Milton Hershey School Strings Together New Student Ensemble
Despite the pandemic, Milton Hershey School’s Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) program has continued to play music and offer a top-notch education for students passionate about instrumental and vocal ensemble.
This time in MHS history has encouraged all departments across campus—including VPA—to be creative with instruction and start this school year with fresh, new ideas.
“I am so very proud of the efforts of our staff and students to jump start and proactively create new arts opportunities for students during these challenging times,” said Dr. Ed Varner, MHS Director of VPA. “We at MHS recognize and understand that VPA programming aligns strongly with and supports the development of important social and emotional learning competencies and life skills that are vital for the education of the whole child.”
Two MHS VPA instructors, Randy Rhoades, MHS Guitar Instructor, and Jen Harris, MHS Strings Instructor, did just that by creating a new, popular ensemble, Spartan Strings.
Comprised of 20 MHS students, Spartan Strings is a hybrid of MHS Guitar Ensemble & Friends and MHS Strings Ensemble. By combining these two collaborative groups, it gives students a new opportunity to perform while incorporating different types of instruments together.
“Creative students need a place where they can enjoy the friendship, support, encouragement, acceptance, and interaction from other like-minded students,” Rhoades said. “And when it comes to musical performance, you’ll soon realize that most of the music you listen to is the result of musicians performing as a group. The next logical step for us was to provide a similar experience for our students.”
Permitting school-wide mitigation strategies, Spartan Strings Ensemble hopes to perform at Family Weekends and chapel services this school year for the MHS community.
“The idea for this group is to have flexibility and creativity,” Harris said. “We are encouraging multiple students to learn each part so we can rotate who performs at each event.”
Although group practice halted last year, individual instruction allowed music instructors to focus on student technique and help them play more advanced music. Because of this, MHS students are excited to play together again and put their skills to the test.
“We are excited to have ensembles back this year and by combining our two groups together, we are able to give as many students as possible the opportunity to play together,” Harris said.