Activities at RL
One great advantage of a small school is that students are rarely able to confine themselves to one or two extracurricular specialities. We encourage students to immerse themselves in a range of opportunities beyond the classroom. With ten varsity teams and a host of non-athletic extracurriculars, we depend upon boys to assume both high profile leadership positions and also less prominent—but just as consequential—supporting roles. We want them to be accomplished generalists. We believe that in order for young men to reach their full potential as broadly educated adults, they must be willing—even eager—to try new things, to participate in new activities, along with those in which they have already achieved some level of accomplishment and success. Roxbury Latin boys are eager to get involved wherever and whenever they can—in athletics and drama productions, publications and Model U.N., Glee Club and Debate. The younger boys take their cues from their elders, both faculty and student, and they quickly embrace a long tradition of broad and deep involvement in the entire life of the school.
Chess at Roxbury Latin is predominantly an independent, informal activity. Any student may play any time he is free to do so, as sets are always available. For those interested in competing in a structured setting, we can arrange times after school for intramural practices and meets. Occasionally “club matches” can be arranged—unofficial affairs in which all interested RL boys compete against another school’s whole team. During years in which we have enough boys who wish to represent the school in interscholastic competition, we join the South Shore Interscholastic Chess League.
The Classics Club was founded to promote enthusiasm for Classics by offering opportunities beyond the classroom for boys to broaden their knowledge of the languages and daily lives of the Greeks and Romans. Weekly meetings focus on preparation for Certamen competitions, which involve rapid-fire questions on topics ranging from the minutiae of Latin grammar and vocabulary, Latin-based etymology, Roman history and culture, and classical mythology in a Jeopardy!-like setting. The group attends various competitions in Massachusetts, but also hosts an intramural competition in the fall.
Debate and Public Speaking
Debating and public speaking help boys learn skills of communication, persuasion, logic, critical thinking, research, the use of evidence, and thinking on their feet. Roxbury Latin boys compete among themselves and with students from other schools both in traditional debate formats (e.g., Oregon and Parliamentary) and in a wide range of public speaking events (e.g., persuasive, after dinner, impromptu, extemporaneous speaking, and interpretive reading). Through these competitions, boys gain self-confidence in performing before others and also experience the excitement and exhilaration created by the clash and interplay of competing ideas.
In our program, first-year debaters and public speakers attend weekly classes in basic public speaking skills and forensic theory and compete in two interscholastic debating tournaments in which boys apply and refine the skills they have learned. After completing the first-year program, boys advance to novice and advanced classes and a wide array of interscholastic competitions.
Roxbury Latin public speakers and debaters compete both regionally and internationally. Most New England tournaments are sanctioned by the Debating Association of New England Independent Schools, founded at Roxbury Latin in 1978. Canadian and overseas tournaments are coordinated by the International Independent Schools Public Speaking League, of which Roxbury Latin is a charter member. In 25 of the last 26 years, at least one Roxbury Latin boy has qualified for the World Individual Debate and Public Speaking Competition. Host schools in recent years have been in Germany, Botswana, England, Cyprus, South Africa, Australia, Lithuania, Canada, and Hong Kong. In 2019-2020, more than 60 boys in Classes I-IV were involved in debating and public speaking throughout the year. Roxbury Latin speakers and debaters entered 13 tournaments in New England and Canada, winning many team and individual awards. Declamations—the dramatic public recitation of memorized passages of Greek and Latin—are presented annually by boys of every class on Exelauno Day, March 4th. The day’s name is a play on the word exelauno, the recurring verb (“march forth”) in Xenophon’s Anabasis. Boys compete before the entire school for the David Taggart Clark prizes in Greek and Latin declamation.
The Roxbury Latin dramatics program is anchored in the intimate Smith Theater, a well-appointed facility with unobstructed sight lines, fly and trap capabilities, an optional orchestra pit and excellent acoustics for student voices. Each year features three faculty-directed productions: the Senior Play, featuring actors in Classes I-III (with girls from neighboring schools taking the female roles); the Musical, usually open to students from each school’s upper four classes, alternating yearly with a classical production (Comedy of Errors in 2019); and the Junior Play, for performers in Classes IV-VI (also including girls from area schools). All on-stage roles and most of the technical work—set design and construction, lighting, and sound—are performed by students. In many of the past two dozen years, there has also been at least one full-length evening of theater initiated and directed by a Class I boy, an endeavor that will be available as an Independent Senior Project (ISP) in the 2020-2021 school year.
In 2019-2020 the Senior Play was A Few Good Men, by Aaron Sorkin. The Winter Musical was Newsies, by Alan Menken, Jack Feldman, and Harvey Fierstein. The Spring Junior Play, postponed when the pandemic forced the school’s closure, was going to be an original comedy, Chalk is Cheap, by faculty member Mike Pojman, connected to the school’s 375th Anniversary celebration. There was no student-directed production during the 2019-2020 school year.
