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Adam Present

Class of 2017
In eighth grade, Adam Present ’17 took an introductory film class with Ms. Sullivan. At the Upper School, he thought he would take photography, but on a whim ended up taking the Upper School film class with Ms. Sullivan as well. He grew to really like it. By his junior year he was taking a portfolio course with another key mentor, Mr. Boyd, and began working on more complex projects with a friend and fellow classmate. When Ms. Sullivan told them about the upcoming Montclair Film Festival, the two filmmakers submitted their latest finished work. Why not?

Entropy—a short, no-dialogue narrative told through flashbacks, or, as Adam describes it, “an intentionally ambiguous story that can be interpreted in multiple ways, with no right answer”— took the grand prize in the festival’s “experimental” category for emerging filmmakers. It’s a fitting comparison to what he most appreciates about Pingry.

“I wouldn’t say I’m an “art kid;” it’s definitely not the only thing I do,” he says. “At Pingry, I’ve been able to try a number of different things. My main sport is water polo, and I’m also really involved in Pingry’s research programs [he’s co-head of The Journal Club]—very few schools even offer these opportunities. I’ve been able to have all these different identities at the same time, without being labeled.”

He will attend a film program this summer, and is even considering film school for college, where he may also play water polo and pursue his interest in science. Like his prize-winning short, there is no single path, no right answer.

Jon Huang

Class of 2018
Every Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Jon Huang travels to New York City for rigorous music instruction from The Juilliard School’s Pre-College Division, a prestigious weekly program for promising elementary and high school musicians (and dancers and actors) from across the globe. It’s a routine he has been following since the eighth grade, when his talents playing the viola earned him acceptance into the program. (The year before his audition, he switched from the violin, which he had been playing since age 4.) That same year, he played at Carnegie Hall, and was featured in a video project for Sting.

Ask him to compare his Juilliard experience to his life at Pingry, and he will respond: “Juilliard is an extraordinary place to go. However, I feel right at home at Pingry, and home is where you belong.” As he sees it, one day a week he experiences the Juilliard community, and five days a week he is able to pursue his music in a different way, among many other interests, in the Pingry community. “It’s such a great community, and I am so proud of it.”

A member of the Pingry’s Glee Club and the Buttondowns a cappella group, his singing complements his playing, he says. He gives special thanks to Dr. Andrew Moore, Music Department Chair and Director of the Buttondowns, for supporting his interests, both vocal and instrumental. (When he needs a quiet place to do homework, Dr. Moore’s office is always open to him.) Jon has even arranged popular renditions of Ed Sherran’s Photograph and Boys II Men songs for the group. Although he doesn’t envision becoming a professional singer or musician, wanting instead to explore different options, his experiences at Pingry and beyond have equipped him well. “Practice time with the Buttondowns is the class I most look forward to,” he says. “It’s chaos, and it’s pure fun.”

Ajuné Richardson

Class of 2021
When a visiting artist treated Middle Schoolers to a sculpture workshop, introducing students to materials they hadn’t before worked with, aspiring artist Ajuné Richardson was inspired. Using pulp, wire, and dyes, she invented her own mixed media pizza. She recalls another visiting artist who taught her about larger scale projects—murals. “It’s great to be introduced to the work of other artists and exposed to different types of art,” she says. “I like to sketch with pencil and paper—it’s very simple—so I was pretty single-faceted before. I still love to sketch, but now I have a better appreciation of other approaches.”

Ajuné has been drawing since preschool, and fully intends to continue to pursue visual arts through the Upper School. Like many Pingry students, she is multi-faceted, however. Her other main interest: chemistry.

Middle School art teacher Jane Kunzman is one of Ajuné’s greatest admirers and promoters, agreeing to her creative mandala project even though it didn’t meet the assignment’s exact requirements. In turn, Ajuné often shares even her private sketches with her teacher. “Mrs. Kunzman always keeps an open mind about our ideas and lets us bend the rules a bit,” she says. “She encourages me to follow my ideas, suggesting that maybe the result will turn out to be better than what I originally imagined.”