Rascal Flatts Surprise Music Students, Support Music Education

High school students get a surprise.

Rumors were swirling among the student body at Centennial High School in Franklin, Tenn., last week, as students tried to figure out what superstar country group would be visiting their school as part of a partnership with the Grammy Foundation.

Turns out it was Rascal Flatts, who visited Centennial, located just south of Nashville, to surprise music students and to help the Grammy Foundation donate $5,000 to the school's music program.

"There needs to be more programs like this," lead singer Gary LeVox told CountryWeekly.com of the Grammy Foundation. "They are giving money to keep the schools going, and they deserve it. These kids have earned it, so we’re glad to be a part of it, because we know what it meant to each of us growing up."

The trio first spoke to a group of choir students and students of Centennial's nearly 100-member band. The first group of students to be let in on the secret, the students cheered as Joe Don Rooney, Gary and Jay DeMarcus came onto the stage in a small auditorium to share their own high school music memories.

“I played football and played in the marching band," said Joe Don, who went to a "tiny" high school and who played French horn. "At halftime in the football games, I'd have to march in the band for a grade, and then go back out onto the field. One time I wore my band jersey out onto the field. It was a great spring board for me to try things I might not have been able to do at a larger school."

Gary also did double duty in sports and music, though he spent time on the musical theater stage rather than in the marching band. “I was in regular concert choir and then there was a special show choir called Keynotes. I traveled and did all of that and I performed in Sound of Music, South Pacific, Guys and Dolls. It was great to live in both worlds of sports and the band geek part, so I’m glad the band geek part worked out," he said jokingly.

Jay spent the last two years of his high school education in a school for the arts. "You studied academics the first half of the day and you studied your craft the other half of the day," he recalled. "At that school, when you studied music theory, you got college credit. They were advanced classes, which really helped me prepare me for my musical experience in college. I looked forward to going to school because I knew those programs were available."

After speaking to music students, the trio joined the entire school body in the gymnasium. Both the choir and band performed special songs during the assembly. "Our band just won the first state championship that a Centennial High School band has ever won," said Principal Frank Brown, "so it's great timing to celebrate that. This is such a great encouragement for these students."

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