Hopi High School Music Program makes a comeback after being suspended during pandemic | Navajo-Hopi Observer



POLACCA, Arizona – The Hopi High music program is making a comeback now that students have returned to in-person learning. The program has been suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hopi High music teacher Tom Irwin said they were trying to restart the program because many of its top students were lost to graduation, even before the pandemic hit.

“After being away for 18 months and before that losing a bunch of old people, it’s like starting over from scratch,” he said.

The good news, Irwin said, is that enrollment at Hopi Jr / Sr High School has increased, so it has more students in its program this year.

The program now has 85 music students, more than double what it was two years ago, before the pandemic.

“But we are starting from scratch. We’re starting from scratch, ”Irwin said.

Irwin said the other good news is that the program has received a large grant. So the program now has many new instruments, including a piano lab, guitars, and a music production lab with computers where students can compose music online. The program also plans to produce audio and video podcasts in a music production class.

“They learn to put pieces of music together,” Irwin said.

The Grand Canyon Music Festival, which brings music to Hopi Jr / Sr High School every year, held a video awareness program during the pandemic.

“A few of our seniors have composed beautiful pieces through them for the Boston area schools,” Irwin said.

The pieces were performed by the classical quartet Catalyst. Sierrra Ramirez and Erica Morningstar performed their compositions in a quartet in Boston schools.

The work of the music students at Hopi High gained attention after Christine Shupla was hired by a video game company to produce music for their video games.

“This is what we did during the pandemic. It was really cool, then we lost these seniors to graduate, ”he said. “It is important that people know what they did during the pandemic. “

Shupla is studying music at a college in Phoenix.

Irwin said he was pleasantly surprised that registrations had increased.

“I don’t know why registrations have increased. Maybe they were afraid of the city because of the pandemic, ”he said.

Education continues to be a challenge due to COVID-19. Students and teachers must wear masks. Those who play horn instruments should remove their masks when playing. Irwin said he struggles because sometimes students can’t hear him talking with his mask on, even when he’s using a microphone.

The teachers at Hopi High, including Irwin, have a box around their neck that they say is supposed to help kill the virus.

“You barely notice it once it’s turned on,” he said.

Irwin hopes young music students will be ready to perform at the school’s annual cafe in December.

“We are trying to reach the level where they can do it,” he said. “We have a lot of talent with our beginner students in guitar, piano and percussion. The main thing is to get back on our feet. I hope we don’t have to quit school anymore because of covid. There is this possibility because of all the different variations.

Irwin said that by spring, the Hopi High program should have emerging musicians and a strong drum line.

“I hope the drumline will compete in Flagstaff and Phoenix,” he said.

Irwin said the parents were happy to review the music program and inquired about the return of the cafe performances.

“New students don’t know what the music program is, but returning students are happy to be back,” he said.

Irwin said the music program is important, especially after the pandemic.

“Music production became important during the pandemic because students had nothing else to do. So a lot of them listened to podcasts. I was amazed at how much they listened to podcasts and how much they know about podcasts, ”he said.

Irwin said that in order for music students to be successful, they must practice.

“It’s like anything else where you have to set goals and work to achieve them,” he said. “I hope they end up with a product they can be proud of.”


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