Three Columbia County schools are competing in a nationwide online contest sponsored by the producers of Glee to raise money for music programs.
Lakeside High, Harlem Middle and Cedar Ridge Elementary schools are taking part in the www.gleegiveanote.com challenge for potential cash rewards of thousands of dollars.
Stacey Branch, the choir director a Lakeside High, said she heard about the contest from a friend and immediately recognized the opportunity to earn funds for equipment upgrades.
“We need new risers and a new sound system and costumes and for travel and so much more,” said Branch of Lakeside’s award-winning show choir. “Everything we have is about 15 years old, and it’s all worn out.”
Lakeside’s show choir is one of the best in the state, and recently was recognized as such in a new book on show choirs called Sweat, Tears and Jazz Hands.
“I think we have a lot of talent here and I’d like to get it out in the community, but with show choir and chorus, it’s extracurricular so we don’t receive excess funding beyond sheet music and other basics,” Branch said.
Like Branch, Harlem Middle Chorus Director Gene Greer also needs upgrades to his equipment, but perhaps more so.
At 179 pupils, Greer leads the largest school chorus in Columbia County and one of the largest middle school choruses in the state.
“We’re very civic-oriented,” Greer said of his chorus. “We sing every year at the Oliver Hardy Festival. We do the Harlem Christmas tree lighting. We sing at churches.
“It’s a school chorus, but it’s really a Harlem chorus. We try to get out and use it as an arm in the community.”
Greer said all of Harlem Middle’s music gear is secondhand and in poor condition. He also would like to purchase computers with arts and music software for his pupils.
“If we get anything, we’ll put it back into making our facility a more conducive learning environment,” he said.
Though Cedar Ridge Elementary music teacher Keller Perry wants to improve her old equipment, she said she also needs more of it.
“With the speed our school was growing, I was running out of equipment for all the students,” she said. “Of course, I didn’t have the money to buy the materials I needed.”
In addition to possibly earning some needed funds, Perry hopes the contest highlights the plight many music programs across the country must endure.
“Mostly, I’m hoping to get the word out about the need music programs and music teachers have,” she said. “With all of the budget cuts and the situation the economy is in, there’s often not the funds we need to have effective programs.”
Each school created a two-minute video and submitted them to the contest organizers. On the Web site, winning entries are organized by state.
Site visitors are asked to review the videos and then vote for the school they consider most deserving of cash prizes ranging from $10,000 to $50,000.
In Georgia, as of Monday, Richmond Academy is leading with 4,231 votes. Harlem Middle is fourth with 2,179 votes. Lakeside is eighth at 1,713, and Cedar Ridge is in 14th place with 1,314 votes.
Voting for the contest ends Nov. 7.