Why Music at Nobles is Struggling

Owen Harrington, Staff Writer

November 13, 2023

In December 2016, I entered the old Lawrence Auditorium for the very first time and was treated to a night of music that I will never forget. I can vividly recall the beautiful harmonies of the Chamber Singers followed by the uptempo performances by the Nobleonians and the Greensleeves. Despite only being in fourth grade at the time, I longed to one day perform on that stage, wearing the Nobleonians tie, surrounded by what seemed to be such a fun and talented community. I stuck with that goal, joining the Nobleonians my freshman year, and becoming its president this year. The group has cultivated some of my most meaningful friendships becoming one of my favorite parts of my Nobles experience. I’ve observed or been involved with the ensemble for nearly eight years now, I have seen it undergo numerous modifications, many of which guided the group in the right direction. However, I believe that a number of changes instituted this year have deeply impacted the core of the group, leaving me truly concerned about the current state of the Nobleonians and the future of Music at Nobles.

The new schedule has been great for so many reasons, but its effect on small musical ensembles like the Nobleonians and the Greensleeves has been entirely negative. Historically, these groups have met for an hour and a half every Tuesday evening, but are now only given an hour each week on Monday mornings. Any member of these ensembles will tell you that even with an hour and a half each week, groups struggled to prepare effectively for concerts, and the tremendous decrease in rehearsal time this year only makes this issue worse. In addition, the choral concert has been moved forward by nearly an entire month, from December 13th last year to November 17th this year, further exasperating the issue. 

The switch from Tuesday evenings to Monday mornings also significantly impacted the special community that members of these groups were able to build. The evening rehearsals allowed members to grab dinner together beforehand and relax without needing to worry about classes or work. Some of my favorite memories of the group came from the bonding opportunities that evening rehearsals offered, but now there is much less time for community building, and many members have to choose music over clubs that meet during those same blocks. 

Making matters worse, this change was proposed to the groups at the end of last year and was met with significant backlash, yet it was still instituted. While we were assured that the modifications would make the group better, nearly every member still wishes that meetings were in the evenings. We simply no longer have the rehearsal time nor the community-building time that is required to make these groups so special. 

There is also a proposed change to ensembles’ concert attire which would force every group to wear all black, meaning that the Nobleonians could no longer sport their iconic blue and white ties which has been a tradition for decades. This is intended to eliminate the need for outfit changes during the concert, but I have never found this to be a problem, despite being in multiple ensembles each year. The outfit is a core part of the Nobleonians identity and getting rid of it would only further hurt the group at this challenging time.

Some of the group’s current challenges are not at all related to changes instituted by the school, but rather the challenges faced by young singers during the COVID-19 Pandemic. For starters, the lack of organized singing during the pandemic means that many of the singers currently involved with these small ensembles, including myself, missed out on over a year of organized singing experience, reducing the complexity of the music that we are capable of performing. In addition, the pandemic occurred right around the time that many of the current performers went through their voice changes. Singing consistently throughout this process allows singers to keep their higher notes, but because people were not singing during the pandemic, there is a distinct lack of higher voices currently in the ensemble, further modifying our possible repertoire. This unbalance within the group will sort itself out with time, but is certainly not helped by the slew of other negative changes. 

Music is a core part of the Nobles community, and it has shaped my entire experience at this school. It saddens me to write this piece highlighting the current challenges that the department is facing, but I truly hope that action is taken to put these ensembles back on the right track. Music has the power to change lives, and I felt that firsthand eight years ago during my first choral concert in Lawrence. I want to be able to have that same effect on future community members, and I believe that with the correct changes, we will be able to do that again.

(Photo Credit: Jonathan Tillen)

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