Artist of the Issue: Charlotte “Chip” Pontifell


Sophie Conroy '19

Chip practicing organ in the chapel.

A music prefect and dance captain, Chip Pontifell ’19 has fully immersed herself in the arts at Groton. Not only does she play the organ and the harpsichord––instruments that are not seen often on the Circle––Chip is also a graceful ballerina who has performed with the New York City Ballet (one of the most premiere dance companies in the world). Chip enthusiastically shares her artistic and musical experiences. 


How did you get start playing the organ and harpsichord?

I started playing the harpsichord because my dad has many harpsichords at home. We had a harpsichord and piano side by side. I would play the piano and switch seats to play the harpsichord. When I was three, I decided I liked the harpsichord better and I’ve been playing ever since.

I started playing the organ because during the baroque era, people would learn the harpsichord and organ together. For example, Bach played both the harpsichord and the organ. My teacher wanted me to be consistent with time and so when I was twelve, I started to learn the organ, too. In my hometown, we have an organ built by Ernest M. Skinner, who is actually the same guy who built the organ here at Groton. Now, it has become run down and rusty, so I’ve been trying to fundraise to get the organ restored. I’ve actually raised a lot of money and the organ will be back in good shape soon!

How do you practice your instruments at Groton?

My harpsichord and organ teacher works at the Longy Conservatory, and is the organist at Old North Church. He comes to Groton a few times each week to work with me. I practice the organ at the chapel, and I actually brought my harpsichord from home, which I keep in the practice room. 

How did you get into dancing?

I started dance because we lived in Manhattan, and my parents were great ballet enthusiasts. They took me to watch ballet programs at Lincoln Center when I was only four or five. I fell in love with ballet and wanted to be on stage. I became a serious ballerina when I was seven or eight, and enrolled in the School of American Ballet, which is the feeder school for the New York City Ballet. There, I took three or four hours of lessons after school as well as rehearsals for all the performances. Being at the School of American Ballet, I got to perform with the most famous dancers in the world. I’ve performed in over 200 pieces, including Sleeping Beauty and the Nutcracker at the Lincoln Center.

What are some of your favorite memories in dance?

I’ve made a lot of really good friends from the group. It’s a great privilege to work at the CPAC as it is a professional, high quality stage. I’ve also been very lucky to choreograph and design my own performances, which is not possible at many other places. I love the freedom of being in a small group and choosing what pieces to do, instead of following someone else’s directions. 

What are your plans for music and dance this year?

I’m not completely sure yet but I’m definitely planning on a senior recital in the spring including  both harpsichord and organ repertoire. I’d also love to put together a performance of the dance pieces I’ve choreographed here. I’ve incorporated different interests of mine into my choreography and performances, including appearing lights and color-changing scarves. I also choreographed a dance to a GloMonCho’s song when they performed live. I might work with them again this year. 


Will you continue playing the harpsichord and organ  and dancing in college?

I’ll definitely continue playing the two as they’re a passion of mine. I don’t plan on dancing professionally, but I definitely want to keep choreographing.