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RESOURCE CENTER AND ARCHIVES

Dothan churches take music back to public schoolscomment (0)

June 15, 2006

By Martine G. Bates


In 2002, budget problems caused Dothan’s elementary schools to lose their music program, leaving only one of the 11 schools with a music teacher.

So Terry Taylor, minister of music for First Baptist Church, Dothan, in Columbia Baptist Association, and Kim Price, the sole elementary music teacher remaining in the school system and a member of First, Dothan, decided to do something about it.

The pair put together a group of 144 volunteers from the community and soon began offering weekly 30-minute music lessons to 3,500 elementary students.

“Terry and I talked about how we wished we could do something to help our community understand how important music was in our schools,” Price said. “The middle and high school programs, we knew, would also decline if music wasn’t put back in the elementary schools.”

Deciding they would attempt to set up a volunteer program, Taylor and Price began by selecting appropriate music for the volunteers to use.

“We compiled a thematic songbook, complete with accompaniment CDs, and added simple movement-based teaching steps,” Taylor noted.

The program quickly picked up support from school officials, area ministers of music and local media. The Cultural Arts Center of Dothan provided funding for the songbooks and CDs, and volunteers began stepping up to help.

“Many of the volunteers came from the choirs of our local churches,” Taylor said. “The choral directors in our two high schools also involved their show choirs.”

Debbie Yurevich-Spivey, a professional organizer and member of First, Dothan, offered to coordinate the logistics for the program.

For the safety of the children, she set up a database to keep track of volunteer assignments, from initial application through tuberculosis (TB) tests and background checks — both of which are state requirements for all incoming school personnel — and final placement.

“At our initial training session, we had a team of nurses doing TB tests and the police department doing fingerprinting,” Yurevich-Spivey said. “People who volunteered later went to the health department and the police station on their own.”

Although the highest percentage of volunteers came from First, Dothan, the group represented all segments of the community, according to Yurevich-Spivey.

“We had a cross section of people, from high school students to senior citizens and from lower socio-economic levels to the more affluent,” she said.

At the end of the year, more than 500 third- through fifth-graders met in a communitywide concert. Since the children had all learned the same songs and movements, the music came together easily.

“It was wonderful,” Price said.

Rhonda Grandstaff, principal of Selma Street Elementary School, described student reaction to the program.

“The children are thrilled about it. They love the songs, the music, the moves and especially the volunteers who come each week,” she said. “Recently I had a student in my office who was in trouble, and he said to me, ‘I don’t have to miss music today, do I?’ To me, that says it all.”

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