Voices fall silent

A choral program in jeopardy


Kassidy Klopotoski

Kassidy Klopotoski’s metaphorical depiction of the disregard for choral singers at the middle school

ANNETTE LOVE, Contributor

Everyone loves to sing, even if they only do it in the shower. How many of you have been in a car with friends and family, driving down the road, singing along to your favorite songs playing loud enough to cause deafness? Music makes people feel happy.

How would you feel if the part of the school day that makes you feel most happy was removed?  What if tomorrow, they cut robotics, or art, or even the football program? That sounds crazy; it would never happen to football players. But this is happening to young musicians in Gloucester Public Schools.

O’Maley Middle School has cut chorus from their program of studies, and it needs to be put back. 

Students who come from O’Maley have the opportunity to choose their classes once they get to GHS. The purpose of middle school is to prepare students to be successful in high school and beyond. To succeed as a vocalist, students need to understand how music works, be able to read sheet music (which many students can’t do), and know how to use their voice in a way that is safe and healthy. Not providing students with early vocal training is like throwing them into the deep end when they get to high school music classes. 

The attention span needed to get the most out of each class also needs to be learned. According to a study from Florida National University, “Music activates both the left and right brain at the same time, and the activation of both hemispheres can maximize learning and improve memory.”

As a 6th grader at O’Maley, I took chorus. The 80 minute lessons spent doing something that I enjoyed taught me how to focus for a long period of time. The study also found that “kids that do things longer are more invested,” meaning that more years of practice would help students get more out of each class, and gain experience of how to act in a rehearsal setting.

Chorus is also an important class to promote mental health. A chorus class is a place to learn about things that interest you in a non-judgemental space. A chorus class is a place to take a break from pretending that you’re someone you’re not. A chorus class is a place to stop stressing about problems and deadlines and just make music. 

 “Students who spend more time learning something not only get better, but find more fulfillment in it,” GHS music teacher Cole Lundquist said. 

Because students choose to take music classes, they have the opportunity to meet people with similar interests. They have the opportunity to make friends. They have the opportunity to gain new skills. They have the opportunity to relieve stress.

Chorus was initially cut because of Covid concerns. Nearly everything else has returned to normal. Why deprive middle schoolers of this valuable opportunity?  

Other ensembles have succeeded much better at recovering from the pandemic. Between O’Maley and GHS, there is a substantial band program, which has nearly returned to the way that it was before. Why is this music program different from chorus?

A voice is an instrument that is free for all students. If there were programs in elementary and middle school for vocal training, kids who want to make music but can’t afford to buy an instrument would be able to participate.

While some say there are not enough students interested in singing to make a chorus class worthwhile, in actuality there are more than enough students who would like to take the class.

In a survey completed by 80 5th-8th graders, 32 students indicated they would participate in chorus if offered. That is forty percent.

It should also be noted that, of the students who said that they had musical experience, only 4 were from East Gloucester elementary school. A potential reason for this is that East Gloucester’s music teacher does not always teach 3rd graders to play the recorder. This is clearly an example of how, without forms of early music education, many students do not get to try learning things that interest them.

Perhaps most importantly, the health of the middle school chorus program is directly connected to the health of the high school chorus program, and the Gloucester public schools as a whole. If no one learns to sing in middle school, fewer people take music classes in high school, and smaller programs are the first to go when it’s time to cut the budget.

Rockport, Ipswich, Manchester Essex, Beverly and most other local high schools offer chorus as an elective. If Gloucester’s choral program isn’t as good as others, what’s to stop students from choosing a different high school? 

Since there is a teacher to teach, and students to study, the only question that remains is: why we don’t have a chorus class at O’Maley?