Shakerfest 2020, a socially-distanced concert, will take place May 1

K-12 musical arts students will make music outdoors for the community

Life during the pandemic has forced changes of every sort, including what constitutes a concert.

Shaker K-12 musical art students will redefine that term Friday at noon when they take their instruments outside and perform from their sidewalks. 

To prepare, K-12 musical students performed a soundcheck April 17 to test how well music could be heard throughout the community.

An email sent April 13 to all band students from the Shaker music staff explained the plan for the soundcheck and stated that students must follow all social distancing guidelines. 

“Our community needs to hear some music. Music students are awesome risk-takers. Lets have some fun making music. We are planning the first Shaker City-Wide, Socially-Distanced concert on Friday, May 1st , 2020,” the email stated. “To prepare for the concert we need all  music students, grades K-12, to give Shaker a ‘Sound Check’ this Friday.”

Another email was sent to prepare for a “warm-up and tune” event on Friday, April 24. 

“Let’s join together to make this week’s event even bigger. In preparation for the first Shaker City-Wide, Socially-Distanced ‘Concert’ next Friday, we need to warm-up and tune in our ‘Shaker Tunes’ event this Friday,” the second email said. 

Students from choir, band and orchestra will be invited to perform pieces in front of their homes. Students who participate will not follow any remote direction but will begin performing at noon on their own. 

Max Henderson, a sophomore alto and baritone saxophone player, was originally reluctant to participate in the soundcheck because he was worried no one else would.  

“I really didn’t want to be playing by myself, but I reached out to a friend who lived near me, and he was playing,” Henderson said. “We had a good time.”

Hannah Assel, a senior trombonist, thinks the concert is a good idea.

“I think it’s a cool idea for something for people to do and for people to hear music,” she said. “They wanted people to hear music, which I think is good, because it can bring people’s spirits up.” 

A district-wide email sent  April 28 invited families to participate in the performance this Friday. According to the email, choir students will sing the song “Mighty Raiders” while band and orchestra students perform the same piece. All grade levels and adults are invited to join. The emails included videos that taught the music. 

Senior Natalie Green believes the musical programs are important to the community.

“People always call the band the pride of Shaker Heights, and I think when you’re in band, you kind of forget how much people in Shaker appreciate the strength of our band program,” she said. “I think their initiative to think of something to do like that is a nice gift to the community at this time.”

Mario Clopton-Zymler, vocal music teacher at the high school, is looking forward to the event.

“The great part about doing this event is that it’s organic. The only designated outcome that I am personally looking for as a teacher is that the students participating, or the community that observes and hears what they hear, get some joy out of it. That’s the essential goal for doing something like this type of event,” Clopton-Zymler said. 

Other teachers who have helped with the planning of the event think it’s a great way to keep students performing.

“I am excited! I think it’s a great opportunity for the community to come together (to the extent that’s possible) through music. It’s also wonderful that the students will have this opportunity to perform, even if it is informal,” said Donna Jelen, orchestra teacher. “Pretty much all of our students’ upcoming performances have been canceled, so it’s just nice that they will have a chance to play for an audience despite the current challenges.” 

Shaker arts teachers were prompted to organize an outdoor event while Ohio remains under a stay-at-home order, put in place by Gov. Mike DeWine, until at least May 1. Their hope was to get people outside while still following social-distancing protocol.

“I think the purpose of doing this was to change everyone’s attitude from this quarantine and the coronavirus to something more lighthearted and do something that everyone can be involved in,” Henderson said. “Everyone loves music, so it’s nice to have everyone doing something that everyone can relate to.” 

Jelen said music helps bring people together and during this time of isolation, a concert will be beneficial to the community.

Clopton-Zymler said, “Music does have a way of bringing people together. It also provides much needed distractions and a change in activity and pace for people.”

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