No Fall Concert, No Love for the Arts

On October 14 in an article by Nicole Yao ’18, it was reported that the annual fall ense
mble concert would be cancelled this year. Usually, this concert is the only opportunity in the fall term for music ensembles such as Symphony Orchestra, Festival Chorus, and Jazz Band to perform for the entire student body. For many of us in the music program, the report was the first we had heard of the cancellation. Unsurprisingly, this announcement was shocking and upsetting for many musicians on campus. The repercussions of what is an extremely frustrating and disappointing administrative decision have reverberated throughout the PMAC and instigated widespread discussion within our community. These discussions have brought to light the way the Choate community and administration often undermine the music program.

I am one of the students at Choate for whom music is a substantial part of their daily schedule. Those of us who are in the Music Arts Concentration program (Arts Con) devote countless afternoons and many evenings to what is an extremely challenging and often emotionally draining discipline. Only those who have made music a priority in their lives could withstand the requirements of being a member of ArtsCon: We are required to practice four times a week for at least two hours each session,  perform especially difficult music at recitals or at school meeting in chamber groups, and be a part of at least one Choate ensemble such as the Symphony Orchestra or Chamber Chorus, which meet up to five hours per week during the evenings. 

Sadly, the recent cancellation of the fall concert has left me feeling that the level of dedication that we have to our artistic specialties is receiving less and less acknowledgment from the student body. The fall concert is unique in that it would have been mandatory for students to attend.  Unlike certain sports games or theatrical performances, music concerts at Choate often fail to attract significant audiences. Thus, the fall concert is often the biggest concert of the year — at least according to attendance — for many of Choate’s music ensembles.

Illustration by Norman Peng

Illustration by Norman Peng

I understand that many people find classical music boring, but as a matter of providing a truly comprehensive educational experience, Choate should seek to teach the student body how to appreciate many different forms of expression, even if it means going against the mainstream. One only needs to recall

the student body’s thunderous reaction to Annett and Kaki’s performance of the virtuosic duet “Caeser” during school meeting several weeks ago to be reminded of the power of classical music. Many of the students in the audience would not have witnessed such a riveting performance had it not been at a mandatory school meeting. It is truly disheartening that students have trouble listening to classical music for two hours when they have no trouble spectating a football game that can last considerably longer than that.

Since we garner limited enthusiasm from the majority of the student body, it is important that we feel supported by the Administration through adequate concert opportunities and funding. Unfortunately, what we experience couldn’t be more on the contrary. Thanks to incredibly passionate music faculty and past years of administrative support, Choate has crafted one of the best music programs within our league of boarding schools, if not the best. In recent years, however, the Administration seems to have put such a stellar program on the backburner, not only by cancelling a huge performance opportunity this fall but also by not allowing ensembles to go on tour.

It is clear that the Choate Symphony Orchestra is not — or should not be — your typical, mediocre, and underfunded high school band. The orchestra has toured extensively in Europe and Asia and performed as invited guests at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Great Wall of China, and even the White House. However, this year will be the second time in recent history that the Choate Symphony Orchestra will not tour internationally. Instead, the Chamber Chorus will tour in Scandinavia. In the past, the two groups have been able to tour together rather than have to forfeit one for the other. Even the possibility of the orchestra performing domestically is in jeopardy, further suggesting an administrative disregard for the music program. At the very least, the School shoulf strive to support the music program on campus — but even this level of dedication seems too demanding of the current Administration. It’s beginning to feel like Choate is giving up on our program. This is especially hypocritical when a huge poster is hung in the admissions building touting our musical accolades.

What can we do to gain the attention of the school? This maddening question has driven many of our most passionate student musicians to the brink of insanity. For now, we continue to practice diligently, hoping that we will provide our audiences with only the best music we can offer. So please, if you’re reading this, give us a chance, open your mind, and attend our Parent’s Weekend concert at 7:30 PM on the PMAC main stage on Friday, October 28. Please come and support David Park ’17 as he performs “Rachmaninov’s No. 2 Piano Concerto.” Please come and support our guest artist, David Langstaff ’72, who will come play Bach with the Chamber Orchestra. Please come and support your classmates, your dormmates, your teammates, and all of your friends who are taking risks and bravely sharing what they have been working so hard on. Just give us a chance to show you what we can do. We promise that you won’t be disappointed.

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