May 12, 2023
Prince George High School has joined a distinguished list of schools across the Commonwealth in receiving the Virginia Music Educators Association's (VMEA) Blue Ribbon School Award, recognizing two of the school's performing ensembles, the Prince George High School Marching Band and the high school's choir.
The VMEA Blue Ribbon Award is the highest award given to school music programs in Virginia and recognizes excellence achieved in band, orchestra, and choral performance. For a school to be considered for the Blue Ribbon Award, following an application process, the top-performing groups must perform two pieces from approved graded music lists. All disciplines in a school must receive a rating of "superior" at assessment to qualify for the award.
Members of Prince George High School’s marching band display their awards following their performance in the Class 3A competition, placing 3rd overall, and earning high marks in multiple categories. (PGCPS Photo)
"I am extremely proud of my students. It takes even more determination to go from playing sounds to making music. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to learn how to play an instrument," Band Director Michael Warnock said. "The students are very proud of their achievement and hope to continue making music. The musical arts are essential to any school and community. Not only do the musicians at our schools help to build a sense of community and school pride, but they are also able to translate their musical studies into their academic studies. Many of the students who are successful in the music programs play a vital role in many of the academic studies, other clubs, and sports throughout the school."
"I'm proud of the student's ambition to be a superior-rated ensemble," Choral Director Storm Burks said. "This recognition reflects not only my and Mr. Warnock's work but every single music teacher these kids have had since kindergarten. This recognition is a county-wide achievement, and I'm proud to be a part of the team."
"I am thrilled with the achievement of our students. They have worked so hard to rebuild their skill sets since the pandemic and ensure their ensembles continue to grow and build with talent. Having our school community's hard work recognized is heartwarming," Prince George High School Principal Dr. Abbie Martin said. "The musical arts programs at Prince George High School bring a joyful noise to our school every day. The identity of our high school is founded in part by the musical experiences brought to life by our musical arts programs. Through the sounds of the marching band practicing in the fall, to the choral ensembles performing in the spring, our students are able to explore their talents and creativity."
Prince George High School's musical arts program is a fixture of the Prince George County community. Led by director Michael Warnock, the Marching Royals regularly participate in athletic and community events, including welcoming teachers back to campus during the division's 2022-23 convocation conference, providing entertainment during Prince George High School football games, and taking part in both the county's annual Christmas parade and holiday events across the region. The band is highly decorated, among the top-performing marching bands in the area, consistently earning high marks in competitions during the school year. For example, in October 2022, the Prince George High School Marching Band placed 3rd overall in the Class 3A competition, earning 2nd place in general effect and 3rd in music, marching, percussion, and auxiliary.
Most recently, Prince George High School's Marching Royals took their talents to Florida's Walt Disney World, showcasing their musical prowess to park goers in early April.
On Thursday, April 27, 2023, the Prince George High School Chorus performed the national anthem during Fort Gregg-Adams' redesignation ceremony. The group performed in front of hundreds of guests, dignitaries, and media outlets in attendance and thousands watching online. (Photo Courtesy of Fort Gregg-Adams)
The Prince George High School Chorus received the VMEA’s recognition on the heels of their step on the national stage earlier this year as they performed the national anthem at the Fort Gregg-Adams redesignation ceremony in late April. In front of a crowd of thousands in person and thousands more watching around the country, the ensemble, led by Storm Burks, rose to the occasion and delivered a stirring rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. Over the years, the high school's choir has participated in community events, like the annual Christmas tree lighting, homecoming, and Back-to-School night, while hosting seasonal concerts and being part of various Virginia Choral Directors Association (VCDA) and Virginia Music Educators Association delegations. The ensemble has also performed in well-known musical locales, including the Heritage Choral Festival in New York, earning superior and first-place rankings, and Festival Disney in Orlando, Florida, receiving superior, second-, and third-place honors.
"We have a saying in the choral classroom; 'Always proud, never satisfied,'" Choral Director Burks shared. "This is our mantra that instills a growth mindset and high achievement for personal and ensemble growth. It makes me laugh because, at times, I have to check my students for being too hypercritical of themselves and our ensemble. This passion is why the Chamber Singers of PGHS is consistently a superior-rated ensemble. These students invest and embody this mindset.”
The recognition also speaks to the commitment of Prince George High School and the district to providing students with enriching and engaging access to the fine arts, including music. Alongside performances by the band and ensembles at the high school, the district hosts its annual Spring Fling, a day-long exploration of the arts featuring visual, music, and dramatic arts showcases. Hundreds of students, families, and community members file through Prince George High School to experience the talents of local students during the popular pre-Spring Break event.
"Our students are curious learners that explore on their own and bring creative ideas back to the classroom," Choral Director Burks said of the importance of the fine arts. "They learn how to coexist and create within a diverse community. Students also learn the power of their voice and how valuable it is. The choir students are not afraid to be themselves and know that they will be embraced for being the best version of themselves. Join the arts, find your voice, and learn to love your neighbor through similar passions.
To see a complete list of the 2023 Blue Ribbon Award schools from the Virginia Music Educators Association, visit their website at https://www.vmea.com/blue-ribbon-award.