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President Miller Wants “Lauralton Loyalty”

Zahra Chaudhry, Senior Editor ’18, sat down with Lauralton Hall’s President and Head of School, Mrs. Miller, on Sept. 5, 2017. They discussed the President’s life before Lauralton, why she loves the school and what she expects from LH students.

I noticed that you have a pretty expansive professional background; would you mind telling me a little more about your life before Lauralton? I read about your role in international business and in opening a prep school in Dubai?

Miller: I would like to say, first of all, that I really like to plan things. I like to look forward to things, and I wish I could claim that when I was your age, I had my life planned out. But, I think, as you go into a career, you learn about what you like, what feeds you, what interests you, and then you end up going on a different path that you didn’t expect.

So, if you asked me when I was a senior in high school, what did I want to do? I wanted to be a journalist. I was a triple major in college—journalism, French, and economics management. My father said that was code for “indecisive.” He said that I would be a professional student, and he still teases me today; he says, “See, I said you’d be a professional student,” and here I am.

President of an all girls’ school.

Miller: Very happy being in a girls’ school. So, I didn’t plan it. I did work in international business for almost a decade, and that is part of what brought me back, later in my career, to starting a brand new school in Dubai.

But, ultimately, I missed being in a girls’ school. I missed being in an independent day school. I found that I really didn’t want to work at a for profit school. I wanted to work for a girls’ school that makes the decisions in what’s in the best interest of the students—not shareholder wealth. So, [I’m] happy to be here in Connecticut.

Along the theme of your travels in Asia, where you were managing business, what do you think you’ve learned there that you could bring back here?

Miller: You know, the number one thing I learned while studying and teaching Japanese language, culture, and history—which I love—is really the value of relationships. When two people in Japan become friends in kindergarten, they never lose touch. It’s like an obligation, they call it on or giri. And it’s the idea that [if] you have a relationship with someone, you can’t just drop it when it’s no longer convenient. It doesn’t matter if you move across the world; it doesn’t matter if there isn’t social media.

My husband Mark was shocked by this: when we got married, almost twenty years ago, I had friends from Tokyo fly in for the wedding and then fly out. He’s like, “They spent a fortune,” but when you have a relationship, that stays for life. I think, as Americans, our friendships and our relationships are sometimes what’s convenient. So, that’s one thing I learned in Asia that I really appreciate.

Why Lauralton? What drew you here?

Miller: I’ve learned, from working in different schools, that I like a school who knows who it is, who has its traditions [and] identity—they know what’s important to them. But, I also have a problem with a school that says, “Well, that’s the way we’ve always done it—that’s why.” I’m happy to do things the way you always have—if there’s a good reason. But this intersection of tradition and innovation, I really like that tension, or play, between the two.

My being a history teacher by background, I wanted you all to know—why did Catherine McCauley end up founding the Sisters of Mercy? Why did the Sisters of Mercy found Lauralton? Once you understand that, you are like, “Oh, I’m part of something bigger.”

So, that drew me to Lauralton—that tradition and innovation. I knew that the school was a Mercy school, but like the community I was in in Dubai, welcomed people of all faiths, all ethnicities, all languages. That’s sort of why Lauralton clicked for me.

What kind of changes do you think our school could benefit from over the course of your administration?

Miller: I think my job is not to bring change, so much as it is my job to lead the change that’s already percolating here. For example, Lauralton has what I call some “signature programs.”

Things where it doesn’t matter if you pay double the tuition, pay $40,000 at any other school in Connecticut, and you can’t get what we have here. I think part of my job is to celebrate, you can call ‘em “differentiators” or “points of distinction.”

And what are those points of distinction?

Miller: I think we have a lot of them. I’m learning new ones everyday. For example, I think the way archeology is going to be taught here as an elective course with a dig on our campus—that’s amazing, what school has that?

I’m learning that there are young women here who are in Girl Scouts, and they do their culminating project, the Juliet Lowe project, here. Three girls in the past three years, one a year for three consecutive years, have chosen to do her project here, on our campus. How many schools can say that?

Emily Plumb is doing a really cool, internet radio station right next to the Flavia Finucane Innovation Lab—how many schools can say not only do we teach, and learn, and incubate knowledge, but we let a young woman do her Juliet project on our campus?

