In 2017, Dr. Cherry chose to take a different approach on their orchestra’s annual Halloween Concert. The story begins with a video of students searching through old yearbooks for pictures to place in a slideshow to commemorate the school’s 25th Anniversary. They notice the books are rich with pictures from the music / arts programs that their school used to have. The students reveal that the school has an old fine arts hallway that is believed to be haunted. They decide to visit the school on Halloween Eve in hopes of discovering what happened to the arts programs. The students embark on a spooky, musical journey where the Ghost of Fine Arts Past and other artistic ghosts enlighten them about the Assess Stress Monster that pushed the arts out of the curriculum. The Drummers For Change “beat” sense into the mind of the monster and returned the arts to the school.
The end of the show brings all of the arts programs together on-stage for a huge finale! Afterwards, a video on the screen shows the star of the play asleep in the media center and is awakened by her ELA teacher (who happens to be the Assess Stress Monster) in the show! She realizes that the entire AnARTchy show was just a dream and that the arts are still alive at Mays High School.
While the outcome of AnARTchy was only a dream, it is well on its way to becoming a reality if we do not find a way to strengthen the artistic initiatives in our public schools. Over the past several decades, schools within the Southwest Atlanta community have seen a drastic decline in arts initiatives. Due to the school district changing from public to charter, principals have been given the autonomy to decide which programs to keep and which to eliminate from within their buildings. Unfortunately, many building leaders have opted to trade their music educators in for part-time core content educators in hopes of increasing assessment scores. These decisions have crippled the high school programs that once boasted high arts achievements that included representation at Georgia Music Educators State Conferences, Governor’s Honors, and All-State competitions.
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Needless to say, our enrollment has also dropped significantly. In 2016, ten 12 th graders graduated from my advanced orchestra class. However, I only received three incoming 9 th graders who that next Fall, of which only one of them remained in the program after the first year
Our school district is divided into clusters by high schools. Each high school has one or two middle schools and three to five elementary schools that feed into it. In the Spring of 2015, 80% of the district’s elementary music programs were abolished. Due to the strong connections that our orchestra program has made over the years with cluster administrators, four of the five elementary schools within our cluster chose to keep their orchestra programs. However, all but one of the band programs at the elementary level was eradicated.
After one of our parents, who is also an educator at the one elementary school that abolished orchestra within our cluster, saw AnARTchy, she encouraged her administration to reinstate their band program for the 2018 – 2019 school year. The school plans to reinstate their orchestra program in the Fall of 2019. While this may not appear to be a great accomplishment to some, we certainly see it as a step in the right direction. Our administrators are starting to understand the need for vertical alignment across the elementary, middle, and high school levels.
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Our arts coordinator, arts educators, and parents in attendance were so impressed with the message presented in AnARTchy that they requested an encore. We are currently updating the show in hopes of presenting the encore in the Spring of 2019. Our plan is to have our cast hand deliver the invitations (while in costume) to district office to ensure that the message is received.