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Episode 50: The Masked Singers of Mountain Ridge High

After nearly six months of silence, there is once again music filtering out into the halls of Mountain Ridge High School. In this episode of the Supercast, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey stops by music teacher Kelly DeHaan’s classroom where he visits with students who are making beautiful music again as part of the Mountain Ridge Madrigals. They are singing wearing masks, doing all they can to be Sentinel Strong and stay in school.


Audio Transcription

Welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. After nearly six months of silence, there is once again music filtering out into the halls of Mountain Ridge High School. That music is coming from the masked singers, otherwise known as the Mountain Ridge Madrigals. I had the pleasure of visiting music, teacher Kelly DeHaan's classroom, where the Madrigals were rehearsing. All of them wearing masks and eager to share their passion about music and being Sentinel strong so they can stay in school.

Madrigals practicing The Star-Spangled Banner

Kelly DeHaan:
Nice. Put your music to your side if you're off, if you're done.

Kelly DeHaan sings welcome to Dr. Godfrey

Superintendent Godfrey:
I feel pressure to sing, "Yes, I am!"  It's very intimidating being with this group. I would love to have your talents and abilities, or at least your instructor. Is this Madrigals?

Kelly DeHaan:
This is our Madrigal choir, the most elite choir of the school.

Superintendent Godfrey:
The Madrigal choir. Wow! Did you have to try out for this choir?

Kelly DeHaan:
Yes.

Superintendent Godfrey:
And so, was that a virtual tryout in the spring?

Kelly DeHaan:
No. We had actual auditions just before COVID happened. Right. With this class, we got done.

Superintendent Godfrey:
So, the tryouts were in March?

Kelly DeHaan:
Yes.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Wow. Very early. So, your path was forged very early in your junior year. That's fantastic. So, do you work on stuff over the summer or do you just kick right in when the school starts?

Kelly DeHaan:
Usually we do summer activities, but this year I didn't feel safe doing so. And so, we had our first time singing together on Monday.

Superintendent Godfrey:
How did it feel? Anybody raise your hand? Tell me how it felt.

Student:
We missed this class so much.  I missed singing with other people, not something I couldn't do virtually, but now That we are all together as a group, I feel like you can find the Sentinel spirit of joy right here.

Superintendent Godfrey:
That seems to sum up how you feel.  Being together as one thing, singing together as another, I would think.

Kelly DeHaan:
Yes.

Superintendent Godfrey:
We're going to step outside and interview a few students from Mr. DeHaan's Madrigal class. That's what I call it. What was it? Is its High Madrigals or Turbo Madrigals? Elite Madrigals! The Super Madrigals are here with me? And tell me your names.

Students:
I'm Alex, I'm Chelsea, I'm Savannah,

Superintendent Godfrey:
How does it feel to be back in class, particularly this class?

Student:
It is a wonderful, I think I missed singing. It's something you can't really replicate online, something I really missed, along with just being with all my classmates.

Student:
Particularly to this class, I find it very relieving to be back in the classroom with the energy that Kelly DeHaan brings to it. And knowing that we worked hard for the place that we're at, especially as second years, and it feels really glad to have that gratification back into our lives and just feeling fulfilled.

Student:
Yeah. I feel complete and whole again. I felt so empty without having a way to express myself through song. And coming to this class, it's just a whole different experience. It's almost like it takes you away from the stresses of school and you just let it all out. And the people are amazing. We're all really great friends. We all love each other. We all support each other so much. And it's just so fun to be around people that I know like me and I like them.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Well, it's kind of comfort because you've all sung together before for you to be in Madrigals. You've had some previous experience and you tried out for that. How does it feel different from other choir classes that you've had in the past now that we have these precautions in place as well?

Student:
The mask, I've got to say, it is a really big deal. And we are not sitting exactly next to each other so we can't hear each other anymore. It is very individual, so it's a lot more work to make sure we have our part because we don't know what it sounds like anymore. We have to trust in our own skills, that we know that we're singing the right parts and we have to trust in Kelly, that he is directing us in the right way.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Even though you are together in the same space and it feels great to be back together, you're still a little bit more isolated than you normally would be.

