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Marching Expo benefits Keller school district musicians

The Keller school district’s Marching Expo benefits young musicians far beyond the chance to perform in front of peers and the community.

The fourth-annual event Sept. 27 drew attendance of about 5,000. The grand finale featured 1,500 musicians from four high schools and six middle schools gathering on the field at Keller ISD Stadium to play the ‘70s rock classic “Smoke on the Water.”

“We get to see in one place all the advocacy and support for our band programs and fine arts from across the district,” said Mark McGahey, lead band director at Keller High School. “It also gives a seventh grader the chance to see, ‘here’s what I’m going to be doing when I get to Keller High or Central.’”

Proceeds from the event allow more students to participate in the KISD Music Enrichment Program.

Band and choir members have the opportunity to work one-on-one with an instructor to improve their playing or singing technique. The school district brings in professional musicians who teach 30-minute private sessions during the day, along with before and after school.

Students may sign up for a weekly private lesson, often during their band or choir period. The cost, set by Keller district officials, is $19 per lesson.

For families unable to afford the cost, the Marching Expo provides scholarships. Kim Blann, KISD fine arts director, said this year’s expo raised more than $20,000. Proceeds will be divided among the ten schools.

“We’re fortunate to be where families see the value in getting help from a specialist. It’s a pretty integral part of our success,” McGahey said.

McGahey said he usually has six or seven KHS students who use scholarship funds to help pay for lessons.

Blann said the instructors go through complete background screens and ongoing monitoring that is identical to the process for teachers. District officials train instructors so students across the district will gain similar benefits.

Some of the instructors make a living teaching as many as 80 middle and high school students a week, McGahey said.

Blann said about 50 to 60 percent of KISD high school musicians take advantage of the private lessons.

While the band directors focus on the playing of the group as a whole or on a certain section of musicians, the instructor can address a single student’s breathing, posture, how the instrument is held and methods to improve the quality of sound.

“They play a critical role in the education of our kids,” Blann said.

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