Spencer Murray '21
A group of young elementary schoolers sit in a circle alternating with high school students. With African drums in front of them, they each take turns tapping a beat and repeating as a group. They go around the circle once more with smiles on their faces and heads bobbing to the rhythm. This is the scene at the opening activity of the Rock Band program at Hollis Upper Elementary School.
First introduced around the end of the 2018-2019 school year, the program aims to give elementary school students with social and/or learning disabilities an environment where they can interact with older high school students and enjoy singing, dancing and making music.
The idea came to fruition after Mary Martin ‘20 collaborated with administrators and teachers at HUES to create a weekly, after-school activity based on something similar she had previously heard about. “I saw a similar program on a news segment down in Massachusetts and thought that it was a really cool thing, and that Hollis Brookline could benefit from a similar program because I’ve participated in Unified sports and Special Olympics, and I noticed there was nothing like that for music,” said Martin. After coordinating a time and place for the activities and recruiting some of her friends within the music department at the high school to help, Rock Band was born.
A typical day at Rock Band consists of the drum circle to warm up followed by some singing and dancing, namely the Whip and Nae-Nae, before wrapping it up by practicing songs they plan to perform at the HUES talent show.
Sean Tisa ‘21 is a newcomer to the program and agrees with Martin that it is a nice outlet for kids to have fun and get involved with music. “It’s really heartwarming and fulfilling to see all the kids so happy and giving them something to look forward to every week,” said Tisa. Martin added, “Seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces and seeing how happy it makes them is really rewarding.”
Three faculty advisors oversee the program at HUES, including band teacher Mr. Wallis. According to Wallis, the program is a big success and has taken hold at the elementary school.“Last year, when they performed at the HUES talent show, it had a wonderful reception from the audience. It was a good community experience and something they could showcase for our school,” said Wallis, adding that he likes “the fact that high school students are coming here and spending some time to interact with these students.”
The immediate future of Rock Band is uncertain, but they still hope to open for the HUES talent show in April as they have in the past.