Grant will allow choir members to dress in style


ECHS senior choir members going to New York in April took part in Monday’s grant presentation. Shown are, from left, Kirsten King, Shameria Hartley, Eric McCaskill, Ricky Martin, Beth Thomas, Dennis Fuqua, Conrad Weber, Beth Drew, Wilneshia Robinson, Ziah Young, Anina Wiggins, Jeremy Johnson, and Tyranie Henderson.

Thanks to donations and a recent commitment by two local banks, Escambia County High School’s choir will be a part of Festival at Carnegie Hall in April.

Thanks to Alabama Power Foundation, the local students will be some of the best-dressed singers there.

Beth Thomas, External Affairs Manager for Alabama Power Company in Mobile, and Ricky Martin, Manager of Alabama Power’s Atmore office, made sure of that on Monday (January 30) when they presented a $2,500 check to Choir Director Conrad Weber.

The Power to Play grant received by ECHS was one of 36 awarded to public high schools across the state. It was also one of the first ever awarded for arts-related school activities.

“There were 36 schools across the state that got the grants,” Thomas said. “In the past, Power to Play grants were only for athletics. This year, half are for athletics and the other half are for arts. Escambia County High is one of our first schools to receive a grant for arts.”

Thomas explained that the grant funds could be used for any aspect of the choral program, and Weber said he knew exactly where most of the money would go.
“We started an effort last year to raise money to outfit the students in gowns and tuxedos,” he said. “We have some old robes, but not enough for the whole choir.

When we found out we were going to New York, we had to abandon that project. But this grant will outfit all our New York students, plus give us some extra money to use for continued funding of the program.”

Weber added that the formal wear items purchased with the grant would actually pay for themselves.

“The outfits will be the property of the school, and the students will pay a rental fee each year, so it’s an investment that will stay with us for a while,” he said.
Myla Calhoun, President of Alabama Power Foundation, pointed out in a press release that the inclusion of arts programs in this year’s grant awards was designed to diversify the foundation’s Brighter Minds education initiative.

“The Power to Play program’s goal has always been to empower students to participate in extracurricular activities,” Calhoun said. “The addition of arts grants this year helped us reach more students in more programs. We are very excited to fund this diverse group of arts and athletics programs.”

Numerous groups, businesses and individuals have donated funds to help defray the cost of the choir’s trip. The fundraising effort was fulfilled when an announcement was made at the recent Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting that First National Bank & Trust and United Bank would equally split the unfunded balance.

Monday’s brief check-passing ceremony also included ECHS Principal Dennis Fuqua, Assistant Superintendent of Schools Beth Drew and the eight ECHS senior choir members who will be part of the local group that will perform as part of a nationwide mass choir at the prestigious musical event.