School Cancels Mandatory Fall Ensemble Performance

Photo courtesy of Mr. Ross Mortensen

The Symphony Orchestra performing at last fall’s special program prior to Parents’ Weekend.

Traditionally, Choate has held a mandatory special program featuring student music ensembles on the Tuesday night before Parent’s Weekend. On the following Friday night, the concert is then performed for the parents. This year, however, it was confirmed by Mr. Stanley that Choate will not be having the concert for the students. This decision was reportedly made over the summer. 

The special program, which typically features Choate’s orchestra, wind ensemble, jazz ensemble, chamber chorus, festival chorus, and the Arts Concentration chamber orchestra, among other musical groups, run for approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Choate began this annual special program around 5 years ago when Mr. John Ford, a science teacher and former Dean of Students came up with the idea for the ensembles to perform for the student body and faculty before performing for the parents. Mr. Ed Maddox, the former head of the Arts Center, helped to implement this idea. “Although every term we have concerts that are open and available to anyone who wants to come, Mr. Ford recognized that few students tend to attend the concerts, and he felt like that was a shame,” explained Ms. Kalya Yannatos, the current head of the Arts Department.

Mr. Phil Ventre, the orchestra and jazz ensemble director, added, “I thought the program was a wonderful thing to do because our students love to play for their colleagues, and their colleagues love to hear them. Our student musicians here play at a very high level, so it’s very important I think for the school once a year to hear everyone.”

There were reportedly several reasons why this year’s concert was cancelled. “This fall, it was observed that it was going to be a very packed September, in particular with the special program we had not so long ago (Slut and Now That We’re Men) and initially there was another special program scheduled that same week,” Ms. Yannatos explained. “It was just going to be a very dense period in the calendar, and it was determined that this would be a year to take a time out from the usual rhythm of offering this program.”

There was also some concern regarding the mandatory attendance for students. “Although the initial intention was to ensure that students hear their talented peers, force  unfortunately made them take it the other way,” commented Ms. Yannatos. In fact, there is a common consensus among students that the mandated attendance made the performance feel less personal.

Reactions have been mixed. Sophie Hare ’18 agreed with Ms. Yannatos and Mr. Ventre. “As a member of the orchestra who practices at least 3 days a week, my hard work deserves to be showcased in front of the school,” she stated, expressing her disappointment. “We work really hard, and this performance is the only chance we have to show the community all that we have doing. It’s not like a play or student production where people just come.” 

Another orchestra member who prefers to stay anonymous, presented a different opinion. “To tell you the truth,” she said, “I think both orchestra members and students found it kind of annoying. It gave us less time to prepare for the ‘real’ concert for the parents.” Brian McGlinchey ’18 agreed, saying, “I think it gives students more time to prepare for the second performance and especially a chance to prepare for their parents’ arrival.”

Although there will not be a performance for the students, there will certainly still be one on Friday night. This program, despite being regarded as only for parents, is in fact open and welcome to everyone. “I obviously feel the disappointment of our ensemble students that they’re missing out on the chance to share their hard work and talent with a guaranteed everyone,” concluded Ms. Yannatos, “but I hold out the hope that everyone will show up for Friday’s performance, and our students will feel supported by a strong, robust audience of engaged listeners.”

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