Heard County School System Invests in Music Program
Over the past several years, the Heard County School System has made an investment of time, manpower, and financial resources into an ever expanding music program. The central motivation behind this new musical movement is the desire to expose all of Heard County’s students to the fine arts, while additionally providing opportunities for those students who choose to develop their musical talents.To this end, the Heard County School Board invested more resources into an elementary music program, while expanding the opportunities and resources available to students at Heard County Middle School and Heard County High School.
At the elementary level, Tyson Askew (music teacher at Heard County Elementary School) and Dylan Blackwelder (music teacher at Centralhatchee Elementary and Ephesus Elementary) have been provided with a wealth of resources to connect students to music. Instruments, rarely available to students in the primary grades, such as class sets of piano keyboards (and accessories), guitars, and ukuleles, were purchased with SPLOST funds. Additionally, several xylophones, metallophones, and glockenspiels, along with handheld instruments including drums, hand bells, tambourines, rhythm sticks, triangles, maracas, guiros, boomwhackers, jingle bells, woodblocks, and claves, were purchased so that all Heard County children would have an opportunity to develop their musical abilities. “Before SPLOST funds were available for the music program, there were virtually no instruments in the classroom,” claims Blackwelder. “Now, our students are able to experience every aspect of music-making, while learning lifelong skills and applying knowledge in a way that was impossible before.”
Heard County Elementary School music teacher Tyson Askew agrees that the school system’s investment is critical in developing a first class music program, but also to developing Heard County students as individuals. “Investing in Music Education does not only provide students with the ability to express themselves creatively, but aids in strengthening skills for core classes such as math, reading, and social studies,” claim Askew. “Our students have shown an outstanding love and interest in Fine Arts that makes it necessary for us to provide resources that will strengthen their growth.”
At Heard County Middle School (HCMS), the music program continues to expand. now offering Concert Band, Show Choir, and Music Appreciation. This expansion would have been impossible without a significant investment from SPLOST funds. These funds purchased more than $20,000 in badly needed new instruments for Heard County Middle School students including Baritone Saxophones, Alto Saxophones, Clarinets, Flutes, and Baritones. “The past few years I have witnessed a sizable increase in our school systems investment in our music program,” stated Jaime Barnard, HCMS music teacher. “This investment has not only raised the level of our program, but has improved the pride our students have in themselves and their school.” In addition to new instruments, HCMS has received SPLOST investments for a professional sound system, Bass Drum cradles, percussion mallets, music stands, and
music stand racks.
Heard County High School has seen an increase in the opportunities for students who want to participate in the music program. Marching Band, Concert Band, Percussion Ensemble, Colorguard, Indoor Drumline, Winter Guard, Jazz Band, and Chorus are all available to high school students thanks to increased demand from students and increased investment from the Heard County Board of Education. New uniforms, instruments, and equipment are required to have a quality and competitive music program. “When you have quality equipment, you can spend more time on making the music sound perfect,” said Johnny Hurd, HCHS band director. “Not having to spend time and resources to repair equipment is a band director's dream come true. The band program at Heard County is very fortunate to perform on the amazing equipment purchased through SPLOST dollars. We would not be able to perform on a competitive level without this funding.”
Additionally, the Marching Band desperately needed a safer and larger band tower. “Creating a clean, competitive form on the band field requires a field of vision that can't be achieved by standing on the sidelines,” added Hurd. “SPLOST funds allowed the marching band staff to have a bird's eye view of the field performances. This spacious, safe band tower has allowed several staff members to watch rehearsal from a press box style angle at the same time. We now have the ability to achieve better results in a shorter period of time.”
Perhaps no other person has been a greater witness to the recent transformation of Heard County’s music program than Nancy Heard, who served as band director and music teacher in Heard County from 1986 until 2012. “The investments made into our music programs will allow for our students to actually experience performing the way that it should be. Learning music with good, working equipment, not having to share instruments will certainly increase how well our students can play,” believes Heard. “Of course it will help students and parents develop pride in our program and our school, but it will also make the Heard County Schools a more desirable place for families to bring their students and for professionals to seek employment.”
According to Heard, SPLOST investment in the system’s music program has had a tremendous positive impact on the lives of students. “In the band program alone, the purchases in recent years had allowed the band to participate in so many things they could not in the past,” declared Heard. “These students are gaining lifelong lessons and memories through their activities. They've travelled places and attended many events that shape their lives by simple exposure to worlds outside of Heard County.”
Heard has returned to Heard County High School recently to teach and expand the school’s chorus program. To help jump start this endeavor, the school system purchased a professional quality electric piano, risers, sound equipment, microphones, microphone stands, good folders, and enough music to get the program off the ground. These items are used on a daily basis by the HCHS chorus, and were purchased using SPLOST funds.
“As the choral director, I'm beginning to seek out these opportunities for chorus students,” stated Heard. “The equipment and music purchased for us has allowed us to start a choral program from scratch. Many students have absolutely found their much needed place to belong. They are learning the joy of making music, many who have never done it before. Regardless of how good a student is, for many of them, it's their favorite class. In other words, it keeps them interested in coming to school. Now that we have a choral program, we have students seeking singing in college, including some who are auditioning for scholarships.”
Superintendent Rodney Kay commented, “We have committed to building a top notch performing arts program in Heard County. We are so proud of the progress we have witnessed at all levels in our K-12 programs across the district. The Board of Education is all-in on this commitment and our kids will be the beneficiaries of this commitment. None of this would be possible without the ESPLOST and we are certainly appreciative of a community who helps us Put Kids First!”
The ESPLOST is up for renewal in Heard County on Tuesday, March 16th. Early voting begins Monday, February 22nd and continues through Friday, March 12th. Early voting opportunities will be available at the Heard County courthouse Monday - Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each day.