Every time I learn about these signature programs, our whole leadership team meets in a circle, and I want them to know about every signature program. I think my job is more to celebrate and accentuate those things…not so much to change us.

Do you have specific goals, then? Or, is your approach mostly focused around where the students lead the school?

Miller: Part of my job is to make sure this school is here fifty years from now. Part of it is to really grow and nurture these signature programs, but part of it is to make sure that, financially, we’re taking great care of the campus, and we’re doing smart things, so that we are here when your granddaughter wants to come here.

So there’s no pressure there at all, right? 50 years—make sure the school’s thriving. *Laughs*

There will come a time when there are smart, capable young women whose families cannot pay $20, 535 a year—and so we need to make sure that opportunities exist, so that when you come into school, you’re not continuing paying for each opportunity.

One of the things I liked about Lauralton [was] the Sikorsky Challenge team—that did so amazingly well—there were no fees, to my understanding, to participate. I want to make sure that those kinds of opportunities are always part of your tuition.

Niche is an online company that does private school rankings, and this past year we climbed five spaces. We are now 30th in Connecticut’s private schools out of about 68. We have an overall A rating in academics, sports, extra-curricular activities—but a C in diversity.

Miller: Oh, wow.

Is there anything there that you think we could change?

Miller: Well, first, I am a little bit leery of school rankings. I went to an undergraduate school called Ohio Wesleyan University. The reason I went there was because there was no little box to check that said, “My parents love me, they can afford to pay my college tuition, but they’re not paying.” I had very few college options that would give me a full ride. That very same month Ohio Wesleyan was on the cover of US News and World Report— it said, “Top Liberal Arts School in the Nation” great, right?

But, you can’t go from being top in the rankings one year—to look where they are now. It doesn’t quite make sense.

And some of those rankings are based on things like how much money is in the endowment, things like that—which only have so much affect on your education on a given day. I’d say quality of teachers is more important—well, how do they measure quality of teachers? So, I’m grateful when they give us nice awards, but I’m not sure how much stock I put in them. I’d rather interview every young woman who graduated from here last June, and see how her first semester of college goes, interview her at Christmas break, and that’s the ranking I want.

What about the diversity bit?

Miller: Yes, that’s important. Right now, 3/4 of our student body is Catholic. It could be that Niche doesn’t think that that is enough religious diversity. I tell people we are a warm and welcoming Catholic school. We are happy to accept intelligent, driven young women that are not practicing Catholics. That’s fine. We want racial diversity—we achieve some of that through an open admissions process, and also by having $1.4 million in scholarships and financial aid. So, can we do more? I bet we can. But, I’m pretty pleased with where we are.

Do you have a final message for the student body?

Miller: I want this year to be one of Lauralton loyalty. And what I mean by that is I want there to be such tremendous school pride. We have a great honor and distinction to learn here together. I want them to be really proud of that. They don’t need to be modest or humble that Lauralton’s giving them something no other school can. And while we like our friends that go to public school, and we appreciate our friends who chose another independent school, I’m sad to say they’re missing out [and] I wish they were here.

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The Cast of Spamalot Interviews

By Olivia Cholewczynski, Junior Editor ’19

220px-Spamalot_posterThis fall, the Lauralton Hall Musical Department performed the musical Spamalot, based on the famous comedy movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. As a member of the cast, I can attest that it was loads of fun and we really put our hearts into it. I have been doing the Lauralton Hall shows for the last three years, and I feel like our cast has really become a family. However, not many people have an interest or any experience with performing on this platform, so I decided to interview four students from different grades who were all a part of Spamalot to offer multiple perspectives on theater.

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First, I interviewed a freshman named Tara O’Connor:

Why do you love theater so much, and why do you keep doing theater?

T: I love theater because of the joy I experience on stage and how the cast becomes a family is important to me and makes me feel happy.

What role does music and theater play in your life? How has it influenced your aspirations for the future?

T: It has definitely made me consider having a career in the arts, not just business or something else. It definitely has opened up my career options more.

Why do you recommend Lauralton students support the performing arts at LH and see our shows?

