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Column: WHS orchestra program back to making music — safely

Traditional concert doesn't look to be on the books for this year, but performance still being planned

District 518 brownhouse

WORTHINGTON — The Worthington Middle School (WMS) orchestra program is once again buzzing with music created by students. Despite the now-familiar extra health and safety measures being taken in the orchestra room — such as the protective plastic barrier separating the teachers from their students and frequent cleaning and sanitization of instruments and equipment — students and teachers are excited to be back in the room, playing in a group.

“There have been huge leaps in learning every time students come into the room,” states Zac Paulsen, orchestra teacher at WMS. “Students are as excited as we are to be back performing in the group, even if we have limited numbers in the classroom.”

The music programs in the middle school have developed a detailed schedule for students in the ensembles that allows for them to continue participating while also limiting the number of students in some of the smaller spaces that the program has to use. Paulsen reports having less than half of the group in the room at any given time to allow for spacing between students.

“It was a learning curve just to get the students into the classroom at the beginning,” Paulsen recalls when thinking back to organizing a room and schedule for students.

Now, the department as a whole feels it has a much better handle on how to proceed safely. Its focus has always remained squarely on the students and their growth. As Paulsen says, “It is important that these students get a chance to express themselves and have their outlet. For our students, that outlet is music.”

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After many months of working through how to tune instruments while respecting social distancing guidelines and the annoyance of constant dry hands from the sanitizer and cleaners needed, the Worthington Middle School orchestra teachers are excited to look ahead to a performance opportunity for students.

“I have always been a person who looks forward to concerts,” reports Morgan Rukstales, orchestra teacher at WMS. “The concerts help to motivate students to continue improving.”

A traditional concert does not look to be on the books for this year, but a performance is still being planned. The orchestra department at the middle school is planning to record their grade level groups and make a presentation that will be available for all to view online in the comfort of their own homes. A tentative date has been set for mid-May, but more information will be coming to students and families soon. Paulsen and Rukstales are excited to showcase their students’ diligent work and improvement despite the adversity faced by students over the last year.

If students are interested in joining the orchestra program, there is a wealth of support available for the process. From schedule organization to the process of renting an instrument, staff have made the process as simple as possible and are there to help at every step.

Enrollment for orchestra in the 2021-2022 school year has already begun! For more information, contact your student’s school office.

Parker Sandhurst is District 518's communications coordinator.

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