Sometimes, wonderful experiences are born from necessity. For the director of Rome City Schools bands Chad Hannah and his team of music educators, the challenge of creating an opportunity for their students to perform their annual Rome Middle School Winter Concert during a worldwide pandemic was a tall order.
After putting their heads together, RCS directors decided to host the concert outside in the school parking lot so their students could show off what they have been learning in class.
Last Friday afternoon, March 4, Rome Middle School’s bus ramp became the stage. As carloads of the RCS community set up their lawn chairs and blankets, onlookers could see that this concert would be one to remember. Just as the sun set, young musicians brought the notes on the staff to life in front of a twilight backdrop and hundreds of parents who wanted to hear their songs.
Rome’s beginning band students, those in sixth grade and headed to middle school next year, played two numbers before the seventh-grade musicians followed with two selections of their own. The eighth-grade band members closed the show with three musical selections. Educators for each group, welcomed the crowd over a loudspeaker and expressed how proud they were to see their students adjust to the challenge, and their gratitude for the unwavering community support.
“This is an annual concert we host every year around this time,” said Corey Newton, band director for beginning band and at Rome Middle School, “and normally we would be in our gym. In the past, we have seen standing room only. It really gets packed in there with over 700 people. However, out of necessity we had to think outside the box and move the concert outside. The Rome City Police have been a huge help. They helped us to shut down the traffic in our parking lot so that we could set up and prepare for the event. It worked out really well, I think.”
It is important to think of how much of an undertaking this must have been for the students and for the educators. Newton said that they did not practice outside before the event because of the location in the parking lot. The show that spectators watched was the very first run-through for all involved.
“That was a one and done,” Newton said with a chuckle. “Our children are much more flexible than we give them credit for. With the alternative being isolation at home, I think most of them are willing to be flexible just so they can do what they love with the people they love doing it with.”
To add to the moment, Berry College student teacher Allie Sinatra was asked to conduct the opening song for the eighth-grade group. What she learned that day was with a community that supports education, nothing is impossible. Looking out over the healthy crowd of family and friends there to support the band program, it is easy to see why she has chosen to be an educator.
Chad Hannah, Tab Brown, Corey Newton and Ben Williams, all music educators with RCS, pulled off an evening that was perfect for starting a weekend. And Hannah said that he could not be more pleased with the show.
“I personally think everyone did a wonderful job,” Hannah said. “We have such great sixth, seventh and eighth grade band programs. We a thrilled that our students had the opportunity to show what they have learned. From our principal Mr. Parke Wilkinson to our school board and Superintendent Mr. Byars, everyone has been supportive. I think by allowing us to host this event, it is a great thing for the kids, their families and for the school system.
“We are teaching virtual classes for our students who are learning from home and I really think with the cooperation of our parents, we have been able to work around the challenges,” Hannah continued. “I believe this all works because of the way we have worked together to educate our students. We are very fortunate here in Rome City Schools to have a community that has bought in and our students will see the benefits in their futures.”