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MRIS wind ensemble to play for TN School Boards Association

MRIS wind ensemble to play for TN School Boards Association

Montgomery Ridge Intermediate School wind ensemble to play for Tennessee School Boards Association

The Daily Times

October 18, 2023

By: Amy Beth Miller


Montgomery Ridge Intermediate School’s music teacher says he has 45 stars of Tennessee ready to perform for a statewide audience of 700 to 800 school board members next month.

“Having a young band do this makes a statement,” said George Hayden.

“We are so fortunate in Maryville that we get to start band in the fifth grade. A lot of school systems don’t do that,” he said after a rehearsal last month.

As president of the Tennessee School Boards Association, Maryville school board member Candy Morgan is allowed to choose performers for the Leadership Conference meeting Nov. 17, and knowing the MRIS band program well she had no hesitation.

“It’s very unique to watch your child enter that school as a beginner and have George Hayden take them to the next level in music education,” Morgan said during a phone interview while she was in Washington, D.C., advocating on education issues with the Consortium of State School Boards Associations.

“With the right resources, these kids can excel,” Morgan said.

When the choice came for having Maryville City Schools students perform for TSBA, she said, “I knew that he could have his kids rise to the occasion.” While MCS may be better known for its academics and athletes, Morgan said, “I have a heart for the arts.”

“One of my hopes is that when school board members from across the state hear us, that maybe they say, ‘Hmm, maybe we can do that,” Hayden said.

5 in fifth

At MRIS fifth graders start with just five instruments, flute, trumpet, clarinet, trombone and percussion. In sixth grade they branch out further, adding instruments including tubas, saxophones, French horns and more.

Across grades five through seven, MRIS has 104 band members, who average about 45 minutes a day in that class.

Families also can arrange for students to have private lessons on campus during or after the school day. “We vet our private lessons staff, and they are the best of the best,” Hayden said, including members of the Knoxville symphony and nationally known musicians who live in Maryville.

Sixth and seventh grade band students working hard are invited to be part of the Advanced Wind Ensemble that will perform in Nashville this year. They have additional rehearsals two days a week for two hours and one Saturday morning a month.

Special song

The wind ensemble will open with “America, My Country ‘Tis of Thee.” Then it will go into “Three Stars of Tennessee,” in which the three movements represent the state’s regions: Smoky Mountain Jig, Plantation Sunrise and Johnny on the River.

“There’s not really a better piece to bring the whole state together,” Hayden said.

Learning about the song has been a great geography and history lesson for students too, he said.

“We want this to be a cross-curricular learning opportunity for the students.”

If time permits the ensemble also might perform “Rocky Top” and the MRIS fight song, “Where Eagles Dare to Soar.” After the performance the students will visit the Hermitage, home of President Andrew Jackson.

Hayden has been with the school since it opened in 2000 as Maryville Intermediate, and he has taught for Maryville City Schools since 1994.

In 2007, when Maryville Intermediate had only grades five and six, the sixth grade band was invited to play at the Midwest Clinic International Band, Orchestra and Music Conference, what Hayden calls the “American Idol” or the Super Bowl of bands.

“We’re the only sixth grade band that’s ever played there,” he said. That’s where Maryville students premiered “Three Stars of Tennessee,” which was commissioned from composer Gary Gilroy by the Maryville City Schools Foundation.

This year the foundation donated $1,600 for MRIS music students’ outfits, a suit coat and pants for the boys and dress for the girls. The wind ensemble will wear them in Nashville, and the clothes will remain in the school’s inventory for future years.

High expectations

Hayden said he loves teaching young students. When he teaches band clinics across the country he tells directors, “They can sound great, and they can be great at a young age. We should not short sell them because they’re young or because they’re small.”

“Think about the Olympics,” he continued. “The younger the gymnast, the higher the medal.”

Music is graded on a difficulty scale up to six, which is what a high school band might play, Hayden explained. “Grade four at this age is a huge hurdle,” he said, and that’s what the “Three Stars of Tennessee” is.

“They can rise to the occasion,” Hayden said. “Whenever you raise your expectations, kids will go there.”

“These young people are capable of great things,” the teacher said.