FLORENCE, S.C. – Students at North Vista and Wallace-Gregg Elementary Schools will have expanded opportunities in the arts because of a significant investment in equipment at those schools through grants and general district funding.
Last school year, Florence One Schools made a large investment in instruments and supplies at the middle school and high school levels. The purchases for these two schools are just the start of building up the district’s arts programming at the elementary level.
“These investments were designed to ensure that the students at both North Vista and Wallace-Gregg have access to well-equipped arts classrooms and varied programs,” said Erick Figueras, the district’s director of arts and innovative programs. “The investments in instruments and method books are meant to help lower the financial barriers associated with instrument rentals and method book purchases, allowing more students to participate in music instruction.”
A variety of instruments and accessories have been purchased, including reeds, method books and new violins, woodwind and brass instruments. Method books help students learn the ins and outs of their instrument, including special techniques and lessons for mastering songs.
Figueras said the plan is to create a loan system, much like the way students check out library books, so students don’t have to purchase them each year.
An after-school guitar program will utilize new guitars bought specifically to fit younger children. Students in this program can take no-cost lessons that will help them be prepared for the growing guitar classes and programs in the district’s secondary schools, as well as the new All-State guitar ensemble. The new violins will give students a window into the thriving string community in Florence.
Band rooms at North Vista and Wallace-Gregg will be equipped with a full complement of percussion equipment, including bass drums, snare drums, cymbals, orchestra bells, sticks and related accessories. Instruments purchased in the woodwind and brass families include flutes, clarinets, saxophones, trumpets and trombones.
At the request of North Vista music teacher Joshua Learn, an African drum program will be implemented to both reinforce musical concepts as well as introduce students to the traditions of other cultures. A large number of African djembes, doumbeks and other instruments have been purchased to support this.
Figueras said he is excited to see Learn introduce these elements to students.
“Wilson has an amazing band and drumline culture,” Figueras said. “North Vista feeds into Williams, which feeds into Wilson. This will be great early support for the Williams and Wilson bands.”
More than $20,000 was spent on art supplies and equipment for painting, drawing, and sculpting so that students get a broad introduction to all aspects of visual arts. Clay and glazes were purchased to make use of the school’s kiln, allowing students to produce pottery they can proudly display in their homes. These purchases will keep the programs well supplied for years with tools that are used frequently when students are learning and creating in the art room.
“We did an inventory, and there was some key equipment that was missing,” Figueras said. “We got a new paper cutter, drying racks for student work, and we also got some things to make the room at North Vista bright and inviting for students.”
Florence One Superintendent Richard O’Malley said the district plans to make investments each year for the next several years so that arts programs in the district’s elementary schools can expand and grow.
“The earlier we can expose students to the arts, the better,” O’Malley said. “We are committed to making these investments so that all students in our district have the opportunity to explore what excites them, whether it is guitar, pottery, drawing or singing.”