Music is a big deal at Roosevelt Middle School.
Nearly half of the students there are in either the band or choir program, and for two decades both have consistently ranked at the top at annual competitions.
“The music programs really means a lot to us students,” said Aubree Ueligitone.
Beverly Taylor has lead the choirs there for 18 years and Ken Gammie has directed the band since the school opened 24 years ago. Both have a common philosophy about their lessons, Gammie said.
“We’re trying to teach musical excellence,” he said.
Three times a year, the two groups put on a show for all of the students there.
“Their music program are a real cornerstone for the school and a foundation for the successes that kids have here,” Principal Courtney Goode said. “It’s like a sports franchise.”
The band and choir have both garnered superior ratings at competitions year after year.
The secret to their success is simple: hard work.
“The only way to do it is to practice and study and learn it one note at a time,” Gammie said.
One of the unique things about the choir program at Roosevelt is the number of boys involved. Taylor started a young men’s choir 10 years ago and the number of boys in her classes went from about 10 to more than 40.
Having music and art in school helps get students more involved and interested, Taylor said.
“It’s like the carrot at the end of the day,” she said.
The songs they sing and play can also help them connect and better understand other subjects, such as history and literature, she said.
The experiences can also help boost students’ confidence, Principal Goode said.
Support from administrators at the school and district office as well as parents has helped the program keep going amid years of budget cuts, Gammie said.
“It takes so long to build it up and it can go away in a couple of minutes,” he said about arts programs.”
Having so many students in one of the two programs – 550 to be exact – helps boost bonds and camaraderie on campus, said Hallie Miller, an eighth-grader in the Wildcat Band.
“We have a basic common ground because of that,” she said. “It’s a cool experience to be able to talk to so many people about music.”
Photo: Beverly Taylor leads the choir at Roosevelt Middle School.