Above, members of the EGHS Chorus Club and Cole Chorus sing the National Anthem at the town’s swearing in ceremony last November.
By Suraj Sait
It took three years and plenty of advocacy, but when the new school year starts in just a couple of weeks, there will again be a choral program at the high school, with Caroline Scheff as teacher. She was approved by the EG School Committee in July after the panel made room in the budget for the $52,000 position.
With this hiring, the high school gains chorus as a class, something that was absent during the previous three years. No longer do students have to show up at 7 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday, blurry-eyed and weary. Now, they will have it integrated into their schedule as a class running for over an hour each day.
“It is necessary to have a chorus class during the school day to create and sustain a choral program,” said Abby White, a strong chorus advocate who graduated in June. White founded the Choral Club at the high school after the chorus class was eliminated.
“Before- and after-school choral rehearsals do not provide students with a dependable rehearsal experience as a chorus class would during the school day, due to the many other commitments of high school students,” she said.
This change represents the culmination of many years of effort to bring back the high school choral program.
“Many letters were written to School Committee officials,” said Jennifer Armstrong, the Cole chorus director who voluntarily ran the choral program at the high school. “There were [also] a few parents at Cole that have students going into 9th grade this year,” she added. They advocated really well for us.”
Armstrong also credits student efforts. “I think the advocacy group was really big,” in reference to the Civic Action Club that was run by Abby White and another EG alum, Anthony Soscia.
“Abby White stepped up and worked determinedly to salvage and grow the program,” said Petranea Smith, who graduated with White. She had been a member of the ad hoc choral program. “She ran a chorus club where she met with students to arrange and sing music.”
“Our goal was to tell our story and advocate for restored funding for choral music education,” White said. “We advocated for the restoration of our choral program through performing and speaking at Town Council and School Committee meetings, libraries, and various community and school events.”
Such efforts kept chorus alive at the high school.
With the hiring of a high school chorus teacher, however, that puts Armstrong out of a (volunteer) job. It’s bittersweet.
“I’m kind of sad,” said Armstrong. “I like teaching that age. It was super hard to keep a program running at the high school in the morning and then coming here [to Cole] but it was worth it, totally worth it.”
She added, “I think I’m best fit for middle school just because I like that age too,” added Armstrong. “They’re [Cole students] starting to learn about new interests that they have and I feel like at that level my energy and motivation is suitable for that.”
Armstrong is also eager about the prospect of working with Scheff.
“I’m super excited to work with somebody else,” said Armstrong. “We’re going to go into our old library at the high school and look at all of the music from years ago.”
The excitement is shared by Caroline Scheff, the new choral director at the high school.
“I am so excited,” said Scheff. “I just can’t contain myself. I can’t wait for school to start.”
Surah Sait, who writes for EG News, is a member of the EGHS Class of 2020.