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Up Close: Hendersonville High School

Josh Harris • Archives • September 20, 2011

Hendorsonville High School is a music powerhouse in North Carolina. Despite having only 630 students in the school, more than 130 of them (around 25 percent of the student body) participate in the music department, including the current student body president, the starting quarterback of the football team (a clarinetist), eight members of the state champion-soccer team, cheerleaders, and a number of other athletes. In fact, over 80 percent of Hendersonville’s band members participate in at least one sport.A Small School with a Big Band Hendorsonville High School is a music powerhouse in North Carolina.  Despite having only 630 students in the school, more than 130 of them (around 25 percent of the student body) participate in the music department, including the current student body president, the starting quarterback of the football team (a clarinetist), eight members of the state champion-soccer team, cheerleaders, and a number of other athletes.  In fact, over 80 percent of Hendersonville’s band members participate in at least one sport. The bread and butter of the music department is its concert band, which boasts a ridiculous 60 consecutive superior ratings at state festival, dating back to 1926.  Another remarkable statistic is that since the high school began managing its own music program in 1937, there have only been six band directors leading the program.  And aside from the first director who founded the school band 74 years ago, all of those that followed have been Hendersonville High School graduates themselves.

For the past 24 years, Fran Shelton has been running the show in the Hendersonville High School band room. In spite of her substantial credentials in music education – having served as president of the Western North Carolina Bandmasters Association, the North Carolina Bandmasters Association, and Women Band Directors International, as well as secretary of the North Carolina Music Educators Association – Fran remains humble about her accomplishments. She even jokes that it took her almost 20 years of teaching to realize how little she actually knew. Yet, in this recent conversation with SBO that covers such topics as preparing for the new school year, integrating the student body into the music program, and developing administrative and parental support, it’s clear that Ms. Shelton has accrued a substantial amount of wisdom working in what she calls, “Just a special place: a small school with a big band and a great reputation.”

School Band & Orchestra: Tell me about the program that you walked into at Hendersonville when you were hired.

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