Revisiting the group of students from the Class of 2011 who created a song to illustrate Andover as a place where a diverse group of students can grow and thrive.
“Some say PA is only worth diploma day, but those you know will tell you that it isn’t so. The fact is that appearances are inexact, though to the masses unbeknown, the school is more than just a stepping stone… To be or not to be…”
That is the question Michael Kontaxis ’11, Charlie Danner ’11, fellow students, and Andover faculty tried to answer back in 2011 through “The Andover Song,” painting a picture of Andover as a place where a diverse range of students can, and do, thrive.
The video incorporated performances from many students of the Class of 2011, Seniors at the time the video was created, as well as faculty members such as Kevin Graber, Senior Associate Director in Admissions, Aya Murata, Associate Director in College Counseling, and Paul Murphy ’84, Instructor in Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science.
Now an eight-minute Google-certified viral video according to YouTube’s newly added description, the song’s music video had garnered over 300,000 views by the time of writing since its first posting on July 28, 2011. The song has also been featured in publications including, but not limited to, “The Huffington Post,” “Slate,” “Village Voice,” “Grantland,” “Gawker,” and “Time Magazine.”
Kontaxis wrote the music and the lyrics as well as directing and editing the video, while Danner produced the instrumental component.
Kontaxis said in an interview with The Phillipian,“I’d been writing the lyrics for a while, just on and off, but the actual recording and shooting was done in basically my very last week at Andover, in terms of getting all the people, filming, and recording the song.”
According to Kontaxis, he created the video in order to break certain stereotypes that may have existed about Andover and prep school students as a group, especially among college admissions teams.
“It actually started with my college counselor, Jonathan Nicholson… looking for a video he could show to college scouts. They would hold these events on campus where scouts from [colleges] would come… and there were a lot of misconceptions about Andover… particularly in regard to thinking it was a privileged school with a bunch of rich kids. And he wanted to dispel the notion of that,” said Kontaxis in an interview with The Phillipian.
The graduating class, however, also intended it to be somewhat of a farewell to their school. Casey McQuillen ’11, one of the performers in the video, said, “The intention behind it was to have a representation outside of ourselves of our experience at Andover, and what it had meant to us.”
“We were in an interesting period of Andover where we were leaving, and I think that naturally lends itself to reflection, and I think music is a really great way to be able to share your feelings with others, and the words Michael wrote really exemplified what our group of friends felt as we were leaving,” she continued.
Murphy was Dean of Students when Michael Kontaxis approached him to star in the video. Although he was nervous at first, Murphy eventually agreed to appear in the film, alongside other faculty members.
“When students ask you to be in videos and you’re the Dean of Students, you don’t exactly know where the footage is gonna go. But at one point I thought ‘who cares, what do I have to lose’. Mrs. Chase eventually said yes and Mrs. Sykes did too so it was fun,” said Murphy.
Graber, the most featured faculty member in the video, with a total of three verses performed to his credit, said, “I’ve soaked up so much celebrity because of ‘The Andover Song’… Almost everywhere I go from Aspen, Colorado, to New York City, to here in our own office of admission — I introduce myself to a prospective student or family, and they say, ‘Hey, you’re that guy from ‘The Andover Song’! It’s always amazing.”
He also discussed how “The Andover Song” represents something integral to the Andover experience: putting oneself outside one’s comfort zone. He hoped that by appearing in the video he could act as a role model to new students.
Current students seem to enjoy and take a lot from the video as well.
Romulus Sottile ’19 told The Phillipian the story of the day he was accepted to Andover. He said, “When I came home from school on March 10, my parents were playing ‘The Andover Song’ so I knew I had gotten in. The video was so fun and well-made that it made me so psyched to be going here. I wanted to be like the kids in the video who were so academically and athletically-able. Coming from a public school, the lives shown in the video were so different than the one I was used to and I was just really excited to be a part of that environment.”