Urgent: Support Easthampton's Band Programs!
Urgent: Support Easthampton's Band Programs!
We are a group of parents and community members invested in the Easthampton School District’s wonderful band program. While we are grateful for the many improvements afforded by our new Mountain View School K-8 building, we share strong concerns about the shortcomings of the space carved out for the middle school band's rehearsal and performance space. We understand that there may have been factors involved in the grant funding for this project that dictated what kind of practice and performance space could be built; however, the current situation truly does not appear to meet the physical space and acoustic needs of our district's highly valued band program. From review of the new building's layout, feedback from the current staff at Mountain View School, and reports from our children who are currently enrolled in the school's band program, here are some of our shared concerns:
1) SOUND: The current Mountain View band rehearsal space is directly connected to the gymnasium and the only separation for these two sound-producing activities is a two-inch moveable divider wall. This creates an enormous amount of noise pollution in either direction; however, this concern is particularly relevant for growing instrumentalists, who are working to learn the nuances of creating music, both individually and with others.
2) SPACE: The currently designated band practice and performance space housed in the Gymnatorium at Mountain View is simply not large enough to contain the entire middle school band program. Even at Whitebrook Middle School, the band room itself was not large enough for the whole band to rehearse in, and they needed to hold full rehearsals on the stage. Of note, the Whitebrook stage was considerably larger than the current Mountain View stage. In addition, we understand the school’s building plan was to some degree modeled after the music/band space at Sherwood Middle School in Shrewsbury, MA. However, at Sherwood, the stage was used for teaching general music, while the band room was actually placed behind the stage and separated from the stage by a concrete wall.
3) RETENTION: Without proper rehearsal and performance spaces for both our students and teachers, we run the risk of losing student interest in this amazing middle school music program, which feeds into our equally strong high school band programs. This issue also raises real concerns about retaining our talented teaching staff.
We are aware that concerns were voiced about the proposed Gymnatorium and Band room spaces prior to the start of the building's construction; however, the realities of COVID and other factors prevented a better solution from being put into place and construction went on as planned. Now our band program is faced with a scenario that will not suit their needs, and the Gym and Music educators will be battling each other with sound. As taxpayers in this district, we strongly feel that any student who participates in band has a right to have a space that is conducive to learning music. Just as if your child played soccer, you wouldn’t want them to have practice on a field that is cut into two sections, with one half for the kids playing soccer and the other half for kids playing football. It would be terribly confusing and they would inevitably interfere with each other’s growth and learning of their respective sports.
This is an exciting time for our small city of Easthampton, whose reputation has grown tremendously in recent years. As described on the VisitHampshireCounty.Com website: "Once one of the most booming mill towns in Western Massachusetts, Easthampton has been reclaiming its joie de vivre in recent years…Now the city boasts all the perks that come with being a cultural center – social, gastronomical, mixological, and musical, among others." Easthampton's school music program is a vital part of our city's cultural arts accomplishments and we all want it to grow and flourish for years to come - but without the appropriate facilities, as well as continued strong student and faculty participation, we run the risk of a negative outcome.
We are at a critical moment in the Mountain View School opening process when creative and flexible problem-solving skills might shift the course of our band program in a positive direction - before the elementary side of the school opens, and while the new building overall is still in its final stages of construction. We ask, as a unified voice, that our school administration and leadership teams carefully consider ways to mitigate the concerns listed above, with the shared goal of maintaining our band program’s strong reputation in the region and recognizing that the Mountain View School’s set-up has strong ripple effects that extend into our wider Easthampton community and beyond.
Thank you for your consideration and we hope we can partner together to find a workable solution for all involved!