T: We work really hard as a cast, in a short amount of time, but we work every single day. It all pays off in the end, so they should come see it!

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Next, I interviewed Brynn Conrad, a sophomore:

How long have you been involved in theater?

B: I probably started doing theater when I was in about fifth or sixth grade. My first production was “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” and it’s become one of my favorite musicals.

Why do you love theater so much, and why do you keep doing theater?

B: I think that theater allows you to express yourself in a way that not only makes you feel good about it, but also makes other people watching it feel good. And at the same time, you can meet a lot of people through it because they share a common interest.

Have you ever experienced some crazy mishaps on stage during a show? If so, what happened?

B: I did a show once where one of my cast members’ solo was about to come on, and about a minute before it happened, she ran backstage and threw up. So we had another girl come in at the last minute, not knowing her lines or anything, and it came out fine!

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Then I spoke with Melody Allen, a junior:

What role does music and theater play in your life? How has it influenced your aspirations for the future?

M: My name is literally a musical term, and my dad’s a musician, so it led to my love of music. I’ve always enjoyed musicals, and I just decided that it might be good to give it a try. I listen to musicals all the time, especially Spamalot.

If you could do any musical, what would it be and whom would you play?

M: Hamilton. I would love to play Hamilton, but if we’re being realistic, I would love to be given the chance to play George Washington.

Why do you recommend Lauralton students support the performing arts at LH and see our shows?

M: Since I was little, I’ve been coming to see the performances at Lauralton. I’ve seen everything from Annie to Beauty and the Beast and The Sound of Music, and they’re just spectacular. I love coming and watching Sarge go all crazy! It’s a lot of fun, and there’s a new experience with each new musical she takes on.

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And lastly, I interviewed Julie Ferrigno, who is graduating this year:

How long have you been involved in theater?

J: I’ve been involved in theater since the 8th grade. When I first did it, I met one of my best friends at the Bijou theater, then we went to high school and did the Lauralton musicals together, and we made lots of friendships and had a great time doing it. I highly recommend that anybody who is interested in theater to pursue it.

Why do you love theater so much, and why do you keep doing theater?

J: I love theater because it is a great way to express yourself, especially in times of heavy stress such as senior year. I feel like it’s a perfect creative outlet and it really helps you get through the day. It’s something to look forward to.

Have you ever experienced some crazy mishaps on stage during a show? If so, what happened?

J: Yes. I remember one time I was doing Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and I was playing Violet. In the scene where I had to blow up my fatsuit dress, it did not work and it fell off! I ran on stage in a cage and it was really awkward. At Lauralton last year, I forgot my line and someone covered for me.  It’s always really funny when it happens, like it’s not a big deal.

These four students all have different stories of how they got involved in theater. Some have been doing this since they were in elementary school, and others have only started this year. But we are all connected by a mutual love for singing, acting, and making fools of ourselves! Theater is a really special thing, and I sincerely hope that the students at Lauralton Hall will all celebrate and support the arts, whether it is a school play, choir concert, or an art exhibit.

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Cast Photos: Courtney Durso

Spamalot Graphic: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spamalot

Student Body Stress & Sleep Survey

By Hannah Williams ’18

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A survey was sent to Lauralton students to determine their stress levels and sleep patterns and 100 students responded. It was determined that the majority, or 68%, of the student body considers itself “extremely stressed.” Twenty-eight percent of students reported that they have an average amount of stress, and only a small percentage said they have no stress (four percent) or a little bit of stress (five percent).

Naturally, the question that followed was, “What is the primary source of your stress?” The results showed that the majority, or 74%, of respondents said homework. One percent of students said stress is a result of sports, two percent claimed that they are not stressed, 14% say stress comes from applying to colleges, and nine percent said stress comes from other factors.

Next, Williams posed the question, “How do you cope with stress?” The answers showed that a variety of tactics are employed, such as: “exercise,” “journaling and music,” “Netflix,” “crying,” “dark humor,” and “Doing my best to stay on top of my work load.”

When asked, “How much homework do you do on a typical school night?” the most popular choice, picked by 46%, was 2-4 hours a night doing homework. The rest of the results showed that 1% of students do zero to one hour of homework a night, 18% do one to two hours of homework a night, 32% of the students have four to six hours of homework a night, and only three percent have more than six hours of homework a night.

