A salute to the arts in Madison City Schools

You often hear about the strong academics and athletics in Madison City Schools. Today I’d like to highlight a third pillar of educational excellence: the arts.

Whether we are talking about performing arts, visual arts or fine arts, we have among the best in America. I am so proud of what these programs have to offer. The teachers and instructional teams do an outstanding job, and it shows in the talents of our students. 

Keith Anderson, band director at James Clemens, came to a recent board meeting to highlight the arts throughout the school district and to thank the board for its support. His report left me speechless, which you all know is rare. Here are some of the points Mr. Anderson touched on:

  • Collectively, Madison City fine arts teachers serve more than 5,000 students. Because of strong board and community support, MCS fine arts programs and classes are known locally, regionally and nationally for their exemplary quality in both individual and ensemble performance.
  • Our visual arts students have won local, regional and national level awards and have a 100 percent pass rate on AP Art portfolios. MCS journalism and film students have been nationally recognized as well, including JetsPress teacher Clay Combs being awarded Film Teacher of the Year at the All American High School Film Festival earlier this month.
  • One or both of our high school theatre programs have earned Best in Show at state Trumbauer events every year since 2012. In 2015 the top two one-acts from Alabama were BJ and JC, and both went on to represent the state at the Southeastern Theatre Conference. BJ is the only school in the 10-state region to win SETC Best in Show three times.  
  • Our middle and high school choir programs consistently earn superior ratings at adjudicated events and Best in Class awards at competitive events. They send multiple students to college honor choirs, and last year, BJ and JC choirs tied for the most students in the Alabama All-State Choir. The JC choir recently performed at Carnegie Hall, and the BJ choir recently performed in the Vatican.
  • Our middle school and high school band programs also consistently receive superior ratings and are regularly awarded with multiple Best in Class awards at competitive events. Our middle school band programs compete in and win national level competitions in Orlando and place multiple students in college honor bands and Alabama All-State bands.
  • Our high school band programs also feature multiple quality ensembles, including marching band, two concert bands, jazz band, indoor drumline, percussion ensemble, dance team and winter guard. Our ensembles have been selected for many state level events, including both high school wind ensembles being featured performers at the University of Alabama Honor Band. In January of 2020, at the Alabama Music Educators Association convention, a Madison City ensemble will perform for the fifth straight year.

I am so pleased we have been able to commit more resources to this important area of our curriculum.

The increased staffing of arts and music in our elementary schools now means more exposure to the arts at a vital developmental age. This is especially impactful, with the emphasis on teaching the whole student.

Each of our middle schools now has two full-time band directors and one full-time choir director. At Liberty, our theatre students are served by one full-time and one half-time teacher, and at Discovery we have two full-time theatre teachers. Liberty has two full-time visual art teachers, with Discovery having one full-time and one half-time visual art teacher. Several are National Board Certified Teachers.

Our high school fine arts students are served by two full-time band directors, two full-time visual art teachers, two full-time theatre teachers and one full-time choir director. Of those 14, five are NBCTs.

Our students in these areas are amazing. I can’t wait to see more of what they can do.

Robert V. Parker
Madison City Schools