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Honoring students in the Arts: Bishop Fenwick High School

The Salem News Art Stars from Bishop Fenwick High School

  • 7 min to read

There’s no question that the North Shore is brimming with student ingenuity.

Whether it be singing, writing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, animation or other artistic mediums, many local students are innovators in their field of art.

The Salem News presents its second annual series to acknowledge students on the North Shore who are gifted in the arts.

The region’s high schools have nominated students who excel in the visual, performing or musical arts. Continuing the series are three students from Bishop Fenwick High School who have received accolades for their work in singing, fine arts and performing arts.

We asked the nominees — Amanda Howard, Kevin Barnum and Renée Carraggi — questions related to their artistic talents, accomplishments and future plans. Their responses are below.


Amanda Howard

Amanda Howard wins her first of three golden tickets from American Idol.

Amanda Howard

  • Age: 17
  • Grade: Senior
  • GPA: 3.77
  • Artistic talents: Singer, performing arts
  • Extracurricular activities: I am involved with Fenwick’s Select Chorus, Liturgical Choir and drama program. I take voice lessons with Noel Smith. Due to my busy schedule with music, I was not able to join the Fenwick Track Team, but I do love to run on my own time with my dad.
  • Awards and recognition: First Place in NATS (National Association of Teachings and Students); grand finalist on Community Auditions; made it to the fourth round of American Idol; won gold in Riverside competition with Bishop Fenwick Concert Choir; and won first place in various local talent competitions.
  • Future college plans and intended major: Roger Williams University in Rhode Island. My intended major for right now is psychology and I will minor in music.

Tell us how you got started in the arts. How old were you, and what piqued your interest?

I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember, but I began sharing my talent with others when I was about 10 years old. I started out as a cantor at Saint John the Baptist Church Choir, which gave me the confidence to audition for the school musicals. I continued this love for music in a nonprofit organization known as We Are America Productions and sang with a group of talented people all over Massachusetts. My favorite place to sing was at assisted living homes because I loved seeing how happy it made the residents. After entering Bishop Fenwick, I continued my passion for music by participating in school musicals, talent contests, and becoming a member of the concert choir.

Why do you love your art?

I love music because of the way it can touch so many people and instantly bring back memories of a certain moment in their lives. Performing is another way for me to express myself and interact/relate with my audience. I love making others happy with my talent and being on stage is where I feel most comfortable and alive.

What is one of your proudest accomplishments within your art field?

My proudest accomplishment was probably making it to the celebrity judges round of “American Idol” at such a young age. It was an amazing experience that I learned a lot from and got to meet so many inspiring artists. At that round I received wonderful advice from Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr. that has helped me to connect more with the lyrics I’m singing about.

How have you balanced school with your art?

My school work comes first so I have learned to squeeze it in between musical rehearsals, instead of using my down time to relax.

What are some of your future goals related to your art?

I plan to have some sort of professional career in music. Music therapy is something that has interested me because I also love helping people. I will continue to perform and audition for as many contests as possible and never stop doing what I love the most.

Do you have plans to continue studying your art in college, either as a hobby or as a major? How did you come to this decision?

I definitely plan to continue to study music in college and join as many musical groups/clubs that I can. I would love to minor in music and also continue doing it for fun.


Kevin Barnum

Left: Kevin Barnum is an accomplished saxophone player. Right: Kevin Barnum sings in one of Bishop Fenwick's vocal groups.

Kevin Barnum

  • Age: 18
  • Grade: Senior
  • GPA: 4.02
  • Artistic talents: Musician (alto/baritone saxophone, guitar, ukulele), singer and performing arts.
  • Extracurricular activities: I am a three-season athlete. I play golf, tennis and I do field events during the winter track season. I am the head of the school’s tech club, which keeps me very busy, and I participate in the Fenwick Jam Band, a new group at Bishop Fenwick.
  • Awards and recognition: Gold Award at NYC Heritage Festival for Jazz Band, Men’s Choir, Concert Choir; Maestro Award for solo piece.
  • Future college plans and intended major: Saint Michael’s College, Vermont; major in computer information systems, minor in music.

Tell us how you got started in the arts. How old were you, and what piqued your interest?

I started playing my first instrument in third grade after a band demonstration at my elementary school played the “Star Wars” theme song. I loved it!

Why do you love your art?

Music allows me to express my feelings and allows me to give others enjoyment. I also really enjoy being able to collaborate with other artists to create some really great music.

What is one of your proudest accomplishments within your art field?

My proudest accomplishment has to be winning a Gold Award at the NYC Heritage Festival. It was an awesome experience to perform at Riverside.

