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Schools hit high note with state honor

For middle school and high school students who are serious about music, Seminole is the place to learn, state educators say.

In December, Seminole Middle and Seminole High were named "Music Demonstration Schools" by the Florida Music Educators Association and the Florida Department of Education.

Just four other schools received the designation, considered the top statewide honor for music programs. For the next three years, the winning schools will be held up as models for other schools to emulate.

"I can believe it," said Matthew Hine, an eighth-grader who plays the bassoon. "It's a really great program."

The award is nothing new to Seminole Middle. The school first was named a demonstration school three years ago and had to wait three years before it could apply for the honor again. As it was three years ago, it is the only middle school in the state deemed worthy of the recognition.

For Seminole High, the honor is a first, and band director John Davis said some of the credit must go to the middle school, whose students move on to Seminole High in ninth grade.

"The high school cannot survive, it can't be great, without a great middle school program," Davis said. "If there isn't a good feeder program, there isn't a good high school program."

Two other high schools, Vivian Gaither in Tampa and Riverview in Sarasota, also were named demonstration schools. Two Tampa elementary schools, Broward and Phillip Shore School of the Arts, also received the honor.

The criteria are tough: Schools are judged, among other things, on the quality of their performances in band, chorus and orchestra; the variety of courses offered; the level of community involvement; and the size of their programs. Additionally, the teachers all must be certified to teach music.

What sets Seminole Middle and Seminole High apart from the rest?

"I'm not going to be modest," said Nancy Fannon, high school choral director. "I think there are great teachers. John Davis is really incredible, and Jane Lucas does both chorus and band, and we've got a great administration who backs us."

Tristan Hine, Matthew's brother and a junior drummer in the band, agreed with Fannon.

"Our staff is probably the best you can find in the Southeast," he said.

At Seminole Middle, band director David Tagliarini said the passion he and choral director Joey Miazga show for their work spreads to the students.

"I think the reason we're successful is because we're sincere in our desire to make our students enjoy music," Tagliarini said.

Supportive parents also helped build the Seminole music dynasty, he said. They organize fund-raising events, arrange car pools, organize the school music library and help set up for concerts.

At Seminole High, the band boosters raise about $250,000 a year, Davis said, money that helps the band travel to state and national competitions.

And then there are the students, whose commitment to excellence means practicing at night and on weekends, inside and out of school.

"I try to practice an hour a day," Matthew Hine said. "I love it, and I think a lot of other kids do, too."

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