Salem Hills High School has something that many schools across the country either lose or don’t have at all – a fine arts department. Not only do they have programs with an emphasis on the arts, but they have some of the best in the country.
Salem Hills High School has been honored as the 2021 National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Performing Arts School of Excellence.
Salem Hills opened on August 20, 2008 and was the first new high school built by the Nebo School District since the 1970s. It took only 12 years for the school to build a fine arts department that rule the country.
They are only the sixth school to receive this recognition which awards only one school per year in the United States.
The NFHS Performing Arts School of Excellence recipients are chosen for their exemplary commitment to the performing arts. They are honored in October to celebrate National High School Activity Month, which serves to remind students, parents, coaches, administrators and other community members of the values and benefits of high school activity programs.
NFHS Director of Performing Arts and Sports Dr James Weaver presented the award to Ryan McGuire, Principal of Salem Hills High School, and Bart Peery, former Director of SHHS and current administrator of the center of advanced learning from the Nebo school district, in a special ceremony at the school.
“This award is one way to recognize excellent performing arts programs across the country,” said Weaver. “The award can inspire programs to grow and we can continue to highlight the importance of the performing arts in high schools. Salem Hills High School has a long history of excellence at the highest levels of the performing arts in the State of Utah and Section 7, and we are thrilled to celebrate its success.
District spokesperson Lana Hiskey says the culture of success within the Salem Hills Performing Arts Department spans eight disciplines: orchestra, choir, dance, ballroom, debate, theater, orchestra and visual.
“Salem Hills is a great school and we are grateful for the support of this amazing community,” said McGuire. “Our students, teachers and staff are touched by this incredible recognition of the hard work and efforts of current and former students, parents and many others who work behind the scenes to support our school’s fine arts programs. “
Several programs within the Department of Fine Arts have received accolades over the past decade. The debate team, led by Doug Welton, is one of them.
The debate program has won a Class 5A State Championship, two State finalists, 11 regional championships and three consecutive titles in the Sundance District Contest.
Additionally, the program produced three Lincoln-Douglas State Champions and an Impromptu State Champion, 23 US scholars, a Sundance Student of the Year, and many qualifiers for the National Debate Competition.
“Ten regional championships in a row speak for themselves – Mr. Welton and his students are amazing,” said McGuire. “Mr. Welton is leading by example as a state legislator and in helping students understand the critical issues facing our world today.”
The dramatic program produced impressive results under the leadership of former coach Jan Hunsaker and current coach Zac Trotter, highlighted by a UHSAA State Theater Competition Championship in 2018-19 and winning the Shakespeare Competition. from Southern Utah University in 2018.
They have also been successful in the One-Act Play category at State Theater competitions and UHSAA regional competitions, placing second in the state and region in 2017-18, third in the state. in 2020-21 and third in the region in 2018-19.
“I am grateful for this award because it shows that the school and the community value what we teach enough to invest in their success,” said Trotter. “These groups could not have achieved the level of excellence in which they perform without the support of the community. “
“At the end of the day, it’s all about the students. If we are able to provide them with resources, training and / or opportunities to excel, good for them, ”added Trotter.
“Our theater department has been one of the best in the state for the past few years, but what I will always remember are the performances I have attended,” said Peery. “From Peter Pan to Mamma Mia, to the performance of Grease last year and everything in between, our students stole the show with the incredible skills they learned from our great teachers.”
Choir instructor Justin Bills has guided his choirs to many top marks at UHSAA region choral festivals and Utah Music Educators Association choral festivals and mentored dozens of students to achieve similar honors at UHSAA festivals. State Solo & Ensemble, Hiskey said.
His choirs have also traveled widely, having performed at the Chicago Symphony Hall and the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, and will take the stage at Carnegie Hall in New York in March.
In their home state, the SHHS Choir appeared as a featured choir at the American Choral Directors Association Western Division Conference in March 2020 and the ACDA Utah Conference in October 2019.
“I am delighted and honored to be able to share this honor with my fellow faculty members, the thousands of fine arts students of Salem Hills over the years and our wonderful community,” said Bills. “We are so fortunate to represent a state that views the fine arts as an essential part of a comprehensive education. “
“The first time I heard them sing the school song Mr. Bills wrote and the rest of our student body sang it with them, it made me cry,” said McGuire. “I love this group and the spirit it brings to our school – an amazing teacher and students.”
Paul Wells has led the SHHS Orchestra on an impressive 10-year streak of top marks at the UMEA State Orchestra Festival and the UHSAA State Solo & Ensemble Festival, which has also included numerous top marks for individual students and small ensembles, has noted Hiskey.
The orchestra was featured at the American String Teachers Association’s Utah Chapter Fall Workshop in 2020 and 2021 and has been invited to perform at the Mid-Winter Music Educators Conference of the ‘Utah, and recently crossed the Colorado border for a bargain price. Overall performance award for Class 4A at the Colorado West Invitational.
“I like the collaboration between the intermediate, junior and high school levels,” said McGuire of the orchestra. “The students and Mr. Wells have an incredible vision for growth and excellence in the program.”
The Salem Hills group has also become a force at the region and state level, winning a State Marching Band Championship in 2013-14 and consistently achieving top and excellent marks at the UMEA State Concert Band Festival and the State. Jazz Band Festival. Former SHHS Group Director Mike Larsen and current Director Ryan Adair have sent a number of students to solo and ensemble festivals in the region and state and have also trained several Sterling Scholar Award recipients. , a distinction for high school students in Utah who seek excellence in scholarship, leadership and citizenship, Hiskey noted.
“We are very honored to be the recipients of this award. It serves as both a confirmation and a reminder of our school’s tradition of performing arts excellence. Personally, I am incredibly proud of my students who always strive to redefine their best efforts. We look forward to what the future holds for Skyhawk Performing Arts. said Adair.
“One of my favorite things is watching the jazz band play and seeing the individual soloists who are so talented show off their skills,” said Peery. “I have also attended several brass band competitions and their dedication to their craft is unmatched in our school.”
The Salem Hills Dance Company – co-ordinated by Amber Johansen – has received top or excellent ratings from the Utah Dance Education Organization or the Dance Company Festival Association in seven of the past eight years, headlining a rating UDEO’s Utah State Graduate and Student Choreography Award in 2019 and three DCFA Superior grades over a four-year period from 2013 to 2016.
Salem Hills also has a ballroom dance team – the only ballroom dance program in existence in the Nebo School District. In addition to their winter and spring performances, where they present a number of ballroom dance genres, instructor Lexie Gordon and the ballroom team take pride in their halftime performances during school sporting events, as well as representing the school at community celebrations.
“I love watching our dancers work and then perform,” said Peery. “Their performances are always so exhilarating. One of the things that I am so proud of in our dance program is the way they integrate our disabled students into their concerts. As a parent of a child with special needs, it always touches my heart to see these students take the opportunity to show off their skills and passion for dance.
Under Becky Rosenberg and Sarah Shuler, the Salem Hills visual arts program flourished. Over the years, several students have been chosen to participate in the All-State High School Art Show, with two students winning jury awards, which are only awarded to six students each year, Hiskey noted.
Another student was nominated as a finalist for the Utah Senate Art Competition, an honor reserved only for the state’s top high school students. Designed as a class that includes concurrent college enrollments, over 100 students have received college art credits over the last three years of the program.
“The size of the program and the high quality work produced in our classrooms is impressive,” said McGuire. “It is definitely one of the most requested programs at our school for good reason.”
While the NFHS Performing Arts School of Excellence Award helps establish the performing arts of Salem Hills on a national level, the hard work and dedication of SHHS teachers and students has long been recognized in The Hive State.