Woodlands Academy musicians win Gold and more in St. Louis

Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart received several top honors at the WorldStrides OnStage Heritage Festival, April 22-24, in St. Louis, Missouri. 

Gold awards were won by the Kaleidoscope choir, under the direction of Jesse Borower; the Woodlands Academy Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Matthew Hickey; and the student-led Microscope choir, under the direction of Berkeley Borkert, a senior from West Dundee.

Each Gold award includes an invitation to perform at the WorldStrides Festival of Gold. These by-invitation-only events occur in some of the most famous performance venues in the country and are adjudicated by some of the finest music educators in the world. 

In addition to their three Gold award plaques, Woodlands Academy’s musical ensembles brought home three large trophies, including the prestigious Adjudicator Award won by the orchestra. This award is the hardest to obtain. It goes to the group with the highest overall scoring from any ensemble type or by personal recommendation from the festival’s adjudication team.

The other trophies won by Woodlands were Outstanding Choir (Microscope) and Outstanding Orchestra. These awards go to the individual group with the highest overall score regardless of group type or classification. (Woodlands Academy competed in the small schools’ category with its choirs in the women’s division).

In addition to the ensemble accolades, two Woodlands Academy students won individual honors at the WorldStrides OnStage Heritage event.

Clara Bartusiak, a junior from Lake Forest, received the Ovation Award. Based on nominations from participating directors, this recognition goes to the one student at each festival whose contribution to his or her music program transcends the making of music and goes beyond the music classroom. Recipients typically have given of themselves on behalf of their family, music program, school and community.

Borkert, who led the Microscope choir to two awards, was given a Maestro Award by festival adjudicators. Maestros recognize extraordinary musical ability and sensitivity demonstrated during the competition.

Borower and Hickey are understandably very proud of their students’ achievements. “Community music-making changes lives, and it happens in some of our simplest rehearsal moments together,” Borower, Woodlands Academy’s music director, said. “But the recognition we received in St. Louis affirms that the music that happens when we come together is of the highest quality.”

In addition to their award-winning performances, vocal and instrumental musicians from the all-girls college-prep high school in Lake Forest enjoyed a variety of other experiences while in St. Louis. Highlights included a visit to sister Sacred Heart school Villa Duchesne/Oak Hill School, performing as the featured choir at The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis’ Sunday mass and a trip to the top of the Gateway Arch.

Borower described the experience as truly uplifting for all who participated. It was the school’s first trip to a national music competition since COVID-19 travel restrictions were imposed. Before that, Woodlands Academy had achieved a string of top award-winning performances at WorldStrides OnStage Heritage Festival events held in different cities each year.

The community is invited to hear the musical selections performed in St. Louis – and others – when the choirs and orchestra perform at 7 p.m. Friday, May 13, during Woodlands Academy’s annual Fine Arts Evening. 

WorldStrides OnStage Heritage Festivals provide opportunities for middle and high school musicians to visit one of more than 25 cities in the U.S. and abroad, perform for nationally acclaimed adjudicators, and learn from the feedback they receive.