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Video of the 2020 Buford City Schools Community Holiday Concert follows this article.

 

Since December 1992, Buford residents have looked forward to gathering annually and being serenaded by the musical sounds of the season from the young and younger as the Fine Arts programs in Buford’s schools joined forces to present one collaborative holiday concert. 

BHS Band Director Mr. Erik Mason and Percussion Instructor Mr. Matt Groves discuss camera cues during the filming of the BMS Concert Band. Photo courtesy of Joy Fowler.

“Buford’s Community Holiday Concert is a tradition that began the year my wife and I arrived in Buford in 1992,” said Dr. Chris Fowler, fine arts coordinator for Buford City Schools. “It was something I thoroughly enjoyed facilitating at my previous school, and it seemed like a natural fit to implement in our close-knit community.” 

The idea was readily embraced in the inclusive, family-centric town and, particularly for those who’ve been around awhile, is something that has become part of their annual holiday traditions. 

“Although my child graduated over 20 years ago, the Community Holiday Concert is still the highlight of the Christmas season for the citizens of Buford,” said Dorothy Kemp, whose Class of 1996 daughter was a fourth-generation Buford graduate. “The spirit and joy of the students performing for the community has always been a joy for those who’ve witnessed it. A wonderful tradition!”

For parents with children enrolled in various performing arts programs across different schools, the thought of adding one more concert to the already busy weeks surrounding the holiday season is a daunting one. Instead, the combined, free concert, which now features well over 1,000 BCSS performing arts students from the upper three schools, has served as a gift of goodwill and cheer to the community — and as a gift of redeemed time for those parents with multiple children, as well as the teachers and administrators. 

Students with the BHS Dance Department perform a number for the BCSS Community Holiday Concert. Photo courtesy of BCSS Fine Arts Department.

“I love the opportunity to showcase all of our performing arts programs from different schools under one roof,” said Mrs. Ashley Johnson Smith, who is not only a 2004 alumna of Buford’s choral and theatre programs, but is also now the dance teacher at BHS. “It is a wonderful way to usher in the holiday season!”

The concert was presented each year until combining the programs wasn’t possible due to growing numbers. 

“We outgrew all of our facilities,” Fowler said. 

However, with the 2016 construction of the Buford City Arena, limited space was no longer an issue, and the Community Holiday Concert was reborn. The beloved annual tradition was, in fact, the very first event held in the Buford Arena, and a ribbon-cutting event was held just prior to the 2016 concert with more than 5,000 in attendance. In the three years since, attendance has not faltered, and enrollment in the Fine Arts programs has steadily increased at a rate consistent with the growing number of students in our schools. Presently, students enrolled in the performing arts classes offered at Buford Senior Academy, BMS and BHS total 1,105, with an additional 555 music students at Buford Academy and 393 at Buford Elementary.   

One of the highlights of the concert for the student performers, teachers and parents has been seeing various groups collaborating together in a cross-curricular setting. This has afforded young students the opportunity to see and be inspired by the progression of continued dedication and practice as they observe the mastery of the older students on their instruments. What started as a combined band and chorus concert from three schools in 1992 has evolved to feature performances from the beginners in the Buford Academy Fifth Grade Band as well as the bands from BMS and BHS, the choruses from the upper three schools and the BHS Advanced Dance class. Two constants in programming since 1992 have been the finale with Mrs. Joy Fowler, longtime vocal instructor at BHS, singing “O Holy Night” along with the high school chorus, followed by a community sing-along with all bands and choruses playing and singing a medley of fun and festive holiday tunes. Guest appearances from Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, dancing reindeer and student elves have also been a treat for attendees young and old.

Things will look a little different for the Community Holiday Concert in 2020, due to national and state governmental limitations because of COVID-19. Thanks to a substantial monetary gift from the City of Buford, the Fine Arts Department was able to purchase the necessary recording equipment to present virtual performances this school year. Instead of hosting a public concert, this year’s concert was pre-recorded specifically for video and followed protocols under GHSA guidelines for COVID-19. Though many of the beloved traditions from years past will be missing due to these regulations, the beauty and resilience of our students’ artistry will not disappoint, and the legacy of excellence in the arts continues to shine no matter which platform it’s standing on. 

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