Evolution of the Arts


Samantha Cheunkarndee

Orchestra students play their instruments

Maya Huffaker, Samantha Cheunkarndee, Arts Editor, Staff Writer

The lights dim, the audience quiets in anticipation, awaiting one of the many school productions. Just five years ago, performing arts at PHS were much bigger than they are now. With Acapella concerts, musicals, plays, and bird calling contests, tickets were sold out constantly. 

Junior Melina Markowitz is a member of the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir and the Piedmont Troubadours. “I took the AP music theory class my sophomore year because it seemed really interesting and I had been wanting to learn more about music theory for a few years,” she said.

The first semester of the class was taught by Jorell Chavez, who left midyear, and the second was taught virtually by Joe Piazza, a former arts teacher at Piedmont. 

“Although it was not easy, I found Mr. Piazza’s class very rewarding and I learned a lot of interesting and useful information that applies more in my daily life than I ever expected,” Markowitz said.

Sophomore Lauren Brenner had been taking clarinet lessons for two years before starting symphonic band. “I joined band because it gave me a reason to continue playing my instrument. I like that we can make music in an environment centered around fun and education rather than reaching musical perfection,” she said. 

Junior Isabella Wire said she joined Acting as a freshmen because she heard it was fun from upperclassmen. 

I feel like advanced acting is when we all sort of have become more of a community and it’s a lot more fun just because I’m like, I’m actually friends with every single person there,” she said. 

Junior Ken Sibal was in the PHS orchestra for six years. “I joined since I’d already played the viola since elementary school,” he said.

Sibal is also a part of the “Hello, Dolly!” musical this year. 

“My sister and other friends had also been a part of it before, and I thought it would be a fun experience, as I already have experience with singing,” he said.

Sibal said he has enjoyed all the arts programs he has been a part of.

“Although, ever since the pandemic, I’ve noticed there’s been a comparative lack of participation in almost all arts programs compared to what I’ve seen before the pandemic, which is definitely unfortunate,” he said.

Several students said they were interested in taking acapella, but ultimately did not take the class for various reasons.

“In middle school, I was interested in taking acapella in high school, but once the pandemic happened, the prospect of virtual acapella didn’t sound enjoyable, especially since I had already experienced virtual choir outside of PHS,” Sibal said. 

Wire said she originally wanted to take Acapella as a freshman. 

“To be totally honest [I took Acting] because the acapella program was already sort of falling apart,” she said. “I wanted to take acapella when Joe Piazza was still teaching it.”

Like Wire, Junior Melina Markowitz also opted not to take Acapella as a freshman. 

I really wanted to take acapella my freshman year because I had heard so many great things about the class from people who had Mr. Piazza, but because classes were online and I didn’t know anything about the new teacher, I was discouraged and chose not to,” Markowitz said. 

Sibal said he also has noticed a decrease in participation in musicals and plays since COVID-19. “Although they’re all amazing, they don’t have the same energy as before,” he said. 

According to musical director Amy Moorhead, 41 students auditioned for the “Hello, Dolly!” musical this year and all 41 were cast.

“Sometimes we do a musical that draws fewer students, like 1776 (’17-18), but we still had a cast of 48,” Moorhead said.

 Previous musicals such as Rent (’18-’19) had a cast of 52 students while Legally Blonde (’16-’17) and The Sound of Music (’15-’16) each had a cast of about 65 students. 

Brenner elaborated on her experience in class.

“We don’t get taught many skills, so we’re not able to play very advanced pieces. People get bored with what we’re playing because it’s so easy while other people are struggling,” she said. “We don’t have enough funding for this, but I think that band should be split into levels of people who need different amounts of help and teaching.”

Scene in Pride and Prejudice play (Piedmont Exedra)

According to Drama teacher Kim Taylor, the performing arts department is currently proposing honors strands of their current courses in Acting, Dance, Jazz Band, Symphonic Band, Orchestra, and Choir to support students who are passionate about these disciplines. 

“This will allow students to continue their artistic evolution without sacrificing following a passion for a fear that they are not offered a grade bump in their GPA,” Taylor said. 

Sibal said he believes honors branches will increase enrollment in performing arts programs.

“I believe that the addition of honors performing arts will add the incentive and challenge many students believe the current performing arts programs currently lack,” he said.

Markowitz said she thinks advanced art classes would provide an opportunity for more experienced students to participate in our schools programs while also allowing for growth. 

“We need somewhere for introductory courses to lead to,” she said. 

 Junior Miles Antaya, a member of a symphonic band, thinks that the honors classes would be advantageous.

“I think [honors classes] would be very beneficial, especially because PHS is so grade inflated, and students are searching for classes in which they can get great boosts in. I don’t think it would be different in terms of class content, but I think it would be a benefit,” said Antaya.

However, some students are unsure how much it will affect the program. 

“Yeah, it’s honors and it technically gives you a boost but the level that you’re playing in the band is still the same. So for me personally, I don’t think it would help much,” Brenner said.

Sibal said he thinks the overall lack of interest today will continue into the future.

“A main reason I decided to participate in the performing arts was because of older students that inspired me, but with less people in the performing arts overall today, there will probably be less students in the future who will want to follow them into doing the same,” Sibal said.

Markowitz elaborated on this and how it will affect representation. 

“It’s very important for people to be involved in performing arts so that in the future, young voices of every perspective can be heard and represented in the media,” she said.