“Sunday morning we saw the weather report,” Adam Olenn explains, “and we said, ‘Oh, we’ve got to get this done.’ ”
So today, Moses Brown School in Providence posted a “School Is Closed” video to YouTube that’s already attracting national attention.
Educational institutions across the region have announced that they’ll be closing for the predicted blizzard via robocalls. Moses Brown spread the word that they’d have a snow day tomorrow with a parody of the “Let It Go” song from Disney’s 2013 animated feature film “Frozen.”
“The snow glows white on Route 95, not a tire track to be seen,” Head of School Matt Glendinning, outfitted in a striped knit hat and sweater, seems to sing at the beginning. “We could make you come to school, but that would just be mean.”
As Olenn, Moses Brown’s director of communications and community engagement, told me the story behind the video tonight, Time magazine retweeted the video and Good Morning America reached out for an interview. “It’s very exciting,” says Olenn, who takes credit for masterminding the video. “On the one hand, it’s surprising. On the other hand, I hoped it would happen.”
“I’ve seen a couple of funny principal snow day closings and I thought we could really crush that,” Olenn says. The plan was to record the parody song in advance and have something in the can, ready for some future storm. This week that storm arrived.
“Of course, with two little girls,” Olenn says, “I’ve heard ‘Let It Go’ from ‘Frozen’ more than a couple times.”
“I sat down and wrote it in like 15 minutes,” he says. “I do like the fact that I was able to work in the fractals bit that was in the original song.”
Glendinning looks like he’s singing in the video, but the voice you’re actually hearing is the school’s choral director Justin Peters, as recorded at Celebration Sound studio in Seekonk, Massachusetts.
“We’ve been shooting for probably a week, week and a half,” Olenn says. Ryan Vemmer, the school’s editor for digital media, shot and edited as they went. “We shot the last scenes on Friday morning.”
Olenn attended Moses Brown himself, then studied music at the University of Virginia and the Boston Conservatory. For 15 years, he lived in Boston, writing mysteries and literary thrillers, and working at Berklee College of Music, most recently as a Web content producer. Then last summer, he landed the Moses Brown job. So he, his wife, his two daughters, ages 8 and 6, and 3-year-old son moved to Providence.
“I never thought I’d end up back in Rhode Island or back at this school,” he says.
Moses Brown is a 231-year-old Quaker school for children in nursery school to grade 12. “There’s a lot of it that’s predictable New England prep school. It can be a little stuffy. They brought me in to kind of shake things up,” Olenn says.
Since he started in July, he’s helped produce a pair of comic-book style school reports. And now this video. He acknowledges, “The bar is getting a lot higher as we go along.”
How did Olenn’s daughters react? He played audio of the song for them one recent morning on the way to Moses Brown, where they’re going to school themselves now. “They love it. That actually was my first big litmus test,” he says. “After it was done, my 8-year-old said, ‘That is awesome.’ So I thought, ‘OK, we’re cool. We’re going to be alright.’ ”
This article was originally published on January 26, 2015.