How have you balanced school with your art?

I have great time management skills. I set time aside each night to just work on my music. It is a great break from my usual school work.

What are some of your future goals related to your art?

I would simply like to share my love for music with as many people as possible.

Do you have plans to continue studying your art in college, either as a hobby or as a major? How did you come to this decision?

I plan to minor in music so that I will be better able to improve my skills and foster my love for music. Music keeps me calm and relaxed and focused on my school work.


Renée Carraggi

Left: Renée Carraggi as Little Red Riding Hood in Bishop Fenwick's production of "Into the Woods." Right: "Different Perspective" charcoal still-life by Renée Carraggi.

Renée Carraggi

  • Age: 18
  • Grade: Senior
  • GPA: 3.7
  • Artistic talents: Fine arts and performing arts.
  • Extracurricular activities: Besides the drama department, I am very active in my school’s Campus Ministry program. Through this program, I am also a recognized Peer Leader. Within these programs, I have taken part in multiple activities and charity drives, such as The Breast Cancer Walk and Operation Shoebox. I have also volunteered my time to assist in the Sophomore Retreat days, Open Houses, and have had Freshman Buddies.
  • Awards and recognition: Bishop Fenwick National Honor Society; BFHS Night at the Arts — Second Place and Honorable Mention in Advanced Art; Scholastic Art Awards: “New York, New York” Gold Key for Photography; Catholic Schools Foundation Christmas Card Contest — winning entry; Scholastic Art Awards: Honorable Mention for Film and Animation; BFHS Comedy/Tragedy Award; Honor Roll Scholar; Spanish Achievement Award.
  • Future college plans and intended major: Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Bachelor of Fine Arts in graphic design.

Tell us how you got started in the arts. How old were you, and what piqued your interest?

“Renée, I need you to be honest with me.” Mrs. Wilson never looked so disappointed in me. She was my fourth and sixth grade teacher. I was always a favorite of hers, but it didn’t seem that way now. “Who did your homework for you?” I couldn’t fathom why she didn’t believe me. “No one, I did!” She gave me a glare of disbelief, but I could tell she wanted to believe me. “This handwriting is completely different from what you usually pass in, Renée.” I was embarrassed when I explained to her that I change my handwriting like I change my clothing. It was something I did for fun. It had never gotten me into trouble before. Showing her the letter I had gotten from my birth mother, I explained that I loved the way it looked — all capital letters, but the ones that weren’t usually capitals were just a bit smaller than the others. After the explanation, she looked embarrassed and for the remainder of the year she didn’t question when my handwriting changed drastically every other week. Later, I would learn that this small quirk of mine was just an early peak of my creativity, something that my elementary teachers didn’t quite see.

Why do you love your art?

When creating art, I become a story teller. My pieces create a collection of personal interests, which has in turn created a theme of storytelling. My pieces are my creative works of art, where my feelings and emotions will be read and interpreted by the viewer. These stories are a mixture of fictional and nonfictional visual narratives. When producing digital art, the feeling is that my creations can be applied to real world experiences, which helps me to feel that my art has a purpose.

What is one of your proudest accomplishments within your art field?

When it comes to the performing arts, my proudest accomplishment was after my final show of “Into the Woods” at Bishop Fenwick. Two of my teachers told me they came to show a second time because of my Little Red Riding Hood character. Having this being one of my first leading roles, I was overjoyed to hear that I had finally earned some recognition in the performing arts. In the fine arts, my proudest accomplishment was when the senior class had an assembly in the morning. At the assembly, Brother Thomas, my principal, brought in the head of the Catholic Schools Foundation to congratulate me on being selected as the Christmas Card Competition winner out of hundreds of entries. My entire grade and later my whole school has been more than supportive of my artwork and has recognized me as an artist.

How have you balanced school with your art?

Believe it or not, my performing arts were much easier to balance than the fine arts, even though the fine arts are a part of my school work. When it comes to my performing arts, I can organize my day around my rehearsal schedule. However, I have always believed in getting the difficult subjects in homework done first, so my art sometimes falls on the back burner. Luckily, my best and most creative ideas occur toward the end of the night, so my art assignments become late-night studio sessions, which I believe is good preparation for college.

What are some of your future goals related to your art?

In the fall, I will be attending Massachusetts College of Art and Design in hopes of graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in graphic design. I plan to take classes in marketing, advertising, computer programming, and business at one of the surrounding colleges through the Colleges of the Fenway Consortium. This will better prepare me to find a career after graduating college. In my sophomore year, I realized my love for digital-based art. My love of storytelling through art directed me in the path of graphic design with a focus on advertising and marketing.