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A highlight reel of Arts in Our Schools Month

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  • What do the arts look like in school? Here is a snapshot of all the performances we saw during Arts in Our Schools Month.
  • A 📸 story of talented North Carolina students bringing art to life.
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March was officially Arts in Our Schools Month. Students from across the state traveled to the education building in downtown Raleigh to display their talents — singing, dancing, drumming (oh my!) and more.

While students performed their art, some other movement was taking place at the legislature.

House Bill 136, known as the Arts High School Diploma Endorsement, unanimously passed the House on March 7. The endorsement would be awarded to graduates who have completed at least four arts credits with an average GPA of 3.0 or higher and participated in at least 40 hours of extracurricular arts activities.

The House passed their version of the budget on April 6. The budget proposal allots a reoccurring $3.5 million for Grassroots Arts Program (GAP) grants each year for Tier 1 and Tier 2 counties.

Also as part of the budget, A+ Schools of North Carolina would receive a nonrecurring allocation of $750,000 each year for the next two years, fully matching funds from a private foundation.

So what do the arts look like in our schools? We’ve seen them painted on hallway ceiling tiles, drumming on a football field, rehearsing as ‘The Lollipop Guild,’ and pirouetting in unison on stage.

The arts can be literally everywhere in a school. Last month, however, some programs left their districts and came to the capitol city. Below are the highlights and freeze frames of these extraordinary art performances.

Scotland High School – Symphonic Band

The director of bands, Matthew Jorgensen, graduated from Scotland High School in 2006 and was a member of the Symphonic Band for three years. He was also in the “Pride of Scotland County’s” marching band.

“One thing that we really push on to the students is that it doesn’t matter where you come from, it doesn’t matter what your background is, we can all work together and push towards a common goal.”

Matthew Jorgensen, director of bands at Scotland High School

He also says they pride themselves on the band’s diversity. They have students from all backgrounds, all races, all religions, all socioeconomic statuses, and it works.

Scotland High School’s Symphonic band performs in their traditional Scottish garb. Caroline Parker/EducationNC

W.J. Gurganus Elementary – Chorus

This group of fourth and fifth graders is led by music teacher Luana Palimetakis. Traveling from Craven County, the students sang songs from different genres of music. Selections included “The Star-Spangled,” “My Favorite Things” from “Sound of Music,” “What a Wonderful World,” “A La Nanita Nana” (a traditional Spanish song), “Follow the Drinking Gourd,” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing.”

The students ended their performance by surprising their principal, Debra Hurst, who traveled with them with her favorite song. Palimetakis said it is because of their principal and support of leadership that the music program is so strong.

W.J. Gurganus Elementary Chorus at the Education Building. Caroline Parker/EducationNC

W.B. Wicker Elementary School – Theater

W.B. Wicker Elementary serves as an A+ Schools of North Carolina as well as a STEAM School. STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. Students learn through inquiry-based and art-infused lessons.

Sara Nobles is the theater arts teacher and led these students in selections from The Lion King. Amiee Petarca said she is the “very proud principal of W.B. Wicker Elementary.”

“I think that it’s very important for all of our students to have something that they are involved in, in schools. We keep our kids connected to schools in all sorts of ways. Whether it’s sports or whether it’s the arts then they are more likely to enjoy school, want to be part of it and be successful.”

Amiee Petarca, principal at W.B. Wicker Elementary
W.B. Wicker performing the “Circle of Life.” Caroline Parker/EducationNC
Student performers from W.B. Wicker Elementary. Caroline Parker/EducationNC

Martin Middle School – Honors Chorus

Led by Allison Wrenn Thomas, the honors chorus is an audition group of seventh and eighth graders that performs year round. Students gain experience in vocal production, interpretation and reading, continuing to learn rhythm, melody, harmony, timbre, tempo, dynamics, and expression. The performance included soloist and choreography created by students.

Eastern Randolph High School – Dance

Eastern Randolph is the only school in their district that offers dance as a class. Around 20% of the students in the school participate, and of those around 75 students, 30% are male. Dance educator Britt Allen said “we have a very multicultural and diverse approach at our school.”

Allen said dance is vital to education because not only does it help with core strength and movement, but “it helps them get in touch with their emotions, it helps them be creative, think outside the box and really connect to others within the movement and just in life.”

Caroline Parker

Caroline Parker is the director of rural storytelling and strategy for EducationNC. She covers the stories of rural North Carolina, the arts, STEM education and nutrition.