Orchestra Students Miss Weeks of Classes to Play in Musical
Junior John Wood plays the bass in the musical on Feb. 9 / Credits: Adah Svetlik
The clock strikes midnight for orchestra students as they work to complete assignments and compensate for missed instruction after their February performance of “Rodgers and Hamerstein’s Cinderella Enchanted.” While some orchestra students agree that playing for the musical was a valuable learning experience, others worry that it has placed an undue burden on them and their teachers.
Orchestra rehearsals took place between Jan. 30 and Feb. 8, the two weeks before the first performance. The first week, students alternated between missing morning and afternoon classes, with full day practices on Thursday and Friday. The second week saw rehearsals ramp up, with both performing casts requiring their presence. (The musical was double-casted, meaning that there were two actors for most roles; each cast played one night of the musical.) In total, orchestra students missed six half days and three full days of classes. Attendance at the rehearsals was mandatory and graded.
“We knew it was coming for months,” said Christopher Alberts, the Walls orchestra teacher. “We informed faculty and students to prepare to be out of class for the time period.” He urged students to speak to teachers, make arrangements for make-up work, and to get ahead of assignments when possible.
The orchestra students, though, had no choice in their participation in the play. Teachers working with the production made the decision once the play was selected that the student orchestra would be the best fit for the musical’s instrumentation.
Faculty have made substantial efforts to support orchestra students — one student acknowledged the assistance Mr. Alberts offered in handling potential issues with teachers after missing classes.
Many teachers were flexible regarding the workload and absences, and helped students catch up with their peers. Trumpet player Ian Springer, a sophomore, found his teachers to be understanding of the orchestra’s circumstances. “I really appreciate how my teachers have continued posting assignments in Canvas and given me extensions when necessary,” he said. “For example, I appreciate how Ms. Kelly took the time to review a lesson that I missed with me and make sure I understood the content.”
Still, there are some areas more difficult to prepare for than others. “I felt that a bunch of classes like AP World and Chemistry require physically being in class in order to do well, and I’m feeling the effects of being absent in
the week following the play rather than during the play itself,” percussionist Gideon Ratke, a sophomore, said. “I feel like Mr. Alberts gave us everything he could, but given the time constraints there was a lot of anxiety catching up on late work.”
Other students echoed this sentiment, with missing instruction presenting the foremost challenge rather than overdue assignments or testing. Not all teachers have the time to go over lessons with absent students, especially when considering the amount of content students missed as rehearsals progressed.
The musical challenged orchestra students academically and in the theater, but their perseverance proved remarkable. As those who witnessed it can attest, their performance was a highlight of the production. Mr. Alberts commended his students, saying, “I think they absolutely killed it; it was amazing.” He continued, “Most people don’t realize how much work goes into preparing for something like a musical. Professionals in the real world would take months to prepare for a show. We did it in about six weeks, with about two weeks of actual rehearsal time.”