Opinion: Prep Music Needs More Love

Jeffrey Go, Editor-in-Chief

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when someone says the word “mass?” Is it the scripture readings? The specific dress code for the day? The sense of community? For me, the first thing that comes to mind when I think of mass at Prep is the beautiful music that comes with the special occasion. However, as the years pass, the quality of the equipment and instruments used by the entire music department is degrading and in dire need of maintenance or upgrades.

Let’s start with the piano. Two years ago, the upright piano would be in a passable condition. There was nothing wrong with the piano in terms of its playability, and while it was no Steinway, it could certainly get the job done.

However, last year, the piano sustained major damage that broke a portion of the internals. Since then, the piano has been left in a state of disrepair for a full year now.

Lead pianist of the Jazz Band and captain of the Jam Band Gabe Tanumihardja ’23 described the issues he’s faced with the piano. “The Low E key is detuned and has a very tannic ring. We were supposed to get a tuner last year, but [previous Prep Band Director] Ms. Bost left, and we didn’t get another solely dedicated band teacher, so it’s probably not going to happen this year,” said Tanumihardja.

In addition, when holding down the sustain pedal, all notes should sustain their sound even when not held down, but only about two-thirds of the notes still do this. This issue has made it increasingly difficult to play many songs, with the pianist being forced to adapt to a problem that could be solved.

Fr. Ryan Rallanka also explained the challenges with creating a sound system outside for the first mass of the year. “It’s a little tricky to set up an outdoor sound system. It’s not built to support that, so there’s extra structures built in place,” said Rallanka. “I don’t think there’s anyone necessarily whose sole job it is to do sound. I honestly think he’s (Prep IT Support Mr. Curtin) is doing the best he can with the job that he’s been given, but he’s trained to work more with computers and less with the sound system.”

Rallanka then explained how music is such an important part of Seattle Prep, especially in liturgies. “I’m a firm believer that as Saint Augustine says, ‘Singing is praying twice.’ Music is a way to bring vibrancy and life to our prayer,” said Rallanka. “I think it animates the spiritual life of the school, especially during liturgies.”

Prep’s music is lively, fun, but most importantly, it is deeply spiritual. If the music suffers, the school takes a hit as well.

The nearing completion of the Merlino Center serves as lemon juice in the cut. “I love sports, don’t get me wrong. People want to go to schools who have a good sports department, said Tanumihardja. “But we’re down in this little hallway with three art rooms underground with a tiny band room. At the peak of the band’s size, it was definitely a struggle. We had ten horns, two guitars, a piano player, someone on drums, someone on the vibraphone, and it got really loud. I really think that the arts are really underrepresented at our school, and while I understand that sports are important, it’s a little bit of a sting for a massive center be built for sports.”

When asked about solutions to these problems, Rallanka said that “Students should be empowered to raise these concerns because these issues aren’t necessarily going to be on our radar. As you were talking about it, I was thinking ‘Oh yeah, those are definitely things we could fix.’”

Despite these persistent problems, I believe that they can be resolved, and the music department can thrive. With just a few maintenance fixes, intentional care, and vocal advocates, music at Prep can soar to new heights and unlock its full potential.

Tanumihardja expressed the importance of having improvements made to the music department. “Just having a musical area that kids can go to that’s already established is really important for kids that are interested in music, want to major in music, or even pursue it as a career path. It’s a lot harder to develop your skills and understand the love of music without an actual center in place to do that.”