JP Kids: English High School performing arts program transformed

The English High School marching band.   Courtesy Photo

The English High School marching band.
Courtesy Photo

Eytan Wurman, the visual and performing arts director at English High School (EHS), has transformed the program over the past four years, and has goals to further enhance it.

Wurman took over the program in 2012, and told the Gazette in a phone interview that EHS and his program have “transformed miraculously” since that time. He attributes part of the overall school transformation to the revitalization of the performing arts program, among other blooming programs in the school, such as the development of the technical pathways at the school, the success of EHS students in athletics and academics, and the positive culture that continues to grow at the school.

“The marching band started with nothing more than a drum line, and expanded to include some instruments the second year,” Wurman said. “This year, we stood with 37 uniformed members at Symphony Hall at the State of the City address.”

The EHS marching band, directed by Dave Carkner since 2013, performed before Mayor Martin Walsh gave his State of the City Address in January at Symphony Hall.

“Performing is nerve-wracking for anybody,” Wurman said. “Our marching band can now tell their children ‘I performed on stage at Symphony Hall.’”

Wurman credits what he considers EHS’s overall “renaissance” to Headmaster Ligia Noriega-Murphy.

As part of an EHS pathways program, students involved in the drum line visit local elementary schools on Mondays and Thursdays to teach the younger students how to play drums.

Wurman said the point of the program is to “try to spread the love of music throughout the city and increase the community impact that students have, which is really important to us.” He said that he hopes the younger elementary school students will be inspired by the connection, and will strive to go to EHS when they get old enough for to attend.

The marching band also performs for EHS home football home games, and the drum line occasionally travels with the team to perform at away games. Every year the band plays at the Thanksgiving Day rivalry game against Boston Latin, which last fall was played at Fenway Park.

“The marching band performed the National Anthem at Fenway Park, which was pretty incredible,” Wurman said.

The marching band and four different drum lines rehearse separately during the school day, and they rehearse together after school.

The music program covers music “from Bach to Beethoven to Beyonce,” says Wurman. “They really learn about the instrument, while they’re learning about how to support their community at EHS events and games.”

The students also study blues, jazz, and wind ensemble repertoire, which is typically more classical, according to Wurman.

Wurman said that there has been a strong interest among students who are interested in joining drum line.

“It’s wonderful to have students lining up to be part of something that is positive,” Wurman said. “We know all along that our students are talented, gifted, and intelligent, we just need to give them the opportunity to show it, and this marching band has done that for so many kids.”

Wurman said that he is pleased that he doesn’t have to worry about recruitment for the music programs.

In terms of funding, Wurman said that raising money is always an issue for running programs in the city, but that the marching band is more or less self-sufficient with the help of grants, fundraising campaigns, the EHS alumni association, donors, and funds collected through performing in parades.

Before directing the visual and performing arts programs at EHS, Wurman worked as a music teacher at Latin Academy. He holds a bachelor of arts in music education from Boston University, and a master’s in music education from Gordon College.

Dave Carkner, the music director, is a graduate of Berklee College of Music and was a musician before returning to the classroom to teach. Wurman expressed a lot of respect and admiration for his colleague.

“Dave is the greatest asset to EHS that could have ever walked in the building,” Wurman said. “The kids respond incredibly well to him, and he has shown me a great deal about what it means to reach out to students who just need a bit of extra love.”

Wurman hopes that in the future, EHS will be among one of the first high schools in the city to offer arts-based certification for Chapter 74 programming, Career Vocational Technical Education (CVTE), championed by Assistant Headmaster Lisa Martinez. These programs exist for students to graduate with various certificates in programs such as Microsoft Office and Photoshop, and Wurman hopes that certification will become available for theater technology, music production, and sound design.

 

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