SIDNEY — Family and friends of students at the Maine Arts Academy in Sidney braved cold temperatures Friday morning for an outdoor, walk-through recital that gave students the opportunity to display their talents to an in-person, socially distanced audience.

Attendees looped around the campus, located on Messalonskee Lake, and stopped at eight locations to watch students perform monologues, sing, dance and play musical instruments.

The recital ended with an art show that included pieces made by the visual arts students.

Head of School Heather King said the idea to have a hybrid-style recital has been part of the ongoing effort to be creative during the coronavirus pandemic.

“This has really helped us be creative,” King said. “We’ve really just had to think outside the box. So we were just brainstorming, and I think I was like, ‘We could have an outdoor recital because we had an outdoor graduation.’ Our graduation was a drive-thru format, so we thought, since we already did it for graduation, we could do this as well.”  

Attendees, as well as dancers, singers and some students who played instruments, wore protective masks during the event.

Students who performed monologues and those who played brass or wind instruments removed their masks during their performances.

Hand sanitizer and extra masks were available at several stops along the recital route.

Trombonist Kloe McEachirn performs Friday with the Maine Arts Academy Jazz Ensemble during the walk-through Harvest Recital at the academy in Sidney. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

After the final dance performance, attendees walked through a gallery in groups of 10 to view the art.

“We really wanted to make sure that everybody was safe,” King said.

King emphasized her excitement to be able to have the recital, especially with the uncertainty the pandemic has brought.

I’m thrilled we were able to do this. Especially as a teenager, this is all such a hard time, and I feel like they can feel isolated,” King said. “I’m so happy especially because when we have these recitals, we can really see the purpose of why we have this school.” 

Now in its fifth year, Maine Arts Academy is a public charter school that serves 250 students from almost 80 Maine communties.

With the coronavirus pandemic, Maine Arts Academy opted for a hybrid-learning model, where students alternate days of in-person and remote learning. Some students have opted for fully remote learning.

Jacob Demerchant, center, a student at the Maine Arts Academy in Sidney, delivers a monologue from William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” during the walk-through Harvest Recital at the academy in Sidney. Parents and students, shown in the background, walked the campus during the recital. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

King, who has been with the school since its inception, said the school made a seamless transition to remote learning in the spring, which made planning for the fall much easier. Spring performances were held via Zoom, so having an in-person element this fall felt more normal.

While one cohort is on campus, the other livestreams into class. In-person class sizes are limited to 10 students. The school is responsible for transporting about 120 students to school each day, using five buses and two vans.

King said she hoped to organize another walk-thru style recital later this year.

Many students who participated in Friday’s recital noted how grateful they were to perform this year after having the spring semester moved online.

“This feels really good, especially since I’m a senior,” said Shelby Lyons, 17, who performed in the advanced dance segment of the show. “It’s really nice to be able to perform and actually do things my senior year.”

Senior piano player Dawud Bloomstein, 17, who performed a rendition of Beethoven’s “Pathétique” sonata, agreed with Lyons.

“It’s really, really amazing,” Bloomstein said. “I’ve been working at the piano for so long, so it’s really nice to be able to play my final year, and maybe an inspiration for any incoming students. It’s just really great.”

Bassist Nathan Clark performs Friday with the Maine Arts Academy Jazz Ensemble during the walk-through Harvest Recital at the academy in Sidney. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Kloe McEachirn, 16, who plays the trombone, said Friday’s event gave students a sense of normalcy despite the hybrid format. 

“Last year, we didn’t get a chance to do our end of the year performances,” McEachirn said. “So this really helped everyone feel more normal even with the circumstances.” 

Musical theater students Zion Lawrence and Dorothy Anne Giroux-Pare agreed with McEachirn.

“We’re really happy we were able to perform,” said Giroux-Pare, 17. “Because we’ve honestly been struggling with the beginning of this year and the end of last year, so to be able to show everyone what we’ve been working on is great.”

“It shows everyone that we’re still here, we’re still performing,” Lawrence, 15, added.

Morning Sentinel reporter Greg Levinsky contributed to this report.

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