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Clayton Schools to host countywide concerts

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Three hundred middle school students from across Clayton County Public Schools will come together, tonight, for the district's inaugural All-County Middle School Band, Orchestra and Chorus Concert at the Clayton County Performing Arts Center.

The free concert will begin at 7 p.m., with seating for 1,800 people, according to Anita Lloyd, the facility's coordinator. The performing arts center is located at 2530 Mt. Zion Parkway, in Jonesboro.

Lloyd said the band, orchestra and chorus will each perform three to four songs during the concert.

"I had an opportunity to hear the boys [from the] chorus rehearsing one day, and it sent chills down my spine," Lloyd said. "They sound so amazing ... I wish everyone in Clayton County could come see these young men and women, and what arts is doing for their lives. It's fabulous."

According to Clayton County Schools Fine Arts Executive Director Paul Robbins, the All-County Middle School Band, Orchestra and Chorus is an expansion of an honors program set up last year to recognize talented musicians in the county. Last year, the program was launched with an All-County High School Band, Orchestra and Chorus, he said.

"A couple of years ago, some of the [Clayton County Board of Education] members said they wanted the school system to do something to recognize musical students throughout the county," Robbins said. "We were glad to take that idea and put it into motion."

The school system's second annual All-County High School Band, Orchestra and Chorus, which Robbins said has 275 members, will be holding its own concert in the coming days at the Clayton County Performing Arts Center. The high school concert will be held on Monday, at 7 p.m.

In the spring of 2010, there will also be an All-County Elementary School Chorus concert at the performing arts center, Robbins added.

According to Robbins, students in the All-County Middle School Band, Orchestra and Chorus auditioned for the spots at their respective schools between late August and early September. The band, orchestra and chorus teachers chose which students would be recommended for participation in the "All-County" program, he said.

"The students had to exhibit musical ability," Robbins said. "These are students who are probably first or second chair in their school's band, orchestra and chorus programs. The directors know who their best students are."

The same audition process was used at the high school level, Robbins said.

The middle school students have rehearsed together twice since early September, and one final group rehearsal is scheduled to take place this morning, Robbins said. He added that at the end of the middle school concert, all three performing groups will take the stage together for a joint, grand finale performance. The same will happen at the high school concert, he said.

"People are going to hear a type of performance they are not familiar with," Robbins said. "It's quite impressive when you put all of these talented students together. When you bring together that many talented musicians, you can do a higher-level performance than what you're able to do at an individual school ... Higher expectations with our students produces higher results."