2 eighth-graders sing in statewide choral event

Congratulations to Melanie Mills and Krystal Sanchez, who were selected for the N.C. Middle School Honors Chorus.

The two Harris Road Middle School students are members of the school's Eighth-Grade Chorus. Melanie also was selected as one of seven students to audition for a solo.

Students chosen for the Honors Chorus sang at the N.C. Music Educators In-Service Conference last weekend in Winston-Salem. Only about the top 15 percent of students who audition are selected for this prestigious chorus.

But Harris Road school would not have participated if not for the efforts of their chorus director, Jody-Kay Skeen.

"The concert was just wonderful," Skeen said. "It is amazing how much they can do if given the chance.... Melanie auditioned and was selected to sing a solo in the first piece of the concert, 'Kyrie.' "

Skeen is originally from Beckley, W.Va., where she taught elementary music. She moved to this area in 1994 and taught drama and music at Northwest Cabarrus Middle School.

"When Harris Road opened, I applied for the chorus position," she said. "I was thrilled when I was hired. That was 23 years from the first year I started teaching elementary.

"Sometimes it takes a long time to find your true passion and calling, and I have found mine in teaching middle school chorus," she said.

When school money is tight - for instance, with all the budget cuts in education lately - unfortunately the arts is usually the first area cut. I asked Skeen why she believes these classes are so important.

"The arts give students the opportunity to experience music and customs from other countries," she said. "We use high-level thinking skills every day in the arts. They work as a team to create their pieces, and teamwork is very important in the workplace."

Skeen said she chose teaching music as her profession because she always had a deep love for music and is constantly singing.

"Our young people are constantly reminded of the violence and negativity of today," she said. "But when they are in an arts program, they have the opportunity to experience and create something marvelous and beautiful that will stay with them throughout their lives."

Although teaching can be very challenging, Skeen said it can be very rewarding as well.

"I often am moved to tears when I hear my choruses sing a beautiful piece of music," she said. "My heart is filed with joy when I see the looks on my students' faces when they realize they have created something wonderful.

"I can't imagine doing anything other than what I am doing now."