The Purpose of Performing Arts and the Ensemble Grade Boost

By: Kyle Lin (283)

There is a vague awareness of the performing arts department at Central, but many people are only aware of them due to morning rehearsals or the seasonal concerts that are held. So what is the purpose of the music department at Central? The head of the music department, Mr. Blazer, says the purpose is to “allow people to have a deeper connection to music and to foster a lifelong love of playing and listening to music.” For Ms. Gruzwalski, better known as Ms. G, the choir director, the department serves for “providing arts culture at Central High School,” mainly because Central is known as an academic magnet school where people don’t consider the culture of arts. 

For the band director, Mr. Franchetti, Central’s art department focuses on improving students’ musical abilities, learning to work with others, and “fostering their development as music students.” The students frequently find solace within the community that the music department provides. Many find the music department welcoming and find many friends within the community. Although the orchestra organization isn’t particularly unique. As Angela Phen (284)  puts it, “you can tell that there’s a community between the students, so it’s nice!” Justin (282) claims that he’s “found [his] home here.” Central’s orchestra is “compatible with people in different skill groups,” says Mandy Jiang (283), which adds to the sense of community. However, Anglea Zhu (282) cites the variety of skill levels as the reason “[they] can’t play difficult music.” 

Although people clearly share a love of the performing arts within the program, it’s undeniable that the honors grade boost for being a part of any of the performing arts for a period of three to four years is a great motivator. Many people outside of orchestra find themselves unaware of the boost it provides. Tina Lin (283) and Natalie Le (284)  both reacted with surprise at the fact that people received honors credit for having orchestra as one of their six classes. Despite the clear benefits of the grade boost for students within the performing arts programs, some may question whether it’s fair. What if people do not practice? What if they don’t show up to every rehearsal? Perhaps the sentiment is that orchestra isn’t as challenging as a full class, mainly because we don’t usually play challenging music. 

The students within the ensemble share an opposing view on the issue. Mandy Jiang says “there’s a lot of work that goes into maintaining an orchestra, people do a lot of work to get the grade, and there’s nothing unfair about it as people can pick up an instrument when they come into Central.” Furthermore, Angela Zhu notes that “people get in through audition” and “it’s an extra class” which adds to the “work that needs to get done.” Thus, people who gain the boost are usually quite experienced. Angela Phen also adds to the sentiment, stating, “we are expected to practice, be there for 45 minutes almost every day, stay after school for performances, and get a grade, so it acts as a regular course.” Particularly if an individual isn’t kicked out, then the boost “reflects the amount of work you have put into a group,” says Justin. 

The music directors share a similar sentiment, perhaps put best by Mr. Franchetti, that the idea that the honors boost requiring “approval” would need “a very concrete standard would need to be established for something that needs a lot of differentiation.” Ms. G also acknowledges that people shouldn’t be “penalized for someone starting later or not grasping music as quickly as someone who has done music for all their life.” Thus, it’s often gauged on

effort and improvement. Although it’s impossible to gauge the reality for every individual member, people who are not dedicated often either harm their grade with the boost or quit before the boost takes effect. Ms. G also adds that “people are quick to say that the arts are not a priority for education,” yet according to Mr. Blazer, it’s one of the only disciplines that “stimulates two regions of the brain at the same time.” He asks people who find the grade boost unfair to reflect on the fact that what we do in the music program is “just as complex and rigorous as other courses” While “every other core subject doesn’t have to advocate for their existence, music is always the first to go when it comes to budget.” However, Mr. Blazer would like to note that the administration at Central and much of the community, are highly supportive of the arts, which isn’t the case at many schools, and in that sense, we are quite fortunate. 

Even a student outside of the music program, Natalie Le, asks her peers to “consider the amount of time and energy that their school work takes every day and compare it to if they had additional responsibilities,” like orchestra or band. The grade boost isn’t the leading motivator to participate in the music programs, but rather it’s a love of music that cannot be put into words Ms. G says after being asked why she loves music, “you just do.” At the end of the day, that inarticulable love for music is the primary drive to play in ensembles and the grade boost is ultimately a reflection of that effort in the eyes of many.

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