By Meghana Avasarala, Lamar Caldwell, Liz Crawford, Angelina Hu, and Carly Riter

Since its first proposal in 2018, East’s students and faculty have been looking forward to the music department’s expansion and renovation. With the music department’s grand opening scheduled for the return of Spring break in 2021, students can anticipate new and larger spaces that allow for increased capacity and the renovation of current classrooms that have been repurposed to expand the department past its current capabilities. Excitement levels are high all across East. From a survey where 81.4% of participants were involved in the music department, a considerable 92.7% of students and faculty said that they were excited about the expansion.

Outlining the Expansion and Renovation

The music wing’s construction will be primarily focusing on building a new hallway and rooms along to it. The hallway is connected to Student Street and the back door of the current band room. Along the hall will be a much larger orchestra and chorus rooms, both of which will include acoustical elements in their architecture similar to that of the auditorium. 

Freshman Emma Wu shares her enthusiasm about the expansion,  “For me, the most exciting part of the expansion is the fact that there’ll be more space for my first class of the day, so there’s more room to practice and play music in.”

With the consistent quality of sound, students are better equipped to practice and improve. The old chorus room will become a classroom for Music Theory as a result.

Inside the band, orchestra, and chorus rooms are separate practice rooms available to students. Chorus teacher Mrs. Reilly comments on the practice rooms, “that is what I’m really excited about, that if students want to come down and work on their NYSSMA solo or just work on their music, that there is a place for them to go, and it’ll be soundproof, and they can close the door and work on it by themself.”

The new additions to the music department will also affect Drama Club and other performances at East,. The new hallway leading to the auditorium stage will be a green room and changing room for theater productions. 

Mrs. Reilly says, “So it’s perfect for even Unity in Diversity, or anybody that needs to do a costume change… there’s a boy’s and a girl’s changing room with mirrors that have LED lights on either side, and each room has a sink in it as well if you need to wash your hands or do your makeup.” 

The auditorium also experienced improvements. The acoustics were upgraded, a new sound was put in place, and there is a new theatrical lighting system with LEDs, including all spotlights.

Operating with Covid Regulations

Many changes call for questions about how in-person attendance will be impacted by these new developments considering Covid regulations. 

According to orchestra teacher Mrs. Ieda, music students have been practicing in somewhat “cramped” conditions due to construction constraints. With the added social distancing requirements, there is even less open space. Only 30.1% of students said they feel very comfortable with the current social distancing arrangements in the music rooms. Confidence in the music department’s Covid safety increased from 30.1% to 54.6% upon hearing that the expansion will include some of the school’s largest rooms. There was a significant increase in music students’ comfort level now that they know more space will be provided for them to practice safely under covid regulations. 

With more students changing from remote to hybrid learning, in-person attendance is consistently increasing. Under the music department’s current limitations, the issue of capacity constraints was beginning to become more pressing. Now that the addition is opening up to students and faculty, capacity is no longer a problem. These large rooms can adequately accommodate many more students than before.

Mrs. Ieda said, “Even at 6 feet, we would have room to spare. It’s a wonderful thing.”

Chorus and band may still need to use the auditorium because of their twelve-foot social distancing requirement. Still, the expansion opens up many more opportunities for both classes and extracurricular activities to operate with covid regulations.

Upcoming Renovations

There’s more to look forward to for East, even after the new music wing is completed. The band, despite not getting a brand new room, certainly won’t be left out.

According to Mrs. Ieda, “The band room is actually being expanded; the back wall is being pushed back so it’s larger, and there’ll be some new rooms in the back. So where my current office and the instrument storage areas are, that’s gonna be a small rehearsal room and also some [general] storage area.”

With the uptick in school renovations, some students have begun to wonder, what renovations come next? Students have offered some suggestions: an updated common area, adjusted space on second and third floors to facilitate more classroom space, and changes in the art, engineering, and tech departments. As it stands, the only one of these areas receiving some rehab is the commons. Assistant Principal Mrs. DeSantis has disclosed that a few minor projects will be undergone soon. She says that, “The main entrance will be revamped to allow for greater security… new flooring will be installed in student street and the commons…” and, “Room 323 will be renovated to allow for additional lab space.” These installations will be beneficial for all students of all departments, so keep an eye out for that.

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