Lindale High School senior Aly Acheson's love is music, and choir has been a major part of her life.
“I was really disappointed because every school I've been to (had a choir), even schools not as nice as this one …” she said. “When we moved here I was expecting there to be a choir because they have lots of activities and clubs — crazy stuff I've never heard of — and I thought they would at least have a choir.”
Superintendent Stan Surratt said the program was cut in the 2006-07 school year after some self-imposed financial struggles. Surratt said he was not working for the district at the time.
“They had to do something to get back on their feet and corrected,” Surratt said. “They had to cut programs, had to cut staff and those were part of the cuts.”
When the program was revitalized this year, Ms. Acheson said she eagerly joined.
“When they finally got a choir back, I was really excited because I do what to pursue this in college next year … because I love it,” she said.
Fourth-grade music teacher Phillip Nix said he was approached by Surratt at the end of the 2011 school year about teaching a high school class. Nix said he eagerly spent the summer preparing a plan to kick-start a fresh program.
In addition to teaching fourth-grade music, Nix already had started working with some students at the junior high.
“My wife, her mother and I planned an after-school choir club at the junior high,” he said. “It was a real informal thing, and we put together a few little performances here and there.”
Nix said the students publically performed winning poems from a separately held poetry contest and put on a Christmas program.
“We were the only junior high to not have classes and have students audition …” he said. “We had nine students audition and three made it into the choir.”
The club currently is practicing to put on a “Music Man” musical production in conjunction with the junior high drama department at the end of May.
“Several of the high school students are going to be helping with that and doing some of the roles that are more difficult or too low for some of their voices,” Nix said.
The high school choir also did well in competitions. Two students made it to the next round of all region choirs and will go on to area competitions. At UIL, four soloists made a 1, the highest score given, and three qualified to advance to state. A quartet also will compete at the state level, Nix said.
“I think it's really amazing what they are able to accomplish with such little previous training — and really so little time,” Nix said, adding the students had three weeks to perfect their competition songs. “It's rare to learn a song that quickly at that level.
“It's a credit to those students.”
Ms. Acheson was in the advancing quartet.
“I was literally so excited on the way home I cried my eyes out, because it means so much to me …” she said. “To advance to state with the quartet was the best moment in this class this year so far.”
'The Casey Rivers thing, I thought was cool — playing with someone a little bit famous,” said junior Camren Davis, who also will go to state UIL performances with the quartet.
Nix said it hasn't been entirely easy. He said the program has virtually no funding and at times'
Nix said beginning the year has not been easy, but he is looking to build a quality program at the school within a few years. He said there is little funding in the budget and at times he has personally bought music for the students.
He said teaching beginner, intermediate and advanced students in one class also has been a challenge because each student has a different set of needs.
“The ultimate goal would be to have several classes at the high school and a junior high … feeder program, so we don't have beginners every year (with) advance students, which is really difficult to do and difficult to teach,” Nix said.
Nix said he is impressed with the Lindale community because they are such strong supporters of the district and the students in it. He said he believes if the community got behind the program, he has no doubts it would be a success.
“We are trying to get ourselves known, let them know this is what we are doing,” he said. “This is a serious endeavor, and we are doing our best to make it as successful as possible.”
Surratt said Nix has done a great job with the students and he is proud of the program. He said the program should follow a natural progression and as student interest builds, the administration would work to slowly build the program.
“We are very proud of their successes, very proud of the program,” Surratt said. “We hope it keeps growing and we have more student interest. … We are excited about the program and we think it's off to a great restart.”