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GPHS Band Receives 2021 Heart of the Arts Award

GRANTS PASS, Ore. – Directors Lewis Norfleet, Jeremy Sutton, and the Grants Pass High School Band have been awarded a 2021 “National High School Heart of the Arts Award” by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).

This award seeks to recognize individuals or groups who exemplify the ideals of the positive heart of the arts that represent the core mission of education-based activities. The Grants Pass High School Band was nominated for the initiative students took to help their fellow musicians in Phoenix, following the devastating Almeda Fire on September 8, 2020.

“We decided to share photos of the damage in the Phoenix community with our students,” Band Director Lewis Norfleet writes. “We felt it was an important teaching moment, one that superseded our music class curriculum. We shared the photos and let the students speak. They immediately wanted to help.”

The band’s student leadership team met later that day and came up with a plan to make a care package for every individual student in the Phoenix High School Band. The two schools compete annually in the Pride of the Northwest (PNW) marching band competition in Grants Pass.

“They wanted to let the Phoenix students know that they each mattered and that their friends in GP were thinking of them. What transpired after that was very special,” Norfleet said.

In a letter, Phoenix High School Assistant Principal Dave Ehrhardt wrote, “In the aftermath of the fires, many groups reached out to provide support to the students and staff of the Phoenix-Talent School District. One of the first groups we heard from was the Grants Pass High School Band. A few days later, an armada of vehicles from Grants Pass was at our school. They brought each of our students multiple gift bags and a wide variety of thoughtful items. Even more importantly, they brought them hope and the idea that someone truly cared about them in the midst of this tragedy.”

“We are proud of our students for their awareness of what people in their community were experiencing and their enthusiasm for wanting to help however they could,” Norfleet says. “It will be quite the celebration when the Phoenix band returns to the field at PNW (hopefully in 2021!), and we have a chance to cheer them on.”

students standing around wrapped gift bags they gave to fire victims