Student:
Adding on to that, it's really hard because in the masks, you can really only hear yourself. You can't really hear other people. And it's really hard to suck in as much air as you can because you're basically breathing in a mask and sometimes it like gets right in to your mouth. And you're looking at, you know, and it's really hard to tell when you're projecting and if you're projecting enough. So, if we're performing in the gym or in the auditorium, sometimes it's we practice quieter because we're in masks and we can hear really well that it doesn't come off as loud as it would in an open space.

Superintendent Godfrey:
I see. So, you're not going to wear a mask after you don't have to when you're singing, is what I'm gathering.

Student:
The second that they say masks are done, they're gone!

Superintendent Godfrey:
But I heard a student in class say he do just about anything in terms of procedures in order to be back. Do you feel the same way?

Student:
Absolutely.  I definitely do. So, what we are hoping for 2021 is that some restrictions may be lifted. If that means I have to wear my mask, or even that means we go online for a little bit of time. I will take that sacrifice, if that means I get to sing with my choir again.

Student:
Mr. DeHaan compared having a mask on to a cross country athlete that was wearing weights on his shoes and he walked around and then when he took them off for his race, he was able to run a lot faster. So, I think we're learning different ways, and once we do take those off, we'll be better singers and better have different perspective on things.

Student:  Yes, believe me, my diction and projection has amplified tenfold.

Student:  And breathing also because you have to take an extra air just to make sure you have it.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Well, I think that's true. Even when we're talking, I think we'll be shouting at each other for a while after these masks come off and our personal space is going to be really big because we're so used to distancing.

Student:
I mean, I'm not complaining about the personal circle thing, but....

Superintendent Godfrey:
Was it what you expected or is it a different from what you were anticipating?

Student:
I've been really impressed with everybody. All the administration was really planned out well. You can tell there's a lot of procedures that they're following. Each of the teachers knows exactly what they're doing and what they have to do. And students have been awesome with wearing masks, which we were surprised about. But everybody's just on board and is seeing this as a link to getting one step closer and being in school.

Student:
Yeah, that's what I really love about this school. I feel like everybody's so passionate about being here that they will do anything in their possible way to be here. And I'm really amazed how respectful they are and the teachers. They're amazing. They're very kind in saying, "Hey, please put up your masks because I want to be here with you". The teachers want to be here with us as much as we want to be with them.

Student:
I am also liking the added unity that this has brought upon our school. Before, in our first year, it was a whole bunch of schools coming together, trying to be one. I think with this, it's this added, "We're Mountain Ridge and we're going to stay and we want to stay here. We choose to be here right now."

Student:
I truly very, very passionately believe in Sentinel Strong because I feel like every kid here has that part of them inside of them. And they all just are strong as people. And so, I just think that's amazing.

Superintendent Godfrey:
So it's not just being back that's unifying. It's doing whatever it takes to stay back that's unifying. Great. Well, it's really fun being in a class. It's really fun seeing you guys. Let's head back in and do a little more singing or you guys can do a little bit more singing.

Kelly DeHaan:
So we won't do the solos at the beginning. We'll do we'll just do all the men and all the women to help us.

Madrigals singing

Superintendent Godfrey:
We're going to take a quick break. And when we come back here, more music from the Madrigals and find out what they're doing to stay safe while learning and doing what they love.

Sandra Riesgraf:
Are you looking for a job right now, looking to work in a fun and supportive environment with great pay and a rewarding career?  Jordan School District is hiring. We're currently filling full and part time positions. You can work and make a difference in young lives and education as a classroom assistant or a substitute teacher. Apply to work in one of our school cafeterias where our lunch staff serves up big smiles with great food every day. We're also looking to hire custodians and bus drivers in Jordan School District. We like to say, "People come for the job and enjoy the adventure. Apply today at http://workatjordan.org.

More singing from Madrigals - School Anthem

Kelly DeHaan:
Can anyone tell me why I extended the lines as a musician?

Student:
Because it gives a little time for the meaning of the words to be absorbed.

Kelly DeHaan:
I wrote this song for our school and I'm really proud of it. I think you are one of the first people who got to hear it. This is our school. It means a lot to me. I came into the room and the school was still under construction and it's so beautiful and perfect. And the song just kind of wrote itself.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Did you realize that you don't just have a teacher? You have an artist in residence? Yes, you do.

Kelly DeHaan:
I tell them all the time, how good I am. (laughter)

Superintendent Godfrey:
I will back you up on that. Can we hear that song?

