Study hall aims to help IB diploma candidates

Band students struggle to balance rigorous course load


Maren Wilsey

In a practice room, junior Greta Runyon and Gretchen Huebsch study sheet music May 9. In order to keep up with an IB course-load, the Independent Study Wind Ensemble allows students to practice band on their own time.

For several students, balancing the responsibilities of being a full-time band student and achieving the IB diploma has become increasingly difficult. 

Resulting from the blow the band program took due to the pandemic, band director Steve Schmitz said he is hosting a study hall in his classroom to help the IB Diploma candidates, with problems like these. 

We are rebuilding our program after one to 1.5 years of online — band and any hands-on elective throughout the country, from what I understand, suffered great losses in number and skill during that time,” Schmitz said. “Even before that, I would do anything to help the students remove obstacles to be in our program, but it seemed especially important now.”

Independent Study Wind Ensemble is an arrangement for IB diploma candidates who want to participate in the arts, while also managing the rigorous schedule required for the IB program. It functions as a regular class that students are graded on, while also an extension for those unable to fit in the normal class periods, junior Sophia Earle said.

“One benefit … is that we get freedom to work on the music how we want and it gives us time to process the information on our own time,” Earle said. “Another benefit is it allows us to take all of our other IB classes since the IB diploma is such a rigorous course and we have a lot of scheduling conflicts with it — we still get to do band, but also take the IB classes.”

Students learn music on their own and during his prep time, Schmitz said he ensures the students receive the support necessary to complete independent study. 

“None of (the other options) were ideal — this is a little bit better,” Schmitz said. “Between the counselors and I, we’ve thought this is a way that they can still get a credit and still stay in band and hopefully when their schedule clears up, ideally some of them will join fully again senior year.”

According to junior Greta Runyan, this type of study hall differs from others, as it allowed them to work more closely with the teacher, as a substitute for the actual class. 

“We didn’t want to have to drop this class because I was already going to go on the trip over spring break, and that required learning a lot of music for that and I couldn’t just drop out of the program — it was beneficial to have a group where I could sit and participate,” Runyan said. “I’m really glad I’m able to take all the classes that I can, and it’s really nice how it just works into my schedule (so) I don’t have to worry about having to double up.” 

Confronting the issues that come with balancing many large commitments, Schmitz said he hopes to offer solutions to any students struggling. 

“An important part of IB is the arts and creativity, yet with a school that functions as a small town school like ours, students are often edged out of these very creative activities that IB deems important,” Schmitz said. “Instead of getting frustrated, I tried to find solutions.”