Above: Cole students Anne Truesdell and Nicolette Kirwin tell the School Committee why they think chorus should be restored as a class at EG High School.
By Elizabeth F. McNamara
After two years without an official chorus program at the high school, the School Committee is poised to restore it for the 2019-20 school year, allotting $52,000 for a .6 music position in next year’s budget.
That budget will be voted on by the School Committee Tuesday, April 9, and it will then go to the Town Council, which must pass the overall municipal budget by June 15. So, while it is not yet a done deal, School Committee members have responded positively to the increasing numbers of students, teachers and parents who have called for the restoration.
At Tuesday night’s meeting, more than a dozen people got up during public comment to speak in support of chorus, many of them from Cole Middle School, which has a thriving choral program with 80 students. That program has benefited from the choral programs at Hanaford and Eldredge, where another 80 students are involved this year.
Conversely, at the high school, only 14 students take part in the Chorus Club, which meets a hour before school and for which they get no credit. Chorus supporters say making chorus an elective class again would boost enrollment.
“East Greenwich is the only high school in the state that does not offer chorus at the high school level,” said Cole music teacher Jen Armstrong (who has been advising the high school club). She said statistics have shown students who participated in music scored 20 to 30 points higher on the SATs and that studies of singing in particular show decreased feelings of depression and loneliness. Several students echoed that point.
Eighth grader Julia Erickson, who has spoken to the School Committee before about her passion for chorus, on Tuesday talked instead about a very shy friend.
“After six months of rehearsal together, we were no longer just a chorus, we were a family,” said Erickson. “In that warm, loving environment, my friend found the courage to audition for solos, something they never would have done before. At the next concert, they are singing two beautiful solos…. It’s amazing how people can lift up their spirits with such a strong support system behind you. I really believe we need the chorus for kids who want to sing, for kids who want to be part of a team and for kids who want to feel like they’re a part of something.”
Parent John Kirwin said he’d told his daughter, a student at Cole, that she needed to be part of some team, any team. The team she found was chorus, which she fell in love with.
“I’m very disappointed that it’s not part of the program at the high school,” said Kirwin. “Everyone proclaims East Greenwich has a great school system…. I have a hard time agreeing with that … when the one team my daughter wants to be a part of is not offered at the high school.”