EHS band students look forward to added space
Published 9:30 am Monday, July 13, 2015
It wasn’t just city leaders who joined the celebration of a new music room and classrooms at Elizabethton High School Friday.
Former and current EHS students took time out from their summer break to be a part of the excitement.
Hannah Manuel, former EHS drum major, believes the addition is a really good thing for the students as well as the community.
“We have always had a makeshift band room,” Manuel said. “The auditorium is not fit for what we need it for.”
Upcoming EHS junior Hayley Jarnagin, who plays clarinet, agreed with Manuel.
“It’s really cluttered in there,” she said. “In the new band room, we’ll be able to spread out more instead of sitting on top of each other when we practice.”
Jarnagin pointed out a unique aspect of the design she looks forward to the most. There will be no excuse to miss practice because of weather, she said.
“When it rains, we can still practice inside,” she said. “They will mark the yard lines inside. It’s really cool.”
There’s a lot of excitement stirring among Manuel’s friends who are still in the program, she said. Some even like to rub it in a little.
“My brother is in the band,” she said. “The program has been such a huge part of my life. I’m continuing to study music. I plan to graduate with a music education degree.”
Manuel doesn’t perceive the situation as missing out. She’s happy her fellow Cyclones will have a practice space they deserve.
“They will have an actual band room,” she said. “It’s a place where they can practice. They will have a space to use in whatever way they need it for.”
Upcoming EHS seniors Jacob Thomas, a french horn player, and Weston Taylor, a trombone player, are both hoping the project will be complete before they graduate.
“We hope it will be done by about January or February,” Taylor said. “That way we could use it to get ready for concert season in the spring.”
Even though the band has already proven its success in years past without an actual band room, Taylor said there will be an even greater expectation for future generations that will get to use the space throughout their entire high school careers.
“Bigger and better things will happen with a work space like this,” he said.
Taylor wants to see the new band room spark even more participation in band.
“I’m hoping this will change people’s minds about band,” he said. “I think more people will join band just to see if they like it. Hopefully they all will.”
The projects going on at EHS, Taylor said, puts a spotlight on what makes his school stand out from all the others.
“We’ve got a great athletics program and a great fine arts program,” Taylor said. “I’m even more proud to be a part of it.”
Elizabethton School System Director Corey Gardenhour was energized by the looks of excitement on guests’ faces.
“I think it’s a day we are all going to remember,” Gardenhour said. “We are all now a part of the school system’s history and the history of Elizabethton.”
Gardenhour summed up all the hard work it took to get to this point. He also named some of the individuals who helped make it happen. Many of them were guest speakers prior to the groundbreaking ceremony.
“We also want to thank all of the citizens of Elizabethton,” he said. “Ultimately the citizens and city council made a bold step to help us move forward. These children are our future.”
EHS Band Director Perry Elliott and Choral Director Debbie Gouge both spoke on behalf of their programs.
“We are very much aware of the tradition and importance of music to the city of Elizabethton,” Elliott said. “We are very, very grateful to have a building that will be dedicated to just music.”
Elliott did not want the excitement of the music room to overshadow the importance of the four new classrooms being built.
“Those are desperately needed at Elizabethton High School,” he said. “We have teachers who bounce around to different classrooms. This project will end up not only helping with music, but it will probably end up helping about 60 percent of students in this school.”
Gouge, who has been involved in the city schools’ music program for 29 years, provided some insight about the music program’s history and impact on her own life.
“My parents met in the high school band,” she said.
Citizens Bank CEO and President Joe LaPorte started his speech off with a little celebration of his own. He asked Pat Breeding of GRC Construction if they have a signed and sealed contract for the project to begin. Breeding confirmed and LaPorte let out a burst of excitement.
“Yes!” he yelled as the crowd erupted in applause. “I can’t believe it.”
LaPorte explained why he felt the need to support the program, which currently has 20 percent of the student body participating.
“This program is rich in tradition and history,” LaPorte said. “We are bringing the Betsy Band to another level. I’ve been following the band for the past several years and not only are these kids winners, but they are also outstanding ambassadors for this community.”
Elizabethton School Board Chairman Rita Booher took a moment to explain the board’s involvement. Even as the board members have changed, she said support has not waned.
“Each one of them have stepped up, accepted the vision and worked hard to get us here today,” she said. “We all realize that the three projects we started several years ago are very important. This is groundbreaking number two and we still look forward to groundbreaking number three.”
Booher’s speech addressed the same perception of EHS as Taylor expressed.
“We want our children to experience quality academics, quality athletics and quality fine arts,” she said. “Those are the things Elizabethton students excel in and we’re excited to see them continue doing that.”