Kelly DeHaan:
They're sight reading a lot of them and some of them. No? Okay, yes, stand up.  We won't do the solos at the beginning. We'll just do all the men and all the women.

More singing

Superintendent Godfrey:
Alright, Nathan, are you a junior or senior?

Nathan:
I'm a senior this year.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Alright. Nathan is in the Madrigals class we're visiting today. Nathan, you said something in class that I thought was remarkable. You'd do pretty much anything to be here.

Nathan:
Yes. I would volunteer to follow 12 more policies if it meant being able to be here and singing. I will admit I was concerned about singing in masks, but we're making it work. It may not be ideal, but I'm so grateful to be here.

Superintendent Godfrey:
And they're singing safely. Now that you're back at school, is it what you expected or not?

Nathan:
Some of both. I mean, we went in knowing we'd have to wear masks and there would be social distancing, to the extent possible and we'd be cleaning.  So that part I expected. But what I did not expect was all of the positivity where normally people aren't willing to be in school. But everybody I've talked to is 100% willing to be back in school because we've missed it so much.

Superintendent Godfrey:
So, there's not just a pent-up desire to be at school, but there's a pent-up desire to do whatever it takes to stay in school.

Nathan:
Exactly.

Superintendent Godfrey:
What did you miss most about being at school?

Nathan:
I missed all of the social relationships, from being in choir, from being in the lunch room, school kind of revolves around being with people. So being stuck at home for six months was really hard for me.

Superintendent Godfrey:
And I'm sure, for a lot of people, you've only just started back. Does it already feel easier to learn in person than it did online?

Nathan:
Infinitely. Being in person with a real teacher that can give you face to face feedback. You can feed off your classmates. Using technology is great, but being here is something that you just can't fully replicate.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Well, here's to a great year. Thanks for talking with me, Nathan.

Nathan:
Thank you.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Madrigals is the type of class that was considered a special class with some additional potential risk because of the singing and exhaling and all of that. And you have taken some very thoughtful, deliberate precautions. Can you walk us through those?

Kelly DeHaan:
Sure.  As the students come in, we take their temperatures and we ask them if they have any symptoms and I show them a symptom chart. And if the answer that they don't have any symptoms and they pass the temperature test, then they can come into their pre-assigned seating that has been socially distanced for them. I've put pictures of all the students who share those chairs on the chair so the students feel, so they know, so we can trace if there's any problems at all. We know exactly where they were sitting on that day. We keep a record of all of our seating charts, and then the students wear their masks always while they're singing. And they stay socially distance like this for the whole rehearsal. They have assigned slots for their music to go into that keeps everything safe and neat so we don't have to sanitize the music each time. And then at the end of class my student teacher and I go through and we sanitize each chair that has come in contact with people.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Well, it's working great. And talking with students in the class, anything you have to do is worth it to give them the chance to be.

Kelly DeHaan:  We all feel that way.

Superintendent Godfrey:
How does it feel to have our students back?

Kelly DeHaan:
It's, everything, it's everything. I didn't realize as an educator, how much of my self-perception and happiness was dependent on being able to reach out to kids and especially through music. And now that they're back, I feel like I'm back. Isn't that strange? I feel like I've been a little bit vacant and in that hazy Netflix world. And now I have these kids back, it's like my life is back.  I'm so happy.

Superintendent Godfrey:
I that's the sentiment I'm hearing everywhere I go. And I guess I'd ask, is it what you expected? Is it different from what you expected?

Kelly DeHaan:
Better than I could have ever expected. And it's harder than I knew it would be. It's hard. It's worth every second.

Superintendent Godfrey:
There are still obstacles, aren't there, even though we're back together?

Kelly DeHaan:
So many, we'll get it. We'll figure it out.

Superintendent Godfrey:
It'll get better and better. And when those obstacles are gone, it'll be like we're walking three inches off of the ground.

Kelly DeHaan:
Oh, it's going to be so great to get rid of these nasty masks, but we'll keep doing it.

Superintendent Godfrey:
Congratulations on being back together and having this experience. I know you're going to enjoy it, make the most of it and have a great year. Enjoy it.

Thank you for joining us for the 50th Episode of the Supercast. Remember, "Education is the most important thing you'll do today". We'll see you out there.

 

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