Music programs break with tradition, hold separate concerts

Students, teachers express disappointment about lack of concert for student body


Maggie Dunworth

ON THEIR OWN. Alyssa Cunningham performs in the orchestra holiday concert. Traditionally, all three music programs perform together, but this year, each held separate concerts.

Sevier Middle’s music programs have, for many years, held a combined holiday concert at the Eastman Employee Center. Due to COVID-19, no holiday concert took place last school year. When the concert returned this year, however, it was different from the previous concerts: band, orchestra, and chorus each held their own, separate events.

“Lafe Cook [Dobyns-Bennett High School’s band director] and I sat down over the Summer and discussed plans for the holiday concert,” new Sevier band director Alex White said. “We discussed the community benefit of seeing the Kingsport Band programs perform as one.”

In addition to the band performing with DB’s band instead of Sevier’s orchestra and chorus, there was also a problem with the usual venue. Eastman’s health protocols forced all three programs to find a new venue.

“From my understanding, they are not allowing any non-Eastman activities to take place there this year,” Rachel Cinnamon, Sevier’s orchestra director, said. “We tried to think creatively and come up with other scenarios, but could not come up with a solution that would feature everybody positively.”

The band concert took place at the Meadowview Convention Center in a joint-concert with the Dobyns-Bennett band. All three grades, 6th, 7th and 8th, performed songs such as “Holiday Rock”, “A Rather Bumpy Sleigh Ride”, Santa’s Angry Elves, and “First Christmas Fanfare”.

White feels that the band’s concert was a success.

“The 6th Grade concert was very ambitious,” he said. “These students have only been playing an instrument for 4 months since August. The 7th and 8th Grade concert selections were also challenging. Our selections gave something challenging and exciting to every student musician and they rose to the occasion.”

Annie Griffith, Sevier’s chorus director, also feels that her program’s concert was successful. They performed “cabaret” style and had multiple small groups that performed holiday classics with their own twists.

“I always LOVE doing concerts and letting the students show off the hard work that they have put into performing and this year was no different,” she said. I think it’s amazing that we have so many talented students who choose to share those talents through song.

The orchestra also celebrated a successful concert, performing such classics as “Jolly Old St. Nicholas” and “Jingle Bell Rock”.

Although the individual concerts were successful, many students and teachers at Sevier are sad that the combined holiday concert did not take place this year.

Rebekah Tipton has been a 7th grade teacher at Sevier for the past 21 years. She is the parent of both a DB and ETSU band kids.

The Sevier combined fine arts department concert day has been the highlight of the year for all years that I have been here, except for last year and this year,” she said. It was a day when the Sevier student body got to experience their classmates perform, in dress clothes, on a stage, in a festive setting, where it even snowed a little at the end.”

The biggest disappointment for many was that none of the music programs featured a concert for Sevier’s student body; all concerts took place in the evening instead of during school hours.

“I can’t even express how disappointing it was not having this opportunity this year,” Tipton said. “At this point, for the first time ever in my long teaching time here, 2/3s of the student body has not gotten to experience this Sevier tradition.”

Norie-Anne Watts, an 8th grade teacher, also was unhappy that the combined concert did not take place.

“I think it’s sad,” she said. “Our music programs work so hard to prepare for these concerts, and it’s a shame our students and staff didn’t get to enjoy it and celebrate these students’ time and talents. It’s also a great time to showcase the different programs to the elementary schools that feed to Sevier.”

White is willing to schedule a band performance for the student body.

“I am definitely open to doing a concert for the student body,” he said. “I would jump at any chance we have to showcase the hard work and talents of our students.”

Griffith, too, seems willing to join forces with band and orchestra for a student body concert.

“We love getting to see the fine arts department work together and showcase the talents of our students,” she said. “Having a holiday concert for students is a great way to get the student body and staff into the holiday spirit.”

Tipton believes the combined holiday concert, performed for the student body, should definitely make a comeback.

“As a teacher, I lost more instructional time than ever to the fine arts department this year, and I don’t complain because I understand the importance of the whole group practice times and rehearsals,” she said. “But, come on, if I’m expected to work with giving up this time from my classroom, then let me hear and see the concert in the end. Let us all hear and see your amazing work during the school day.”

Young agreed.

“If we have a Tribe Classic, we should have a combined holiday concert,” she said.