School music programs are thriving in Tucker County at both elementary/middle schools and the county high school, officials said.
Davis Thomas Elementary/Middle, Tucker Valley Elementary/Middle and Tucker County High schools collectively support general music, band and choir classes. Heather Lantz is the music director at Davis Thomas and Tucker County.
"We have a good interest in a lot of the instruments," she said.
The Tucker County High School band stand ready to perform at a field show in their recognizable black, white and gold school colors.
Students begin taking general music classes in fourth grade at Davis Thomas, Lantz said, and within general music class they are exposed to each instrument. During their fourth grade year, each student will pick an instrument to be played during their fifth-grade band class.
Among those available, Lantz said, the various percussion instruments are a popular choice. The trumpet is also commonly chosen.
Fifth and sixth grade students have their own separate band classes, and seventh and eighth grade bands classes are combined into one. Lantz said there are 45 students, total, in band.
Lantz said that, although the number of students enrolled in band classes is high, she would like to see it be even higher.
"I still would like to see more kids," she said.
Often, enrollment is hindered by scheduling conflicts, Lantz said. Students become interested in other activities and cannot always fit in the classes they would prefer to have.
At the high school, kids can choose to enroll in a band or guitar class - or both.
The band marches in the fall, Lantz said, and they attend many high school football games.
"We are pretty good at following our football team," she said.
Concerts are conducted in the fall and spring for both the middle/elementary and high schools.
Lantz said the winter concerts for each school were completed this month and the spring concerts will be done in March or April of 2013. Guitar students were given a feature at this year's fall concert.
Band competitions are also completed during the year. This fall, Tucker County participated in the Forest Festival parade and field show competitions and were awarded third place in the field show.
Similarly, the high school participated in a field show competition at the Autumn Glory Festival in Oakland, Md., and took first place in their division.
Lantz specifically noted that two students were selected in November to attend the Honor Winds Ensemble at Alderson-Broaddus College.
Katee Moore, a sophomore clarinet player, and Ashley Taylor, a senior percussion instrumentalist, were nominated by Lantz to participate in the event.
For two entire days, the ensemble worked on music pieces in preparation for a final concert, which took place Nov. 13.
Rob Maston, the band director at Tucker Valley, explained the process that kids go through when enrolled in his music classes.
At Tucker Valley, kids in the fifth grade general music class are exposed to the range of instruments available in the following year's band class.
During their fifth grade year, kids are told to pick two instruments they like the best, and these two options help Maston determine what instrument each child should begin to play.
"I try to let them play what they are interested in," Maston said.
In sixth grade, at Tucker Valley, every child is enrolled in Maston's introduction to band course.
As in Lantz's classes, different instruments are well represented. Maston said the flute, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, tuba, bells and percussion instruments are all displayed.
Due to the fact that the first year of band is required, instruments are provided for each student. When kids move to seventh and eighth grade, however, band class is optional, and providing instruments becomes more difficult.
"My hardest obstacle is to keep all the instruments available," Maston said.
He encourages kids to rent or purchase an instrument during their seventh grade year and tries to supplement children who are unable to do that.
Like the kids at other schools in the county, Tucker Valley band students have a fall and spring concert.
The combined seventh and eighth grade band class has 47 members, and their concert took place last week.
In addition to a spring concert, students from the elementary/middle school also attend the regional band festival during the second half of the school year.
During the festival, students perform individual pieces and are awarded a performance rating.
Students at Davis Thomas and Tucker County also perform at the band festival, Lantz said.
Maston also introduced Eric Emch, the choir director at Tucker Valley.
"We are really fortunate to have two directors," Maston said.
In addition to sixth grade band, sixth grade choir, with Emch, is required.
"When (students) get to seventh grade they can choose choir, band or both," said Emch.
Performances from the choir include, like the band, fall and spring concerts, including songs in many styles, such as jazz and pop.
"We try to do a little bit of everything," Emch said.
Also during spring, a stage musical is completed. This year, a Willy Wonka-themed program will be performed.
Emch said 50 students were involved last year when they did a rendition of "Grease."
For the musicals, sixth, seventh and eighth grade students can participate alongside faculty and staff members.
"I think (the musicals) reference the fact that everyone is a lifelong learner," Emch said, speaking about the mix between children and adults.
The choir has performed at the Parsons Senior Center in past years, and have been invited to sing at various locations in town.
Although there is no choir program at the high school - therefore providing no continuation from each student's eighth grade year - participation has increased during the last five years, Emch said.
He said 80 kids were in the choir this year, and 88 will be singing in January.
"I am extremely happy with the participation," Emch said.
Contact Casey Houser by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.