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HHS band students receive scholarships

Out of the eight Hartselle High School band students who graduated in May, four received band scholarships.

The band graduates, who will be attending schools such as The University of Alabama, Auburn University, the University of Montevallo, Faulkner University and the University of North Alabama, are not the only class to achieve high success rates.

According to Director of Bands Randall Key, approximately eight of the 20 2014 graduates also received band scholarships.

Key expressed his passion for seeing his students receive music scholarships.

“It is my greatest pleasure to see these students get scholarships,” Key said. “I feel obligated, morally, obligated honestly, to help them because they put in so much work to help their school.”

Band scholarships were not the only honor awarded to the group, though. Key said that nearly all of the band graduates also received academic scholarships. As a group, the band received awards in state assessments and superior ratings at band competitions. Despite these statistical successes, though, Key said that his goals for the program and how he measures its success are much broader than awards.

“I always say that we teach life skills,” Key said. “Music is merely a byproduct of the program. Even if they choose not to participate in collegiate band, I want to prepare them to be successful in whatever they do.”

Key, who has served as the director for 12 years, discussed the numerous benefits of band in the lives of students. From an academic perspective, he said that music improves the cognitive functioning of students’ brains because it engages a lobe of the brain that is not used in any other task. Key cited one study by Demorest and Morrison that found that the average SAT scores for students increased for every year of musical study.

Moreover, the benefits extend to other avenues of life. Key explained that band students gain character traits, such as sportsmanship, perseverance and responsibility. They also learn people skills, such as respecting those in authority and appreciating the importance of each individual. Key noted that teamwork is an important part of band.

“They have to learn to work together,” he said. “Everyone’s participation affects our performance.”

Whether examining statistics or life skills, however, Key credits the  band program’s success to many factors, beginning with the students. He said that they attempt to set high standards for the students in the band program, teaching them collegiate-level skills such as scales and sight-reading. However, he said that the students must choose to embrace the knowledge and opportunities that they are given in order to make the program succeed.

“We have worked to establish high expectations,” Key said, “but it has become self-sustaining. The students are intrinsically motivated because they see the rewards that have been received by students in the past, and they do not want to be the one group that fails to meet those standards. The students have high expectations for themselves.”

Key also stressed the importance of Hartselle’s high academic standards in helping the band program thrive.

“As long as we have sound, strong academics, we’ll have a quality band program,” Key said. “We promote a strong work ethic in both academics and band. If the students apply themselves, they’ll have no problem in college.”

In addition to academics, though, Key also discussed the community support for the band program as a significant factor for the band’s success. He said the Band Boosters have been very helpful to the program. He also said that the administration has played an important role.

“We’ve had great administrative support,” Key said. “What we’ve had in the past years had helped us to achieve great things with our students.”

One setback that bands often face is the loss of funding. Key said that he has never viewed athletics or other extracurricular activities as an enemy of band, believing that the programs can stand independently while also working together.

With hopes that the band program will continue to thrive, Key is already planning for the upcoming year. The halftime theme will be revealed later in the summer at band camp, but he said that he has an idea with which he is working. He expects approximately 15-20 seniors in the program for the 2015-2016 school year.