Highland Park High School performing arts teachers and students have managed to persevere with creativity and flexibility despite the many pandemic challenges that emerged during the past year.
At the start of the 2020-2021 school year, the musical conductors and directors at the high school understood the importance of continuing a robust arts education program for their students after months of artistic isolation.
“For students especially, music is one of the things that has been missed the most,” fine arts department chair Natalie Walker said.
Six-year band member Saif Saleh, a senior French horn player, echoed that sentiment: “For the time we had off. . .it was pretty terrible.”
“Education is going to be able to continue because the kids want to,” she said. “There is a want and a willingness to sing and to play and to perform.”Natalie Walker
While the fine arts landscape has changed dramatically with COVID-19 modifications such as reduced rehearsals, online concerts, and several cancelations, students have recaptured some sense of normalcy this year.
“All of this is better than nothing at all,” Saleh said.
The theatre and music department presented a rendition of the musical Shrek in November using transparent plastic masks modified to allow for singing and visibility.
For the first time, the Highland Park choir hosted the annual winter concert outdoors at the high school’s stadium, with a sound system and Jumbotron screen enhancing the acoustics and visibility of the masked singers.
The award-winning band choreographed marching routines this fall, played at the football team’s playoff games, and hosted a holiday concert. With students masked and distanced and using individual music stands instead of the usual sharing, the Highland Park Strings hosted concerts in November and December.
Students were grateful to perform, regardless of circumstance.
Being in quarantine, senior orchestra member Mira Aravamuthan said, “made me remember how much I love playing with my friends and in an ensemble onstage.”
Six HPHS students were named All-State musicians, one of the highest honors a Texan high-schooler can receive.
All three musical groups are preparing for UIL Solo & Ensemble in late February. While usually these competitions consist of live auditions, the format will be virtual this year, and students will submit videos of their performances so judges can work remotely.
The tenacity mustered by the HPHS Fine Arts Program is undoubtedly something to applaud, as are the accomplishments of the Highland Park arts’ students who have flourished and earned the pride of the community.
As to the future of HP Fine Arts, Walker is optimistic.
“Education is going to be able to continue because the kids want to,” she said. “There is a want and a willingness to sing and to play and to perform.”
Highland Park High School junior Juliet Allan loves to write and sing.