The music program at Madison-Plains Local schools has two new faces.
Renee Perkins, high school band director, and Andrew Lawrence, junior high band director, also taking Madison-Plains music “to the next level,” they said.
While Perkins, 29, has been on the job for several weeks to prepare the high school band for its 2014-2015 season debut this weekend at the Lilly Chapel Homecoming, Lawrence, 28, started Monday of this week and is “settling in.”
They share a tiny room in the corner of the band room; but more than that, they share a vision for the Madison-Plains music program.
The twosome are stepping into a program built and sustained by Derek Scoles and Taylor Marino. Both Perkins and Lawrence are pleased with the students who are playing in the band. Perkins described the current status of the program as “fantastic” and said Scoles’ work with the program was “amazing.”
Perkins will pour all of her energy to raising the musical bar even higher, she said. And as Perkins, along with Lawrence, take hold of that bar and boost it to the next notch, one of her goals is to gain state-level recognition for the student musicians.
Perkins said she wants to put Madison-Plains music on such a plateau, that when a Madison-Plains musician achieves at state level, others will say, “Wow, that’s a great program.”
While the program has had an “active” involvement of ensembles in music contest, she will encourage the musicians to enter as solo artists.
To make a great program, Perkins will strive for a vertically aligned music program, starting at the elementary level. There it will become Lawrence’s job to recruit students in grades fourth through sixth to step up and join the band.
“We’ve got to start this year,” Perkins said.
To involve the Madison-Plains community in the program, Perkins wants the current student body to learn to sing the school fight song, the alma mater and the Star-Spangled Banner. She wants to have the words to those songs printed in the programs for all school events.
She also wants the band to sit in or near the student section at football games for a literal sense of community.
She and Lawrence agree that playing in band makes students better individuals.
“I want to teach students to function in society, how to be good people, responsible, (to learn) leadership and ownership, set them up for success,” Perkins said.
It worked for her.
Coming from an economically challenged part of southeast Georgia, Perkins poured her whole being into the high school band program and won a scholarship to Schwob Conservatory of Music in Columbus, Ga. She put herself through school and though she said it was tough, “I don’t regret it at all.”
She took her work ethic to east Texas where she was the first female and first assistant director and first woodwind instructor (saxophone her specialty) at Winona High School. She did it for four years before coming north in search of a position.
Lawrence, of Bear Creek, Pa. and a recent master’s graduate from The Ohio State University’s music education program, took his musical inspiration from his older brother, Bradford Lawrence, a professional saxophonist. Andrew received a bachelor’s degree from Ithaca University and also taught band in Washington, N.J. before coming to OSU.
Both are eager to teach beginners, or, as Lawrence says, “to nurture that spark.”
Watch for flames.
Dean Shipley can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 1617 or via Twitter @DeanAShipley.