High school students (finally) return to music rooms

Kaelei Whitlatch

Kaelei Whitlatch

Hi, I'm Kaelei and I'm a senior at Southmoreland. I'm a member of National Honor Society, Tri-M Music Honor Society, Concert Band, Show Choir, Highlander Choir, Musical Arts, Music Theatre club, The Future is Mine, Random Acts of Kindness, and Journalism. I love to play clarinet, write, and perform on stage. I plan to attend Robert Morris University with a major in Communications.
Kaelei Whitlatch

Dakota Coffman is heavily involved in Southmoreland’s music department. From being the drum major of the marching band to the character of Scuttle in this year’s musical production of the Little Mermaid, music is the center of Coffman’s life.

After the loss of the band and chorus rooms at the beginning of the school year, Coffman’s musical life teetered over.

“It was a totally wild experience,” Coffman said.

For nearly 6 months, Southmoreland music students did not have classes in their music rooms. Band students had classes on stage in the auditorium, and chorus students had classes in an unused classroom.

Mold and mildew were found in the band and chorus rooms at the beginning of the school year due to a water leak. (More information on the situation can be found in earlier Tam O’Shanter coverage).

Southmoreland band teacher Mrs. Jamie Gore and her students made the stage their classroom for the months without their normal space, as written about in earlier coverage, but after months of waiting for a carpet replacement, they finally returned “home.”

“It’s a relief for everyone to have a sense of normalcy,” Mrs. Gore said. “The students seem pleased to be back, the room is great and bright, and it is fantastic that everyone has a practice space. Although it has taken a little longer than we anticipated, the finished product has been worth the wait.”

“I’m most excited about the practice rooms being back,” Coffman said. “Having a quiet, private place to practice alone is so amazing and relaxing, and I’ll definitely never take them for granted again.”

Senior flute and piccolo player Ila Greenawalt, agrees, as she and Coffman will both be studying music education as a future career.

“When we weren’t in the band room, it was hard to get a quiet space to have the intense practice sessions I’m used to having,” Greenawalt said. “I was getting distracted by everything else going on around me in the auditorium. I can finally get back to being focused and productive.”

Greenawalt also is excited to have locker space back.

“I’m so happy we have access to lockers again because I feel a lot safer having more than just a table to set my personally owned instruments on,” Greenawalt said. “I can put all of the music I have been carrying around every day in a locker, so it makes my books a lot lighter to carry around.”

The “new” band room not only features new carpeting, but a new layout of seating. Instead of students playing directly towards the front of the room, the seating has been rotated to face the corner and entrance of the room.

The view of the band room from the back doors.

The view of the band room from the back doors.

“The inspiration has been from an idea I’ve had for the past couple of years. It kind of worked out because I got to hear the group play before we were back in the space. It is technically better for hearing as sound isn’t being played directly into a wall and sound isn’t being kicked back. I also like being closer to the door for safety reasons,” Mrs. Gore said. “The only downside I see is having to turn our heads a little to the side to see the whiteboard, but the majority of the time it is more beneficial to be playing into a good aural space.

“I think it makes us sound more appropriate size wise, when you’re in a smaller room with low ceilings you want the group to sound like what they would be during performance. I also like the setup of the percussion in the back as it gives more space for rehearsals such as small ensembles.”

Both Coffman and Greenawalt were “extremely grateful” to have Mrs. Gore there throughout the entire process. From the “banitorium” to their safe space of their room, Mrs. Gore has been there for her students through it all.

“I’m so thankful for Mrs. Gore, I realize it’s been a huge weight on her shoulders and she’s been toughing it out for us while still keeping our classes as positive as ever,” Coffman said. “Despite the droopy mood the ‘banditorium’ has to it, she really made it feel more like a home every day for us and kept a positive environment for her classes despite the difficulty of relocating constantly.”

“Honestly, if we didn’t have Mrs. Gore through this entire process I’m sure it would’ve been a lot worse. She shared our anger and frustration, but she was able to always see the positives of the situations we were put in,” Greenawalt said. “We’ve come head on to so many obstacles, and she’s the one that pushed us through. With all of the stage set ups, tear downs, hopping from room to room and some days not even knowing where we’re gonna be, she helped us through it all. Without her, I don’t know that we would be back in the room yet either.”

The band room on November 21

The band room on Nov. 21, 2018 (above)

The first view when entering the band room.

The first view when entering the band room, Feb. 11, 2019.

About Kaelei Whitlatch
Hi, I'm Kaelei and I'm a senior at Southmoreland. I'm a member of National Honor Society, Tri-M Music Honor Society, Concert Band, Show Choir, Highlander Choir, Musical Arts, Music Theatre club, The Future is Mine, Random Acts of Kindness, and Journalism. I love to play clarinet, write, and perform on stage. I plan to attend Robert Morris University with a major in Communications.

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