By Hannah Lester
First Baptist Church of Opelika is encouraging music-lovers of all ages to pick up their instruments.
The church is the host of a Fine Arts Academy teaching a variety of instruments including piano, drums, voice, flute, trumpet, clarinet, violin and more.
Director of the academy, Kim Jackson, was hired almost exactly a year ago and said she has been trying to maintain the already four-year thriving academy.
“It’s a part-time job where I am in charge of the teachers who teach private lessons to the students,” she said.
The classes are held in three-semester increments: fall, spring and summer. The summer courses are more laid- back, not offering the end-of-semester recitals that the fall and spring offer.
Jackson may not be actively teaching music for the academy right now, but she has the background for it. She received her bachelor’s degree in music education and worked as a band director for 25 years.
“I still continue to teach a special-needs drum circle in several schools with Eufala City Schools,” she said.
In fact, the drum circle is something that Jackson said she would like 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 is something I would like, if there’s organ students, more brass instruments. Right now, we’ve kind of got some woodwinds, we’re starting a few brass in the fall.
“… With my music background, I can tap into a lot of resources [to get new teachers], a lot of friends, or friends of friends, This fall, we’re already adding three new teachers.”
The next semester, fall, will begin Aug. 8, 2022. These classes are not just for children, but adults as well.
“We have a gentleman right now who started on bass guitar, who had the instrument for three years, never touched it and came, and now he even has his granddaughter on piano lessons,” Jackson said. “While he’s taking that, his granddaughter is taking piano.”
Some of the oldest students are in their 70s, the youngest is 5.
Jackson encouraged parents with younger students to have their children try an instrument. If they don’t like it, the semester only lasts 13 weeks. There are also renting programs for some instruments that make it less expensive, she said.
For older students who have played an instrument before, Jackson said that they’ll find it comes back to them rather easily.
“You just need pointers on what to remember and just know, take your time getting back into it,” she said. “Set yourself some goals so you can reach those. Make them small goals, though; don’t try to shoot for the moon yet.”
Jackson said that new adult students will get frustrated with the instruments and process just as children do.
“The teacher is there to help,” she said. “Talk and communicate with the teacher, because they might find a different way to teach you than they would a kid, because you might be able to think in a different way than the kid.”
The number of students has been as high as 82 in the past, but this fall will see maybe 120, Jackson said.
Despite being located in First Baptist of Opelika, Jackson said that church or faith is not forced on participants. However, there is the hope of meaningful conversations with students and the opportunity to share with them about faith.
“Our goal in that would be to have [students] go into the music ministry in the church, if they [are members] in our church, in choirs or orchestra,” she said. “We have children’s choir, we have youth choir, we have 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 morning, and we would really like to see some of these students come through and end up performing with us, you know, the adults and the youth in the church. And a couple of them already have.”
In this new role, Jackson said she misses the connections she makes with students and tries to be intentional about meeting new students for the academy.
Over the last year, she’s been able to watch students grow and learn and see all of their progress at the recitals, she said.
Interested students can find more information online at https://www.fbcopelika.com/fine-arts-academy.
13-week fall and spring semesters are $400 for one 30-minute lesson a week, $600 for one 45-minute lesson a week and $800 for one hour-long lesson a week.