Lidard was elected to the position of president, Anika Huang was elected as vice president, Ally Paik was elected as corresponding secretary and Cissy Wang was elected as recording secretary.

These results remain uncontested. Some results of the election such as vote counts aren’t typically released as public knowledge.

“Unlike what happens in the ‘real world,’ we don’t typically announce the tally of school elections such as this one. The reasons for this have to do with the social [or] emotional impact these results could have on our young people… You are putting yourself out there and essentially asking your peers to tell you how they feel about your abilities or you as a person,” Dillon said.

“The SGA is vital for fostering student participation and student voice within the school experience,” she concluded. “As we look forward to next year and years to come, it’s important we work to ensure all student groups are represented and that our SGA is a vibrant and integral part of the fabric of our school culture.”

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Centennial Students Win First Place at the Howard County Film Festival

Words: Julia Stitely

On April 26, the fifteenth annual Howard County Film Festival was held at Miller Branch Library, highlighting students in the area who made their own original films. Over 35 films from 12 schools were submitted to the festival, seven of which were made by Centennial students.

Centennial submissions included: Alone (Dominic Cangialosi), Always With You (Robert Silverstein, Hanna Knight, Seth Crumley, Cole Lashley, Catherine Carlson-Estes), Dreams (Carolin Harvey, Jessie McCarthy, Simone Sabnis), Hey, It’s Me! (Wabii Doti), Parking Purgatory (Sasha Allen, Carolin Harvey, Julia Stitely, Diego Montemayor), Selling Out (Gabe Cabonilas, Nick Baker, Carolin Harvey, Wabii Doti, LeeAnn Fiawoo), and Tubular Psychology-Operant Conditioning (Nick Baker, Hanna Knight, Kieran Newell).

The film that took first place was the only horror entry, Always with You.

Robert Silverstein, a senior and the film’s director, said, “The idea actually started as an action film with the main character being chased into a house by a group of people. We wanted to make the house significant in some way, and we also wanted to have a twist.”

When Silverstein and his team twisted the plot around to what it was for the final film, they compared the film to Edgar Allan Poe’s famous short story, “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

Silverstein stated that they “didn’t base the film around ‘The Tell-Tale Heart,’ but realized their similarities afterwards.”

“Filming got tedious at times due to repetitive shots and very late nights,” said Hanna Knight, a senior and actor in the winning film. “But it was all worth it, especially working with amazing friends.”

When she heard that they won first place at the festival, Knight thought it was surreal at first.

“It was still a little hard to process afterwards,” she said. “We were all really excited that all of our time and effort that went into this film went as far as it did.”

Silverstein recalled hearing the movie being announced as first place and claimed it was one of the best moments of his life.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to make a short film,” he said. “For our first short film ever to win just felt surreal. It took a while for first place to sink in.”

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The Centennial Jazz Band on Rewind

Words: Thomas Hitt

Photos: Zach Grable

On a brisk Monday evening, May 29, The Early Bird Big Band, Centennial’s jazz band, presented their first ever 90-minute jazz concert featuring a professional sound crew, providing the best listening experience possible.

To open the night, the jazz band played “Magic Flea.” The second song of the night was “A Time for Love,” featuring a trombone solo by Jack Keane.

After the trombone feature, the band played “Caravan,” with a drum, bass and alto sax solo.

The jazz band played The Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back,” followed by the theme from the hit TV show Family Guy.

A fun song including saxophone, drum and trombone solos were featured in the next song, “The Chicken.”

Next, the jazz band performed Count Basie’s “Flight of the Foo Birds,” which included a tenor sax solo by Milynn Lekhavanija, an alto sax solo by Colin Eng and a trumpet solo by Joshua Oberly.

For the jazz band’s eighth song of the night, they played Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The saxes opened the song and Keane entered on trombone with the melody and chorus.

After “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the jazz band went backstage for a short break. However, they shortly returned and played “Sesame Street” with a solo by drummer Jackson Rowles and trumpeter Colin Homassel.

The tenth song was “Backlash,” a jazz combo featuring the rhythm section, Homassel on trumpet, Eng on alto sax, and Keane on trombone.

Saxophonist Eng performed a solo in “Georgia on my Mind” after the jazz combo, while the rest of the band accompanied him. The song was delicate and precise with a warm sound from the saxophone solo.

Following “Georgia on my Mind” was “Afro Blue,” and the next song performed was Stevie Wonder’s ”Higher Ground.”

The jazz band then performed “Sing, Sing, Sing” a jazz tune composed by Benny Goodman. The song featured solos from both Rowles and Oberly. After the jazz band finished the song, the audience rose to their feet with clapping and cheers.

For the final song of the night, the jazz band performed Justin Bieber’s “Despacito.” The band again received a standing ovation from the audience.

“It was a lot of work, and in the end it paid off,” said Keane. Since the jazz band is not a huge program, Keane said “[he takes] pride in the fact that [he’s] helping to build the program up.”

Senior and baritone sax jazz musician, Seth Crumley, said “I think that having a concert focused on jazz was a great way to showcase the jazz band. A lot of people attended and really seemed to enjoy it.”

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Centennial Celebrates Black Achievement at Long Reach High

Words: Madison Baltimore

On April 24, 2019, seniors of African or African American heritage were honored for academic achievement and maintaining a 3.0 GPA or higher throughout their high school careers at the annual Celebration of Excellence.

This event took place at Long Reach High School, sponsored by the Council of Elders of the Black Community in Howard County in partnership with the Howard County Public School System.

The evening started with The Council of Elders walking in and being introduced, followed by the graduating seniors walking into the auditorium and taking their seats. The Elders then led the audience and participating students in singing the first verse of the black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

Acknowledgements and other opening remarks were then conducted before the students lined up for the presentation of awards.

The principal and Black Student Achievement Program (BSAP) liaison from each school introduced the seniors, as well as where they plan to go for college, what they plan to major in, and any clubs they participated in. The night ended with congratulation speeches and closing remarks.

Aside from seniors being honored for their academic success, one male and one female senior from each high school, as well as Homewood and Cedar Lane, were nominated for either the Gloria Washington Wallace Award and the Sankofa Award, totaling in four seniors from each school. Centennial students Jordyn Blanken and Anong Teke were nominated for the Gloria Washington Wallace Award and Nicole Attram and Christopher Agnew were nominated for the Sankofa Award.

The Gloria Washington Wallace Award highlights seniors with the greatest academic improvement over the course of their high school careers while the Sankofa Award is awarded to the students who have shown high academic success as well as elements of leadership, citizenship, and service within their community.

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G/T Research Program Holds Celebration of Excellence

Words: Javiera Diaz-Ortiz

Photos: Zach Grable

As the school year comes to an end, the G/T Research program held its Celebration of Excellence on April 29. Teachers Toni Ireland and Julia Bakhru gathered students, parents, mentors, and some special guests in the cafeteria to celebrate the students’ achievements in the Intern/Mentor and Independent Research classes.

Projects were displayed all over the cafeteria where parents and mentors could look at students’ final products and ask questions about their research. Some students presented their projects on display boards and science posters, while others created products such as brochures and slideshow presentations.

During the event, students were given the opportunity to hand their mentors certificates of appreciation. Not all mentors could attend, but those who did were honored with a brief speech by their student interns. Students conveyed their appreciation for the time, effort, and kindness that they were offered by their mentors.

The night ended on a cheerful note as guests enjoyed Chick-fil-A, as well as sides and desserts. Students, teachers, and mentors had the chance to reflect on their hard work and success throughout the past year at the Celebration of Excellence.

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