By Zoe Cate, Staff Writer
UPDATE: Students who purchased Valentine’s Days grams can be reimbursed by visiting a choir table in the front quad on Wednesday, Feb. 21.
// Valentine’s Day at Acalanes: a day dedicated to awkward couples, paper hearts plastered throughout the hallways, and singing grams. At least, that’s how it is typically, but this year there was an abrupt change to the age-old tradition.
Every year, in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, Acalanes students can purchase Valentine’s Day grams for their friends or that special someone. Then, on Valentine’s Day the two a cappella groups at Acalanes, the Innuendos and the Women’s Octet, perform love songs to those on the receiving end of the purchase.
These groups are student-run and consist of the most talented singers at Acalanes. The female a capella group, Women’s Octet, is run by seniors Michaela Sasner and Claire Levinson, while the male group, the Innuendos, is run by seniors Dylan Orsolini, Brian Ohleyer, and Conrad Rocha.
On the morning of Valentine’s Day, the two groups were ready to embark on their day of singing grams, when a wrench was thrown in their plans.
“At 8:35, on our way to begin our Valentine’s Day grams, we were stopped and instructed that we could not perform the songs that we had put hours into preparing. We were not given a serious explanation, and we have been left almost entirely in the dark as to why it was canceled,” senior and Women’s Octet member Lauren Ramlan said.
Levinson explained the brief justification that the two groups were given.
“Some teachers, who remained nameless to us, were concerned about disruptions during their class period. Also, how I understand it is that there was a form that was not filled out. And as a first-year leader of Women’s Octet, I was unaware of any form that needed to be filled out,” Levinson said.
Although for some the absence of the tradition did not make a significant impact on their day, for these two groups it was an act of disregard for their time and talent. They had spent the last two weeks giving up lunches and weekends to perfect each song and to make Valentine’s Day at Acalanes a memorable and joyful day.
For both of these groups the day was devastating, but for the seniors, it was a tradition to which they will never get a proper goodbye.
“Being a senior, it was very hurtful because I will not have a chance to ever do Valentine’s Day grams again,” Levinson said. “And since I have been in the group for three years now, it is something I looked forward to.”
On top of not being allowed to sing, Choir will be responsible for refunding all the people who paid for the grams.
Principal Travis Bell explains the confusion on his side, explaining that an email sent out by choir teacher Bruce Lengacher said that some choir students would be gone for significant portions of all three periods on Wednesday.
“We are really trying to be conscious and mindful of students missing class on block because when you miss a block period, it’s like missing two class periods on our old schedule,” Bell said.
In addition to the confusion, Bell explains and takes ownership of the organizational mess.
“I got the list from Mr. Lengacher of the classes that were being sung to, and it was all over campus, every period, so I had concerns that students would be leaving class and then coming back and singing again,” Bell said “Because I couldn’t see an exact outline of what that looked like, I had teachers that were really upset, and that didn’t want students going to their class and disrupting the class by singing, so really it was a lack of organization oversight, and I totally own that just because I don’t know where that communication got lost,” Bell said.
On top of the complaints from teachers, according to Bell, there was also a fundraiser protocol that the a capella groups did not follow. There is a fundraiser request form that students have to fill out when there is an event on campus that involves money exchange.
Although Bell had to be the bearer of bad news, he expresses that he understands the frustrations of the students and that he does not wish for this beloved tradition to end, but for it to continue, there must be a better process in place.
“I too was frustrated by the way it played out, and I wish I wasn’t put in that position either, but that’s really on me. That process needs to be better expressed and in place,” Bell said. “ I apologize for anyone who’s feeling super let down or frustrated, but I had to make that decision in the moment there, and that was the decision that I made.”
According to Levinson, the confusion that occurred as a result of Valentine’s Day grams is due to a lack of recognition for the choral program and all they do, both in and out of Acalanes.
“Choir has been doing some amazing things this year, and I would hate to see them go without being recognized. For example, Bella Voce, our award-winning Women’s Chamber group, was invited to sing at a very prestigious event called CASMEC, which is the choir equivalent of going to the state championship in a sport,” Levinson said.
Before she received the news of the cancellation, senior Lexi Fraser was excited to see the recipient of her Valentine’s Day gram sung to in front of the class.
“I was pretty bummed because I was looking forward to having someone serenade him,” Fraser said.
In the end, Valentine’s Day grams are meant to spread joy, which is the core of why this confusion was so devastating for not only the choir students but all the students of Acalanes.
“I wish we could have done our Valentine’s Day grams, since they would have brought joy to so many students, and would also raise money for our choir program. Octet and Innuendos put hours into this, and we are devastated by this sudden loss of a beloved tradition,” Ramlan said.