Thanks to all the educators, coaches, and families who are doing their best to provide opportunities for students to continue to learn and grow during this pandemic. We’re over halfway through this school year, and it’s amazing the ways in which educators have continued to support students’ academic and social-emotional needs. However, when it comes to some student activities, we find there isn’t an “even playing field.”
Performing ensembles — much like athletic teams — are centered on the experience of teamwork. We are delighted that the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has found ways to allow high-aerosol-producing indoor activities such as basketball and cheerleading to resume safely. Now it’s time to do the same for music, singing and theater.
Because the DESE restricts most indoor music activities, music educators in Foxboro have made heroic efforts to provide engaging opportunities for students. Unfortunately, during the cold weather, that means most student musical interaction is online.
Technology is simply unable to facilitate true musical interaction. If you’ve tried singing happy birthday via Zoom, you’ve noticed the audio delay makes it impossible to be in sync. And those amazing social media videos of full ensembles performing online — they are actually dozens of solo videos stitched together to simulate ensemble playing. In the end, it’s still children playing by themselves.
The playing field is simply not even. After-school use of the school buildings is prohibited for music-related activities, but allowed for athletic practices and games. High-aerosol-producing sports are allowed indoors, but singing is prohibited, even when following similar scientific guidelines to control the spread of the virus.
Much like athletics programs, music provides critically important social interaction, personal development, mental health benefits as well as pathways to scholarships and future vocations.
As parents of two student-musicians, one who is a senior with just a few months left at Foxboro High School, the time is now to call on DESE to give equal opportunity to student-musicians as has been given to student-athletes.
Erin and Collin Earnst, Foxboro