By Hannah Lester
The First Baptist Church of Opelika encourages music lovers of all ages to pick up their instruments.
The church houses an arts academy that teaches a variety of instruments, including piano, drums, voice, flute, trumpet, clarinet, violin, and more.
The academy’s director, Kim Jackson, was hired almost exactly a year ago and said she has been trying to maintain the academy, which has been thriving for four years.
“It’s a part-time job where I’m responsible for the teachers who give private lessons to the students,” she said.
Classes are held in three-semester increments: fall, spring, and summer. The summer courses are more relaxed and do not feature the end-of-semester concerts that are offered in the fall and spring.
Jackson may not currently be actively teaching music for the academy, but she has the background to do so. She did her bachelor’s degree in music education and worked as a band leader for 25 years.
“I still teach a special needs drum circle in several schools with Eufala City Schools,” she said.
In fact, the Drum Circle is something Jackson said she plans to incorporate into the Fine Arts Academy within the next year.
Other goals for the future include adding more instruments.
“I feel like the more teachers that have the variety of instruments, the more we can do,” Jackson said. “Organ would be something I would wish for if there were organ students, more brass. Right now we have some woodwinds, we’ll start with some brass in the fall.
“… With my musical background, I can draw on many resources [to get new teachers]many friends or friends of friends. We are already adding three new teachers this fall.”
The next semester, fall, starts on August 8, 2022. These courses are not only for children but also for adults.
“We just got a gentleman who started on bass guitar who had the instrument for three years, never touched it and came, and now he even has his granddaughter in piano lessons,” Jackson said. “While he’s taking this, his granddaughter is playing the piano.”
Some of the oldest students are in their 70s, the youngest is 5.
Jackson encouraged parents with younger students to let their children try out an instrument. If they don’t like it, the semester is only 13 weeks. There are also rental programs for some instruments that make it cheaper, she said.
For older students who have played an instrument before, Jackson said they’ll find it comes back to them fairly easily.
“You just need cues on what to remember and just know, take the time to go back to that,” she said. “Set goals so that you can achieve them. However, make them small goals; Don’t try to shoot for the moon yet.”
Jackson said new adult students will be just as frustrated with the instruments and the process as children.
“The teacher is there to help,” she said. “Talk and communicate with the teacher because he may find a different way to teach you than he would a child because you may be able to think differently than the child.”
Student enrollment has historically been as high as 82, but this fall it may be 120, Jackson said.
Although located in First Baptist of Opelika, Jackson said church or faith will not be imposed on participants. However, there is hope for meaningful conversations with the students and the opportunity to share faith with them.
“Our goal would be to have it [students] go to music ministry at church if they [are members] in our church, in choirs or orchestras,” she said. “We have a children’s choir, we have a youth choir, we have an adult choir, we also have some youth students who will play instruments with the youth choir, the student-led choir. Then we have an orchestra that plays with the adult choir on Sunday mornings and we’d really like to see some of these students come through and end up performing with us, the adults and the youth in the church. And a few of them have already done so.”
In this new role, Jackson said she misses the connections she makes with students and tries to consciously meet new students for the academy.
Over the past year, she’s been able to watch the students grow and learn, and see all of their progress at the concerts, she said.
Interested students can find more information online at https://www.fbcopelika.com/fine-arts-academy.
13-week Fall and Spring terms are $400 for a 30-minute class per week, $600 for a 45-minute class per week, and $800 for a 1-hour class per week.