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Fine Arts Persists

ARTICLE PUBLISHED IN THE SPRING 2021 MESSENGER MAGAZINE

Musical expression and the arts have been hit particularly hard across the globe through the COVID-19 pandemic, as choirs, orchestras, and arts organizations have had to cancel most events and performances. The Heritage Fine Arts department has been no different, but the teachers and students have worked hard to keep the spirit of art and music-making alive.

The elementary and intermediate schools canceled all live performances, as students must remain in their classroom cohorts. Instead, the art and music teachers travel from classroom to classroom with carts of supplies. The middle and high schools have still been able to meet for fine arts classes but under strict requirements.

The Fine Arts teachers shifted their focus to the classroom, hoping to squeeze out just one performance.

“We wanted to make sure what we were doing in the classroom was creating a positive experience and giving the kids a chance to just be together,” said orchestra director Laura Payne.

“Our teaching hasn’t stopped,” said choir teacher Erin Voiles. “It’s just our output into the community that’s different.”

Even still, they’ve managed to pull off several concerts this year: the high school jazz band performed in November and the band performed in February, a high school string quartet played alongside some Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra musicians for a Worthy Servants benefit concert, and the middle and high school choirs recorded their songs for a Christmas video.

This March, the Fine Arts department organized a virtual performance in place of the annual Pops Concert. High school orchestra, band, and jazz band performed in pre-recorded videos, and various choir ensembles sang live between videos. The visual fine arts teachers are currently planning an art show that will be open to students only.

The Fine Arts teachers have been incredibly proud of their students’ resilience and positive attitudes.

“My band kids tell me, ‘We’re just glad we can be together and play,’” said band director Brad Gregory. “They’ve adapted really well in spite of difficult circumstances.”

“Nothing replaces getting everyone together in the classroom,” said Laura. “Our students view what we do in the classroom differently now. It’s more valuable to them, and they’re happy to be there.”

Director of Fine Arts Cathy Bartemus recently walked past a music room and noticed the students were self-leading rehearsal because their teacher was in quarantine. She has been amazed at the students’ perseverance to continue making music. Cathy is also in awe at how her team of teachers has adapted.

“They were given an almost impossible paradigm to teach music,” said Cathy. “But the arts have not slowed down one bit at Heritage. It’s been a year of adapting, but these teachers have stepped up every single time. It’s been amazing to watch.”