When Chris Thornton started at Reidland Middle School, he had only 14 choir students. Six years later, the Reidland Performing Arts Program includes 98 kids in choir, 76 in band, and roughly 40 in orchestra. About 60 RMS students and 70 RIS students take part in their respective school theater productions each year, and every RIS student takes music.
The Reidland Performing Arts Program has grown into a special space for more and more Reidland kids to learn and grow, Thornton said, especially for kids who might not fit in elsewhere.
“When we offer music to our children, whether we’re working on rhythm or pitch or a performance, we’re preparing them to be successful in other subjects,” he said. “It not only works both sides of the brain, it actually makes your brain turn on.”
“The performing arts, as valuable as it is to education, it’s also valuable to a young person’s growth as an individual,” he continued. “We’re finding that kids who don’t have that niche yet, that place to go, they find their way in the performing arts.”
Music class and optional theater club and/or orchestra in 4th and 5th grade prepare students for the demands of choir, band, theater and/or orchestra at the middle school level. All the performing arts paths offered at RIS/RMS help students build skills in problem-solving, teamwork and self-efficacy.
This was the Reidland Choir’s second year to be ranked as Distinguished at the annual Festival Assessment, with the Reidland Band earning a Proficient ranking. Student interest and participation in choir grew considerably after their first Distinguished ranking; Thornton hopes the band can earn their first Distinguished title next year, and that a similar spike in interest will follow.
For several years now, RIS and RMS each put on their own big production, with most rehearsals taking place after school during 21st Century Community Learning Center programs. This year RIS performed Seussical the Musical, and RMS performed High School Musical. Each year’s ticket sales help fund the following year’s productions, and a combination of grants and MCPS School Board support allowed for improvements to the RMS/RIS stage, lighting and sound equipment.
The Reidland Performing Arts Program will be on full display May 13 with the End of the Year Concert on the Quad at 5 p.m. The show will feature performances from the RIS Bucket Drummers, the RMS Band and the RMS Choir, and free ice cream for all. It will be a celebration of all the students’ performing arts accomplishments so far, and all that’s yet to come.