Music Department settles into safe performances, as Orchestra Fall Concert held


Courtesy Photo

Orchestra director Joan Crull, principal Martin Straub, vocal director Alex Underwood, band director Matthew Rome and assistant orchestra director Nathan Mark pose in front of the Concert Orchestra after awarding Straub with his KMEA Honor Administrator of the Year plaque at the Fall Orchestra Concert that was held on Oct. 13 in Gym A.

Due to new COVID-19 policies, the Music Department has been easing back into performances for the semester.

Out of Hays High School’s three musical disciplines, two of them – choir and band – spread aerosols at a high rate, creating safety concerns for everyone involved. Between that and Fort Hays State University revoking Hays High’s access to Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center this year, it was clear that the traditional Fall Concert would undergo some changes.

Due to the lower risk of the Chamber and Concert Orchestras playing as opposed to choir or band, orchestra director Joan Crull and assistant Nathan Mark were able to host an Orchestra Fall Concert in Gym A on Oct. 13, opening up both in-person and online access.

Crull said that she was appreciative of those who took the time to watch the work of her students.

“I have found that the students and the parents have been great,” Crull said. “I was surprised how many people came in person, and everybody followed the COVID protocol. The kids didn’t make one squawk about performing with their masks on because they wanted to sit close.”

At the beginning of the concert, principal Martin Straub was awarded his Northwest District KMEA Honor Administrator of the Year plaque.

The Concert Orchestra performed “Alegria!” by Bud Woodruff, “On the Pilgrim’s Road” by Jeffrey Bishop and “Chicken Foot Transplant” by Matt Turner.

The Chamber Orchestra followed with an unconducted opening of “Amadeus!” from Mozart’s Symphony No. 25 (arr. Hoffman), “Allegretto” from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 (arr. Longfield) and “Momentum” by Richard Meyer.

Many students, including sophomore Riley Kershner, said that performing together felt much better than when everyone was playing separately in quarantine.

“It was odd and a lot different,” Kershner said. “We just did scales, and we did some assignments to watch other orchestras, but we didn’t really practice with each other.”

Senior Sydney Walker agreed with Kershner, remembering the slew of canceled music events from the end of school last year.

“I missed concerts a lot, and I was sad that we didn’t get to do group contest, so I’m really excited to be playing with everyone again,” Walker said.

Crull said that the students and herself are “full of gratitude” for the fact that everyone can work together again.

“It’s the most wonderful thing,” Crull said. “We feel very blessed because many orchestras in the state haven’t even seen each other in person, let alone perform. Because we don’t let out aerosols, we are able to.”

The Music Department is hoping to host a Winter Concert in Gym A as well, integrating vocal and band into the one event or doing separate performances in place of a singular concert date.

In the event of the school going online, the students will utilize Zoom to focus on their music, often using breakout rooms to run sectionals, something that the music classes could not do last year due to all performance commitments being canceled.

All in all, Crull expressed that preparation is key the next time around.

“I’ve got it all ready to go; I can email it out in a second,” Crull said. “The kids know what to do.”