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 intra- and inter-school competitions during the year.
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 an interscholastic debating tournament 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 24 of the last 25 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 2018-2019, more than 60 boys in Classes I-IV were involved in debating and public speaking throughout the year. Roxbury Latin speakers and debaters entered 15 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 Junior Play for performers in Classes IV-VI (also including girls from area schools); and the Spring Musical, usually open to students from each school’s upper four classes, alternating yearly with a Shakespeare production. Each May, as part of their regular study, boys in Class IV perform an adaptation of one of Plautus’ comedies in Latin. All on-stage roles and most of the technical work—set design and construction, lighting, and sound—are performed by students. In recent years, the school community has also enjoyed at least one full-length evening of theater initiated and directed by a Class I boy.
In 2018-2019 the Senior Play was It Can’t Happen Here by Tony Taccone and Bennett S. Cohen, adapted from the Sinclair Lewis novel; the Junior Play was Peter and the Starcatcher by Rick Elice and Wayne Barker; and the Spring Production was The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare. The year prior, RL boys performed in productions of Dogg’s Hamlet/Cahoot’s Macbeth by Tom Stoppard; The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee; and the musical Oliver! by Lionel Bart. Riverside Drive by Woody Allen, produced by Marc deFontnouvelle ’18, was the student-directed production in 2018.
Taking as its motto “Think globally, act locally,” RL’s chapter of the national organization, 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 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 more than $20,000 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. Preparation and participation are organized and led by an executive committee of students elected by their peers, whose members take great pride in assembling and editing excellent position papers and leading RL delegations in award-winning performances at conferences.
Students at all levels may audition for one or more of the school’s musical ensembles.
The Glee Club (limited to 85 voices) 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 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.
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 three 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. At the end of each year, the senior class publishes a Yearbook, whose contents include pictures and articles of both the highlights of the year and the saga of the class’s career at Roxbury Latin. These publications reflect the spirited camaraderie, vital creative energy, and warm humor characteristic of our students.
As with other school activities, The Tripod, Yearbook, 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. All three 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 four seasons, the team has designed, built, and coded 12 robots, eight of which qualified for the Southern New England Championship, with one advancing to the VEX World Championships.