EAST PROVIDENCE — Count the hundreds of students and staff in the East Providence School System as among those delighted by the Rhode Island Department of Education announcement last week …
EAST PROVIDENCE — Count the hundreds of students and staff in the East Providence School System as among those delighted by the Rhode Island Department of Education announcement last week revising coronavirus-related restrictions allowing for enhanced daily music study and potentially larger scale performances before the end of the current 2020-21 term.
The Rhode Island Music Education Association heavily lobbied RIDE and the R.I. Department of Health to amend their guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic, an effort that in part led to the easing of protocols for school bands and choruses.
“All of the music teachers in the East Providence School District and the State of Rhode Island are grateful and relieved for the changes that have finally been made by the Rhode Island Department of Education,” said East Providence High School Music instructor and Director of Bands Marisa Silva.
“We have unfortunately gone almost a full year without any live band, chorus or musical performances,” Mrs. Silva continued. “The original RIDE regulations were very restrictive and have been detrimental to our music programs. The original RIDE recommendation was to suspend all band and chorus activities.”
The fifth grade programs in the district’s elementary schools was, in fact, curtailed due to the guidance. The middle school and high school programs were also negatively impacted, Mrs. Silva said, noting there was no marching band season, no in-person holiday or collaboration concert with middle school students and no musicals at any school within the district.
In total, Mrs. Silva estimated over 500 students haven’t been allowed to participate in live band, chorus or musical performances and some 700 students total saw their music education affected from the elementary level through the high school.
Key among the amended regulations is allow classes and rehearsals to maintain only six feet of social distancing instead of the previous 14 feet along with students wearing masks and using bell covers for instruments, which are provided by the school.
“The new amended RIDE regulations give us hope that we will be able to salvage what is left of this school year and have at least one performance before the end of the school year,” Mrs. Silva continued. “I’m happy to report the EPHS musical will begin rehearsals soon with the hopes of performing in some way to the community whether virtually or to a smaller masked live audience. The EPHS band is preparing concert music from home and in person in the hopes of a live performance before the end of the school year.”
Although live performances have to date been precluded, the bands and choruses in the district have been actively making music from the safety of students’ homes. Like the many virtual events this school year, the EPHS Music Department, according to Mrs. Silva, met the challenge of creating a virtual performance during the holiday season. Students recorded individually from home and submitted their recordings to their teachers. The recordings were then put together one by one to create the illusion that students played and sang together in the same place. At Martin Middle School, students submitted recordings of themselves playing Christmas songs and a video was created for viewing by the community. Riverside Middle School did a performance with in-person students via Facebook live that was also available to the public.
Mrs. Silva noted the efforts of the entire EPSD Music staff — Chelsea Anderson Elementary Band; Nick Hurd, Taylor Temple, Raffi Rachdouni, Amanda Corrente and Kathryn Davey Elementary Music; John Baldaia and Rob Rappa RMS and MMS Chorus; Mark Maguire and Sue Pimentel RMS and MMS Band; Maryann Lasorsa EPHS Chorus and Olivia Kleyla EPHS Bands — which has done “so much to keep music alive and well within our community.” She also acknowledged the backing received from the central administration of Superintendent Kathryn Crowley.
“We know with their support, the support of our community, and hopefully the continued support of RIDE, we will be able to rebuild our music programs and perform for our community multiple times throughout the year,” Mrs. Silva added.