Middle School Outreach Ensembles: MSOE live and in-person

'After two years of cancellations and virtual ensembles, students and teachers have a whole new appreciation for a full season of live playing.

As we emerge from this strange two-year period of masks, canceled performances, and attempted ensembles on Zoom, we have emerged with appreciation. March 12 marked the date two years ago that the Middle School Outreach Ensembles (MSOE) program was shut down, and the 2020 season abruptly ended. In 2021, MSOE went completely virtual, with students participating throughout the state of Colorado.

Much to our dismay AND delight, we learned that music is truly a community event. All together – blowing hot air, trying other people’s reeds, emptying spit valves – we now cringe to think of all the bio aerosols being dispersed. Particles aside, we missed the deep connection that is made when we work side-by-side with the goal of making good music. And though we made it work in 2021 virtually, there are some things that are just better in person.

“Last year was my first year at CSU: I would step into my dorm with tears in my eyes and my mind clouded,” said Brenna Hudson, class of ‘24. "What if music teaching isn’t for me?' I would ask myself. All we wanted in 2021 was to teach in person, but we had to adapt.”

As students across the state played in their rooms alone but together, doing their best to find motivation and joy, the program goals remained the same, and the concert was a recorded finale of perseverance.

“While we were in sectionals, the students seemed to forget about the challenges we were all facing,” Hudson said. “This was a chance for them to make connections, show off their skills on their instruments, and share laughs with each other.”

MSOE was live in 2022, and the mask mandate at CSU was also lifted.

"These students are some of the most motivated kids I have ever seen,” said Hudson about the 2022 MSOE group.

As both students and teachers become unmasked and vulnerable on every level, we are reminded of the ways in which music helps with depression, anxiety, trauma, and connects us as a society. Middle schoolers in particular are in need of these social outlets during a pivotal time in their lives where academic socialization has been strongly linked to academic performance.

The time between rehearsal sessions when students have time to bond is invaluable. In these moments, they realize that there are other unique and artistically minded individuals like them, which can be life changing.

MSOE conducted by Kathryn Kennedy
Kathryn Kennedy conducts “Defenders of the Realm,” by Jeremy Bell, performed by the MSOE Aggie Band.