Taking as its motto “Think globally, act locally,” RL’s Environmentally Concerned Organization of Students (ECOS) works to raise awareness about environmental issues and to reduce the impact that RL has on the environment. Students who are involved in ECOS support the school’s recycling efforts by emptying recycling bins across campus and by organizing the collection and composting of RL’s food waste. ECOS also promotes stewardship of the RL forest by hosting events in the fall and spring to clear trails and clean up trash. In addition to these ongoing efforts, each year ECOS focuses on a few specific initiatives to reduce RL’s ecological footprint. These have included raising money to support the purchase of a new bike rack on campus; selling eco-friendly, reusable water bottles to cut down on plastic waste; collecting textiles at RL’s annual Yard Sale for recycling; and initiating a Paper Challenge to reduce paper use across the school.
Habitat for Humanity
A student-run, student-led organization founded in 2007 to aid the mission of Habitat for Humanity International, the RL chapter of Habitat for Humanity works in partnership with Greater Boston Habitat and other local affiliates to fulfill the four functions of a campus chapter: building, fundraising, advocating, and educating. The group has sent many student volunteers to work at local home building sites in and around Greater Boston. In order to take part in these builds and support local affiliates, the group has raised tens of thousands of dollars through bake sales and hosting a three-on-three basketball tournament each winter.
Model United Nations
In Model United Nations (MUN), boys attend conferences along with students from many other public and independent schools from across the nation. Each school represents one or more member nations in the various policy-making bodies of the U.N., and each participant plays the role of a diplomatic “delegate.” To prepare for these simulations, each boy must research his country and its role in the international community, the problems on his committee’s agenda, and the procedures, capabilities, and limitations of the U.N. Delegates must work together to write up the results of their research as part of a position paper, submitted several weeks before each conference. At the conference sessions, delegates articulate their country’s policy on each agenda item and seek to implement it through consensus with representatives of other countries. During several days of debate and political negotiation, delegates work together to formulate and pass resolutions on such topics as nuclear disarmament, economic cooperation and development, the preservation of the global environment, international efforts to halt drug trafficking, etc.
Students at all levels may audition for one or more of the school’s musical ensembles.
The Glee Club is open by audition to boys in Classes I-IV. It rehearses during the academic day and performs several concerts during the school year—occasionally with girls’ choral groups and with orchestral accompaniment. The Glee Club repertoire includes a selection of sacred music, folk songs, musical theater pieces, and traditional songs for men’s chorus. Each year the Glee Club collaborates with a girls’ chorus to perform a major choral work. Recent performances have included Mozart, Coronation Mass; Brahms, Requiem; Bernstein, Mass; Schubert, Mass in G; Thompson, Frostiana; Mozart, Requiem; Vivaldi, Gloria; Haydn, Lord Nelson Mass; Rutter, Requiem; Mendelssohn, Elijah; and Beethoven, Mass in C Major. The Glee Club also makes a spring tour—most recently to Los Angeles; Washington, D.C., and Virginia; Puerto Rico; and Chicago.
The Latonics, made up of about 14 singers selected from the Glee Club, perform challenging a cappella music including madrigals, motets, folk songs, and contemporary popular songs, often in original arrangements by group members. They rehearse twice a week after athletics practice and maintain an extensive performance schedule. Over the years, the Latonics have produced 11 albums.
The Junior Chorus is open by audition to boys in Classes V-VI. Its repertoire includes three- and four-part arrangements, both accompanied and a cappella. The Junior Chorus rehearses twice a week during the school day. It performs in December and April at Glee Club concerts.
The Jazz Band and Chamber Ensembles are available to those boys who demonstrate proficiency in instrumental performance. The makeup of these ensembles varies in accordance with student talent and interest. The Jazz Band and Chamber Ensembles rehearse once a week after sports practices and perform several times during the academic year. Jazz Band repertoire ranges from Big Band standards to blues and rock fusion. A Jazz Combo, drawn from the Jazz Band, performs more challenging repertoire. Additionally, through the chamber music program, instrumentalists are combined and coached in some of the great Classical repertoire.
Each term, by arrangement with the Director of Music, boys with special musical skills or talents perform in recital before the school. These performances often include chamber ensembles gathered by the Director of Music.
Students produce two school publications. The Tripod, the School newspaper, is published five times each year. Under the leadership of senior editors, students from all classes gather news, take photographs, and write articles. The editors are responsible for content and layout. Forum, a magazine of literature and the arts, is published twice each year. It includes short fiction, poetry, photography, and artwork by students of all classes. It, too, is student designed and edited. These publications reflect the spirited camaraderie, vital creative energy, and warm humor characteristic of our students.
As with other school activities, The Tripod and Forum depend upon and enjoy the widespread support of students from all quarters. Typically, in addition to their extensive publications duties, editors are varsity athletes, members of the Glee Club and Model U.N., and lead actors in school plays. We believe that our student publications draw strength from the broadened perspectives brought to them by boys with such wide-ranging interests. In addition to the journalistic experience that they gain through writing and editing, boys who work on school publications are also afforded the opportunity to learn modern techniques of electronic layout and design and digital photography. Both student publications are produced using Adobe Photoshop and InDesign desktop publishing software. No prior knowledge of these programs is required or expected, however; students learn on the job.
The Robotics Club meets from mid-fall through early-spring and aligns itself with VEX Robotics, a national and international competitive robotics organization. During the past five seasons, the team has designed, built, and coded 18 robots, ten of which qualified for the Southern New England Championship, resulting in two finalists, one tournament Champion, and one robot qualifying for the VEX World Championships.