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Academy Event: Students Skipped, but the Blame Goes Both Ways

On Monday evening of exam week, the Turtle Island Quartet came to play. As an Academy Event, it is expected that all students attend, whether or not they feel they can take the APs. But, sitting in the seventh row of the Large Auditorium at seven o’clock, I turned to look around at rows and rows of empty seats, not only in the senior section.

Who was responsible for this lack of attendance? Students? Faculty?

The sea of lonely, green seats in the Large Auditorium that night was a result of two basic factors: timing and lack of student interest. While timing can’t always be altered, student interest can. To prevent a repeat of this fall’s Academy Event in the future, there must be student representation on the Academy Event planning committee.

At first glance, students who skipped are blamed for their absence at a required event. But can you blame students for skipping in order to study for tests and upcoming exams?

Skipping a required Academy Event is four accountability points. I had one. That meant I had sixteen left before restrictions. So, should I have skipped? The answer: No.

I contemplated not attending, but knew I was going to end up going. Deerfield is based on such an upstanding code of honor and respect that skipping an Academy Event—an occasion that comes only twice a year and requires an incredible amount planning and money—is something I simply couldn’t do.

To all those who skipped, I understand the justifications, but I don’t think that they’re enough.

But I need to back up. So, granted, I went. But did I completely consent to it? No. I was present but I was not paying full attention to the musicians. I was glancing at a review sheet in my hand as the mandolinist played.

So, many students didn’t show up, and students like me who went didn’t give the musicians full respect.

BUT—this is only half the equation. The other half? The Academy Event planning committee is an equal part of the problem.

Last spring, the committee was choosing between the Turtle Island Quartet and an African singing group named Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

There were no student representatives on the committee, but some students were asked their preference. All chose the African singers.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo is an absolutely outstanding musical group. I have grown up listening to their CDs and have seen them on television performing with Paul Simon. They travel across the globe and are fantastic performers, and I would have gone to see them on an exam night.

I don’t know how the final consensus was reached, but the committee chose the Quartet. I would confidently argue that far fewer students would have skipped Ladysmith Black Mambazo because they weren’t interested or wanted to study.

I am aware that a lot of factors go into planning Academy Events, but shouldn’t student interest be one of the most important?
Why, if one hundred percent of a surveyed class of students voted for group A, did the committee choose group B?

As I sat in the uncomfortably empty auditorium, I thought how awed I would be if Ladysmith Black Mambazo was performing instead.
There is musical value in the Turtle Island Quartet, but while many of us have seen violinists and cello players, native African singers are much more unusual. Well, that’s how I see it.

I don’t think anyone had the right to skip, even if, like me, they weren’t particularly interested. At the same time, the planning committee should not have chosen group B without student input.

There need to be representatives for the students who are expected to attend these events, particularly since so much effort is put into them.

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