Superintendent says arts program growth just beginning

Published 12:07 am Wednesday, March 15, 2017

RESERVE — In a few short years, music programs throughout St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools have grown from nothing into a nationally recognized effort.

School officials also want the community to know, St. John is just getting started.

“We are only in the beginning phases of implementing an arts program that will touch every child,” Superintendent Kevin George said. “Music and choir programs are only the beginning as we have plans to introduce piano, strings and jazz music to our students. Music is meant to enhance the educational experience, not take away from it.”

School officials and, more importantly, dedicated students, plan to show community members a vibrant student population that is using their minds to create music and think critically.

The music program’s growth recently earned George the VH1 Save The Music Foundation’s 12th annual Administrator Award for Distinguished Support of Music Education.

Music students at Garyville-Mt. Airy Math and Science Magnet School write down their thoughts about their Composer of the Month Johann Sebastian Bach after listening to one of his pieces earlier this school year in St. John the Baptist Parish.


VH1 Save The Music stressed George was chosen for his deep commitment to providing St. John Parish students with music education as part of the community’s well-rounded curriculum.

Through a partnership with VH1 Save The Music and the school district, all public schools in the parish will have full time music teachers and active band programs by the fall.

VH1 Save The Music Foundation has donated $170,000 worth of new musical instruments to St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools since 2013.

It’s a partnership that began when George and Save The Music Senior Director of Programs Chiho Okuizumi Feindler met at a National School Boards Association conference.

George said his first conversation with Feindler was amazing, as they connected on an opportunity to partner.

“Unfortunately, with the changing landscape of education, some districts add more time to the core subjects while taking away from electives and enrichment activities,” George said. “I do not believe in that philosophy. We must teach the entire child and give them an opportunity to express themselves in multiple ways. Mrs. Feindler was moved by my commitment to the arts and we began a relationship that ultimately led to what you see now.”

When the partnership began in 2013, St. John Public Schools did not have a district music program in any of its elementary schools.

A firm commitment was made to budget for and hire certified music teachers, leading to eight full-time music teacher hires since 2013.

Chiho Feindler, VH1 Save the Music Foundation grantee and compliance director, observes Jeremy Rodrigue’s piano class at LaPlace Elementary School in September. The keyboards and a piano were part of a grant Rodrigue received from the VH1 Save the Music Foundation this summer.

VH1 Save The Music Foundation followed by donating grants of musical instruments to West St. John Elementary, LaPlace Elementary, John L. Ory Communication Arts Magnet School, Emily C. Watkins Elementary and Garyville-Mt. Airy Math & Science Magnet School. Plans are in place to donate band instruments to the remaining three schools in the district by fall 2017.

“Any successful program, music or otherwise, meets children where they are,” George said. “We have a talented music program that will take students as far as they and their parents want to go. We also have beginning programs that will take any student with an interest in music and make them proficient in their instrument of choice. It is about choice and giving students the access to an arts program.

“We want to introduce music to them early on and give them the choice to continue their music education throughout their school careers.”