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Honoring students in the arts: Ipswich High School

The Salem News Art Stars from Ipswich High School

  • 4 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. Kicking off the series are three students from Ipswich High School who have received accolades for their work in music, theater and writing.

We asked the nominees — Eric Duback, Sophie Schell and Zoe Gillette — questions related to their artistic talents, accomplishments and future plans. Their responses are below.


Eric Duback works on his music.

Eric Duback works on his music.

Courtesy photo/NMYO 

Eric Duback

  • Age: 18
  • Grade: Senior
  • GPA: 4.0
  • Artistic talents: String bass player
  • Extracurricular activities: Mountain biking
  • Awards and recognition: Two-time Outstanding Musician at Massachusetts Jazz Education Association Conference; Ipswich High School’s Outstanding Achievement in Music Award, twice; Outstanding String Player, Northeast Massachusetts Youth Orchestras.
  • Future college plans and intended major: Boston Conservatory for string bass performance.

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

I started when I was in sixth grade after seeing a jazz band performance.

Why do you love your art?

Music is the most important part of my life. It is exciting to me and is the best way for me to express myself.

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

I have been honored to perform on the stage of Symphony Hall five times.

How have you balanced school with your art?

I have chosen to take easier classes so that I have more time to practice.

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

I hope to be a professional bass player, and one day play in an important orchestra.

How did you come to the decision to study your art in college?

Next year I will study my instrument in college. I made this decision because music is my calling and it is the only thing I can imagine myself doing.


Sophie Schell in the Company of Ipswich High School's production of "The Countess Cathleen" by William Butler Yeats.

Sophie Schell in the Company of Ipswich High School's production of "The Countess Cathleen" by William Butler Yeats.

Sophie Schell

  • Age: 18
  • Grade: Senior
  • GPA: 3.5
  • Artistic talents: Theater, photography, writing and singing.
  • Extracurricular activities: Math League, voice lessons, guitar lessons, Shim Gum Do (Korean Martial Arts).
  • Awards and recognition: Technical Excellence Award (Massachusetts Educational Theater Guild); Tactor Award (for doing both acting and tech); Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, Honorable Mention (2015).
  • Future college plans and intended major: University of Maine at Farmington; major in creative writing.

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

I first became involved in the arts in fourth grade when I started playing an instrument. I started becoming involved in theater in sixth grade. My cousins Laura (acting) and Colleen (sound) being involved in the high school plays made me interested.

Why do you love your art?

I love my art because it allows me to express myself while allowing me to learn about other cultures.

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

One of my proudest accomplishments within my art field was receiving the Technical Excellence Award, because it was a group effort along with other members of the Tech Crew to earn the award during a theater competition.

How have you balanced school with your art?

I have balanced school with my art by working hard and staying up late to get my work done.

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

I would love to participate in some more plays, perhaps in a few that tour. I also want to publish a book of poetry.

Do you have any 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 participate in college theater. I came to this decision because I love theater and I wanted to participate even if it wasn’t my major. I am considering minoring in theater if I can make it work.


"Storm," a pen-and-ink drawing by Zoe Gillette.

"Storm," a pen-and-ink drawing by Zoe Gillette.

Zoe Gillette

  • Age: 18
  • Grade: Senior
  • GPA: 3.75
  • Artistic talents: Illustration, especially using watercolor or pen and ink; photography; drawing; and painting.
  • Extracurricular activities: I’m part of the drama tech crew, where we run the theatre productions. I’ve painted countless sets, and it’s been fun.
  • Awards and recognition: Renaissance Award from Ipswich High School Arts Department; Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, National Silver Key; four Regional Gold Key and two Regional Silver Key Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.
  • Future college plans and intended major: I plan on going to Massachusetts College of Art, where I’m leaning toward becoming an illustration major, but I’ll be practicing so many mediums next year that I might go in a completely different direction.

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

I’ve been a practicing artist ever since I was a toddler. I was interested in how much control I had over what I created using just markers and paper, and even today this still fascinates me.

Why do you love your art?

I love it because it’s thought-provoking and often has a sense of irony or humor. Sometimes it’s just really absurd. I’m really proud of it.

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

Being nationally recognized for a digital piece I created was definitely up there, especially since I haven’t had much experience with digital art at all. But in general, completing an intricate or time-consuming piece always makes me feel very proud.

How have you balanced school with your art?

For the first semester of this year, I was part of a portfolio class that helped channel every member’s creativity while still being in school. Although most of my work is done outside of class, I’m still really lucky to be part of such an arts-oriented high school.

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

Most importantly, I want to keep learning. I want to become a well-rounded artist with experience in many forms. It would also be really neat to travel around the world, as a photographer for National Geographic, for example.