Following in Mr. Schwamb’s Footsteps
“Most of the cool opportunities I’ve had at Westminster, Mr. Schwamb has been behind,” Alex Cross (senior) says. “Playing for the choirs and the musicals, doing a show at COCA—my first experience at The Fox was walking through the stage door. How many people can say that?”
Alex came to Westminster four years ago hoping to find opportunities to improve his skills on the piano. Even before his move to St. Louis, Alex and his mother were trading emails with Allen Schwamb, Westminster’s performing arts director, to find out what the school could offer a student passionate about the piano.
“I really like playing the piano, so at first I was seeking out more opportunities to do that,” Alex says. “Then, I started connecting with people because we were all doing the same things, and I wanted to use my skills to help those people.”
“There’s a similarity between the performing arts and sports in this way,” Mr. Schwamb says. “You get in for one reason, really connect with the people, find a community that you love and appreciate, and you start doing things for them. Alex connected with the kids in the choral program and wanted to do anything that would aid them.”
Alex started accompanying the chamber choir on the piano his first year at Westminster, and his involvement as an accompanist has grown every year since. This year, his senior year, Alex is not only the accompanist for all Westminster choral groups—middle school and upper school—he was also the assistant student music director for Twelfth Night and will be the assistant student music director for Meet Me in St. Louis later this month.
He credits Mr. Schwamb for these opportunities that are a bit unusual for a student. “Alex’s heightened involvement with the plays this year arose out of his taking on more responsibility over the past two years,” Mr. Schwamb says. “He helped out a lot last year and the year before, so ‘assistant student music director’ was a natural progression and good opportunity to further his education.”
In the fall, Alex plans to attend Hope College where he’ll pursue music education with an emphasis on vocal. It’s an interesting choice when you consider Alex generally accompanies choral groups rather than sings in them. “Alex only sings under duress,” Mr. Schwamb jokes.
While this might be true, Alex is confident in his decision nonetheless. “I want to follow in Mr. Schwamb’s footsteps. He’s had a big influence on me,” he says.
“I try to teach all of my students how to lead people to excellence but still be kind and good in the process, which is hard,” Mr. Schwamb says. “I hope Alex has picked up on that.”