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GHS band awarded 20K grant

A parent’s efforts has drummed up an impressive $20,000 for Greenville High School’s band program. The monies come via a comprehensive arts grant offered through the Alabama Department of Education’s Alabama Arts Education Initiative.

The GHS grant proposal, “Percussion Works,” was written by former GHS art teacher and owner of Artitude on Main, Stacey Edwards.

Percussion Works will directly benefit the band’s percussion section. This includes the marching band’s drum line and all percussion instruments used with the symphonic and jazz bands, including the xylophone.

“The AAEI grant program is tailored for schools which either already have strong arts programs, or those trying to get an arts program off the ground,” Edwards explained.

“We are so fortunate to already have a thriving arts program at GHS; we just happen to need more funding to take it to the next level for our students.”

She describes GHS band director Sarah Haymon as “a huge help and a great resource” in the grant-writing process.

“Miss Haymon is very much interested in seeing our percussion section brought up to par with the rest of our band,” Edwards said.

As both an arts educator and parent to a couple of GHS drum line members, Simon and Hollis, Edwards says she is well aware of the importance of the arts in a community’s schools–and the needs that can’t be met within the budget constraints of both the school and those it serves.

“Because we are a Title 1 school, there is a definite need here; we also have a great deal of diversity in our student population and audience,” Edwards explained.

“The AAEI grant program is looking for schools that reflect both need and diversity. They also want to see that there are highly qualified and committed teachers already involved in programs, and that those programs are seeking to bring something extra to the table for their students.”

The AAEI grant is renewable for two additional years, with grant writers reapplying for the funds in the second and third years. In her proposal, Edwards mapped out the program’s three-year plan.

“This first year we will initially concentrate on fixing, repairing and replacing the percussion equipment. A lot of it is close to 20 years old and it’s literally being held together with rubber bands and duct tape,” she explained.

“It’s not so hard to pay for a trumpet or flute; but when you are referring to, say, a high-quality timpani drum, even a good used one runs $4,000. That’s not so easy to manage, and it’s a financial hardship to replace some of these band instruments without some help.”

Additional “Percussion Works” plans for its first year include bringing workshops with specialized percussion instructors to the high school to work with its musicians.

“Many of our percussionists are not able to read music, so workshops like these will really be beneficial. We also want to increase summertime instruction, along with participation in percussion workshops at area colleges and universities,” Edwards explained.

“We are looking at having our senior high students go into our elementary school classrooms to work with the students. This type of interaction is a great way to spark the students’ interest—and a good recruitment tool for our wonderful band program at Greenville Middle School.”

For its second year, Edwards says the school hopes to create its own music studio.

“We want to use such a studio as a tool to get students who may not be traditional musicians, who aren’t in band, involved in the creative process—whether through singing, rapping or the production side of things,” she explained. “It would be such a cool way to foster collaboration among the students and get more students involved in the arts.”

As for the grant’s third year, Edwards says there are no firm plans yet, except to evaluate the perennial need to repair or replace additional instruments.

“What we do know we want to do, is to continue to be cutting edge in what we offer the students, utilizing these incredible young musicians and taking full advantage of the great program we have built, starting out with Greenville Middle School Band Director Mr. Pryor and our middle school band program,” Edwards said.

“It’s really exciting as an arts educator and as a parent to see this program keep evolving.”