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Advancing the arts in county schools

The Williamson County School Board charged Superintendent Dr. Mike Looney with elevating three components of the system under his purview to national prominence – academics, athletics, and arts. Toward that end, Melissa Dufrechou joined the WCCS as fine arts curriculum specialist for grades K-12 in the spring.

Dufrechou holds a bachelor's degree in vocal performance from the University of Alabama, a master's degree in music education from Auburn University, and served as an adjunct professor at Fisk University. Most recently, Dufrechou worked in neighboring Rutherford County as a strings teacher who also taught piano and choir.

“They wanted somebody centrally to be an organizing figure for the fine arts teams throughout the county,” Dufrechou told the Williamson Herald. “I cover kindergarten through grade 12, and we offer visual arts, theater arts, and music.”

In her effort strengthening the schools' offerings, Dufrechou said she is looking at what is working in other districts.

“I am looking at what is working in other strong counties and what works well in our county,” she said. “I'm looking at recommendations to help district leadership and school leadership increase student participation and offer the highest-quality classes we can.”

Part of the strategic plan to propel the county's fine arts programs to national prominence is bringing in faculty who are leaders in their field.

“Several of our teachers are already leaders in their respective fields outside of the classroom,” Dufrechou said. “Such as leaders within local and state professional organizations related to their fields.”

Another way fine arts programs can quantify their strengths is through their successes in various local, state, and national competitions.

“We've had 11 students accepted into the National Honor Choir for the American Choral Association,” she said. “We have two bands this spring participating in the invitation-only Music For All National Concert Band Festival.”

But, Dufrechou cautioned, there's more to elevating fine arts programs to national prominence than participating in competitions.

“There's so much more to the educational environment than competing,” she said. “Another component of being nationally recognized is the show of community support. It's important to know that the community wants to be a part of making the schools' fine arts programs as strong as they can be.”

As an example of community engagement, Dufrechou cited the upcoming instrument drive in the spring.

“We are partnering with the Franklin Theatre, the Nashville Symphony, and Shuff's Music for an instrument drive in March,” she said. “This will help get instruments in our students' hands who otherwise might not be able to afford one.”

This is likely to help the Dufrechou address another important metric – student involvement – something she said is already on the uptick. For example, more than 30 percent of the student population at Hillsboro Middle School is enrolled in band.

“That's an astronomical percentage,” she said.


There's also a component to cultivating to one's artistic self that could help students get more out of their school experience, making them more attractive to employers once they enter the workforce.

“[When former Apple, Inc., CEO] Steve Jobs would interview somebody, he would want to see an art portfolio so he could see if the person could think creatively,” Dufrechou said. “As jobs become less industrial and more creative, students need to be able to connect to other ways the mind works, and to be able to function as a strong participant in the workforce. Plus, students who participate in fine arts are much less likely to drop out of school, and are much more likely to enjoy coming to school.”


Posted on: 12/11/2012


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