Transitioning to the topic of sleep, the results from this survey showed that 13% get less than five hours, 47% of students get an average of five to six hours of sleep a night, 40% get six to eight hours, and zero percent reported that they get more than eight hours of sleep a night.

Lastly, the survey inquired, “If you sleep less than 8 hours a night, what is the main cause?” The majority, or 74%, of students reported that the hours of homework they reported on in the previous question are the main cause for their lack of sleep. Of the remaining 26%, four percent of respondents voted for sports as the main cause, nine percent selected other after school activities, four percent chose social media, six percent answered entertainment, two percent said other, and one percent said they get more than eight hours of sleep a night.

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Picture credits: Courtney Durso

Curious Crusader V1: The Student Advice Column

By Jess Sanchez ’18

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Hello! Welcome to the Curious Crusader, the student run advice column that is here to answer all of your typical questions about high school. How can I improve my study skills? Should I join a club or activity? How stressful is senior year? (I can answer that one right now, VERY STRESSFUL). If you have any questions that you need an honest answer for, simply drop it in the box that is located in the library, and we will be happy to answer it for you!

How do I handle the difficult work load at Lauralton?

The work load at Lauralton is definitely enough to cover you up to your ears, but there are ways in which you can make your life 100% easier. One suggestion I have is to do homework the night it is assigned. We all love the block schedule, but sometimes we take advantage of the fact that we have two days to do our homework. Instead of putting off your homework until the second day, do it the day that it is assigned so that you are not constantly playing a game of catch-up. Another tip that I have for you is to prioritize what is most important and do that first. Think of it like this; what would you not mind doing late at night? Small homework items should be done last so that you can use your fresh mind after school or practice to do the hard stuff first. I know it may seem easier to get the simple stuff out of the way, but logically you are just making more work for yourself later, which is when you really want to wind down and chill.

How do I go about trying out for a sport at Lauralton?

The Lauralton Athletics department is amazing and joining a sport is one of the most fun things you can do at LH. If you are interested in joining a sport, do some research on it first. See what the game is like and ask yourself if you can see yourself on the field, court, or mat. The next step is to talk to some of the athletes! Nobody can explain the sport as passionately as those who are involved in it. This will give you some insight to what the life of a student athlete is like and it will allow you to ask any specific questions that you might have. If you are then set on trying out for that sport, conditioning is a great way to prepare! A couple jumping jacks every day or stretching in your free time will really prepare you for tryouts and the physical activity you are going to experience. Finally, a good attitude and a smile are the two most important factors that coaches are looking for in perspective athletes. They can teach someone how to play, but they can’t teach someone how act. If you go into tryouts with optimism and enthusiasm, I’m sure you will have a great shot at making the team!

Where are some peaceful study spots at Lauralton?

Lauralton is full of little nooks and crannies that are prefect for getting some serious studying done in an aesthetic setting. First, the two benches by the fire escape behind the mansion are a great place to bury your head in some books on a nice day. You get a beautiful view of the carousel and the back lawn, but you are separated from the bustling and more rowdy picnic tables. Another quiet spot is in the Mercy Hall foyer (although this location is strictly for sophomores and older). This rite of passage allows you to sit on the comfy couches in the beautifully lit foyer situated between the two staircases. Nothing beats putting in some headphones, listening to your favorite music, and relaxing on the couches during a free period. In you’re looking to connect with nature more while you study, the bench and round stone table behind the school building is the perfect place! During the spring time, this is where my friends and I sit for lunch on a sunny day. The small tree keeps the sun’s harsh rays at bay, but you can still enjoy the fresh air and get your study on! Finally, there are two desks in the back of the library for INTENSE studying. This spot is a little less aesthetic but if you are in dire need of a quiet place and the weather is not nice enough to go outside, these isolated desks will for sure keep you on task.

Introducing the I-Period

 

By Meghana Cheela ’21 and Rachna Vipparla ’21

Now that Lauralton Hall’s very own innovation lab has finally been completed, this year’s students were the first ever to experience a new time to explore and innovate, also known as the innovation period. The innovation period is an allotted time period in which students sign up to do fun and interesting activities. These activities are meant to allow students to let loose, have fun, and work off some of their stress from school. For the first session, the students participated in Halloween crafts, making their own phone ringtones, 3D printing, and even using chemistry to create their own beauty products! The innovation period, also known as exploration seminar, occurred on Friday, October 20.

