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.
Shoshy Starr Collins
Natalie Van Kleef
Cheryl Bagshaw Mulvey
Mary Jo Kelleher
Jason E. Smith
Robin Koral Wright