I stumbled onto a life-affirming example of Wisconsin education at its finest a few weeks ago just outside Eagle Point Senior Living Center.
Midway across the trestle bridge, I thought I heard a sound I’d nearly forgotten and it sent my heart soaring.
“Is that live music?” I asked people coming from the other direction.
They nodded and I picked up my pace, following the pipers’ tune like a Hamelin rat.
I rounded the path, saw a small crowd gathered just outside the entrance and actually welled up a little (it was the wind!) when I spotted what looked to be high school kids playing actual musical instruments.
Of course, I stopped to listen and welled up even more when I saw Eagle Point residents on their balconies, bundled up against the cold and enjoying the afternoon concert.
Our senior living facilities have been locked down for months in this area due to incessantly rising COVID-19 numbers, so it did my heart good to see them able to enjoy a treat many of us have missed dearly during this pandemic. A fierce wind carried the music off the river, it was an unseansonably cold day, and I noticed that none of the students complained. I also noted that it was late afternoon and well after their school day had ended.
I watched, fascinated, as they all played through the masks they wore to protect each other and their especially vulnerable audience.
It took me a little while, but I tracked down their director Pamela Barnhill yesterday and she confirmed that the students were members of the St. Mary’s High School Band.
“We have been fortunate that we have been able to make adjustments to our routines to continue in person school and rehearsals amid Covid,” she wrote. “Our school system has been diligent in screening, quarantining and supporting all staff and students to keep us learning and healthy. So far, we have had a very positive outcome.”
“At all times, we are properly distanced, which for some of us means teaching in a new space for the year. The band has run rehearsals outside as much as possible and is rehearsing on our beautiful stage where our 40 members can be 6-10 feet apart at all times. We also utilize special overlapping performance masks and bell covers to mitigate the spread of aerosols. These are used any time we play indoors.”
I love to see the kind of innovation that allows students to enjoy co-curriculars safely, and the kind of altruism that shares that gift with the community.
Kudos to Mrs. Barnhill and her band and many thanks for the surprise concert.
I really miss live music and I really appreciate people who go out of their way to share it.
If you know of an educator who is doing an especially good job of teaching during these challenging times, please let me know. I would be happy to feature him or her.
Here’s a taste of the concert (Note the Eagle):