Lighting Up the Season: An Interview with Janet Kalkstein

The Holidays. For some, those words mean Christmas trees or Menorahs. To others they mean Kinaras or even fireworks. However, all of these holiday traditions have something in common: they all concern light.

DSC_7658Each year, the GFS Middle School comes together for the Festival of Lights assembly, which features singing dancing and all kinds of music. Sixth Grade teacher, Janet Kalkstein, runs this assembly. I sat down with her and asked her a few questions about this fast growing tradition.

Will McQuillan: So what is the Festival of Lights Assembly?

Janet Kalkstein: It’s an assembly, which is made up of Middle School performers, which is one of the things I really like about it. It celebrates different ways and meanings that people have for all the holidays and festivals that come around this time of year. People like driving around the city and seeing lights on people’s houses and anything to do with light now that it’s getting darker. We thought we would celebrate light.

WM: How long have you been doing this assembly?

JK: I don’t know. I’ve kind of lost track. I know we’ve done it at least ten years.

WM: How does the assembly connect with the Quaker SPICES*?

JK: Well it certainly connects in the community way, in that the community is putting on the assembly rather than us hiring somebody from outside. Different people help out with it, whether kids come help me do the decorations or kids come forward and do a performance and then the people in the audience are always very supportive of it. So I view it as sort of a community celebration. I also think it fits with the testimony of peace because a lot of the time the theme of many of these holidays is peace.  Also, the celebration of everybody’s different cultures and practices is equality. I just think it is very much embracing everybody and their differences and how they like to do stuff and sharing those things.

WM: What do you want to come across to the audience when you do the assembly?

JK: I want them to feel a sense of community, that the performers are performing for them and they are showing the performers some appreciation for that.  And also, just “Wow this is so cool!” My main thing for it is I want it to be a celebration of us recognizing different people’s holiday traditions and appreciating the talent that exists in the Middle School.

WM: Have there been any memorable assemblies?

JK: I like to think all of them are memorable, but some of the jazz performers that have played really great jazz with lights draped all over them looked pretty cool and some of the ballet dancers have done things. There have been some beautiful dances done. There have been some very funny ones too.

As you can see, the Festival of Lights assembly shows the diversity and holiday spirit of the Middle School. This year’s assembly was as good as ever, with acts such as an accapella version of Hold Me Rock Me by Brian Tate, a new take on Jingle Bell Rock and several jazz performances including When You Wish Upon a Star and Christmas Time is Here. As always, the assembly embodied the spirit of the GFS community using singing, dancing and lots of LIGHT.

* Stewardship, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, Simplicity


Special thanks to Janet Kalkstein

by Will McQuillan