Video | The NC Symphony in Jones County: Here’s how music is giving students hope after a hurricane.

Hurricane Florence hit Jones County, and other counties across eastern North Carolina, in fall 2018. The town of Pollocksville was under water. Two schools were lost.

Through creative funding and a public-private partnership, a state-of-the-art preK-12 school opened in Jones County in fall 2019. It’s the district’s first new school in nearly 50 years, replacing the elementary and middle schools ruined by the storm.

In November, a three-year residency of the North Carolina Symphony kicked off with an education concert — the district’s first-ever symphony concert in its elementary students’ first-ever gymnasium.

“All children are musical and deserve to have that in their lives,” said Mary Tillery, the district’s music teacher at all four of its elementary schools.

Watch below to follow the district over four months of recovery, learning, and celebration.

Wesley Schulz, an associate conductor for the symphony, said the residency is not just for the students, but for the entire community, as it recovers.

“You can look over so many tragic events that have happened historically, and a lot of times you can find musical responses to find a way to heal, or to find a way just to sort out your emotions as you respond to that event,” Shultz said.

The residency will expose children of all ages to classical music through multiple concerts, quartets, one-on-one sessions with players, and educational programs.

“Overall, we just want students to love music, find a way to include it in their life, to give them a way to help think about issues in the world through music,” he said.

Margaret Turlington, Simple Gifts Fund coordinator, said the decision to invest in arts education in the district was driven by the fact that the county is one of the poorest in the state. In schools focused on raising test scores, Turlington said, she hopes the residency creates opportunities for students to learn in new ways.

“Music can hit you in so many different ways,” Turlington said. “And we forget about that in our world of testing today, how music can inspire a kid in a different way from the normal test mindset.”


Editor’s Note: A previous version of the video in this post misspelled Symphony Associate Conductor Wesley Schulz’s name.

Liz Bell is an early learning reporter for EducationNC.

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