April 5, 2013 11:32:38 AM
Sarah Fowler - firstname.lastname@example.org
As the school year comes to a close, most high school students are counting down the days until the bell rings for the last time. But for more than 50 choral students from Columbus Middle School and nearly 100 students from Columbus High, there is work to be done.
The students are working diligently to prepare for their spring concert.
Led by choral director Michael Jackson and middle school teacher Jennifer Butts, the students have been preparing for the upcoming concert since August. After the concert, the students will then head to Atlanta to compete against thousands of other students from across the nation in a choral competition.
Jackson said while students today are consumed by technology, the music program is a way for them to develop artistically.
"It's a means of having the kids develop a deep appreciation for music, not only because it's a gift but it's something they can have that will be with them for life," Jackson said. "Some might even find this to be a career like I did. It's instilling that seed in them."
In the middle school, 35 girls in grades 6-8 make up the Girls' Choir. Another 20 middle school students in grades 6-8 perform in Showtime, a singing and dancing group. Another 24 students make up Frontline, a version of Showtime for older students, while more than 60 students have joined the after-school gospel group. The students in the Girls' Choir, Showtime and Frontline take music as a class and receive school credit.
"Music is a creative outlet where kids can be active participants and learn social skills, self-esteem, and performance skills," Jackson said. "It's a big confidence booster."
Since Jackson became the director six years ago, the group has traveled all over the country performing and competing.
"These festivals are important to the music growth of our students because it gives them an opportunity to experience performance with other high school students from around the country as well as receive ratings and performance critiques from professional music judges that help students grow musically. For some students this is the first time some of them have traveled to another city or away from home," Jackson said.
"Being able to take the students to perform on different stages in places such as Atlanta, New York, Chicago, St. Louis, Orlando and Dallas is making them well-rounded as a person."
The rigorous training has paid off and the students regularly bring home awards.
"During my six years of traveling with the choir, we have had the pleasure of being named Overall Best Junior High School Choir when the middle school traveled to Texas in 2008 and 2012," Jackson said. "In 2012, Frontline Show Choir was awarded the Esprit de Corps Award in New York. This is the highest award given by the festival to a school they feel demonstrats proper social behavior as well as musical performance.
"Columbus Middle School was also awarded this award in 2008 in Texas. Being able to walk away each year with high ratings of superior and first place is a testament to the hard work and dedication that the students and parents have poured into our music program.
"It is through this type of curricular and extracurricular programs that schools are able to promote and encourage student excellence and use it as a catalyst for a rise in academic achievement."
While the students perform nationally, they also perform locally at civic events. Jackson encouraged the community to come support the teens in the upcoming concert, which will be held April 12 at 7 p.m. at the Columbus Middle School Auditorium. Tickets are $5.
"I just feel when the kids are doing positive things it's not as visible as it is when they're doing something negative," Jackson said. "Come out and let these kids know, 'Hey we see that you're doing something good and keep up the good work.'"
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.