Cool Schools: Elkhart Community Schools renovation, addition creates new, pitch-perfect music department

Cool Schools: Elkhart Community Schools renovation, addition creates new, pitch-perfect music department

ELKHART, Ind. -- Class for the women’s choral at Elkhart Memorial High School looks and sounds a bit different. 

“It is huge,” said Haven Burkhart-White, a junior at Elkhart Memorial. “It is very nice. The sound moves well throughout the room.” 

High ceilings, soundproof walls, and separate practice spaces, all helping these rising performers learn music. 

“I really like learning how to tune how to blend, how to sight read,” said Heather Hilliard, a senior at Elkhart Memorial. 

But it’s not just the choir classes benefiting from some new space. The entire music department is. 

“The old music department had a lot of character,” said Hilliard. “It was definitely rundown.” 

“It was very cluttered and it wasn’t very nice,” said Burkhart-White. 

Elkhart Community Schools just finished up a $5 million, 23,000 square foot renovation and addition to it. 

The upgrade includes separate choir, band, orchestra, jazz, and piano and music theory classrooms as well as practice and storage areas. 

“To put money towards the music department has really been nice to see that people actually care about us and want to see us thrive,” said Hilliard. 

The district used those resources so it can better serve the estimated 600 students that will be in a music program when Elkhart Memorial and Central High Schools combine in the 2021-2022 school year. 

“I think it makes them more acoustically aware because we have better sound in here,” said Josh Hren, the choir director at Elkhart Memorial. Hren will also run the new combined choir program. “Just also having the space to work in smaller groups gives them the opportunity to learn the music more effectively.” 

Hren thinks it will bring together the new school. 

“They see that Elkhart schools has like recognized that they need something better and they’re willing to provide these kids with top state of the art kinds of spaces for them to show them how valuable what they’re doing is so for them, I think that makes them want to work harder,” said Hren. 

Students believe it will create a pitch perfect program. 

“Music is very important to people and can help people with their home problems and help them destress,” Burkhart-White. “I feel like having that safe space is very important.” 

“The music department has started many kids’ careers in music so it’s just a really great way to you know have that foundation that you know that you like and want to pursue,” said Hilliard. 

“We hope that they learn the skills necessary to be a better musician," said Hren. “We hope that they appreciate different kinds of music. That they get the chance to perform lots of works both of significant, classical nature but also things from non-western music traditions.”

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