Exciting Updates in the Music Department


Scarlett Chu, Editor

Kent’s Music Department is welcoming many new changes this year: with new faculty, academic course offerings, and ensembles, there is much to be excited about. 

Ms. Deborah Pendal, named Music Department Chair after teaching at Kent for 18 years, talks about some faculty changes, including that Ms. Seina Shirakura has transitioned to teaching strings full time. “This department is different from the other academic departments in the school,” she comments. “We have twelve part-time teachers who rotate through and teach private lessons and ensembles; there are a lot of moving parts.” Indeed, with three large instrumental groups, four Choral Ensembles, and various chamber and performance opportunities in the Chapel Music Program, Kent’s Music Department is one of the most unique and diverse hubs in the school.

The new schedule has instituted new changes in the music programs: without Sunday chapels anymore, the previous St. Joseph’s Chapel Choir has been replaced with the Glee Club, an ensemble designed for newer singers with a lighter repertoire. Now, a voluntary Community Choir sings in the tri-weekly chapel sessions. The school currently offers 4 specialized graded choral ensembles: Glee Club, Chamber Choir, and the Kentones and Kentettes, all members of which come together to make up the Concert Choir. Instrumental musical groups include the Concert Band—woodwind, brass, and percussion, the Orchestra—strings and percussion—and the Jazz Band.

Other than performing in music ensembles and taking individual courses, Music Survey used to be the only academic course students could take to fulfill their music requirement. This year, in addition to the now-major course being renamed Music History & Appreciation, there are now five courses which will fulfill students graduation requirements: Perspectives in Jazz, The Blues: A Musical Journey, An Exploration of Rock-N-Roll, Music Theory, and Music Technology. Branching between music and history, students can take the three courses exploring different musical genres to add to their liberal arts requirement at Kent simultaneously. Even though we have to wait till Spring Term for some electives to take place, there has been great enthusiasm for the new options with many sign-ups for Music Technology and An Exploration of Rock-N-Roll. Ms. Pendal hopes by opening up the graduation requirements to garner more student interest in the programs and grow the music community on campus after the pandemic-ridden year. 

With music’s focus on community and unity, it was difficult to work around COVID-19 restrictions while maintaining the intimacy of musical performance last year. “To sing six feet apart with singers’ masks on was not even remotely the same experience as singing next to somebody in a choir,” she expressed. 

The Orchestra was masked, and Band had to separate into two groups to reduce size and increase spacing, and practice in different locations, the Mattison Auditorium and the Recital Hall, which meant setting up and taking apart each of those spaces every week. Even though, with the doctor’s permission, students were occasionally able to perform without masks last year, Ms. Pendal is glad to have everything back to normal. “It was great performing on Parents’ Weekend, to be able to present grand pieces with everybody together.” She hopes to continue to grow from the year of hybrid rehearsals and social distancing to “rejoin, to rebuild, to bring everybody together again.” With a great start of the year with the Parents’ Weekend Concert and a Chamber Music Recital and many more performances upcoming, all can look forward to great demonstrations of Kent’s musical talent. 

You can find regular snapshots about the various programs on Kent School Music’s Instagram page.