Call it a long intermission.
The theater and music programs of schools in the region depend on in-person practices and live audiences just as much as their athletic counterparts. Rehearsing close harmony via Zoom is no easier than doing attack drills from a distance.
For most of two school years, performing arts in local schools have had to contend with these challenges as well as the cancellation of live performances that students – and parents – look forward to all year long. ‘year.
But, just like varsity sports, the arts in area high schools are returning this fall with busy schedules and enthusiastic participants.
âI will say that despite everything, the staff and students have been incredibly resilient and positive,â said Cameron Todoldi, head of the Foxboro Public Schools music department. “They were able to overcome the difficulties,” she said, and “they will be able to make music together again.”
The Foxboro High Marching Band will perform in Friday’s home football game. Next month, the high school orchestra and choir will participate in the voice and string concert performing Schubert’s âMass in G Majorâ. November will see the Fall Jazz Festival and an exchange concert with the University of Massachusetts – Amherst.
âWe are delighted to present our performance on the 24th (September),â says Todoldi. âWe have a lot to come in the next few weeks. “
North Attleboro school programs faced the same constraints in the wake of the 2020 pandemic lockdown and last school year blended learning plan, but managed to survive.
It’s exactly like some of the characters in the System’s theater company next production. Jillian Gabriel, a high school English teacher and headmistress, said in an email: âWe operate as normally as possible, with the exception of wearing masks on stage. We are planning to organize a fall show in November; the piece is ‘Clue’ and we’re starting rehearsals (this) week.
North’s music program is also up and running, according to group director Thomas Rizzo.
âRight now, we’re running our full list of events for the year. Rehearsals, performances, fundraisers and events are all back on the program. We are incredibly happy to be working with our students again without the incredibly severe, though necessary, limitations and mandates of the past year, âRizzo said in an email.
The marching band were thrilled to perform in front of a live crowd for Red Rocketeer’s football matches, he wrote, and were able to rehearse indoors and outdoors “without a hitch.”
Musical performances are scheduled throughout the year, including a winter concert on December 9, a spring concert on March 24 and the Festival of Fine Arts on May 12.
And, of course, fundraising is also underway. The annual poinsettia sale begins October 23, and the music department’s annual 5K returns in May as a live road race after two years of virtual holding. (This year’s theme is âToons N ‘Tunes.â)
A difficult year
For arts professionals who run school programs, the past few semesters have been tough, to say the least.
âThe past year has been incredibly limited,â Foxboro’s Toldoldi said in an interview. “We weren’t allowed to sing or play wind instruments inside.” Playing outside in tents made the program “weather dependent,” she says. When they could move indoors, student artists had to maintain even more social distance than in the classroom. “Ten feet is really far.” And, she adds, parents told her they missed seeing their children play.
But, she says, unlike some districts, Foxboro didn’t just eliminate music education last year.
While the public concerts were canceled, âWe were able to do school performancesâ and virtual concerts with the efforts of its staff and Foxboro Cable Access.
The emphasis, she said, was on âwhat we can do, not what we can’tâ. Children and teachers “in 2020 realized how difficult it is to make music on your own.”
Still, she says, schools have maintained a high level of performance, noting that the famous high school Jazz Ensemble “didn’t miss a beat,” being named one of 15 finalists for the Essentially Ellington Music Competition and Festival. 2021.
Rizzo notes, âWe are incredibly excited to be working with our students again without the limitations and the incredibly severe, though necessary, mandates of the past year.
While there are still safeguards in place, the updated guidelines and the elimination of virtual learning have had a positive impact on our ability to perform and communicate with students. “
There are always constraints, however, âOur concert choir and concert orchestra rehearse indoors at a three foot spacing using masks and bells while performing according to DESE guidelines.
But, adds Rizzo, âwe’re finally able to do full group rehearsals with everyone in the same space at the same time. While hybrid and distance education options were needed last year, we’re incredibly happy to have everyone in the same space again. “
Even after the forced leave, Toolddi and Rizzo say, their students came back full of enthusiasm.
âSharing moments of musical creation with each other is what builds community and culture not only within our department but within a school and that is why our students and teachers do what they do. font, âRizzo wrote.
Even with masks on, Toldoldi says: âIt was really nice to get together. She noted that while it was an adjustment, “getting back on track,” the 2020 school year “was a different kind of burnout. It’s a good type of fatigue.