Violists Shawnia William, Yahaira Gonzalez, Kiki Simic and Dylan Stanton and bassists John Guthrey and Jason McMellen perform on the comfortable confines of the stage at Bueker Middle School, where their orchestra class was located third quarter in the aftermath of a fire at MHS. Band class was moved to the BMS band room.
Music is something that many people hold near and dear to their hearts. The MHS music department, with the help of directors Michael O’Neill, Jordan Summers and Sara Summers, plays to that strength.
Much has happened this past year, including moving the band and orchestra to the middle school after a fire closed the main classroom building at MHS.
“It was very difficult for the band to learn how to play and develop as a band,” Sara Summers said. “It was a lot harder because we were limited on space.”
Jordan Summers said the orchestra didn’t face as many problems as band since the orchestra musicians were used to performing on the stage at BMS.
“I don’t think it affected the learning of students,” Jordan Summers said. “Every single one of our high school members has experienced having to play on the Bueker stage for at least four years.”
The choirs weren’t moved to the middle school, but vocalists did have to combine three choirs into one, which caused difficulty.
“It was hard for me to focus on the needs of individual students, and I could only focus on the needs of the group,” O’Neill said.
With different classes spread in five buildings across town, kids were responsible for transporting themselves, if they could.
“If they could drive, students would just drive themselves where they needed to be,” Sara Summers said.
“The kids who could not drive themselves had to squeeze on a bus with other kids, and it was tight,” Jordan Summers added.
Not everything about the move to Bueker was bad.
“It was really nice to have everyone in that building for all the eighth-graders to hear and see us working every day,” Sara Summers said. “I didn’t have to travel to a different building every day, and it was nice.”
Band and orchestra were not the only ones who had something good come out of the schedule change.
“The biggest perk of it was not having to have as many extracurricular practices with everyone at once,” said O’Neill, who held in-person classes first and second hours daily.
However, an issue that came up with choir members who were taking dual-credit classes scheduled those same two hours, which made it difficult to attend practices.
“We had to work out a schedule where they could be here as often as they could,” O’Neill said.
All three directors had to be flexible and come up with solutions when faced with new situations. For example, with the middle school and high school orchestras in the same location, the storage of instruments was troubling at times.
“We took our bass rack and cello rack over to Bueker and put them at the back of the stage,” Jordan Summers said. “The best we could think of for our violins and violas was to set up some folding tables to lay them on.”
Band also struggled a bit with instrument storage.
“We added some more shelves and emptied out some closets,” Sara Summers said. “We made room as best we could.”
Jazz band usually would be an Owl Time class, but with the move, it was impossible to keep it at that time.
“I could no longer have been their Owl Time teacher, and they reassigned every kid in jazz band to another teacher and had to make jazz band back into a zero hour at seven in the morning,” Sara Summers said.
For weeks, the entire music program practiced for districts, hoping to come up on top.
“It felt like everybody was prepared,” Jordan Summers said. “All of the orchestra and band either got an exemplary or an outstanding, which are the top two ratings.”
Choir members also were ready to compete.
“I think the average member of the program was prepared at a three and a half or a four out of five,” O’Neill said. “They all gave such good performances.”
“It was just really nice to go and experience districts again and watch them support each other,” Jordan Summers added.
This school year has just been one big obstacle, and the music program still found ways to excel.
“The most challenging part of this year was just having to pivot multiple times and find the patience and flexibility to survive,” said Sara Summers.