Arts programs return to English High

December 21, 2012
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Fifty years after losing its voice, music is returning to English High School.

After all English High’s arts programs were cut back in the 1960s, new headmaster Ligia Noriega-Murphy has tasked music teacher Eytan Wurman to bring them back.

“Some of the most famous actors and performers” of the last century graduated from English High, now located at 144 McBride St., Wurman said, including Leonard Nimoy, who played Mr. Spock on the original “Star Trek” series in the 1960s. Nimoy was part of the class of 1949.

Following administrative changes and budget cutbacks, the school had lost its arts programming completely by the early 1970s.

“Ms. Noriega was bemoaning how terrible it was,” Wurman told the Gazette. “English used to have more arts programs than Boston Latin.”

So Noriega, a co-founder of Boston Arts Academy who became English’s headmaster this year, decided to bring them back.

As of now, there is a drum line program, to perform at football games and parades, and a chorus program. Soon, Wurman wants to add brass instruments like trombones and trumpets to the drum line—the start of a jazz band. Following the jazz band, Wurman would like to keep growing the program into an orchestra, then a string ensemble.

“The facilities at English are excellent. It’s a shame they’re not in use right now,” he said.

Eventually, Wurman said he wants to see a visual arts teacher, a theater teacher and a staff dance teacher. Currently, dance instruction is provided by Learn Thru Dance, a Hyde Square Task Force program held at English.

“For a school this size, it should be a whole department,” he said.

And help is coming to English. Berklee College of Music has donated instruments and other lighting and sound equipment. The gala performance and dinner held Dec. 19 helped to raise funds for next year’s programs.

“I’m looking forward to the programs getting bigger and better as the years get on,” he said.