Susan Hightower, Arts Advocate for Jazz Band, better known as “Band-Aid," has been an active volunteer and advocate of ASA for 8 years. We are incredibly grateful for her band department parent leadership and appreciate her sense of humor and “can do” approach to life.
ASA: Your son has been here since 5th grade- what brought him and your family to ASA at that time?
Dimetrius was a smart and kind-of "geeky" kid. He was quiet but loved his small group of friends in 4th grade. We lived in the Madison School District, and the middle-school was just too big. He liked sports but preferred to compete intellectually, in math, science, and technology. Where shall we send this smart kid? Our daughter was ready to start college in theatre arts and said, "Mom, he would do well at ASA." Not sure about which high school he could attend in the future, we attended orientation for 5th graders, held at the church. He said he wouldn't like it here because most of his friends would attend Madison. We suggested he try one semester and he could be the judge of his experience at ASA. In 8th grade, he said he was "staying!" Many teachers, staff and mostly, the music teachers and directors truly helped to shape him into becoming the great young man he is today. His love of music, mostly Jazz, keeps him grounded and soulful. He will major in technology and is accepted into the Barrett Honors College at ASU.
ASA: In one sentence, how do you describe ASA to prospective families or out in the community at large?
Holistic. The well-rounded education with an emphasis in academic excellence, the arts, the culture of kids and supportive parents, makes for a great experience in so many ways. Again, teachers are incredible, and the arts exposure is a privilege.
ASA: You have volunteered and assisted ASA in many ways. Please share a favorite memory where you can see your volunteerism made a difference here.
Dimetrius started with piano at age 4. He was introduced to the Clarinet with Mr. Robinson in 5th grade and took lessons with him and did very well and they bonded. Dimetrius was to do a music critique, and I brought him to "The Nash." That was it! He started playing the SAX and took lessons with Adam Roberts, who I would call his "mentor." The chemistry was there, and the relationship bloomed. So much fun they had together. This year, Dimetrius is a teaching music assistant (TA for Band). The Jazz Band competes annually in February in Flagstaff at NAU. We decided to drive up there five years ago and take it all in! We met great supportive parents, mostly the MOMs and we nicknamed ourselves "The Jazz Moms." We drove up each year and soon a bus was organized for the band! At the next performance at "The Nash," we decided to recognize the music-teaching staff for their above-and-beyond efforts. A tradition starts, and the next thing-you-know, volunteers stepped up for the Band Department. I was asked to become a Volunteer-Advocate and feel honored to do so. It's easy for me to thank professionals who dedicate their time and effort to make and shape kids for success, especially in art appreciation. The Jazz Experience changed Dimetrius' perspective. He loves to perform at "The Nash." It's now standing-room only each night the Jazz Band is there.
ASA: You are a champion for the Jazz department. With your son graduating this year, what advice or encouragement can you offer other parents to consider stepping up?
The kids in the arts, music, and band grow in so many ways from the "concert-black" attire, to the venues they can perform at, the life-time experiences they will see, and an in-depth knowledge-base of appreciation. Mr. Roberts told us during 6th grade for Dimetrius, "If he gets serious, he could be one of the great-ones. It's not that kids become professional performers, but that they enjoy the arts, and continue the appreciation for music!" Getting involved connects you to the parents, staff and the kids. It's heart-warming to see the performances and bitter-sweet as they go off to college. It becomes a family, and each time the kids step on that stage, your heart fills with pride, satisfaction, and love. Thanks again to the amazing dedication of the music staff who always give it 150%! Finally, getting to know the parents and the "Jazz Moms" is a journey of its own. Now, the advocacy group is "Band-Aids" for the support we (Moms, Dads, friends, and relatives) give and the satisfaction we gain. We grow with the kids. It's just that easy! Please give your support in any way or form by funding the "wish-list" provided by the teachers, setting up before and after performances, giving your time or money. It all helps, it all matters. I always arrive with a cooler or two full of bottled-water, and the kids love that! We provide snacks on the bus for the NAU Jazz Festival, State competitions, etc. A little goes a long way.
ASA: What is one of your favorite activities outside of ASA and your children? Will you have more time to do this with two kids out of the house come fall? We will miss you and hope to see you come back for some performances!
Funny you should ask. Rodney and I had children late-in-life! Dimetrius was born to parents in their 40's! He asked us the other day, "Mom, do you and Dad look forward to time together when I go to college?" Wow! The final quarter of life! We love the experience with our two kids. Our daughter is in New York City heading into theater! Dimetrius will be close, but he's always and constantly busy. So………it's up-in-the-air! Our dream is to become "snow-birds" and go from east to west when we can afford that. For now, one more college education to support. Most likely you will see me with Julie Salcedo (co-advocate) at the concerts next year at ASA. I just love those kids, our extended family. I will also continue my favorite hobby: seeing any and all the performing arts this city has to offer, the symphony, plays at the theater, concerts of all types. But as I've always said, I would buy tickets to see the ASA Band kids perform anywhere and anytime. They are just that great! Thank you to all of you who make this dream a reality.