Steve Andre

Fine Arts Director Steve Andre discusses the importance of music classes at the July 19 school board meeting.

Steve Andre, director of fine arts, updated the Mesquite ISD board of trustees on how COVID-19 affected the music department across the district and plans for returning to normalcy.

Andre discussed how district staff in the fine arts department plans to rebuild enrollment in the music department. Between the 2017-18 school year and the 2018-19 school year, there was an increase in enrollment for music classes. Middle schools incorporated sixth-grade students into their campuses thereby allowing them to enroll in secondary music classes like band, choir and orchestra. Because of the pandemic, enrollment declined.

There are currently 6,186 students enrolled in secondary music classes. In band, there are 2,774, 2,293 in choir and 1,118 in orchestra.

“That drop is mainly because a lack of recruitment,” Andre said. “The middle schools weren’t able to visit the kids in elementary, so they weren’t able to recruit fifth graders to join.”

Andre said he hopes that in the upcoming school year middle schools will be able to recruit students to join by hosting a live performance for fifth-graders.

Band, orchestra and choir directors plan to focus on skill recovery for existing students. Andre said because of the pandemic, a freshman student has likely not entered a music hall since their beginning class.

The mariachi band will also be restarted as students return to in person classes. The International Drum Corps will also return beginning Aug. 6.

The district plans to retain key COVID-19 protocol to further mitigate the spread of the virus.

During the pandemic, 60 music groups across the district earned sweepstakes ratings for their University Interscholastic League (UIL) competitions – the highest rating. For the first year, every band in Mesquite ISD earned sweepstakes. For the first year, Agnew and Frasier middle schools also earned sweepstakes for their band and orchestra respectively.

A total of 228 students were accepted into the Texas Music Educators Association’s all region group, and three students made all state. In the solo and ensemble competition over 500 students earned first rating.

“Some of these were virtual, some of these were in person,” Andre said. “I think as time went along, they became live. I’m really proud of them.”

Andre discussed how important music is to a student’s academic experience by highlighting the musical involvement of the recent graduating class’s valedictorians.

“You can be a double-blocked band kid or orchestra and still excel in your academics,” Andre said. “The proof is right here. It does make a difference.”

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