Can't Stop the Music at STA
Posted on 05/10/2021
The spring concert might not have had a theme, but the theme for this year’s St. Thomas Aquinas High School Music Department was: “Can’t Stop the Music!” In a year filled with tumult and restrictions, the music played on in different forms at STA, driven by the determination of students and faculty alike. “The students of the Music Department stepped up and found a way to ‘share their light’ [the title of one of the choral pieces] with the whole community and, for that, I’m very proud,” noted band and choir director Mr. Joseph Cullinan ’02 after the performances were delivered. He added that, “I was just so impressed with what everyone was able to accomplish, especially the Class of 2021. They were trailblazers, and they set an example to underclassmen for how to prepare themselves.” 

Coming into the school year, Cullinan knew that he and his musicians would have to adapt and be flexible. There would be periods of virtual learning, students unexpectedly quarantining, and myriad health department restrictions that would impact rehearsals and potential concerts. But he also knew that you can’t stop the music. So, with split rehearsals at times and outdoor rehearsals at others, the student musicians were able to realize two full-length concerts: a Christmas Concert in December that was fully virtual and the “Spring Concert Without a Theme” in May that was fully in-person but, for the first time ever, outdoors. Senior musician Kristel Rambaud commented that, “Even though there were many times that we were told we couldn’t do things, I’m grateful to Mr. C for finding creative ways to make it a special year through music.”

An outdoor concert is even more complicated than it would seem. There’s always the specter of bad weather, which in fact caused one of the performances to be postponed. There’s also the dramatically different acoustics outdoors, which required intense planning and a full sound system, manned by teacher volunteers, in order to ensure that the audience was hearing the music exactly as it was intended. And since the events were in the evening, floodlighting was necessary so that the audience would have a great view in addition to great sound. After a final three-week in-person rehearsal marathon, everything came together for the families and friends who drew up a lawn chair to enjoy the first live musical performance that they had attended in over a year. The response was overwhelmingly positive, so much so that Cullinan hints at the possibility of more STA outdoor concerts even after life returns to normal.

The St. Thomas Aquinas High School musicians are looking forward to getting back to normal in the near future, but this year will always stand out for the challenges and creative solutions that they undertook together to keep the music going.