The sweet sound of success floats down the halls of Yazoo County High School.
Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the 112 students in the Yazoo County Band, a revitalization has emerged within the schools’ music department. Under the leadership of Kimble Funchess, the program has transformed into an inspiring success over the last three years.
“We are being blessed with a wealth of ‘first time’ opportunities, and we plan to be good stewards of these opportunities so that students, parents, the district and the community can be equally as proud of it,” Funchess said. “I look forward to witnessing the progress of the students that are investing in the program.”
The Yazoo County Band is composed of seventh through twelfth graders within the Yazoo County School District. There are 66 students in the marching band, 16 in the guitar and piano class and 30 with the Beginner Band class.
Funchess said he has noticed a remarkable increase in participation and interest in the program over the last few years.
“I believe it is because opportunities are being made available for the students who have identified their talents as well as those who are discovering their talents,” he said.
The band is broken down into five sections with a color guard flag line, percussion and wind instruments. The pit section includes keyboards guitars and mallets, which are bells and marimbas.
The band is already beginning to make a name for itself in a number of statewide competitions. They will be participating in the 39th annual Copiah Marching Festival today in Gallman.
“I am most encouraged by the attitude and hard work of the students,” Funchess said. “This is our first year marching on the field, and this will be our first time participating in a marching evaluation or contest.”
As the band practices for such competitions, Funchess said he sees a spark in the eyes of the students as they improve daily.
“I am proud of the fact that they are putting in the work for the festival,” Funchess said. “We are a young group, but they are working extremely hard.”
Outside of competitions and local recognition, the band’s progress is a reminder of the importance of musical education within a school system.
“Not only does it give students a sense of balance in their daily activities and life in general, but it helps encourage a daily practice of discipline, self-control and respect,” Funchess said.
Funchess said research has shown that musical training has a positive impact for auditory learning, memory and hearing speech or functioning in challenging listening situations. He said research also shows that students who take music lessons or participate in band have increased scores in academic settings (IQ tests included), better sound discrimination, better motor skills and life-skills in general.
“Students involved in music in schools tend to have better spatial-temporal skills, meaning that they are better able to solve math problems,” he said. “Over time, these skills come into play in solving multistep problems such as in architecture, engineering, math, art, computer programming and gaming.”
But with every effort comes its own share of challenges. Funchess said one challenge would be putting systems in place to financially support and run a successful band program.
“The initial start-up cost for a new band program can be a little overwhelming when you factor in purchasing instruments and uniforms, travel cost and employing the personnel needed for a band this size,” Funchess said. “I can say that the Yazoo County School District, its parents and the community have been extremely supportive of our efforts.”
Once the program was initially established, Funchess said things began to run smoothly.
“It is the nature of the beast, but we all know that investing in our students is an investment that guarantees a return,” Funchess said. “It truly becomes a labor of love.”
Funchess also reaches out to other music educators and educators in general for advice, resources and support.
“I have a new appreciation for professional learning communities,” he said. “My administrators and band booster parents have all been instrumental in making this program work.”
Being in the Gateway of the Delta, it’s almost as if the students have it in their blood to pursue music at such a productive level.
“The history of Mississippi’s music is one that is respected all over the world, so it is not ironic that Yazoo has a rich history that is directly related to that legacy,” Funchess said. “These are some of the most ambitious, hardworking students that I have ever had the opportunity to invest in educationally.”
Funchess said this the first time that he has been afforded the opportunity to build or even start a program. And it shows on the field and in the classroom.
“The students are buying into the program by investing time, commitment and hard work,” he added.
With the sweet harmony of wind instruments, the thunder of drums, the performance of vibrant flags and the sound of piano and guitar notes...the Yazoo Band is hitting the high note. And they are doing it well.
They are doing it through the smiles on their faces as they create a sweet sound of success.