FLORENCE, S.C. (WBTW) — Students at North Vista and Wallace-Gregg elementaries in the Florence 1 School district will have expanded opportunities in the arts, thanks to a more-than-$100,000 investment, the district said.

The purchases, paid for by grants and other district funding, are just the start of building up the district’s arts programming at the elementary level, the district said. Last school year, the district made a large investment in instruments and supplies at the middle school and high school levels.

“These investments were designed to ensure that the students at both North Vista and Wallace-Gregg have access to well-equipped arts classrooms and varied programs,” Dr. Erick Figueras, the district’s director of arts & innovative programs, said. “The investments in instruments and method books are meant to help lower the financial barriers associated with instrument rentals and method book purchases, allowing more students to participate in music instruction.” 

Among the items purchased are reeds, method books, and new violins, woodwind and brass instruments. Method books help students learn the ins and outs of their instrument, including special techniques and lessons for mastering songs. Figueras said the plan is to create a loan system that would be similar to how students check out library books. .

An after-school guitar program will utilize new guitars bought specifically to fit younger children. Students will be able to take no-cost lessons that will help them be prepared for the growing guitar classes and programs in the district’s secondary schools, as well as the new All-State guitar ensemble. The new violins will give students a window into the thriving string community in Florence.

In addition, band rooms at North Vista and Wallace-Gregg will be equipped with a full complement of percussion equipment including bass drums, snare drums, cymbals, orchestra bells, sticks, and related accessories. Instruments purchased in the woodwind and brass families include flutes, clarinets, saxophones, trumpets and trombones.

At the request of North Vista music teacher Joshua Learn, an African drum program will be implemented to both reinforce musical concepts as well as introduce students to the traditions of other cultures. A large number of African djembes, doumbeks and other instruments have been purchased to support this. 

Figueras said he is excited to see Mr. Learn introduce these elements to students.

“Wilson has an amazing band and drumline culture,” Figueras said. “North Vista feeds into Williams, which feeds into Wilson. This will be great early support for the Williams and Wilson bands.”

More than $20,000 was spent on art supplies and equipment for painting, drawing, and sculpting so that students get a broad introduction to all aspects of visual arts. Clay and glazes were purchased to make use of the school’s kiln, allowing students to make pottery. 

“We did an inventory and there was some key equipment that was missing,” Figueras said. “We got a new paper cutter, drying racks for student work, and we also got some things to make the room at North Vista bright and inviting for students.”

Florence 1 Superintendent Dr. Richard O’Malley said that the district plans to make investments each year for the next several years so that arts programs in the district’s elementary schools can expand and grow.

“The earlier we can expose students to the arts, the better,” O’Malley said. “We are committed to making these investments so that all students in our district have the opportunity to explore what excites them, whether it is guitar, pottery, drawing, or singing.”