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Fine Arts Academy caters to county

More than 160 rising sixth- through ninth-grade students from 24 Knox County middle schools have completed the second annual Knox County Schools Fine Arts Academy.

The two-week academy, which was held at West Valley Middle School from June 19 to 30, was the brainchild of Dr. Jill Hobby, academy principal, and Bobby Gratz, former Knox County Schools System middle school supervisor.

There has always been summer school for students who were behind, but nothing for students who were excelling, Hobby said.

“We wanted to reward students who are working hard,” she said. The students were selected during the past school year by their teachers. Teachers are asked to nominate students who work hard and show excellence in the arts, Hobby said.

During the academy, students got special instruction in band, orchestra, chorus, dance and art. They also had the opportunity to include lessons in guitar and piano in their rotation of classes.

“It’s heaven for the teachers [at the academy] because they’re teaching students who’d give up summer to come to school,” Hobby said.

“I just think it’s so much fun to come somewhere and do what you really love to do,” said Hillary Dziminski, a rising ninth-grader at Knoxville Catholic High School who participated in the choral specialization.

Also in chorus was Elizabeth Falstreau, who will be in ninth grade at Farragut High School.

“It’s really cool because all the teachers are so into what they do,” she said.

Shruti Dahotre participated in the art classes. “I liked making the masks because we got to use wheat paste, which is really messy and fun,” said the upcoming seventh-grader at Farragut Middle School.

Working at the same table was Christina-Michelle Ferrer-Garcia, who will be in ninth grade at FHS.

“I like making the batik,” she said. “It was just a lot of fun working with the different colors and designs.”

Band participants included Nic Zelenak, a rising ninth-grader at Bearden High School, who plays the baritone and trombone.

“It’s been a lot of fun being able to be around other people who do what I like to do,” he said.

Matthew Eubanks, a trombone player, will be in ninth grade at Powell High School.

“Just being able to have something to do over the summer and learn more about music,” were reasons he said he liked the academy enough to come for a second summer.

“This free summer enrichment program gives intensive performing arts training to highly motivated and talented students,” Hobby said. “The most incredible thing has been to watch students hard at work and see they are diligent enough to come to school in the summer.”

Included in daily classes was a master class where all academy students came together to hear different professional artists from the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and Knoxville Opera Company, as well as harpist and bagpiper Kelly Shipe, the Dignitaries Quartet and the ladies’ ensemble 4Grand.

The two weeks culminated in a free public performance at WVMS June 30 to showcase what students learned during the academy. “The theme was ‘Celebrating Freedom: Our America,’ which featured patriotic songs,” Hobby said.


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