When it comes to connecting with her choir students at Green Local Schools and helping them get into the music, Richelle Swineford says confidence is key.
“It is just kind of a small building process,” Swineford said. “And if they’re able to have that, that feeling of confidence, that’s going to come through when they’re singing.”
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Not all students are able to find this confidence boost in academic classes or sports, Swineford said, which leaves music and the arts as the space for them to embrace who they are and shine.
In honor of Youth Art Month and National Music In Our Schools Month, music and art teachers in Ashland, Holmes and Wayne counties share how they have helped their schools and programs grow.
Ashland County highlights the arts in school
Over the past 11 years Matthew Kidney has been grown the art teacher at Mapleton High School where he has the resources available to his students and helped the digital art program grow, too. Kidney said when he first started, the school had one pottery wheel and now there are nine and two kilns.
Although he specializes in ceramics, Kidney teaches a variety of classes, including basic art, painting and a digital art class, which recently got some upgrades. With the help of the school district, Kidney was able to update so the class has all Apple products — Macs and iPads — and a class set of pen tablets.
The tablets and iPads have been so popular with his students, Kidney said, many of them ask to check out the iPads over the weekends. Looking to the future, Kidney hopes to continue to grow the technology and get more iPads and a 3-D printer that prints clay.
If a student takes an art, media or music class, there is a good chance they probably have Cameron Dedrick as their teacher or have seen him help with their class. Since joining the high school staff back in 2018, Dedrick has helped several programs grow so the school now has a National Art Honor Society chapter, a Fine Arts calendar and a Fine Arts Signing Day.
Over the years, Dedrick has found ways to bring the fine arts programs together, like helping them produce a Christmas-themed video this past year. The jazz band plays background music, with vocal recordings and animations created by the digital art students.
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From May 6 through 8, students in kindergarten through 12th grades will have artwork on display in the 51st Fine Arts Festival at the high school. Students will also have the opportunity to perform various music and theater productions, Dedrick said.
Holmes County schools create artful learning projects
Last year, West Holmes Middle School art teacher Amy Rohr was able to purchase seven iPads for her classroom with a grant from the Ohio Arts Council.
One of the first things Rohr did with the iPads was a self-portrait and poem project with her sixth graders, which were then displayed in the halls for the students to see and read.
Rohr said she enjoys this project because it not only helps her get to know the students, but also offers a way to introduce them to each other and makes the class accessible to more students since they don’t have to buy or rent a camera to do the project.
Rohr hopes to continue to incorporate iPads in projects, even using them to digitalize student portfolios, and eventually get more.
All West Holmes students will also have the chance to be featured in this year’s digital art exhibit, which Rohr hopes to have posted on the district website in May.
Kris Flinner graduated from the East Holmes Local Schools and has been teaching art there for almost 23 years. She works with students in kindergarten through eight grades at both Berlin and Chestnut Ridge Elementary schools.
She tries to introduce each class to new art forms and mediums whenever possible.
Among her favorite projects this year is a Van Gogh mosaic where each student creates a small square of a larger picture.
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Every month she features some artwork on the “Artist of the Month” bulletin board at Berlin and had some student artwork featured as part of the Tri-county rotating Children’s art exhibit where Chestnut Ridge student Kyle Miller was named best of the show.
Flinner is excited to bring back the District Fine Arts Festival this spring after being put on hold for the past two years. The event is scheduled for 6 to 9 pm May 13 at Hiland Middle and High School and will feature artwork and performances by students along with food trucks, Flinner said.
Wayne County music programs sing
JoAnna Herepcak has seen her classes grow since she started working as the music teacher at Rittman Elementary School two years ago. She started her job as a traveling teacher, bringing her instruments and music around to each class, and now has her own classroom and several new resources.
Like Rohr, Herepcak was one of the teachers who received funding from the Ohio Arts Council last year, which allowed her to pay for a guest musician and to buy several instruments, including xylophones and a drum.
Herepcak said having her own classroom has broadened the topics she can cover since she doesn’t have to spend time traveling, setting up and tearing down each time. So far, she has been able to teach the students about different dance styles, such as folk and Spanish dancing, and is looking forward to the May 5 concert, her second graders are preparing for.
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From assisting with marching band and hosting the sacred music choir concert in the fall, to traveling to Walk Disney World and prepping for the spring musical, Richelle Swineford has had a fun-filled first year in Green Local Schools.
Swineford took over as the new sixth- through 12th-grade choir director at the beginning of the school year and has been busy with concerts and performances since day one.
The choir students at Green have several more performances planned before the school year ends.
- Pop’s Concert – 7 pm March 15, grades six through 12
- Green Middle School band and choir – May 17
- Smithville High School band and choir concert and awards ceremony – May 19.
Reach Rachel Karas at firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @RachelKaras3