With school starting this week, I thought it might be interesting to look at the current statistics of participation in choir and band in our schools and be reminded of the importance of fine arts education.

The Tallassee Music Department is one of the most well-known and respected music programs in the state. Instrumental and choral music has been a part of our school system for more than 80 years.

Ed Watkins served as the band director for the school system from 1949-1987. Many of the requirements, policies and even much of the music of Mr. Watkins’ era is still in place as a lasting tribute to the man who spent his entire career building the band. He was a giant in the field of instrumental music education.

Since then, Linwood Erb, Lavone DuBose and several others have made their mark on the band program. Robby Glasscock, who has served the students of Tallassee since 2001, doubled the size of the band during his tenure and has built upon earlier successes with superior-rated concert and marching bands. The marching band has performed in nationally televised parades from Chicago, San Antonio and Philadelphia in recent years, proving the band is a beloved part of our town which enjoys unwavering support from parents, community leaders and former band members.

Tallassee native James Bush served this community as a grocer, music teacher, choir director and principal throughout his long career and his influence continues on the choral program at THS. One of his former students, Jerry Cunningham, led the Tallassee Choral Department to unprecedented success over the years. In the 1990s and 2000s, the concert choir and its related show choir extensions — New Image, Gold Edition, Divas and others — have performed annual Spring Show programs that bring all of Tallassee into the high school auditorium for singing, dancing and entertainment. The choir also hosts the Capital City Classic at the Montgomery Performing Arts Center, performs at the Alabama National Fair and other venues across the state and has traveled to competitions in Nashville, Indianapolis, Orlando and many other places around the country. Everywhere the choir goes, the name of Tallassee becomes associated with quality musical performance and this is a testament to the enthusiasm found within the department.

At the end of the 2018-19 school year, 285 students were enrolled in music at Tallassee High School and an additional 156 at Southside Middle School, bringing our system-wide total to 441 students in music classes. This is a staggering number and people outside Tallassee may not realize it but we are the envy of many schools across the state who wish they had the participation level we enjoy here. I think it goes back to great leadership at the founding of the programs and continued support of administrators, parents and community. Most of all, the students want to be a part of something fun.

Dr. Johnny Long, former band director at Troy University, taught for more than 60 years and always said “band should be spelled f-u-n.” Students want to be a part of something that makes them feel successful and our music department at Tallassee is ready to do it again in 2019-20. We hope to see you at a ballgame or concert performance this year.