Perhaps one of the most iconic, popular, and exciting annual events in Piedmont is the Bird Calling Contest. The contest dates back all the way to 1963, when it was started by Leonard J. Waxdeck, a Piedmont native. Over the years, audiences have seen countless high school students from all grade levels perform and do their best to not only impress the judges with their birds’ call, but to also have fun and unique skits.
This year started off with two freshmen, Isabela Soria-Gilman and Elle Phillips where Soria-Gilman acted as the famous actress Penelope Cruz on a Saturday Night Live show. After telling Soria-Gilman about the facts of their bird, the Common Poorwill, Phillips began the call and Soria-Gilman followed.
Juniors Anna Campbell and Ko Narter did their take on “Beauty and the Beast” for the second act. As they recited facts about their bird, the Barred Owl, they danced around the stage as in the movie.
“We chose our skit because we thought it’d keep the audience entertained, but we also put a lot of work into our cal,” Campbell said.
Masters of Ceremonies Maya Guzdar and Kay Sibal, winners of last years competition, filled each of the pauses between acts with bird jokes, stories, and even some improvisation. Guzdar said that it was so much fun after last year to still have a part in the contest.
“It’s about the community of the callers and I wanted to be a part of it again,” she said.
Up next, for the third act, Freshman Jacob Tay decided to go solo. Resembling a Canadian tour guide, he gave the audience several facts on his bird, the Common Loon, and did the call to show the audience what one sounded like.
“I went solo because I wanted to do it ever since middle school and thought going by myself would make it even more exciting,” he said.
The fourth act of the night had seniors Josef Crombie-Presburg and Daniel DeBare performing a sarcastic and laughable skit about their bird, hinting throughout at their hopes to win the competition. They chose the Grey Butcherbird since they could both do part of the call easily.
“When we were practicing calls, Danny clicked on the Grey Butcherbird. Then we just tried it over and over again and both really got the hang of it,” Crombie-Presburg said.
A trio of seniors, Sarah Baldwin, Andrew DiGaetano, and Cerina Smit, filled the fifth act. Performing as the Greater Prairie Chicken, Baldwin and Smit resembled seniors in a class with a substitute teacher, played by DiGaetano. They ended with their call and it was on to the sixth act.
Similar to the fifth act, the sixth featured three seniors, Jakob Armstrong, Cade Becker, and Emma Nash, performing the Horned Screamer. After their chick cracked open its egg, parents Armstrong and Nash did all they could to help their newborn, played by Becker, learn the ways of the Horned screamer.
“Cade and I had the inspiration from last year with [the advanced acting class’] May Plays and the whole ‘giving birth’ idea since last year people found it hilarious,” Armstrong said after his act.
The seventh and final act of the night featured juniors Philip Horn and Jeremy Wong. Acting as the Burrowing Owl, both Horn and Wong gave interesting facts and anecdotes from their time as the birds.
As the final act was applauded, the three judges, Piedmont’s new Police Chief Jeremy Bowers, the director of the Wellness Center Michael Brady, and the high school’s librarian Kathryn Levenson, went backstage to discuss the top three performances.
Meanwhile, the student-led dance group, the Breakerz, danced on stage for the audience. Led by seniors Alexander Cheng and Princeton Liu, their act was a crowd-pleaser as cheering and clapping filled the theater.
It soon became time to introduce the winners and so Guzdar and Sibal called superintendent Randall Booker on stage to give the results. Each of the teams lined up and gave their calls one last time and the audience quickly went silent.
In third place, Jacob Tay. In second place, Anna Campbell and Ko Narter. And the winners of the 52nd annual Piedmont Bird Calling Contest: Jakob Armstrong, Cade Becker, and Emma Nash.