Amir Jones opens the doors for his students at Thomas W. Harvey High School to experience success. “Some of our students come from challenging socioeconomic situations, but this does not stop them from achieving at top levels and rising to every challenge,” he says. “When a student enters this program, they are given the best opportunity we can offer despite what other obstacles they may experience outside of our program.”
Jones makes this possible by taking a lot of the financial burden away from band families. More than 80% of his students are provided with instruments from the district, and the band fundraises as much as possible to help students travel. “We have a group of alumni that gives back through our booster program to help provide additional lessons and instruction so that students who may have a difficult time getting private lessons still have access,” Jones says.
When Jones started at Harvey High, he approached everything “as if we were a larger, more affluent ensemble,” he explains. “We started to travel yearly, we play music that pushed our limits, we purchased quality equipment, we performed on our local news and participated in as many performances as possible.”
Jones’ emphasis on recruitment and experiences has paid off. “The first time we performed at Large Group Contest, we received a superior rating,” Jones says. “As we continue to move forward, we hope to perform at the state level as well as at professional development conferences.”
To address more advanced players in the band, Jones started an Honors Band, which was “initially a volunteer group that met after school,” Jones says. “Then the Honors Band turned into the Wind Ensemble, and the 35 to 50 students in this ensemble play more difficult music and earn honors credit. My top goal for this band is to help students push themselves musically and play high-quality music at levels they have not experienced before.”
Jones is thankful for his community — from district administrators and parents to his music staff, colleagues and local band directors — for their overwhelming support of the arts. He regularly collaborates will all of them “as we continue to find ways to best serve our students.”