Bach and Better Than Ever

Bach and Better Than Ever

Higher enrollment in orchestra and the Hockaday Theater Company brings benefits

 

CRAMPED QUARTERS Hockaday orchestra plays on, even while bumping elbows in the orchestra trailer.
CRAMPED QUARTERS
Hockaday orchestra plays on, even while bumping elbows in the orchestra trailer.

Junior Vivian Zhou walks into the orchestra trailer housing 77 girls, navigating her way through countless stands and instruments to find her seat in the strings section.

Meanwhile, fellow junior Gillian Meyer attends her Hockaday Theater Company class with 21 other girls, a number far larger than the average class size of 16 students.

Although large class sizes may be worrisome, Zhou, Meyer and their respective teachers, Fine Arts Department Lead Chair Ed Long and drama teacher Susan Hubbard, aren’t concerned about this year’s enrollment. For them, the benefits outweigh the potential negatives that expansion will bring.

Orchestra

While there has been growth across the entirety of the orchestra, the strings had a marked increase this year, with 11 new violinists joining the group.

Long attributes the uptick in members to a “particularly strong class of freshmen” who were previously members of the Middle School orchestra.

While Zhou also notes the addition of freshman, she also sees the increase in enrollment as a result of more exposure about the class.

“I know that some people who didn’t initially do orchestra joined it later because they saw all of our performances and ISAS,” Zhou said.

However, these increases bring a new set of problems. Right now, the orchestra is at its maximum capacity in its trailer and will encounter new spatial issues when it moves completely to the portables during the winter season.

Additionally, the annual spring concert is traditionally held in Hicks, but with the new size of the orchestra, Long notes that there would no longer be enough room for the Upper School audience.

Even with spatial issues, Long prefers not to hold auditions for the orchestra. “We’ve always been an outfit that didn’t audition and we try to incorporate all of the people who would like to be in orchestra,” Long said.

And this shouldn’t be a problem for long. The new orchestra building, set to be completed in 2016, will be able to hold the much larger orchestra, even without auditions.

For Zhou, the larger orchestra is more beneficial. “I like the bigger orchestra, because when your orchestra is too small, then the sound is really small also. Everyone really just has to work really hard to make up for [the] size,” Zhou said. “When you have a bigger orchestra, there’s a lot more things you can do with music and it’s more merry. We get to have more freedom in expression in how we play.”

Long agrees.

“You get a far plusher sound. We have 41 string players, so that begins to ‘sound like an orchestra.’ Having that kind of size enables us to have that big full string sound and have all these colors.”

Acting

Although the Hockaday Theater Company class is only four years old, it already has members from all across the freshman, sophomore and junior classes.

Similar to orchestra’s marked increase in enrollment, Meyer also believes that the acting class is becoming larger because of more awareness about the course.

“I think there’s been an increase of membership because more people know about it,” Meyer said. “ I think one of our biggest issues in recruiting people was that not a lot of people know about the Hockaday Theater Company.”

Hubbard also noted that the class built into the school day increased their exposure. “I think because we did some Y period performances, since it was during the school day, we found that a lot of people come [to those] rather than evening performances. I just think the word spread [that] interesting things were happening,” Hubbard said.

Meyer, who started taking the class for a focus in acting her freshman year, has seen the class expand from five people originally to the 22 girls enrolled in the class today. While she notes that the class is much larger than her other classes, the number of girls is definitely not a downside.

“Because it’s acting and not an academic class, the larger number of people is helpful and has made it a lot more fun for me,” Meyer said.

Likewise, the larger class brings a positive change in class atmosphere for Hubbard.

“I think it gives more of a team building process. This year has brought a lot of energy with everyone coming in. I feel so far it’s been really positive influence on the whole class,” she said.

In contrast, a smaller class could bring some unwanted pitfalls. “When you have six or seven or eight kids in a class, [the class] is so small and intimate that sometimes maybe [students] would feel like [they] might not want to try something new,” Hubbard said.

Additionally, a smaller class means a smaller variety of pieces that the girls can perform. During Meyer’s first year in acting, there were only four other girls in her class.

“We didn’t have enough people to do [a one act] so we did scenes instead,” Meyer said. However, with a larger class, “more people have been able to do more things,” according to Meyer. The class staged a full length one act last year.

This year, because of the class size, the students have the ability to explore a variety of theatrical options, according to Hubbard.

“We’re really flexible in the way we do it. We can have a couple of four or two person scenes, and we can really be able to tailor everybody’s dramatic needs,” Hubbard said. “I think that’s another reason why the class is going to work so well is [because] they are able to design their own interests and work at their own level.”

Additionally, the class plans to explore monologues, Shakespeare’s acts, and different genres such as comedy and more dramatic recitations. The class is set to perform a collection of these pieces on Dec. 10 during Y period.

But what if the class becomes too big?

“Our goal is eventually, when we get a lot bigger, [to] split it into maybe a freshman and sophomore class and a junior and senior class,” Hubbard said. “It’s one of those things where we are taking it one day at a time, but we’re very pleased that it seems like people are really interested in being in the acting class.”

– Sunila Steephen