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  • Photography by Alex Kent

Band Builds Confidence, Community and Creativity at Little Rock School

It’s game night, and inside the band room at Hall High School in Little Rock, student are buzzing with excitement. Basketball season is starting, and Hall’s brass band is fine-tuning the music they’ll perform to pep up the audience and the players tonight.

Band instructor Rojay Moore leads the musicians, stopping them every now and then to pinpoint where they could make changes.

“Being in the band helps students develop the discipline needed for success in and out of other classes because of the necessary work ethic required to become great as a musician and as band,” he says.

He frequently quizzes them on where they could improve, and the students aptly respond. They’re focused on Mr. Moore’s instruction and on their music. They listen and adjust their performance, clearly not phoning this in.

“Music is one of those disciplines that encompasses all other subject areas,” Moore says “Through research and studies, it is proven that music improves the overall academic performance of students involved in this art form.”

Mr. Moore loves seeing how band influences his students in other aspects of their lives and their schoolwork.

“They are becoming better leaders. I teach them that they must have a sense of pride and identity. They are learning how to take ownership of something they are a part of,” Moore says. “…We have a wonderful group of students who have so much potential in the arts and in music. They have creativity but oftentimes have not had the proper outlets to channel that creative energy, hence, they are reluctant to share their gifts and talents. So now, this year, I am really pulling those gifts and talents out of them and sharpening their skills.”

Students in this class and one of Mr. Moore’s other band classes are playing on brand new instruments. They were awarded to the school through a Thea’s Art Closet grant. Thea’s Art Closet, a program of the Thea Foundation, provides art supplies and creative materials to classrooms in need across the state of Arkansas. Through Thea’s Art Closet, Mr. Moore was able to secure four new trumpets and two trombones for his students.

“Without these horns, the students would have to share the same instruments other students from other classes are currently using, which then creates a problem with students not being able to take home their instruments to practice,” he says.

Not only does everyone have an instrument to play and practice with, now they can participate all together in school functions and public events. Mr. Moore’s band performs at football and basketball games as well as the annual Red Ribbon Drug Free Rally, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff homecoming parade, and the city of Little Rock’s Christmas and Martin Luther King Day parades.

For Mr. Moore’s students, music is something they take pride in, something that gives them a community and something that brings them comfort. “Music is a way to escape many of the students' problems and situations that are beyond their control. It's sort of a safe-haven,” Moore says. “I have several students who come to the band room any time they aren't in other classes because it's a place of security, support and positive interaction with peers.”

Having a band program and having help to secure instruments, which are often hundreds of dollars each, is something that Moore believes is incredibly important for his school and for education in general. Each of the instruments Moore received through Thea’s Art Closet is more than $100, which is just not obtainable for many students.

“I honestly do not believe students would be involved with music beyond our school due to a lack of exposure and opportunities outside the school program,” Moore says. “That is another reason it is important for music education to be a part of public school systems.”

Thea’s Art Closet program is part of Thea Foundation’s goal to alleviate and reverse budget cuts to arts programming across the state.

Thea’s Art Closet, which has provided more than $1.5 million worth of creative materials to underfunded Arkansas schools, makes it easier for classrooms to get instruments, paints, dance attire, sculpture supplies, arts-based technology and other artistic supplies for which teachers aren’t given the budget and parents can’t afford to supply.

Just last fall, Thea Foundation was able to double the amount of grants awarded this school year, but the need for supplies far outweighs what the foundation can provide. By November, Thea’s Art Closet was down to $6,000 to last the rest of the school year. We expect those funds to be maxed out by December.

This #GivingTuesday, we’re kicking off a fund drive to restock the Art Closet. By donating to Thea Foundation on this national day of giving, you’ll be putting art supplies, dance shoes, musical instruments and much, much more into the hands of students who otherwise may not afford it.

Donate to Thea Foundation on #GivingTuesday, and make the arts possible at schools near you!

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