Mar. 24, 2021 --
The orchestras of Monticello Middle School, Roxboro Middle School, and Cleveland Heights High School have just released a virtual orchestra cover video of "Heathens", the twenty one pilots
hit from 2016. This video was the culminating project in a two-month collaboration across grades 6-12. Orchestra directors Daniel Heim, Katie Holaway, and Todd Watson began the project in early January, reaching over 180 students across all three schools.
Heights High’s annual November Orchestra Concert has routinely featured 8th graders from both middle schools side-by-side with high school students. To acclimate and orient these younger students to their new school, 8th graders have also traditionally visited the high school during the school day of the concert. During this time, they would rehearse for the concert with their 9th-12th grade peers, but then also shadow them for several class periods of their regular day.
Because of the pandemic and remote learning circumstances, the orchestras could not hold the in-person concert or the physical field trip in November 2020. However, Mr. Heim, Mrs. Holaway, and Mr. Watson knew how anxious this year's 8th graders were in December, anticipating their pending transition to high school. These students weren’t sure they would ever return to in-person learning in their respective middle school settings before moving on to a completely new building. “We desperately wanted to give each of our students a positive experience that was both motivating and reassuring. I am so proud of their hard work, dedication, and leadership, especially during these times!” said Mr. Heim.
The directors agreed to prepare Mr. Heim’s arrangement of “Heathens” across all ensembles, grades 6-12, as the basis for the virtual ensemble video. Many students had expressed interest in this selection after hearing it previously in concert. During the preparation phase in January-February 2021, the Heights High Symphony held two mentoring sessions with each middle school, in which high school students visited the 8th grade orchestras on GoogleMeets. Over these two sessions, Mrs. Holaway and Mr. Watson led icebreaker activities for social interaction; eighth grade students had opportunities to ask questions of their high school counterparts. Mr. Heim gave full-group instruction on the musical selection and high school students taught sectionals on music specific to different instruments. Working together with the shared goal of a virtual ensemble performance connected these students across their respective buildings and allowed students to build musical and social relationships with their future classmates.
From the beginning, the orchestra directors envisioned this virtual ensemble video as an inspiring "time capsule" of these students' collaboration, effort, and perseverance during this challenging time. As Mrs. Holaway said, “The November side-by-side concert is something our 8th graders and families look forward to every school year. In a year that’s been anything but normal, working with the Heights High orchestra students was so meaningful for the 8th graders and a welcome ‘normal’ event!” Mr. Heim, Mrs. Holaway, and Mr. Watson congratulate all their students for their amazing accomplishments.