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FINDING HARMONY DURING COVID

by Nicholas Daoust ’21, #XBCorps

Xaverian’s music program hits all the right notes

If you know Xaverian Brothers High School, you’ve no doubt heard the saying “In harmony small things grow.” In a COVID-regulated school year, harmony has been hard to find, but Fine Arts Department Chairperson Dr. Robert Thorp still invokes this phrase to describe the Xaverian music program’s necessary shift in the face of the pandemic: “It’s with this that we continue to nurture music in our school and in the hearts of our community.”

Given what Dr. Thorp calls “the nature of the pandemic” as a respiratory risk, the first necessary action was deciding which instruments were no longer practical under new restrictions. “In adhering to the state regulations regarding wind instruments, Xaverian was able to shift all wind players to percussion for this academic year,” says Mr. William Ricciardelli, who teaches grades 7 and 8 music. “This has given students the opportunity to study various percussion instruments, such as snare drum and bells, as well as continue in building a strong rhythmic foundation that will aid them on any instrument.” And the transition to percussion was not an exclusively curricular shift; as Mr. Ricciardelli further explains, the new extracurricular drumline Hawk-Force-1 “provides students in grades 7-12 with the opportunity to participate in a unique ensemble composed of snare drums, bass drums, tenors, and cymbals.” Meeting on a weekly basis to practice formation drills for future Xaverian events, the drumline is an exciting “compliment to the Jazz Band and Pep Band.”

Choral rehearsals faced similar challenges, but Xaverian’s music program was quick to adapt to a new COVID-friendly environment. As Director of Choral Activities Mr. Murray Kidd mentions, state guidelines have prohibited indoor singing, requiring instead sufficiently-masked, sufficiently-distanced outdoor rehearsals. “X-Men and Choir have shifted and we have sung outside as much as possible,” says Mr. Kidd, who has begun bringing the singing ensembles onto the tennis courts for practice. Another of his innovative techniques has been mixing individual student recordings to create a collective track that mimics group singing. “Students have been learning music independently and we are preparing recordings that will be broadcast in the future,” he says. “It isn't easy recording music on your own as a member of an ensemble, but the guys are doing well and have a good attitude.” 

Curricular music classes have found as much success as the music program’s extracurricular ensembles. Finding the silver lining within challenging circumstances, Dr. Thorp says, “We are using this as an opportunity to focus on rhythmic fundamentals as well as music literacy and sight reading”—skills that he says are the foundation to musical performance for any aspiring musician. Fortunately, a sense of normalcy still persists within individual curricula; the Mac stations are still being put to good use, with obligatory cleaning and vacancy procedures, and students have adjusted well to a fully-masked and safely-distanced creative learning environment. “The Xaverian music program continues to grow,” says Dr. Thorp, “because of the love and enthusiasm of our students.”
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A private, Catholic, college preparatory day school for boys in grades 7-12. The Boston area prep school offers a rigorous academic curriculum, a well-developed campus ministry program focused on faith, character, and leadership, and a proud athletic tradition featuring competitive Division 1 high school athletics in the Catholic Conference.