Students further fine arts talents

Considering team members as a kind of family is a common trend when it comes to sports teams, but what about other school groups? Over time bonds can form – some that last far beyond the high school years. For Russellville City Schools, that is exactly what has happened in the fine arts department.

Six students out of this year’s graduating class have signed with colleges to continue their fine arts experiences, and they all agree their musical theater and chorus comrades have developed a familial bond that ties them all together.

Chorus instructor Emily Rush, who has taught some of these students since sixth grade, said having so many of her students further their fine arts education past high school is one of the most satisfying parts of her job.

“It’s exciting to see that they’re going to be able to keep doing this next year,” Rush said.

Destiny Cooper, Rachel Griffin, Wesley Cook, Austin Balding, Sydney Burcham and Alison Bryant have received performing arts scholarships to Northwest-Shoals Community College and the University of North Alabama.

Fine arts scholarships aren’t as common as academic and athletic scholarships, Rush said, because many students don’t know they exist, and some schools don’t put as much of an emphasis on the fine arts. RHS students agreed all schools should provide their students with the chance to express themselves through the arts.

“I found myself through singing, and I want everyone to have the opportunity to find their place,” Cooper said.

She and Griffin described RCS’ fine arts department as inclusive. Some of the students participate in other organizations and athletics – like Burcham, who plays softball.

“Everybody here is different with their own special abilities. We’re all one weird family, and I wish every school had that opportunity,” Griffin said.

While they have a good time together, it isn’t all fun and games for the students. Balding’s advice to younger students who are interested in fine arts is to work hard.

“You’re going to bust your butt, but it’s going to be fun,” he said.

For these students, that hard work has paid off in different ways. Some will join college chorales, bands and even color guard, like Bryant, who will be a part of UNA’s Pride of Dixie Color Guard.

“She has worked really hard and has been a student leader for us all four years,” band director Jeremy Willis said.

Some of the students will pursue fine arts degrees, like Griffin, who wants to study dance. Others like Cook, who wants become a nurse, will be pursuing more traditional degrees while still participating in their fine arts passions.

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