We’ve all experienced some measure of inconvenience with the COVID-19 pandemic, even in our insulated small town. From virtual school days to gym shutdowns, every person has felt some of the sting. However, no program was directly impacted as heavily as the arts. With the nature of musical performance requiring a great degree of air and projection, many feared the virus was more easily spread through activities like these. Across the country, concert halls stood dormant, and instruments stayed silent, as we waited to learn more data about the spread of this novel virus. Musicians everywhere remained quiet until they knew it was safe.
The Jones High School Music Program was no exception. Director Debbie Rueda states, “Every school district approached the safety of their students in a different way. We as a district, as hard as it was, chose to go the safest route.” For the safety of her students and their audience, most of the musical performances were cancelled. Traditionally, the music department had a high volume of performance based classes, and this year, those courses were driven to a virtual format. New curriculum was instituted, such as Piano Lab, Online Music Theory, and assignments where the students could sing at home, record, and send back for assessment. The traditional Christmas and Spring Concerts were cancelled, and it seemed that the competition season would also be a no go.
For seniors like Maliah Perkey and Sarah Grant, the COVID shutdown was devastating. However, their own personal determination kept them moving forward, despite the road blocks. Starting in January, both girls set to work on solos. They spent months learning the lyrics, the language, the lay of the song, even to the point they translated the words in an attempt to connect with the deeper meaning of the music. They even employed private instruction through Daniel Lucas, the former choir director at Choctaw High School.
Over Spring Break, the State OSSAA announced they would host, with precautions, some of the spring competitions, with the OSSAA Solo and Ensemble being one of the competitions that would still be held. For most of the students, they had not been able to sing in an instructional setting for over a year. Mrs. Rueda gave the students the option to choose whether they would compete. Sarah and Maliah were ready for their chance.
Starting at the District Competition, the singers are judged on a scale of 1 to 5, with a 5 being the worst and a 1 being the best. Students who achieve this coveted number with a Superior rating get to proceed to the State competition. Maliah performed her solo of Caro Mio Ben, and Sarah performed her solo, Il Mio Bel Foco. Both girls scored a 1 at District, and punched their ticket to the the state competition in Enid, OK on April 22nd. Once again at the State Competition, the girls blew the judges away with their performances, both receiving 1 – Superior ratings for their songs.
Their exceptional achievements will certainly not end here. After graduation, Sarah will be studying at SWOSU, where she is planning to join the pharmacy program. Maliah will be moving on to UCO where she will major in Musical Theater, with plans to teach both Musical Theater and Mathematics. A huge congratulations from The Jones Journal to these two talented young ladies.