The return of school concerts has been long-awaited by Matthew Wenman and Stacia Cammarano, the directors of Shadle Park High School’s music programs.
“Everybody’s missed all of this stuff, so much so that I think we almost forgot what it was like to be involved in these things, it’s been so long,” said Wenman, Shadle’s band and orchestra director.
Concerts are a “unit test” of sorts, said Cammarano, who directs Shadle’s choirs. The fundamentals are taught and learned along the way through selected pieces. Then there’s the concert, where students showcase that preparation and knowledge.
But when Wenman’s band and orchestra students had to learn pieces fully online last year, there wasn’t much of an end goal for the students with no concerts.
“We’ve had a huge motivational struggle over the last 20 months or so,” Wenman said, “because students quickly realized, ‘I’m going to learn this, but I’m not going to do anything with it,’ and that’s tough.”
Before last June, when the first concerts were held as students gradually returned, band and orchestra hadn’t performed since November 2019 and choir since December 2019. Shadle Park’s first performance of the year was held Thursday as choir took to the stage. The Shadle Park High School orchestra will perform its fall concerts on Nov. 10 and band on Nov. 16.
“I’ve missed just being on stage and the adrenaline rush that comes with working up to this moment, having it talked up and then you get to show what you can do,” Shadle choir student Grace Shuck said after the performance. “I see the concerts as showing our team aspect, like how football players get to play the game and get a win. It’s kind of like showing our victory.”
Although Shadle’s choirs held virtual performances and Cammarano praises the students for the work they put in while at home, the circumstances were less than optimal.
“Kids got pretty tired of those pretty fast,” Cammarano said. “They were hard to do, exhausting, difficult to put together, and just not as satisfying as a regular performance.”
But the meaning behind the concerts might just be what they have missed the most: putting in the time and effort, learning the skills, seeing the results in their students’ performance as they put it all together in front of family and friends.
“Watching the students have a rewarding experience, having kids walk off stage knowing that they did a good job and knowing it was fun, having a great time … drawing some lines and connections there and going, ‘Hey, today was awesome because we just worked for three months really hard on this.’
“That’s, for me as a teacher, the most rewarding part.”
The concerts of this school year may just mean a little bit more as Cammarano hopes the community can forget about the turmoil outside of the Shadle Park High School theater and enjoy the magic that happens when months of hard work, dedication and cultivated talent come together on stage.
“It just shows all of our hard work, how much of a family we are and how much we’ve learned over the past quarter, as well as exploring the meaning behind the songs and portraying that in the concerts,” said Shadle Park junior Chloe Sands, who hasn’t performed in an in-person concert since her freshman year.
Students know things still won’t be exactly the same.
“I think it’ll be different due to the social distancing aspect and how many people can actually attend the concert,” violist Louis Andon Webster said. “But I’m definitely ready to perform again.”
So is Shadle cello player Sadie Haney.
“I’ve missed that feeling of accomplishment. … And I’m looking forward to seeing all of the improvement we’ve made even over all the time not being able to play together,” she said.
“Having the ability to perform and having that suddenly go away really makes you realize how much you appreciate this and why we really love to do this,” Wenman said. “It’s like you’ve been gone from a good friend for a long time and you’re finally reunited.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.