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Countywide Festival Brings Students and Staff Together to Explore Gospel Music

March 19th, 2024

HCPSS Music Coordinator Terry Eberhardt and his colleagues are always looking for new ways to get students excited about and engaged in music.

This year, they organized the first-ever HCPSS Gospel Music Festival. Held in February, the event brought together interested students in 8th-12th grade and staff from across the county to learn about and perform gospel music.

“Our idea was to combine professional learning and student learning and give everyone the opportunity to learn about and experience this powerful genre together,” Eberhardt says.

The day-long festival, which was sponsored by Howard County Center of African American Culture, kicked off with an opening keynote from Michele Fowlin, artistic director for the Washington Performing Arts Children of the Gospel Choir.

From there, students and teachers had the opportunity to participate in breakout sessions, providing vocal training and lessons on the history of gospel music. In the evening, students and teachers took the stage to perform under Fowlin’s direction. Members of the St. Johns Baptist Sacred Arts Ensemble also performed.

“The performance was epic,” says Eberhardt. “The kids were on fire and so was the audience. There were multiple standing ovations, and everyone walked out smiling.”

Oakland Mills High School junior Isaiah Nicholas and Hammond High School junior Gabrielle Regis were among the HCPSS students who took part in the festival. Both enjoyed meeting students from other schools, improving their vocal techniques, and expanding their knowledge of gospel music.

Eberhardt says that the popularity and success of this year’s event is telling.

“Many of the students who participated in the festival weren’t enrolled in music classes; they were just curious about gospel. As an educator, that tells me that when we tap into our students’ interests and provide them with access to meaningful experiences, they are ready and eager to learn.”