Andrew Arriaga leads a group of students at the 2013 Fort Umpqua Days local history pageant at Elkton Community Education Center.
I have taught music at Elkton Charter School for nearly three and one half years. Within the first year I decided that I wished to produce a musical theater production there. It is my understanding that before my arrival, elementary grade musical productions or “programs” as they are referred to in Elkton, were commonplace. In the past I have guessed that before my arrival, when Elkton was without a full time music instructor, elementary homeroom teachers exercised their responsibility to teach music by presenting short musical drama works rather than concerts of absolute music. I assume that the reason for focusing on dramatic music was that homeroom teachers felt more comfortable preparing a performance with a literary focus rather than a purely musical focus. My assumption may be wrong. It may be that Elkton has enjoyed some period of non-musical and/or musical drama activity.
Signs of such activity exist. I know that:
-Today, community members regularly refer to school concerts as “programs” despite my promoting them as concerts.
-The full time music teacher before me also taught drama and dance.
-At approximately the same time she stopped teaching she began directing a musical drama or “pageant” at a community center during summer time.
-There used to be a high school drama club.
-My first year, as a graduation project, a senior attempted to resurrect drama club and in doing so presented an evening of short plays.
-The play included a surprisingly high number of students, was well attended and was generally impressive.
-In the music library, I found several elementary level musical plays and a middle school play that was performed annually for some period of time when Elkton had a full time music teacher.
-All of my spring concerts for elementary grades have included a short musical play under the direction of an elementary grade reading specialist and musician. A traditional started several years before my arrival.
Sometimes it seems that my vision for the future has already been realized many times in the past. However, I often hear from community members about musical institutions they wish to see revived and never has a person mentioned musical dramas without me specifically mentioning it first.
This school year, as I’ve launched my project, I’ve been surprised that my new superintendent and second year business and technology instructor have expressed interest in supporting/promoting and directing, respectively, a musical drama. If I understood him correctly then the superintendent indicated that he wished to see a musical drama instituted at the middle school level as a means to excite students about being in middle school. When I asked the business and technology instructor why he would direct a musical drama he said it was because it he was in drama for four years at high school.
Their interest surprised me because I felt under the impression that although Elkton may have had a rich history of musical drama that perhaps community members had no drive to reinstall the art form at their school. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised by the sudden enthusiasm because the two people are both relatively new to Elkton.
I’m glad that these two people have shared their enthusiasm with me. It has increased my drive to revitalize musical drama in Elkton. This is important because creating circumstances of arts integration at Elkton Charter School is an objective of Ethos Music Center and my personal goal.