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WVMS hosts county middle school Art Academy

West Valley Middle School was the host of a two-week art academy for middle-school students, sponsored by Knox County Schools.

“We are open to all Knox County schools, but we house it here at West Valley, because it’s a great facility for the fine arts,” Dr. Jill Hobby, WVMS summer academy principal, said. “We have three arts classes, we have a dance class, we have an orchestra class, and we have a band.”

Hobby said middle school teachers nominated the students for the free academy.

“Every year, each middle school is contacted. Their arts teacher, their chorus, band, orchestra teachers get an e-mail from me, and they are to list their top students with their mailing addresses. It can be sixth- through eighth-grade. Those students get a packet from me,” she said. “[Students] get to decide whether or not they want to participate, because it is summer. There is no grade. They don’t have to do it. … I think that speaks about the program, because they are here because they want to be, not because they have to be.”

This is the third year for the program, she said, with each year having a unique theme.

“The theme [this year] has been multi-culture, and to try to get the students to think outside maybe what they normally think about here in America,” she added.

Farragut Middle School chorus director, Terri King, taught at the academy this year, and said the music her students sang incorporated this theme.

“We are singing ‘An American Folk Rhapsody,’ which includes three American folk songs. We’re doing … ‘Around the World in Three Minutes,’ and its pieces of folk songs from fourteen different countries. [Charlie] Hicks will be directing a Japanese piece, ‘Sho Jo Jee.’ The other one is a Celtic piece called ‘River Song.’ So we’re trying to do a lot of multi-culture music,” she said.

This is King’s first year teaching at the academy, and she said she was impressed with her students.

“You’ve got the best kids in the county in here, and they work, and they’re here at eight o-clock in the morning. They want to be here,” she added.

Some of this year’s students had participated all three years.

“It went really fast, and I really enjoyed doing it all three years. With different directors each year, it was just an amazing experience,” Nic Zelenak said.

He plays the baritone at Bearden High School, and volunteered to come back as a high school student as a mentor to younger students.

“If I wasn’t doing this, I would probably be sitting at home on the couch, doing nothing; so this is a better use of my time,” he added.

Libby Schwartz plays the clarinet and said, “I think it’s a really great program. I think it’s good to come and perform in the arts programs, so we can have this experience. It’s really good for our future in music.” Schwartz is a rising eighth-grader at WVMS, and had also participated in the academy all three years.

Nick Isbill, a rising ninth-grader at Farragut High School, said this was his first year at the academy.

“It’s really awesome, because when you come here everyone is dedicated to it. At Farragut, you see a whole lot of people just joking around, hanging out with friends during class. But here, everyone wants to sing,” he said. “The songs are not as boring as normal chorus class. It’s challenging, but it’s really fun.”

He said he came because, “I like singing. When people nominate me, that makes me feel obliged to come, and I feel like I want to, and I need to, so I did.”

The academy ended with a performance Friday, June 22.

“There will be a gallery showing. The parents will come through the gallery to the gym for the program. The program will have every performing group, and dance will interact with the different pieces,” Hobby said. “And then there’s a combined finale, and everyone will perform. The band and orchestra will play, the choir will sing, and the dancers will dance.”


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