To make sure everyone has a chance to participate, students can only register for 1 out of 8 of the exploration seminars. There is such a great demand for some of the more popular workshops, like make your own jack o’lantern/corn husk dolls, make your own toga, and the science of beauty, that students quickly snagged their spots once sign ups opened. I, personally, attended the make your own jack o’lantern/ corn husk dolls workshop, and found the experience to be fun, creative, and yes, innovative. Students who shadowed on Oct. 20 said that these seminars were an interesting, new experience. They said that the I period was something that they had never seen before at any other school!

Ms. Shea, the supervisor of I periods, said, “The I-periods are an opportunity to include non-traditional activities and experiences in the Lauralton curriculum. They allow students to discover and explore their interests without the typical academic obligations.” Students are excited for future I periods and are anxious to see what the school has planned for them next!

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Lauralton

 

By Cristina Ludwig ’19

  1. The mansion was first home to Charles Hobby Pond, a wealthy descendant of a colonial Milford family after he retired from being a New York businessman for the Sharpe Rifle Company.
  2. Charles Hobby Pond lived here, at Lauralton, with his wife, Mary Miles Pond, as well as their six children: Bessie, Matilda, Winthrop, Florence, Cecil, and Nathalie, as well as Grandma Pond and Aunt Martha, Mr. Pond’s sister.
  3. The property was originally built with a carriage barn, water tower, and slaughterhouse! We are not exactly sure where the slaughterhouse was located on the property.
  4. In 1889, the property was sold by the Pond descendants to Henry Augustus Taylor, a New York financier, a year after his daughter Laura had died.
  5. Taylor renamed it Lauralton Hall after his mother and deceased daughter, both of whom were called Laura.
  6. Laura is also memorialized in a stained glass window of the Mary Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church on the town green that was built by Taylor. The cornerstone for The Mary Taylor Church was laid on October 3, 1892.
  7. Prior to 1960, the Library was located in Mercy Hall. In 1960, the Library was moved to the first floor of the Mansion. It wasn’t until 1989 that the library was relocated to the current location on the first floor of the school building!
  8. “C1” also wasn’t always the choir and orchestra room! It was used as a laundry room when Lauralton was a boarding school and later was converted to an academic classroom before being dedicated to music.
  9. The stretch in the basement of the school building was previously known as McAuley Hall, complete with lockers.
  10. In 2011, Lauralton Hall was listed on the State Register of Historic Places by the Connecticut Historic Preservation Council and was added to the Federal Register of Historic Places. On the designation day, September 17, 2011, Rosa DeLauro presented an official statement of congratulations from Governor Dannel Malloy who named September 17th Lauralton Hall Day in Connecticut.

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Above is the stained glass window for Laura in the Mary Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church.

 

Works Cited

Goldwyn, Judy. “Lauralton Hall Celebrates its Historic Designation.” Milford Patch, 18        Sep. 2011, patch.com/connecticut/milford/lauralton-hall-celebrates-its-historic-        designation. Accessed 19 October 2017.

“Mary Taylor window.” Memorable Milford History, memorablemilford.com/stories.php. Accessed 20 October 2017.

“The Mansion at Lauralton Hall.” Lauralton Halllauraltonhall.org/about-lh/our-heritage/the-mansion-at-lauralton-hall. Accessed 16 October 2017.

 

 

The 2nd Annual Daisy Run

By: Katie Albert ’19

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A day of unity, hope, fun, and games – on October 21st many of our own students kicked off the 2nd Annual Mary Ann Wasil Daisy Run on the turf field. Faculty, staff, students, parents, and alumnae came together for this exciting day to support breast health and breast cancer research, including the Get in Touch Foundation and the Norma F. Pfriem Breast Care Center.

