Listening Lunches by Cohort Member Sarah Hunicke

In an effort to begin to shift the culture of the Portsmouth High School library to a more collaborative, innovative space, we hosted three Listening Lunches this winter. I solicited student musicians to perform during all three lunches, advertised the events, encouraged students to attend with a bag lunch, placed large garbage cans around the library, and held my breath.

The results were better than I could have hoped for the first event, just before the December vacation. Students were treated to holiday music performed by the flute choir and the saxophone ensemble. We had about 15 students for first lunch, 20 students for second lunch, and 32 students for third lunch. Students were attentive to the performers and they even cleaned up after themselves. The library was spotless when they left!

Our second event featured a student rock band the Friday before February vacation, and while the art teachers mentioned that they could hear the music in the adjoining rooms, they weren’t really complaining. They mentioned that their students didn’t even ask to put their earbuds in and listen to their own music. Our audience increased by about one third! Again, the students were respectful of the musicians and the space.

Finally, a student pianist peformed in March and our numbers increased again, though only slightly. This time, the performer encouraged audience participation. The students loved it. Overall, students were interested in the change of scenery for lunch, the music (of course) and socializing in a different context. We saw new faces in the library and some of those students began to frequent the library more regularly - something I certainly didn’t anticipate.


The goal for next year is to host monthly Listening Lunches, as long as we have student performers willing to sign up. If we don’t have live music, we are considering playing recorded music based on a theme in the library for those months. Students have suggested Show Tunes, Jazz and Disney. (I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the karaoke suggestion, however.) If we can make Listening Lunches a regular event and provide an opportunity for students to show off, I believe that more students will be willing to perform. Maybe we can even do an Open Mic at the end of the year!