Hillcrest Alumni – Looking back at Hillcrest High School, with gratitude

August 8, 2023

Way back in 1988, Dr. Elsie Walker had a shaky start at Hillcrest High School. At four-feet-five-inches tall, she literally didn’t look physically ready for high school, let alone emotionally prepared. Her parents were recently divorced, and she felt timid about moving from Berkeley Middle School to the “big school.”

One hour with Mrs. Radford changed everything for Elsie. She was auditioning for the school choir as a soprano. Mrs. Radford quickly realized that Elsie’s voice was much stronger and fuller at the alto range. She literally helped Elsie find a new voice and this was the beginning of her having a newly great life at Hillcrest High. Following that audition, Elsie thrived in many extra-curricular aspects of school life: the “Scat” jazz choir (led by Mrs. Radford), the Shakespeare Club (founded by Ms. Linda Arthur), the school orchestra and string orchestra (led by Mr. David Sidwell), the debate team, and several musical productions (ranging from The Pirates of Penzance to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat). Hillcrest High was a great home for Elsie academically too, especially for studying English literature, music performance, music history, and musical composition. After graduating, she honed her skills of artistic expression and appreciation, first through a BA at the University of Waikato (double majoring in English and Music), then a MA at the University of Auckland (in English), and then a PhD at the University of Sheffield, England (with a thesis on adaptations of Shakespeare). Looking back, she sees a straight line from everything she loved to do at Hillcrest High and the professional career she has now.

Elsie teaches at Salisbury University, Maryland (USA), where she has co-run the cinema studies program for 20 years. She is also Editor-in-Chief of Literature/Film Quarterly (LFQ), a leading journal of adaptation studies. When Elsie began at LFQ in 2003, the journal was circulated via subscription in over 30 countries. Now, under her leadership, it is part of the global open-access movement as a completely free online publication with thousands of international viewers every month (https://lfq.salisbury.edu/). Elsie recently finished her third book with a leading press in her field (Oxford University Press), the final part of her trilogy of books about film soundtracks. This book reflects her love of music and the transformative uplifting power of art, which links right back to her days at Hillcrest High School. The title of the book is Life 24x a Second: cinema, selfhood, and society (forthcoming this November).

Elsie remains short in stature (just on five feet!), but her time at Hillcrest High is a precious memory: she says, “that was a pivotal time in my life, and my teachers showed their belief in me when I needed it most. Now, as a professor of cinema studies and as a mother of two, I’m doing my best to pay it forward.”