Thursday, March 20, 2003

Cape musicians must choose between prom and performance

Published in the Current

Seven Cape Elizabeth High School students, four of them seniors, may have to give up their high school prom in mid-May in order to participate in the All-State Music Festival at the USM campus in Gorham.

No students will be able to commute to the three-day festival, which runs from May 15 through May 17, according to Joan Hamann, president of the Maine Music Educators Association, which hosts the event.

“We have about 450 students that we are responsible for,” she said.

Students will stay in USM dorm rooms and attend lots of rehearsals and special programs. “The activities will go quite late,” until 9:30 or 10 p.m., Hamann said. Students also will have to observe a curfew.

CEHS principal Jeff Shedd had asked the organization to consider allowing Cape students to stay until the end of evening rehearsals on Friday, May 16, and then leave to attend the prom.

“They would arrive late for the prom, but at least they’d have an opportunity” to attend part of it, Shedd said. It would likely finish too late for students to drive back to Gorham, so Shedd proposed allowing them to stay at their homes and arrive back at the festival early Saturday morning.

He questioned an interpretation of the rules of the festival. Organizers said students had to stay overnight, while Shedd read them differently.

Hamann said students who knew they were going to the prom would not be focused on their music. “It’s hard to believe that that student isn’t going to be watching their watch” all afternoon, she said.

She also wants to be sure students get proper rest. “It’s so strenuous,” she said, “we’ve had students that have passed out” from exertion.

And she wants to be fair about the event. “It’s expecting (students) to make choices,” she said. “It’s trying to provide a good experience with the kids.”

She also said the national association of music educators has issued guidelines for statewide music festivals, which include a recommendation that all participants stay overnight. “Nationally there have been events” that led to the policy suggestion, she said.

No other districts have asked for exemptions, Hamann said. “We’re certainly trying to work with the school system,” she said. She noted that attendance is not mandatory. Students were selected by audition to participate, and there are more students who would want to take any open slots.

CEHS Music Director Tom Lizotte said the decision was “disappointing,” but he was glad that the association had given Shedd’s request “very, very serious consideration.”

Part of the problem is that a scarcity of prom locations means the date for next year’s prom was chosen three months ago, Shedd said. Next year’s music festival won’t be scheduled until this year’s festival actually takes place.

“I hope there will not be a conflict,” he said.