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Students Thrive in Liberty Hill ISD Fine Arts Programs as the District Faces the Challenges of Growth

Students Thrive in Liberty Hill ISD Fine Arts Programs as the District Faces the Challenges of Growth


Liberty Hill ISD Office of Communications | February 8, 2022

Liberty Hill, TX — From elementary to high school, Liberty Hill ISD students are finding opportunities to thrive in a Fine Arts department that includes band, choir, dance, theatre and art.

“We have wonderful Fine Arts programs in LHISD that are definitely growing,” said Liberty Hill High School art teacher Susan Barnes. “Our programs support those creative students who want to explore, learn and achieve excellence in the fine arts, whether it be band, choir, music, theatre, visual arts or dance. LHISD Fine Arts programs are valued and continue to grow and showcase the talents of our students.” 


Currently, LHISD fine arts programs at the middle school and high school levels boast strong enrollment numbers:

The district expects numbers to continue to grow in the coming years among these elective courses that provide even more than the opportunity to develop talent in an extracurricular pursuit. They also instill discipline, grit and character in a setting that fosters genuine relationships and community.


Liberty Hill High School Marching Band Director Shawn Murphy said that in a season of success that included top honors at multiple marching competitions this year and the title of UIL 5A Area H Champion, his goal is not only greater future achievement but to build the program the right way.  




“More important than what we'll achieve, is how we'll achieve it; that’s my highest priority,” Murphy said. Even with the success the marching band enjoyed during their own competition season, Murphy points with satisfaction to the role they played during the football season.


“What I am most proud of is how our band selflessly and passionately supported our football team during their playoff run this season, culminating in the team's third straight state semi-finals appearance,” he said.  


When Murphy came to LHHS to serve as band director in the fall of 2021, the program had about 90 students. Over the past two years, that number has grown to more than 130. “And, we are looking forward to more growth in the near future and beyond,” Murphy said.




With that growth, his vision for future success includes 250+ members “that consistently advance to the finals of the most prestigious state and national competitions year after year with 50 All-Region musicians, 25 Area musicians and 12+ All-State musicians.”


“Through hard work, being kind to one another, and having some fun along the way, we'll get there together soon.”


Vital to future success, however, is the support of the music and band programs that spring from the elementary and middle grades. The importance of skill development in the lower grades is difficult to overstate. Murphy said that it’s virtually impossible to teach a student everything they need to compete at the highest levels of band in Texas if they wait until high school to begin learning an instrument. 


“Elementary general music classes and middle school feeder band programs are the lifeblood of any high school band,” Murphy said. “Getting the students started with the building blocks of music performance and literacy in the earlier grades certainly makes our jobs at the high school much more achievable.”


Equally vital to success during the rapid growth of the past two years has been the support of the school board, administrators and the booster clubs. “So far, we’ve been able to keep pace with rising enrollment without any issues,” Murphy said. “We will definitely need additional rehearsal space, more instruments, storage, uniforms, and additional fine arts staff members as we continue to grow.”


It has also been a season of growth and success in the dance department for the LHHS Liberty Belles. Dance teacher Kenna Priore joined the program two years ago. Since then, she has seen the number of girls on the varsity Belles double in size, and Priore said that 2022-2023 has been a great year that began with the team attaining new levels of success before the school year even began.



“At camp, we scored in the second-highest bracket out of 5, and that was a new achievement for us,” she said. “We were also voted the most disciplined team!”


The addition of a middle school drill team program will help the high school program continue to grow, and the middle school drill teams have been incorporated into half-time performances at football games.


Priore said that a large, new studio last year that they share with cheer, dance, and color guard has been a great addition to the program. When space is an issue, the three groups work together to make it all happen.


“If I was thinking big,” Priore said of future growth, “I think it would be really cool to have a fine arts gym for us to use!” 


The theme of growth pops up across all the fine arts programs, and space is at a premium in the area of visual arts as well.


“Some challenges that we face now with the growth are larger class sizes and limited space for new classrooms/areas for the Fine Arts,” said Susan Barnes. “Adjusting and improving on arts technology trends to support using digital art and musical or production media platforms is also a definite need and can be costly as well.”


As with the music programs, students have the opportunity to take their first steps into visual art in the elementary grades, where the district’s art teachers lay the foundation that the middle and high school art teachers will build upon.


“As a high school teacher,” said Barnes, “it is vital to have students bringing previous experience in the visual arts. Each stage of artistic development and exploration draws on the next and supports students to reach the elite levels in their artwork for district and area displays and art competitions.”


LHISD now has four art teachers at the high school level, two at each of the middle schools and one at each of the elementary schools. What the district has invested in the developmental grades has paid dividends once those young artists reach high school.


Barnes’ account of student accolades in visual arts at LHHS is impressive, including Regional, Area and State medals at the Texas VASE (Visual Art Scholastic Event), Gold Key Awards at the Scholastic Art and Writing Contest and more.



“Having a great foundation in the early years through middle school into high school sets those students up for success!” Barnes said.


The district is working diligently to keep pace with the growth and growing space and technology needs of the district’s fine arts programs with building additions on several campuses and plans for new schools. “But, it is still challenging to keep up with the fast-paced growth and to have the funding to support all needs,” Barnes said.


In spite of those challenges, the district remains committed to fine arts education for its students as interest and participation continue to abound across the district.


In the words of Shawn Murphy…“The future is bright for the fine arts in Liberty Hill!”


LHISD Communications