Tuesday night I was in the audience for the Boyd County High School music concert at the Paramount Arts Center. It was exactly what I needed.

I was there to take photos and video for The Daily Independent as director John Johnson had composed a new march in honor of our newspaper.

It is incredibly special to be honored in this way by Mr. Johnson. Music is such a special part of our humanity and it means a great deal when someone creates a work to honor you, your work or something of which you are a part.

It is wildly cool to say that we at The Daily Independent have our own march thanks to the creative mind and talents of Johnson and the Boyd County High School band.

Tuesday night was extra special for me. Not only am I a reporter here, but I am an alumna of Boyd County High School.

Almost a decade ago — yikes — I stood on that very stage as a member of the Boyd County High School choir.

I know just how hard those students, faculty, staff and volunteers have worked to make Tuesday evening a possibility. Well, I know what it’s like in a non-pandemic time — this year must have been much more taxing and difficult.

Despite the possible barriers, they were phenomenal. Each student is incredible. It was a beautiful evening of music. They sang and played instruments through masks, and still blew the audience away.

I am admittedly biased toward the Boyd County music program. I was a member of the choirs in my high school days. My dad and his brothers were in multiple bands and choirs. My best friend rocked the flute and piccolo on the field and on the stage while another sang baritone in the choir with me.

The music program is truly one of the best and greatest traditions Boyd County has, and undoubtedly my favorite part of my high school experience as a Lion.

As I walked into the the Paramount Tuesday, I spotted our publisher, Lisa Callihan, in the front row. I grabbed a seat next to her and settled my camera equipment. As I stood up to find a good angle I spotted Carl Taylor, the former director of the BCHS choir, who would sing as a guest in the finale. Taylor was by far my favorite teacher in high school.

As I sat and listened to the pieces being presented with Mr. Taylor to my left and Lisa to my right, my past and my present collided in the most beautiful way, through music.

Having lived most of my adult life out of the state of Kentucky, it was a remarkable moment to be back home.

Before the finale, Johnson spoke to the crowd.

“I hope you folks understand that what you folks have seen tonight is not typical,” said Johnson. “This is not typical of a high school production. It is not typical that a high school band and choir concert would occur in a venue as beautiful at this. It is not typical that the groups would sound as good as they do.”

The Boyd County music program is special and I was so grateful for it when I was in high school. Tuesday, I was reminded of the greatness and joy that it brings into the lives of the students, their families and the community.

This is additionally evident as Superintendent Bill Boblett was given an award from the District 8 Kentucky Music Educators Association for his support of the arts and music in school Tuesday evening.

“There has been an awful lot of discussion over the last two years about what is and is not essential,” Johnson continued as he addressed the crowd. “I can promise that your students are essential and the arts are essential. They may not be essential in the way that the world views them, but they are essential for the human spirit. It has been wonderful to be here with you again tonight in the Paramount Arts Center and it has been wonderful to make music.”

When Johnson declared that students and the arts are essential the crowd erupted in roaring applause. I couldn’t agree more.

The last few years have been hectic worldwide, countrywide, and personally for many of us. As I stepped into the Paramount Tuesday, I was exhausted in every way possible, run down from the stress of the past few years. As I stepped out, I had more joy in my heart than I walked in with and a load of gratitude to and for the Boyd County music program.

Thank you for valuing music and its place in our lives. It matters.

Thank you to the students for working hard and striving for greatness. Thank you Mr. Bowling, Mr. Molinary and Mr. Johnson for leading these students and helping them realize their gifts and talents.

Thank you Mr. Johnson for composing The Daily Independent. It is epic and beyond cool. Beautifully done.

Thank you for literally giving us the gift of music.

Reach EMILY PORTER at eporter@dailyindependent.com.

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