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Band and choir starting at Bogue Chitto — Choir to be offered beginning with first grade, band will start in sixth grade

They’re getting the band back together in Bogue Chitto. The choir, too.

Starting this fall, Bogue Chitto Attendance Center will offer music, choir and band programs to all its students after the school picked up an additional teacher position that principal Scott Merrell decided to fill with a music instructor. The Bobcats have had choir programs over the years, but this will be the first time the school has had a band since the late 1960s.

“We have not traditionally offered a lot of fine arts here, so I wanted to offer choir and band to expand our opportunities for the children here,” Merrell said. “Not every child is into athletics.”

The school will offer chorale programs to all students beginning in first grade, and a general music and instrumental class will be taught to fifth-graders. Beginning band starts in sixth grade, the junior high band will be composed of seventh- and eighth-graders and the high school band will begin in ninth grade.

Restarting the choir will be comparatively easy — the school already has an electric piano and classroom space, and little else will be needed initially beyond sheet music and folders.

But starting the band program will be tough. High school musicians are expected to purchase their own trumpets, flutes and other small instruments, but schools traditionally purchase tubas, bells and large percussion instruments out of families’ price ranges. The school board is considering a cash infusion to get the program off the ground, but Merrell said the school is still a few years away from being able to field a traditional concert or marching band — the program will need to form a booster club and begin raising money for uniforms and instruments.

The performance and pageantry of Friday-night marching bands will have to wait a few years until the program is established and the younger musicians are trained up, but Merrell said he hopes to have smaller “performance bands” made up of students who already play an instrument.

“For the first couple of years we’ll be building a program,” Merrell said. “We’re laying down some groundwork right now, so it’s going to be a little sparse. Like all good things, you have a starting place and you have to build up from there.”

The program also needs a director. Merrell said he has a “very talented young man” in mind for the job, but declined to provide any details until the school board approves of the hiring. He hopes the board will consider his candidate at Thursday’s 5 p.m. meeting.

Merrell said some students are already signed up for the programs after expressing interest during schoolwide polls conducted before the end of the school year in May. He expects the number to climb after a director is hired.

A music program will probably have long term benefits for the Bobcats. Numerous studies have shown participation in music programs leads to increased IQ, language development, spatial-temporal skills and higher test scores — a 2007 study by the University of Kansas found elementary music students scored 22 percent higher in English and 20 percent higher in math on standardized tests.

“Academic achievement is paramount in school, but that’s necessarily the motivation to have choir and band,” Merrell said. “It’s to allow the children to have an opportunity to learn something they wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to learn.”

Superintendent Mickey Myers supported the program Monday evening when it was first brought before the school board, who approved it on a vote of 4-0 with one member absent.

“The only arts position offered at Bogue Chitto last year was drama. It takes time to develop a band and choral program, but my recommendation is that we give him approval to start,” Myers said. “I think it’s something we can sustain and, in time, will be proud of in the county.”

Board member Kay Coon advised Merrell to make sure he found a director willing to work hard, and board secretary Johnny Hart said he hopes to one day see music programs at Enterprise and West Lincoln, too.

“The Loyd Star band is actually growing. Co-Lin and Southwest are looking for players every year,” he said.