Don’t mistake patience for indifference on auditorium issue

In response to “Auditoriums gets low billing,” I’d like to offer a counterpoint of “Don’t mistake patience for indifference.” I can assure you that individuals in the community DO support the addition of an auditorium to the Rogers community. I can also assure you that given our current reality, it’s understood this may need to be a modest facility and one that can be utilized in a shared capacity for the arts education and enjoyment of many.

Our sixth-grader started band this year. We were so thrilled he took up an instrument and is learning to play as part of a larger group. There are so many kids in the sixth grade band alone that there was only room in the Rogers Middle School (RMS) cafetorium for one half of the students to perform at one time. On top of that, because this is a lunch room, folks are walking back and forth on one end or another, which takes away from the purpose of the gathering.

My 10th-grader is in band and choir at Rogers High School (RHS). These groups hold beautiful joint concerts along with the jazz band and are held in the high school commons. This is a beautiful room, but it is a lunchroom. It has beautiful light, but no stage lighting. There is a lot of sound, and no properly functioning sound system. It is truly heartbreaking to watch these talented young individuals stand up to sing or play and because of the lack of proper equipment and facilities, they are not seen or heard. It is so informal that adults spend the entire time visiting with each other while these kids are performing. No wonder so many of our children have no idea how to behave as audience members. This room is adjacent to the field house at RHS. While having the performances in a common space such as this may introduce the arts to some that may not otherwise be exposed, it does create a distraction. This is in no way a complaint directed toward any individual who has or will walk through this area. It is, after all, a common area used to get from one area of the school to another. Or it is, in some cases, for sweaty athletes to co-exist with concert-dressed performers.

RHS has put on its second theater production with this year’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors.” Again, because there is no theater or stage at the high school, this production was set up in the RMS cafetorium. There are no stage curtains so during this production, they improvised and two individuals physically held up a curtain to allow an on-stage costume change to occur. This year the production included a small orchestra. Generally these are located in a pit near the stage. In this case, they were located partially under the pull-out “bleacher” type seating provided for the audience. I attended the show two times and heard much of the monologue only once because the orchestra was directly underneath me.

I would ask what the district wants to see in terms of community interest. Are they looking at the grassroots effort to launch a theater program at RHS including the creation of a very hard-working board? Are they looking at the RHS band booster group who meets regularly, introduced a scholarship program this year, and assists in funding of band uniforms and instruments? What about all the parents of the members of the band, choir, theater and do not forget the non-performing arts! Oh, the talent we have in our communities! Please look back on the Community Café forum notes which can be found on the district website. How many requests are there for proper arts facilities, continued or increased arts education and focus, or the return to seven-period days, which would help prevent particularly college-bound students from having to drop arts classes in order to complete their core class requirements?

I had the great opportunity to participate in this year’s strategic plan action planning team. I saw the attendance at the Community Cafés last fall and participation in the planning process as one way to voice my and others’ passion for arts in our schools. My participation led me in another direction, but again I say to you, please do not mistake that I am extremely passionate about how the arts enhance and improve education. I also well understand there is only so much money in the bucket. Clearly, if the funding was there, I believe the district would have already done the right thing and, as said in Jim Boyle’s June 22 column, “finish off the high schools in Rogers and Zimmerman.”

I can’t tell you how many conversations I have personally had with individuals from other communities who are stunned when they learn we have NO auditorium or proper stage for our music and theater programs in the Rogers High School. I desperately want to take pride in our schools. I am thrilled with the artistic staff and the administration in the Rogers schools. I and many, many parents appreciate the work they do and the support they provide. It’s time for the district to step up to the plate and show their support to the addition of performing and non-performing arts facilities in the Rogers and Zimmerman communities. It may be about equity, but I know it’s about education. Jolene, I also answer yes to your questions! — Sandy Langer, Otsego