Thursday, September 8, 2011

NRHS music department
enjoying wide-open spaces

New Richmond High School vocal music director Doug Heflin finally has the space to match his philosophy of never turning away a student from participating in a music program.

“For the first time I’m going to have a place where all the kids can prepare for a concert together,” said Heflin in describing the former library at New Richmond High School which was remodeled into a music room during the summer.

“When we have a concert we will have 240 people getting ready in this room and this is the first time in my teaching career of 27 years when all our choirs can prepare together.”
New Richmond High School music director Doug Heflin now has the space to house his 240-member music department.

The high school auditorium served as Heflin’s music classroom for the past two years after the school’s original music room was deemed too small to accommodate 120 students, the number needed for the school’s acclaimed Troubadours. Half the group would sit in the orchestra pit while the other half filled the first rows of the auditorium seating.

“The auditorium was a difficult place to rehearse because of the location of each section,” noted Troubadours president Grant Gilman. “The sopranos and altos would be far away and the sound didn’t blend very well. The only time we could get together was on the stage during concerts.”

Hearing the sopranos and altos is no longer a problem with the new sound system.

“The sound system is fantastic,” said Heflin, who is in his 20th year at New Richmond. He previously taught seven years at Jackson. “I can whisper and with my wireless microphone everyone can hear me from across the room.”

New Richmond superintendent of schools Adam Bird came up with the idea of turning the large library into a music room.

“We conducted a survey and discovered that the majority of the students using the library did so for the computers or as a quiet place to study,” explained Bird. “Only four percent of the students were going to the library to check out books.”

The library computers were moved to an empty classroom to give the high school a second computer lab. The rest of the library moved into a one of the school’s two large art rooms which became available when the high school went to one art class.
New Richmond High School music director Doug Heflin discusses the department’s new spacious quarters with Troubadours president Grant Gilman.

Besides the 120 Troubadours, Heflin has 81 other students in mixed chorus and 35 students in his select choir. Those students also make up men’s and women’s choirs. Heflin also serves as the New Richmond Middle School music director with the retirement of Tom Gilfillin.

“Now that I’m in charge of the 7th and 8th grade choirs, I have seven choirs with 390 singers in grades 7 through 12,” said Heflin.

Heflin has 75 to 80 students in each of his choirs at the middle school, where he uses the former band room.

“It’s not as spacious as what we have at the high school, but we never turn away a child from being able to participate in a music program,” said Heflin.

Heflin will have a hard act to follow this year after his Troubadours came away from national competition in Maryland last spring with three gold medals.

“Every year we look at the Troubadours and say, ‘How can we top last year,’” said Heflin. “And I tell you, I think this group sounds great.”

“I think we can exceed the expectations from last year with this group,” said Gilman.

The New Richmond High School libarary has moved to one of the school's former art rooms. Library aide Joyce Montgomery is pictured with (from left) Greer Neess and Sarah Hartman who are using the library to study. A survey conducted last school year revealed that only four percent of students were using the library to check out books.