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.
MONTGOMERY – Seven individuals who have made an impact as exemplary role models have been selected as the 2016 Making A Difference Award recipients by the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) and the Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association (AHSADCA).
One recipient from each of the AHSAA’s seven classifications was chosen from nominations submitted by AHSAA member schools and other support organizations. This year’s recipients are Kyle Garmon, Gaylesville High School (1A); Claborn Campbell, Cold Springs High School (2A); Stephanie Robinson, Fultondale High School (3A); Tena Niven, Montevallo High School (4A); Willie Moore, Dallas County High School (5A); Gary Hall, Carver-Montgomery High School (6A); and Kent Chambers, Bob Jones High School (7A).
The honorees will be recognized at the Championship Coaches Banquet at the Renaissance Montgomery Convention Center July 22. The 6 p.m. event will close out the 2016 AHSAA Summer Conference and All-Star Sports Week for member schools. The Officials’ Awards luncheon the following day at the Renaissance at 11:30 a.m. will officially close out the week.
The Making A Difference Award was established in 2011 by the AHSAA and AHSADCA to recognize individuals who go beyond their normal duties as a coach, teacher or administrator to make a positive impact in their schools and communities. This year’s recipients include two principals, a head football coach, two head basketball coaches, a head track coach and one head softball coach.
“The recipients in this 2016 Making A Difference class are more examples of men and women who take their positions as role models for their students, faculty and community very seriously. They are each excellent examples of what this award stands for. They have had a major positive impact in their communities and schools," said AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese. “This award is the most important honor a professional educator in our state can receive. Characteristics considered for this prestigious award include the recipient’s character, integrity and service, all of which have enabled these individuals to have a life-changing impact on the community or school where they serve.
Savarese said this special award exemplifies what makes education-based sports so important.
“We are very proud of all our coaches, teachers and administrators,” he said. “This is one way we can honor them for the examples they set and the life lessons they teach on a daily basis.”
Following is a brief synopsis of the Making A Difference recipients for 2016:
KYLE GARMON, GAYLESVILLE HIGH SCHOOL
Garmon, who has been at Gaylesville 12 years, is the head football coach and athletic director at the small school just north of Centre in Cherokee County. He is described by his principal as a man who “takes ownership of Gaylesville High School, serving whenever and wherever he is needed.”
He was an assistant football coach for nine seasons before becoming head coach prior to the 2014 season. A history teacher who teaches grades 7 through 12, he knows each student personally and goes out of his way to meet their needs in the classroom, in the athletic arena and in their personal lives when called upon. He is well-respected by the students and faculty as well as his coaching peers throughout northeast Alabama. In addition to his AD and football coaching duties, he is also head baseball coach. Moreover, he has coached virtually every sport offered at the school at one time or another – filling in at a moment’s notice when the need arises.
CLABORN CAMPBELL, COLD SPRINGS – An icon at Cold Springs for three decades, the boys’ and girls’ head track coach has worked tirelessly to build a track program that culminated with boys’ outdoor state championship in 2016 and with a cross country state championship last November. He is a man with strong faith and wisdom whom students and teachers alike turn to for guidance and is considered by his peers in the coaching profession as being the consummate teacher/coach who loves his students and loves his profession. He made his career about “family.”
He preaches to his students that “the true test of character comes when no one else is looking.” He backed his philosophy up in 2012 when he discovered a scoring error in the Class 2A Section 3 track meet final tally hours after his team had accepted the runner-up trophy for its outstanding effort. Correcting the error also meant dropping his team to third place in the final point tally. He reported the scoring error to meet director and good friend Keith Wilemon of Falkville and personally presented the trophy to Falkville High School, the rightful winners.
Wilemon said not everyone would have done what Campbell did. "This would probably never have been discovered, and the fact that Coach Campbell acknowledged the mistake and corrected it immediately is a testament to his honesty and integrity. As always, he and his team exemplify sportsmanship and class. We are honored to call him a friend. He is a wonderful example for all coaches."