Those who have been involved in choir at Henderson Junior High probably know Arielle Sword, the new Stephenville High School choir director, but some may not know that her passion for singing began when she herself was in junior high.
Sword attended school in San Antonio and began choir in eighth grade, but didn’t choose to join on her own.
“I was actually in band sixth through eighth grade and played clarinet,” she said. “In eighth grade my mom made me join choir and so I was able to do band and choir, which was really fun and then of course I fell in love with it.”
During high school she became involved in three choral groups and enjoyed many accomplishments.
“During my senior year our vocal jazz group was invited to sing at an international jazz conference in Anaheim, California. We also cut a CD and performed downtown on the riverwalk on a pretty regular basis.”
But that’s not all, Sword’s varsity choir group was also invited to the Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA) conference; something that only four or five high schools are selected for.
“It was an amazing opportunity for us and created some really special memories for those of use who were in that group,” she said.
After high school Sword attended Howard Payne University where she earned a degree in vocal performance.
Sword made the move to Stephenville shortly after so her husband could get his masters degree at Tarleton State University.
“I worked at FMC, which is a wonderful place with a lot of really great people, but I am not a sit-at-a-desk-on-a-computer kind of person and I figured that out pretty quick,” she said.
She enrolled back into school to get her teacher certification and ended up receiving her masters degree in curriculum and instruction.
That April (1997), the lady who was teaching (choir) at Henderson Junior High, her parents were ill and she had to go take care of them and I filled in as a permanent sub for the rest of that year and then they hired me on the next school year,” she said. “It was a blessing in disguise and I stayed there for eight years and this is my first year here at the high school.”
Sword loves many things about singing, which include the team work and the blending of voices that come together for a melody, but also the emotion it instills.
“Music can get down under your skin and speak to you down in your bones at the soul level,” she said. “And I love getting to work with these kids and seeing them improve and work together.”
The transition from junior high to high school has been exciting for Sword and she is busy helping students gear up for the all state competition that will take place in the spring.
“It was pretty easy for me because most of these kids are students that I’ve had in the past, so that’s been really nice,” she said. “The level of difficulty change has been fun for me - a challenge of course because I want to make sure I select the right music - but it’s exciting to do some higher level things and to be able to ask these kids some higher level questions.”
Sword wants her students to not only leave with a vast knowledge of music, but gain a variety of life skills in her classroom.
“I want them to be challenged, not only with music, but I feel very strongly that I want kids to learn coping skills in my class,” she said. “I want them to learn cooperation and I want them to learn leadership skills.”
Sword is excited for her first year at SHS and is looking forward to what her different choral groups will accomplish.
“I think the most exciting thing so far is that all of my groups sound so good. They are making great music together. It’s a really challenging thing to sing a part completely different than the person next to you and have to sing against them,” she said. “As a vocalist you control your own voice and doing that is a really challenging thing. I’ve really been pleased with all of the groups and they’re excited about it, which is really cool.”