CALDWELL, Texas — Caldwell ISD has taken a vested interest in its fine arts programs, with a new director hired, and over $100,000 in band and theater upgrades.
When you think about back-to-school, you probably imagine new packs of pencils, waxed cafeteria floors and freshly mowed athletic fields. For kids at Caldwell High School, there’s another fresh new start to get excited for – completely refurbished band and theater spaces.
"First time we came in [the refurbished theater] we played for convocation a couple of weeks ago,” said Dr. Jason Levin, Caldwell ISD’s newly hired fine arts director and high school band director. "And the kids, their eyes were huge, because they were excited. You can tell when kids are proud of their space.”
According to district leadership, it’s been literal decades since the students involved in fine arts saw a real investment in upgrading their classroom and practice areas. Over the course of the summer, the band hall was given new floors, walls and acoustic upgrades. Caldwell ISD told KRHD that by this year, they knew it had been a long time coming to give their musical and artistic students this extra support. They allocated $100,000 from the district’s general funds to make the upgrades.
Friday afternoon, about a dozen band students volunteered to show up at the band hall hours early to practice, just to help Dr. Levin organize the new area, excited to start the year. Senior drum major Barret Yates shared that being a part of the band has impacted him as a student, and as a person.
"I learned the most from being a drum major,” Yates said. “I learned how to connect with people, learned how to speak to an audience, learned how to have passion. Because, how it used to be... for football games I wasn’t that into it, but now I have passion for my school.”
The refurbished auditorium, complete with new chairs, new paint and new stage flooring, will be named after the founder of Caldwell High School’s theater program, the legendary Lou-Ida Marsh, whose funeral was held just this Thursday.
Those who knew Marsh said she reminded her students that they had every reason to believe in themselves and that being from a small town didn’t make them small people.
“All of the folks that spoke yesterday [at the funeral] were still using the things that she taught them up to 40 years ago,” commented Janice Easter, mayor of Caldwell and a longtime staff member at Caldwell High School.
Dr. Levin said that he wants to keep that same passion for the arts instilled in his students, and he’s glad he has new tools to do that. But, in many ways, the kids of Caldwell High School are what make these new features shine.
“They’re unbelievable,” Levin said. “We had leadership camp, and I’d only been here for four days. I started with the kids, and for everything I said they [would ask me], ‘would you like to try this,’ ‘how have you done this,’ ‘is it going to make us better? Just show us, we want to be better.’”
Caldwell ISD students return to school for the start of the fall semester Tuesday, Aug. 16.