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As the Mayor, Ben Blake, cut the ribbon, participants were off around the track, earning a “petal” on the back of their shirts for each lap they completed, eventually making a complete daisy. The event was sponsored by the National Honor Society, and students from Engineering and AP Physics all helped in creating activities for the day, including crossbows, pendulum bowling, slingshots, and more.We raised $5200 through sponsors and donations! Finally, the day closed with the words of Betsy Nilan, daughter of Get in Touch’s founder, Mary Ann Wasil, whom the run is now in memory of, as well as the current president of the foundation.

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For the past two years, this beautiful event has instilled faith, hope, and courage into all of its participants–inspiring us all to support this cause passionately. 

Daisy Petal Picture: http://news.hamlethub.com/ridgefield/charities/53783-mary-ann-wasil-daisy-5k-at-lauralton-hall-raises-awareness-for-breast-cancer

Picture Credits: Courtney Durso

OP-ED:Colorado vs. Connecticut

By: Lyle Given ’20

 

To start this off, I need to give some background on myself. My name is Lyle Given, and although I was born in Connecticut, for the past ten years, I’ve lived in Colorado. I moved to Connecticut this past summer, and since then, many people have asked me about Colorado and what I think of Connecticut. Let me tell you, there are some big differences.

First of all, the air is different. Connecticut is at a low elevation and is coastal, so it gets very humid. Colorado, however, is well-known for being at a high altitude; Denver isn’t the mile-high city for nothing. Because of that, the air is much thinner, and humidity is lucky to get out of the single digits.

Now, with the extra humidity, Connecticut has far different weather than Colorado. It gets cloudy but doesn’t always rain, and you have to worry about hurricanes. Colorado’s famous for its clear sky, and let me tell you, it’s better than you can imagine. However, Colorado does get dumped with snow. Which reminds me, Connecticut is much more generous with their snow days. In Colorado, it had to snow at least a foot for administration to even consider calling a snow day.

Moving on, I don’t think I quite realized how large Colorado is until I came to Connecticut. The last two weekends, I’ve gone to Massachusetts and New York, and neither trip has taken more than three hours in a car to get there. In Colorado, you can drive three hours in a car and still be in the state.

With that, Connecticut has far more opportunity to go to big cities. You can go to New York City, Hartford, or even Boston in at most a few hours. However, Colorado does have better access to outdoor activities, like the mountains that are an hour drive from Denver.

This brings me to the biggest difference between Connecticut and Colorado: geography. Connecticut is on the Long Island Sound, and there is just water everywhere. Colorado is landlocked and very dry, so going to the beach is not exactly a summer activity like it is in Connecticut. But, Colorado has the Rocky Mountains and some serious altitude. When I lived in the mountains, my house was at almost 7,500 feet. In comparison, the highest altitude in Connecticut is less that 3,000 feet, so there is a big difference there.

Honestly, Connecticut and Colorado are both incredibly different, but they each have their own pros and cons. If you ever get the chance, I highly suggest visiting Colorado. In my completely biased opinion, it’s pretty spectacular.

 

Picture Credits:

https://www.tripstodiscover.com/colorado-mountain-towns-that-are-paradise-in-the-winter/

http://luxuryexperience.com/destinations/north_america/stamford%2C_connecticut_-_historic%2C_coastal_city.html

 

 

LH November Playlist

By Claire McCrory, Junior Editor ’19

Highlights recently put out a survey about music preferences for  students at Lauralton to take. It was very interesting to see the different genres, songs, and artists people enjoyed listening to.

Every month, I like to make a playlist with a mixture of old and new songs. So, I wanted to expand it to all the girls at Lauralton and make an epic playlist with a combination of everyone’s favorite singers, songs, and genres for anyone to enjoy! Out of everyone who took the survey, the majority preferred pop and alternative music, so the playlist contains mostly songs from those two genres. However, country and rap songs are also scattered throughout the playlist. It includes some throwback songs from your favorite artists and brand new songs that are always on the radio. Artists like Ed Sheeran, Khalid, and Kanye West, along with up and coming bands, appear on the playlist. Enjoy, and thank you to everyone who participated in the survey!

Link to the Spotify playlist: “The Ultimate LH Playlist for November”

https://open.spotify.com/user/121367080/playlist/7hzozNu4tFwmjSrxVR62r5

Pic Creds: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/whats-the-problem-with-pop-music