How We Started a Band Program from Nothing and Gained National Recognition
by P.J. Littleton and Cameron Gish

The Future Band Room, the dump room where teachers put stuff they didn't want anymore.

The Future Band Room, the dump room where teachers put stuff they didn’t want anymore.

Hillsboro School is nestled in the rolling hills of Leiper’s Fork, a quirky, crossroad community of Franklin, Tennessee. Though just thirty minutes south of downtown Nashville, the landscape of our community differs greatly from the hustle and bustle of big city life. This one hundred-year-old institution has housed students from pre-kindergarten through high school and generations of local families. Hillsboro is currently the district’s only K-8 school, with the smallest middle school enrollment in Williamson County – about 350 students.

Three years ago, a controversial and contentious district-wide rezoning paired faces both familiar and not so familiar in our little school, as generational agricultural families and new suburbanites found themselves seated in the same classrooms. Together, we committed to roll up our sleeves and tackle new challenges in a unified quest to facilitate a revolution and to raise the academic expectations for our children.

Where to start? Administrative leadership changed and new teachers were hired. Along with our eager parents and inspired children, a re-visioning began at this “little school that could.” Among several programs (curricular, extra-curricular and athletic) absent in our school, was a traditional band program.

This was a huge concern for many of our families. Not only did we know what an impact the band experience has in shaping a child long into adulthood, but also the reams of empirical data that validate the scholastic performance of children that are exposed to an instrumental music education. We challenged this absence at Hillsboro School, asking why there was no band program, especially considering it was the only middle school in the district without one.

We were told, “The school is small and there just has never been any interest in band here.” We questioned further, “But have you ever tried?” We learned that throughout the school’s long history, there were a few sporadic attempts at forming a band, but nothing ever flourished or was sustained. This is the moment where our story began.

At the center of the Hillsboro School renaissance was to be a brand new band program, led by a just-graduated young teacher with boundless energy and a mission to create and lead Hillsboro School’s first real band program. With no band room, no instruments, no chairs, no music stands, no sheet music and only 12 students enrolled, this ensemble looked quite doubtful, if not hopeless. How would we do this?

Editors note: This article is part one of a series that we have asked the Hillsboro School and their director and lead parent to write to showcase what can be done if parents, teachers and community come together to build excellence. We hope you will find value in this incredible story over the course of the next few posts.