Numerous high profile academic studies over the past two decades continue to underline the direct and powerful link between students who participate in music programs and their more positive attitudes and social behaviors in and out of school when compared to their peers who don’t participate musically.
The same can prominently be found at Selma High School, in Selma, AL, with the school’s music program, and especially two extremely gifted students in particular, Nivory Gordon, III, and Kairy Crum.
Both were featured soloists at Selma’s recent Spring Concert on May 19, 2014, which included spirited choral and gospel selections, and an extremely energetic performance of Motown classics that would have made Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin beyond proud.
Gordon, a senior, brought chills on a solo during his performance of Precious Lord, which had those in the auditorium screaming praise from their seats throughout the song. Several selections later he returned to solo again bringing magnificence and vocal power to The Lord Will Make a Way Somehow. Like any seasoned professional performer, Gordon was in total command of his voice and surroundings and emanated a fearless sense of soulful inspiration that was truly inspiring to those attending in every corner of the auditorium.
The Motown section of the performance featured Crum who stepped forward to capture true magic in a version of Aretha Franklin’s lesser known, but beautiful song, Ain’t No Way. Crum’s performance featured her strong and powerful voice that gracefully belonged with established vocalists beyond her years. Both Gordon and Crum were backed by upwards of 40 fellow male and female classmates and a rhythm band that brought a precise and loose sense of stage assuredness. Most of the choir members are honor roll students who exceed overall school academic results.
Gordon, a humble young man, is a Bill Gates Millennium Scholar, an award that will fund his education through his first four years of college, and then for his studies in attaining Masters and Doctorate degrees. “We all were so happy for him when he received word of this award,” said Crum. The scholarship is awarded to 1,000 top profile students nationally on a yearly basis.
In addition to excelling at Selma High School, Gordon already has earned Associates Degrees in both arts and science from Wallace Community College. Not only did he earn them, Gordon did so recording Wallace’s highest grade point average of the Class of 2014. He was a 2013 All-American Scholar and 2013 Business Award recipient. In addition to his schooling, Gordon holds down two part-time jobs as a clerical assistant for the Selma City Courthouse and is a computer technician.
Gordon, a first tenor, will attend the University of Alabama in the fall as a mechanical engineering/political science major. Crum, a alto, hopes to do the same in 2015 as a psychology major. Both will pursue performing on the college level at Alabama with the University’s gospel choir.
“Nivory and Kairy both have a strong sense of identity, have developed positive academic habits and have applied how they’ve developed their musical skills to their academic courses,” said Latresha Woods, director of the Selma High School choir. “Both are shining examples of successful achievement, not only to our students in the choir, but the entire student body. Most the students in our choir excel academically and are dynamic leaders in our school. Nivory and Kairy both set the tone for their peers.”
“Music gives me life; it brings out all different feelings,” said Gordon. Music has taught me patience, especially with breathing properly when I’m singing.”
Crum had similar feelings in reflecting upon what she has learned from music.
“Music has taught me the importance of discipline, she said. “You can’t get anywhere in life without being disciplined. The training I have received in music has taught me how to pay great attention to detail.”
Both stay in top physical shape to improve their singing. “I jog to stay in shape, which has enabled me to hold on to notes and build endurance while singing,” said Gordon. Crum jogs as well to improve her singing, and also to prepare for serving in the Army Reserves to help pay for college.
“Music clears my mind and it helps me to plan,” said Crum. “I would prefer to listen to music while taking tests. I am better focused while listening to music.”
Gordon added, “Music has flowed through all aspects of my life. I am a perfectionist when I sing. I try not to go into a performance over confident. Before I sing I always pray to the Lord that He guides my mouth and my tongue.”
For Crum, music has brought her increased self-confidence. “My confidence has grown over the past year when I perform,” said Crum. “Last year, I was nervous before I sang at our Christmas concert. After the performance I got a lot of accolades from everyone and it boosted my confidence. During the spring concert I wasn’t nervous at all before my solo.”
Both agree that whether performing or not, music will always be a major part of their lives.
In 2013, results of a major independent research study were released documenting the benefits of music education in Nashville, TN. The study was a result of an effort in Nashville that began in 2009 with a cooperative effort that included Nashville Mayor Karly Dean, the city’s public school system and a council of musicians and artists and executives. Their mission was to explore how to create a world-class music education program in their public schools that is completely unique to Nashville and takes advantage of the vast resources and talent available there.
Two years later, after extensive work and research, Mayor Dean and Metro Schools announced Music Makes Us: The Nashville Music Education Project, a revolutionary new approach to music education that includes new contemporary curriculum and technologies, but also builds on and improves traditional music curriculum in band, orchestra, and choir.
Music Makes Us has infused new life into the music education program in the Nashville Metro Schools and has brought immediate improvement to the overall music program and their schools.
Of utmost importance, the results clearly showed that Nashville’s Metro students who engaged in music programs outperformed their peers on every key academic indicator – grade point average, graduation rate, ACT scores, attendance, and discipline. The district has a goal of being the highest performing urban school district in the country.
“Music is not a frivolous add on to the curriculum,” said Woods. “It is an essential component that helps to develop well rounded students who achieve and then grow into their adult years as successful and responsible citizens. Nivory and Kairy and their peers in our music program are most definitely shining examples that exude success and fulfill our educational mission.”
The Selma High School choir is set to perform this summer in Atlanta, GA and Chatanooga, TN. Over the past several years they have performed in numerous states and cities including Florida, Chicago, California, and New York City. The choir has performed for President George W. Bush, Vice President Joe Biden, and Civil Rights Activists, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton, Ralph Abernathy, and John Lewis. They also have served as opening performers for Stevie Wonder, Roberta Flack, Shirley Caesar, Mississippi Mass Choir, and Judge Mathis.