Courtesy Photo The Sebring Middle School chorus students during a recent performance. The chorus program will be receiving a $15,000 grant from Rackroom Shoes after winning the Gift of Music video contest.
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published: Friday, February 22, 2013
Sebring Middle recipient of $15k grant
By SAMANTHA GHOLAR
SEBRING - A random shot in the dark turned out to be just what the Sebring Middle School choral classes needed to be named a winner and bring home one big check.
SMS was recently named the recipient of a $15,000 grant from Rack Room Shoes. SMS was one of three big winners from around the country that were awarded the funds following an online video submission contest.
Music instructor Kara Williams has been a part of SMS for 12 years. Before this contest, Williams and her students had never taken a chance at such a huge possibility; she is glad they did.
The spontaneous effort seemed to be exactly what the contest judges were looking for.
"I saw the contest and thought it would be neat if we did it, but we didn't have a whole lot of time to get it together. One of my student's mom's was right there cheering us on saying we should do it, we should do it. I really didn't think we had a chance," Williams said.
With the encouragement of parent helper Samantha Bickman, Williams and her eighth-grade chorus class threw together a short video following a field trip while on their way back to the middle school.
"We just stopped at the Rack Room at the mall and flash mobbed right there. I thought one of two things would happen - we'd get it done or the store manager would have me taken out in handcuffs," Williams said with a laugh.
Luckily, the store was completely fine with the students' efforts and Williams was able to create a unique video for the contest. Over the school district's Christmas break, students and SMS personnel encouraged family members, friends and even strangers to vote for their video online. The three videos with the most votes were chosen as grant recipients.
"It took us hours to upload this thing. I was about to just give up; we were having so much difficulty. Then one of the parents tried a few more times and we finally got it. After we uploaded it, we had to get votes. We were in second place with over 18,000 votes," Williams said.
Bickman agreed that the process was difficult but overlooked Williams' position of forgetting about the contest.
"It was kind of crazy, it took me like days to get this video uploaded, but it worked out. Yay! I'm so excited. I've been videoing the chorus forever so I'm happy they are getting recognized and Mrs. Williams is just an awesome music teahcer," said Bickman.
Williams admitted she didn't think their spontaneous, unchoreographed video would gain a winning spot but she remained hopeful throughout the contest process. The students had just completed a book that involved leadership, taking chances and other themes, which gave Williams the extra push she needed to keep a positive mindset about the contest even after so much had happened with the school's districts budget cuts.
"I lost a big part of my music room three years ago because they had to expand the cafeteria," Williams said. "I'm very thankful we still have music, but it is a hard reality knowing that music programs are the first things being cut left and right. We are so blessed to have administration at the school board like Mr. (Wally) Cox and the other members and the parents that understand how important music is. They are so committed to it and the school board is committed to not cutting music."
More than 50 percent of students at SMS are involved in the music program in some way. Williams knows that the percentage is so much lower in other schools. Currently there are 230 students in Williams' music classes with each class being close to 35 students per class.
"We are going to use the money creatively and wisely, especially with the eighth-graders that made the video going on to high school next year. They said how disappointed they were that they'll be leaving when we start using the money for things like risers, new music books and other things. But I told them that I've got something special planned for them and not to worry," Williams said.
The grant money will go to benefit the SMS chorus classes directly. Williams is thrilled and excited that the hard work and motivation of not only her students but parents have resulted in such a wonderful recognition and opportunity.
"We are all so excited and we are definitely looking forward to the check presentation ceremony in a couple weeks," Williams said.
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