OPED: Do Not Leave The Arts Behind


In this last, very difficult, year a number of neighboring districts and districts across the state used the outdoors for music classes, chorus rehearsals and concerts, and band concerts.  

They also held indoor drama events (straight theater with no singing) and, as spring went on, held full musicals outdoors. Other than the band playing at two football games and elementary chorus beginning outdoors in late March, our district provided none of these experiences for our students.  Our students lost out on so much.

The music-specialist teacher at the high school has been out on medical leave, and we wish her only good health in the months and years ahead.  While out on leave, our students had teachers for chorus, A Capella, and piano lab who did not have the background to teach these courses.  I would be surprised if parents would have accepted this if it were football, basketball, or another sport. There are many voice coaches and music specialists who live locally and who are connected to the community. It would not be difficult to find teachers to step into these roles who can support the programs and help students thrive.

With so much time lost for Performing Arts this year, we are asking the Superintendent of Schools, Pamela Beaudoin and the Manchester Essex Regional School Committee for the following take place for MS/HS next school year:

1) All Performing Arts teachers (subs or teachers) have the appropriate skill level and background to teach the courses they are assigned.

2) YMCA be brought back to run the middle school theater program

3) Theater at the HS includes drama fest and a full musical theater production

4) Drama fest and the musical theater program NOT overlap so the director can dedicate her full time and energy to each and so students can participate fully in both. She has said the musical will be changed to a one act play. This is not an acceptable option.

For a school district to grow robust Performing Arts programs, the programming at the elementary school must be strong.  Strong programs at the elementary level prepare students for the skill level they will need for gr 6+ and also garner interest so there are enough students participating in the upper grades to have full bands, choruses, and theater productions. 

Elementary students did not have band this year and all instrument lessons were on zoom.  The elementary music position at Memorial will become .7 again next year.  A .7 position ensures that you will need to hire someone new every two years which has been the pattern.  It is difficult to grow strong general music and chorus programs when there is someone starting new every two years.

With so much time lost for Performing Arts this year, we are here to ask that next year the following take place for Elementary:

1) Band and instrument lessons run typically next year, and that time be spent encouraging more students to participate who would have participated this year.

2) General music teacher at Memorial be a full-time position with the additional time being used to support the HS musical, drama fest, chorus and Soundwaves (if needed), and support the Memorial Fifth-Grade play and start a Fifth-Grade play at EES.

Our district currently has a .5 athletic director position with salary and benefits. We do not have a director for the arts.  This is a very large—and obvious—hole.

Make Performing Arts a priority in MERSD.

Signed by the following 111 people (parents, students, and other residents) of Manchester and Essex.

Tim Collins

Shoshy Starr Collins

Miriam Bradford

Davis Bradford

Rachel Rothe

Brian Rothe 

Judy Laspesa

Jane Stone

Jacque Chambers

Gerry O'Leary

Sarah O'Leary

Eric Vendt

Carolyn Vendt

Jenai Cohen

Saul Cohen

Nicole Olivier

Patrick Meehan

Ellie Wendall

Cole Olivier-Meehan

Alba Figueroa

John Costello

Jeff Conley

Natalie Van Kleef

Emily Deery

Amanda Frangioso

Marc Frangioso

Melissa Villa

Caroline Weld

Mark Weld

Stacey Friends

Allison D’Andrea

Peter D’Andrea

Adam Zager

Margaret Breuker

Jacquie Loughery

Ed Loughery

Edlira McCue

Art McCue

Cheryl Bagshaw Mulvey

Chris Lagathianos

Karen Strating

Sue Wendell

Josie Sarmanian

Rob Sarmanian

Melanie Oldeman 

Andy Oldeman

Lonna Brunner

Mary Jo Kelleher 

Megan Davis 

Scott Davis 

Alana Carpenter 

Todd Carpenter 

Matt Zalosh  

Alisa Zalosh 

Allison Moore-Smith 

Jason E. Smith

Aileen Murphy 

Shelby Siems 

Teresa Holland 

Elaine Quinn 

John Quinn

Dorothy Enos  

Molly Prinn

Rob McLaughlin

Michelle Notte

John Notte

Scott Friends 

Emily McCavanagh

Robin Koral Wright

Kate Lawrence 

Dan Lawrence 

Sheila Doherty

Wendy Sullivan 

Lisa Bartlett

John Bartlett 

Dorina Omari

Eric Blackman 

Wendy Blackman

Ana Stefanovich 

Sofia Sarmanian

Sylvie Oldeman 

Cooper Oldeman

Julian Friends 

Reese Tully

Owen O’Leary

Natalie Brunner 

Martha Davis

Hanna Davis 

Annabel Smith 

Maddie Schlegel

Molly Schlegel

Nathan Kelleher

Lila Carpenter 

Tess Carpenter

Kit Carpenter

Charlie Weld 

Dilyn Engelhart 

Amelia Donellan

Lila Mulvey 

Juliana Saunders

Vanessa Gregory

Chris Siems 

Caroline Quinn 

Gabriella D’Andrea 

Mary Callahan 

Robbie McLaughlin 

Aiden Cunningham 

Adelaide Notte

Matthew Blackman 

Sydney Bartlett 

Lucia Wendell

elementary school, manchester essex regional school committee, music-specialist teacher, director for the arts, general music teacher, pamela beaudoin, memorial fifth-grade, essex, tim collins, ed loughery, margaret breuker, adam zager, allison d’andrea, caroline weld mark weld stacey friends, marc frangioso melissa villa, alba figueroa