RENO, NEVADA (June 29, 2016) —Dale County High School Marching Band and Band Director Sherri Miller have been selected the 2016 national recipients of the “National High School Heart of the Arts Award” by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).
Mrs. Miller was present at the opening session of the 97th annual NFHS Summer Meeting at Reno Wednesday to accept the award on behalf of the school and its 60-member marching band. Principal Todd Humphrey, assistant principal Perry Dillard and interim Superintendent of Dale County Schools Lamar Brooks were was also present for the presentation. Among others from Alabama in attendance were AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese, Associate Executive Director Tony Stallworth, Central Board president Mike Welsh, members of the Central Board and AHSAA executive staff.
The National High School Heart of the Arts Award was created by the NFHS to recognize those individuals who exemplify the ideals of the positive heart of the arts that represent the core mission of education-based activities. This is the third year that the National High School Heart of the Arts Award has been offered.
Mrs. Miller and her band were selected from the more than 4.5 million NFHS high school participants in the arts and other activities as the third recipient of the “Heart of the Arts” Award. It was first presented in 2014.
Dale County High School’s 60-member school band selflessly took it upon itself to support a county rival neighboring school – Skipperville’s G.W. Long High School – during the 2015 AHSAA football playoffs. Long High School does not have a band.
The Dale County Marching Warriors Band raised its own funds and traveled more than 250 miles to its rival’s quarterfinal football game at Flomaton, which Long won, 35-21. The band, under the direction of Miller, inspired the Rebels’ fans with their music and also played at halftime. The following week, the band traveled to Elba for Long High School’s semifinal game.
While Dale County’s selfless acts of kindness were in and of themselves impressive, the story goes beyond that.
During the past eight years, Dale County High School and G.W. Long High School have endured an enormous number of tragic losses.
Among them, Dale County head football coach Todd Horne was killed in a car accident on U.S. Highway 231 a month before the 2008 football season was to begin. Todd Horne was the older brother of current G.W. Long head football Coach Scott Horne.
In January 2015, the school’s then-new band director, Sean Miller, was killed in a car accident less than a mile from the school on the same U.S. Highway 231 where Todd Horne was killed. Miller, 30, replaced her husband as band director just one month after the accident.
Sherri and Sean had one child at the time and were expecting their second child in July. Her band students immediately showered her with love and continue to do so today.
In each of the above instances, this small county made up of small towns and many even smaller communities rallied to provide support for the many families who were suffering with candlelight vigils and prayer rallies, among other expressions of love. Miller says her family and she were indeed one of those families.
“I don’t know what I would have done without the support of my Dale County High School family and the surrounding community,” Miller said. “They really embraced me and helped me find a way to keep going.”
She also remembered her husband’s challenge to each student. “My husband loved music, knew the healing power of music, and the importance of ‘family’ when it came to his band members. He would often tell his students, ‘Every time you play a piece of music, play it like it might be your last time.’ He looked at music as a gift that could lift the spirits of those who listened.”
“Our band kids are very special,” Mrs. Miller said. “They wanted to share their love for music – wanted to give back. They are such a great group of kids.”
Savarese said Dale County High School is an example for all.
“We congratulate and are very proud of Mrs. Miller, principal Matt Humphrey, the Dale County High School marching band and entire Dale County schools system,” said Steve Savarese. “They have shown us all the “heart” behind the music, and the power of love and healing that exists when we use God’s talents for Godly things. Their service to others is an example we all should try to emulate.”
In addition to the selection of the Dale County High School Marching Band and Band Director Sherri Miller as the national award recipients, the NFHS National High School Spirit of Sport Award Selection Committee chose volleyball player Ashley Carson of Ord, Nebraska, as the 2016 recipient of that award.