Opinion: Arts programs are important in public education


Denver Haggard alongside the cast of High School Musical

Denver Jones Haggard
Oxford Stories

I have always been eager to perform. Since childhood, I loved being on a stage and making others smile. It is a feeling of great accomplishment to know I could be responsible for making others smile, laugh, and feel deep emotion through my work as a performer.

As much as I adore acting and dancing, I have the most experience singing. That is where my heart lies. As a child, my mother sang to me every day. When it was time for me to take a nap, she sang You Are My Sunshine. Having her sing me to sleep everyday, created a love in me for something so beautiful and powerful.

I soon started singing in church every Sunday with the other children. I even sang specials with my Momma. It was always my favorite part of the service. Singing in the microphone made me think I was on top of the world and good at something.

As a child, I went through so many sports and activities, but I never found one I excelled in. I played soccer for years, but always felt like I was not good enough to be a part of the team. I also did karate, gymnastics, cross country and tennis. But it never failed. Every time I grabbed a microphone and sang that first note, I was in my element.

I was not fortunate enough to have the opportunity to pursue my love of singing and performing until high school. In elementary and middle school, there were no activities, clubs or organizations I could be a part of to shine as a singer.

Later in high school, chorus was offered for those who had a talent and passion for singing and acting. I loved my choir with every fiber of my being. Mrs. Carol Ann Thomas served as my choir director, and she truly helped me find a sense of direction in showcasing my talents.

After only being a member of the choir one year, I was elected president, where I was in charge of picking shows to perform, teaching challenging choreography, and designing complex sets that tied the whole show together. I was fortunate to be elected to this position for two consecutive years.


Denver Haggard as The Grinch.

As president, I choreographed and co-directed musicals, such as Grease, How the Grinch Stole Christmas the Musical, and High School Musical. Working hard to make these productions the best they could possibly be taught me how to effectively lead my peers while also working alongside them.

My time in the choral department of Neshoba Central High School came to an end all too soon. Before I even had time to blink my eyes, the last note was sung, the curtain closed, and the lights went down for the final time.

Standing center stage as the curtains joined in front of my face – the love and compassion for the classmates I was performing with, the show that we performed, and the smiles and applause from the audience hit me like a ton of bricks. Knowing that would be the last time I ever performed on that stage saddened me to the point of tears.

I look back today on all of the precious memories I made in that theatre and thank God for blessing me with the talent and attitude to speak to a keen audience through theatrical performance.

At the end of my role as president of the department, I was awarded with the first ever Entertainer of the Year award. To know that the countless hours of rehearsals and dedicated commitment was recognized made me the happiest person in the world.


Denver Haggard presented Entertainer of the Year Award

It is sad that the fine arts departments in high schools all over the United States are diminishing and being defunded. I feel it is important for our society to have these programs funded and boosted to their fullest potential in our schools. Art, in its many forms, has been around since the beginning of time, and it is vital to society that arts are restored.

Using myself as an example, the aspect of taking on a role and pretending to be someone else is truly a talent. Whether singing or acting, the ability to perform as something that is not realistic or completely different from your personality is no small task. Taking the big step as to making yourself publicly noticeable, well rounds the person you are. Our nation’s children deserve to have a wide array of options when it comes to extracurricular activities in school.

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