Woodlands Academy musicians win gold in St. Louis

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

Gold medals 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, conducted by Berkeley Borkert, a senior from West Dundee.

Each Gold award includes an invitation to perform at the WorldStrides Festival of Gold. These invitation-only events take place in some of the country’s most famous performance venues and are judged by some of the best music teachers in the world.

In addition to their three gold plaques, the musical ensembles of the Woodlands Academy have won three major trophies, including the prestigious Adjudicator Award won by the orchestra. It goes to the band with the highest overall rating of any type of ensemble or by personal recommendation from the festival selection team.

Other trophies won by Woodlands were Outstanding Choir (Microscope) and Outstanding Orchestra. These rewards are awarded to the individual group with the highest overall score, regardless of group type or classification. Woodlands Academy competed in the small school category, with its choirs in the women’s division.

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

Clara Bartusiak, a Lake Forest junior, received the Ovation award. Based on the nominations of participating directors, this recognition goes to each festival’s student whose contribution to its musical program transcends musical creation and goes beyond the music classroom.


Recipients generally gave of themselves on behalf of their family, music program, school and community.

Borkert, who led the two-award-winning Microscope choir, was given a Maestro award by the festival judges. The maestros recognize the extraordinary musical ability and sensitivity demonstrated during the competition.

Borower and Hickey are understandably very proud of their students’ accomplishments.

“Creating community music changes lives, and it happens in some of our simplest rehearsal moments together,” said Borower, Music Director of Woodlands Academy. “But the recognition we’ve received in St. Louis affirms that the music that occurs when we come together is of the highest quality.”

In addition to their award-winning performances, the vocal and instrumental musicians of Lake Forest Girls’ High School have had a variety of other experiences in St. Louis. Highlights included a visit to sister school Sacred Heart Villa Duchesne/Oak Hill School, a performance as the featured choir at St. Louis Cathedral Basilica’s Sunday Mass, and a trip to the top of Gateway Arch.

Borower described the experience as truly uplifting for everyone who participated. It was the school’s first trip to a national music competition since COVID-19 travel restrictions were imposed. Prior to this, Woodlands Academy had put on a series of award-winning performances at the WorldStrides OnStage Heritage Festival events held annually in different cities.

The community is invited to hear the musical selections performed in St. Louis — and others — when choirs and orchestra perform at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 13 at Woodlands Academy’s annual fine arts evening. .

The WorldStrides OnStage Heritage Festivals offer middle and high school musicians the opportunity to visit one of more than 25 cities in the United States and abroad, perform in front of nationally renowned judges, and learn from the commentary that ‘they receive.

For more information about Woodlands Academy, visit www.woodlandsacademy.org

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