Music Program Participation Dwindles



By: Andrew Vester ’17

Drums sound, strings vibrate and clarinetists take their finally breaths before diving into a dramatic piece. This is the daily scene in the recitals for the music programs at Staples.  The Staples High School music programs have long been recognized for their success. Whether it be the Symphonic Orchestra’s bombastic performance of West Side Story, or the Orphenians rendition of the national anthem at Yankee Stadium, they’ve always been a focal point of the school. However, the participation in these programs has been dwindling in the past few years.

Many students are ditching these programs, and their musical careers, in favor of other interests. Rory Steele ’17 is one of these students.

“I dropped out of the music program at Staples because I just really wasn’t interested in playing the cello anymore,” former cellist and Orchestra member Rory Steele ’17 said. “Dropping Orchestra, for example, gave me a chance to take AP Chem, a class I really wanted to take, so I was happy I got the chance to take it.”

For some students who dropped out of Orchestra, it wasn’t such a black and white decision. Patrick McCarthy ’17, a former cellist, said that he “does miss Orchestra,” but he thinks he made the right decision.

For other students, dropping the class was their only option. Due to the limited number of periods in which there are music programs, overlap between academic courses and the musical programs creates an issue for students.

“I dropped out of Orchestra because I needed to drop AP Chinese, and the only honors Chinese class available was during the period of Orchestra,” violist Ben Shmaruk ’17 said. “However, I take a self study Orchestra during my free, so I still play, I’m just not part of the big class.”

There are other students still who, although they play instruments outside of school, chose not to participate in the music programs at Staples because of the time commitment.

“I didn’t have time to balance jazz band with school and my sport, so I decided not to,” Jake Greenwald ’19 said. “There is a new rule with jazz band that requires you to be in school band, and I wasn’t willing to do that.”

For many students, however, the music program remains one of their favorite classes in their schedule due to its relaxing nature and stress-relieving abilities.

“A period where a student can effectively put aside stress and anxiety is very helpful at a school like Staples,” Claire Seo ’17, a violinist, said.

Will Rosenthal ’19, a percussionist and guitar player, agreed with Seo on this topic. “I am usually pretty stressed about school, so to play in the middle of the day for 50 minutes, it just gives me a chance to forget about all of that stress and just create and play music.”

At the end of the day, though, Seo believes that staying in the music programs is the right decision.

“Like any art, when one encounters a creative block, taking a short break helps to overcome it, but quitting entirely, I mean, that’s not even the solution to the problem,” Seo said.