Performing arts department trying to adjust to drastic changes

Kristina DaPonte, Staff Writer

As the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic still continues to influence students’ lifestyles and experiences at school, many are looking at the future of their performing arts extracurriculars with hope.

When the end of the 2019-2020 school year was put on a definite hiatus to keep everyone safe, rehearsals for music and theater ensembles were ground to a halt as well. End-of-year concerts, productions and competitions were cancelled as teachers worked to keep their students’ creative minds flowing amidst their negative attitudes.

As a member of the NBHS band, show choir, and drama club, senior Laura Conde took the news of these cancellations especially hard. 

“It was definitely discouraging,” Conde said, “seeing all of the events we had worked so hard for getting cancelled one after another. When everything started getting cancelled, it was very disheartening.”

Many students, especially those heavily involved in the performing arts programs, saw their attitudes about school overall shifting. Some students found it harder to get through their academic periods and not have a rehearsal or two to look forward to at the end of their day.

“I feel completely detached,” junior Kyanna Morse said. “And these feelings seep into my mind and pushes this wave of ‘I don’t want to’ towards the rest of school because I don’t have my amazing performance arts teachers to guide me through.”

Last school year, performing arts students were feeling discouraged about their after-school lives being crudely interrupted by the pandemic. But now, students and administration alike are beginning to focus on the bright side of their circumstances and look for the silver linings amidst all of the unknowns. 

Lynn Souza, the director of fine arts for New Bedford Public Schools, hopes that students will remain positive about the future of performing arts.

“It is a bummer for everyone that things can’t just be normal, but we want to keep [rehearsals] going for the kids,” she said.

Modified rehearsals for most of the ensembles have already begun, with safety regulations put in pace to keep everyone safe. Choruses and bands meet outside on the school lawn and have socially distanced rehearsals, while the string orchestra is able to meet inside the school while following safety guidelines. All students and educators have been wearing masks and following protocol during their new normal. 

“I’m so unbelievably proud of the performing arts teachers because they want to protect the students, yet have them be happy at the same time,” senior Jessica Brito said. 

Brito described how modified band rehearsals with “phases” have been working, with woodwinds going to one rehearsal and brass players going to another, for example. In future phases, rehearsals between instrument groups can be combined.

“Mrs. Dandeneau, the show choir teacher, plans to have outdoor rehearsals ten feet apart,” Morse said. “This way is safe singing distance per safety regulations.”

As for whether or not the high school will put on productions and shows later in the year, this decision is still in the air. If our situations begin to steadily improve, ensemble performances may be a possibility. 

“Anything is sort of on the table. We want to get back to as much normalcy as possible, while meeting the guidelines that are changing,” Souza said. “We have our ideas of where we’d like to to go, depending on what we are able to do.”

Even if normal performances are not a possibility, other options are always available to the performing arts ensembles.

“Drama club set up a show last spring where Zoom was used to make a show about the platform, which was unique because it was kind of like watching a movie,” Morse said.

Performing arts students have expressed great amounts of gratitude for the opportunities they have been afforded during the pandemic. Going from a place of doubt of ever picking up their instrument again to being able to rehearse with their friends and classmates has been a long journey the students are glad they took.

“I am more grateful than ever to have opportunities to rehearse and perform again, even if it isn’t what we’re used to,” Conde said.