Riverhead enhancing art and music offerings

Riverhead Central School District students will soon have a new pathway to graduation via arts education, according to Jason Rottkamp, the district’s director of fine arts.

Mr. Rottkamp announced at a rcent Board of Education meeting that the district would be participating in the New York State Department of Education’s Individual Arts Assessment Pathway program.

The state launched the pilot program in September 2022 and will continue to roll it out through June 2025. “This is a local-determined pathway for students to become well-rounded artists,” Mr. Rottkamp said during his presentation to the board. “The targeted student population would be students looking to major in the fine arts, so it’s kind of giving them an avenue to not just take music classes but start to think about analysis, reflection. There are certain things that would be put together for a student to achieve this pathway.”

Mr. Rottkamp added the district would be following what is referred to as a “three-class” approach. 

“It’s not necessarily sequential, but it’s three classes that have specific goals in mind,” he said.

The district formed a committee to put the program in place, and Mr. Rottkamp announced its first meeting will be held Nov. 28. 

The committee is charged with coming up with guidelines for students to reach graduation through the arts pathway. The district’s goal is to pilot this program with a small group of students in September 2024 and then expand it to more students in 2025.

“There’s a lot of different districts that are in different stages of this,” Mr. Rottkamp said. “Some are in year one of the pilot, some are in year two depending on where they are, and some districts haven’t even started yet.”

Jason Rottkamp, director of Riverhead’s arts and music programs.(Credit:Melissa Azofeifa)

Riverhead schools offer a robust fine arts and music curriculum, beginning in kindergarten and running through 12th grade.

Kindergartners through sixth-grade students will receive general music instruction, according to Mr. Rottkamp’s presentation, as well as band, chorus and orchestra lessons and rehearsals.

Grades 7 and 8 participate in the same programs and also have the opportunity to join extracurriculars that include wind ensemble, jazz ensemble, chamber orchestra, chamber choir, show choir, the drama club, world drumming and the Summer Fine and Performing Arts Academy.

In high school, apart from band, chorus and orchestra lessons and rehearsals, students will have the opportunity to take music theory and Advanced Placement music theory as well as Introduction to Theater Production and Performance.

A broad variety of extracurriculars will also be available, including various music ensembles, the drama club, pit orchestra, pep band, Tri-M Music Honor Society and the Summer Fine and Performing Arts Academy.

In a recent phone interview, Mr. Rottkamp said that the district’s art and music programs have “wonderful support from the community and the board.”

“We hope to keep being able to offer as much as we can,” Mr. Rottkamp said, “and keep appealing to all parts of the community to invite [more] students into the arts.”