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Plano Performing Arts Department

Performing Arts staff includes Jason Lewis, Michael A. Hernandez, & Mark De Hertogh (Band), Derrick Brookins & Lisa Newby (Choir), Brian Coatney & Tara Cesario (Orchestra), Steve Luthye (Music Theory), and Lance Morse & Cassidy McQuiston(Theater)

Grammy Foundation award lets Plano Senior High School toot its horn

12:00 AM CDT on Sunday, May 18, 2008 By CHRIS COATS / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News Chris Coats is a freelance writer in Richardson. ctcoats@aol.com

The Plano Senior High School fine arts department ended performing season on a high note-it recently was honored by the Grammy Foundation for its commitment to music education.

On Saturday, before the orchestra, band and choir were to give their final concert of the school year, David Sears of the Grammy Foundation presented the department with the award and a $5,000 grant. "Plano Senior High's music education is one of the top in the country," Mr. Sears, the foundation's senior director of education programs, said before the event. "They've exceeded in having an excellent variety of top programs open to a large percentage of the student population."

Just as the Grammy Award recognizes excellence in recording, the Grammy Foundation Signature Schools program recognizes the top 14 public high schools nationwide for outstanding music education programs. The foundation is associated with The Recording Academy, which distributes the Grammy Award to music artists.

This year, approximately 650 schools applied for the honor and were judged by top music educators and professionals from around the country. Plano is one of two Texas schools recognized, and it was recognized once before, in 2005.

"The key is the spirit of cooperation of our departments working together," principal Doyle Dean said.

Jeremy Kondrat, director of bands, said what sets the school apart is its program diversity. "We have extended auxiliary groups, whether it's a jazz or steel drum band," he said. "We have a full symphony orchestra to small ensemble groups along with all sizes of choirs."

Universities heavily recruit at the school and place student teachers into the program, school music officials said. High school fine arts directors from around the country regularly visit the campus to observe classes. "We tell them our success is that we're more like a family," said Derrick Brookins, director of choral activities. "We do productions together, attend each other's concerts and even hang out socially."

Elyse Senteney, a junior flute player, credits the program for her wanting to pursue a career in music. "I've learned that music isn't just blowing air through an instrument," she said. "It's the passion from my teachers and performing songs together into one unified body of music."

After receiving their award, the choir, orchestra and band ended their final concert of the year doing what they do best - performing together.

David Forinash, a senior and trumpet player, saw it as a fitting ending. "We're proud to get this award," he said. "Playing together made it special. It's saying, 'We're the fine arts department, and we're good at what we do.' That's awesome."

Chris Coats is a freelance writer in Richardson. ctcoats@aol.com

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