The amazing class I wanted no part of

Peddie encourages students to step outside their comfort zone. That’s how Youcef ’20, who thought he was done with the performing arts, wound up in the Freshman Musical. As he tells it, the experience was unforgettable.

I have never been musically gifted. I dabbled in the performing arts in middle school: I played the trombone for a few years and had a small part with a single spoken line in the sixth-grade play. After that, I figured that I was done with all things involving the performing arts. 

Then it came time to register for my freshman year classes. All students at Peddie take a course in the arts each term of freshman year. The arts curriculum offers two electives for Music (Foundations or Musicianship) and Theater (Foundations or Freshman Musical) and one option for the Visual Arts (Foundations). My mom “strongly encouraged” me to sign up for the Freshman Musical as my theater option. 

The Freshman Musical takes place in the fall term, and enrollment is limited. The class of about 30 students, who barely know each other at the start, put together an entire production by the end of the term. To be honest, I wanted no part in this class. The thought of having to sing, or trying to sing in front of my classmates absolutely terrified me but, being a pretty obedient child, I followed my mother’s recommendation.

Youcef Soltani '20 Legally Blonde

Youcef Soltani '20 played several roles in Peddie's Freshman Musical, "Legally Blonde."

It turns out that sometimes moms do know best. The Freshman Musical was one of my absolute favorite experiences at Peddie. I met many of the people who became my best friends in that class. I had several bit parts in our rendition of “Legally Blonde,” and we performed in front of a sold-out audience of friends, family and classmates. 

I had so much fun that I even tried out for the winter musical “Les Miserables” that year. Wait a minute, wasn’t I the kid who really didn’t like performing? What’s up with that? Although I wasn’t selected for a part in that production, it still surprises me that I even wanted to try. Peddie encourages its students to step outside of their comfort zones and to try a variety of things. 

Wait, wasn't I the kid who really didn't like performing?

And while I didn’t miraculously develop musical talent, I did develop an appreciation for the theater as a result of the Freshman Musical class. Through generous donations and because of our close proximity to New York City, Peddie offers opportunities for students to attend Broadway productions several times a year. I have been fortunate enough to see “Aladdin,” “Once On This Island” and “School of Rock” through the school’s arts program. It is not unusual to have professional actors stop by our campus to talk shop with the Peddie students. How many high schools offer such amazing experiences?

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