An arts unveiling, at last

  • Jones Gagnon plays the guitar at the Parker Academy arts and music celebration at the school on Tuesday evening, May 25, 2021. David Parker, founder & director of Parker Education, helped Gagnon get back to school. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • LEFT: Arts teacher Brynnalee Simmons sings at the event. “I feel like I provide a safe place where people can open up and share,” she said.

  • A hand-painted sign at Parker Academy on Tuesday, May 25, 2021. Dave Parker says the school has always stressed artistic expression as part of the curriculum. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • ABOVE: Student artwork hangs on display during the Parker Academy Arts and Music celebration.

  • Parker Academy student Own Markett raises his drumsticks to acknowledge the parents and friends at the school’s arts and music celebration on Tuesday evening. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Parker Academy sophomore Jamie Wiggin looks over her pencil drawings during the arts and music celebration. She says artist expression has helped her get through a challenging year with COVID and family health issues.

  • Parker Academy sophomore Jamie Wiggin (left) shares a laugh with her grandmother, Roberta Wiggin, during the arts and music celebration at the school on Tuesday evening, May 25, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Published: 5/31/2021 8:00:28 PM

Parker Academy in Concord held a celebration of arts for families last week where students were able to showcase their musical and artistic talents for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

The event was held outside at Parker Academy off Fisk Road for a masked audience of parents and family members. Students and teachers played instruments and sang, and visual artwork was on display nearby.

“It’s just so good to all be together, these parents never get to see their children in this light, onstage, performing,” said music teacher Zack Jones. “I’d say for the vast majority of our students, this is a big step outside their comfort zone. This is their final, this is what we work for all semester.”

Jones said he was happy to be doing “the real thing,” a live performance, after a year where events were remote and parents weren’t permitted in the school building. In December, Jones said they did a remote concert where each student pre-recorded themselves playing and Jones edited it together using video editing software.

Arts education is emphasized at Parker Academy as a form of self-expression for students, according to David Parker, founder and director of the school.

“The arts allow them to express themselves in a safe way, and for these kids, it really helps to build their self-esteem,” Parker said. “And for the high-performing artists, they get recognized for what they’re good at.”

Jones said he designs his music courses so that any student can join the class and play, with the result being that students display a range of skill levels.

“A large number of these musicians, the first time they picked up a musical instrument might have been this year, maybe four months ago,” Parker said. “Doesn’t matter. Everyone gets an opportunity.”

Visual and performing arts teacher Brynnalee Simmons said that the arts at Parker Academy are as therapeutic as they are academic for students.

“I feel like I provide a safe place where people can open up and share,” Simmons said. “There is so much that they have to take in, whether it is the internet or social media and COVID and the world. So add that to pre-existing anxiety and it’s tough.”

Parker Academy sophomore Jamie Wiggin said her artistic expression has been influenced by some personal challenges this year when her grandfather was diagnosed with cancer. Wiggin said she began drawing pictures of him, drawing activities they used to do together and writing songs.

“My art switched to more personal issues within myself and within the world,” Wiggin said. “Parker Academy has really given me the opportunity to express my creative side through all this.”

Eileen O

Eileen O'Grady is a Report for America corps member covering education for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. O’Grady is the former managing editor of Scope magazine at Northeastern University in Boston, where she reported on social justice issues, community activism, local politics and the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a native Vermonter and worked as a reporter covering local politics for the Shelburne News and the Citizen. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, U.S. News & World Report, The Bay State Banner, and VTDigger. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in politics and French from Mount Holyoke College, where she served as news editor for the Mount Holyoke News from 2017-2018.

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