By RON PENCE and MIA BASS
Homewood City Schools are known for their excellence in music education, from the award-winning Homewood Patriot marching band to the nationally-ranked The Network show choir. Homewood is a place for music. The school system was recently awarded the distinction of placing in the 100 Best Communities for Music Education nationwide.
Homewood City Schools has won this spot for the sixth time in 11 years, becoming the only system in Alabama to place this year. The award is presented each year to the school system in America that exemplifies the best in music education. Ron Pence, director of the Homewood Patriot Marching Band, began the application process for this honor in 1996 and has since been turned over to Dr. Winches and the Board of Education.
“It’s about the community and the school system supporting the arts,” said HHS choral director Scott Thorne. He owes this large participation to community support.
The system had to meet many different criteria, which include funding, personnel, scheduling, community involvement, awards and recognition throughout the country.
Music education in Homewood begins as a high priority, even in the halls of the elementary and middle schools. “It’s our elementary schools and middle schools that start the value of music,” Pence said. The music programs led at Edgewood, Hall-Kent and Shades Cahaba Elementary as well as Homewood Middle School provide the preparation for students to succeed at Homewood High and beyond.
The Homewood Patriot Marching Band has about 350 students, meaning over one-fourth of the school participates in the band. This year, the band will travel to the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade for the eighth time in its history from November 21-26.
The band has previously played in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin, the Lord Mayor’s Parade in London, the Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena and the Fiesta Bowl Parade in Arizona. The marching band was founded in 1972, and Pence is only the third director in the band’s history.
The same sort of staggering statistic exists for the choral department. There are 160 students in the show choir and concert choirs in Homewood. The Network has competed twice in Show Choir Nationals, hosted in Nashville and sung in Washington, D.C. in the Capitol Rotunda. They have also consistently been at the forefront of community projects—the latest of which was a benefit concert, Sing for Senegal, that raised funds for a child from Senegal to receive appropriate medical care here in Alabama.