The Arts at Washington

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Elsie Riester, Co-Multimedia Manager/Web Master

With the pandemic affecting the arts performances in and out of schools worldwide, Washington High School has seen a big difference in the amount of students participating in activities. From show choir performances to new music programs at Wash, things are really changing and may continue to change as well.

All teachers have had a relatively positive experience with having the students back in person again, and many expressed how excited they all were for live performances again. While schools aren’t 100% back to normal quite yet, it’s definitely improving in comparison to last year, where classes were held online

Peter Westphalen co-teaches six choir and show choir classes in total with Amy Farley. They have both seen the biggest hit in the number of students participating in their classes. “Certainly the number of people participating in the art has gone down dramatically. The awareness of the arts has been hit because of the lack of live performances,” said Westphalen. He mentioned that more people, including the students at Washington, have begun to value the arts more. Westphalen says, “The students being back in person has given me an appreciation for what we have here, having it been basically taken away at nobody’s fault for a better part of a year and a half. I want to add, I found that the students have a shared appreciation for being back.”

When asked about the changing number of students participating in her classes particularly, Farley said, “The numbers are down. We had to get rid of a choir and a show choir because we didn’t have the numbers to fill the spots.” While choir classes did take one of the biggest hits out of the three activities, Farley remains positive and confident that the numbers will once again increase. With having limited participation and performances for over a year, Farley thinks that people are becoming more aware of how much they love the arts. “With the arts, there’s so much building upon years and years of work, and so when you lose a year, skill level slides backwards really far. But I do think that people have a higher appreciation of the arts, because we lost a year,” she said.

Orchestra teacher Andrew Steffen said that the number of students participating in orchestra has stayed relatively the same, but he’s excited to share what the students have been working on in person, as opposed to practicing over a Google Meet. Steffen also believes that the pandemic has gotten people to reflect on what the arts mean to them. “It has gotten people on all levels to reflect on what the arts mean to them, including professionals for visual art, music, and now everyone has a chance to reflect on what the arts mean to them personally.” Steffen talked about a new class that was introduced this school year called “Digital Music.” The class is for students who want to learn how to use a Digital Audio Workshop to make music that sounds like it could be on the radio. This music program started at Kennedy High School, and was soon added to a variety of music class options at Washington.

The newest band teacher at Washington, Jared Wacker, has seen a major change in the arts as well. He mentioned that a major challenge is going to be re-developing those skills that were lost over time. “So students here at Wash, unless they were studying privately, really didn’t play for essentially the last 18 months. And when you’re working on a skill-based activity, like band, you’re losing out on that time, like you don’t progress, and for that long of time actually some people regressed a little bit,” said Wacker. When asked about how the numbers of participation have changed, Wacker said that a big change was the noticeable decrease in the number of students participating in the music programs. “There’s a lot less. It’s not just here at Wash, it’s everywhere,” he said.

After a major break from the arts, Washington is finally getting back to normal, and all of the teachers have very positive outlooks on the future for the music programs.