Hensley offers gift of music to Hebron

Betsy Hensley has kept the two passions separate for years, not for any particular reason, only because it was more convenient.

Her two worlds - as Hebron Christian's head girls basketball coach and as a gifted musician - have pretty much stayed apart. They rarely mesh.

"Both groups (of friends) are surprised that I do both," said Hensley, who balanced band, basketball, softball and track back when she was a high school student. "It doesn't seem like one group is more surprised than the other...but every time we talk to (music people), it's like, 'What do you do? You're a basketball coach?' The basketball people are just as surprised about my music."

Prior to Friday night's home basketball games against Mt. Pisgah, Hensley will bring the two worlds closer together when she performs the national anthem with her Gwinnett Horn Quartet. She hopes that's just the start of making music a more prominent part of the Dacula private school, where she's coached for nine seasons.

People may know of Hensley's basketball success - Hebron made the state semifinals in 2005 and won three state titles before joining the Georgia High School Association - but they might not know about her other pursuit.

The Kentucky native has been surrounded by music all her life, playing the piano from an early age and then picking up the French horn in sixth grade. She plays the French horn religiously, whether it's on her own or with her groups - the horn quartet, the Gwinnett Symphony Orchestra and The Zephyr Brass Choir.

Lately it's been Hensley's mission, which she calls a dream, to expand Hebron's music program.

Her goal is to start an instrumental program at the school, eventually building it into a concert band. Since the Lions are beginning football, a marching band also is an option.

Getting to this point hasn't been easy. She's working on her master's degree in music from Georgia State University, packing in classes between her own teaching, musical engagements and basketball. Not to mention the time she spends with her husband and three daughters.

She also made presentations to Hebron officials about the music idea, gathering info on programs and budgets at similar schools. A major test comes next week when school officials pass out a survey to parents and students about their interest in a music program.

Here's hoping the response is favorable, so Hensley can share both of her passions with students.

"It's a dream and it's been more of a secret dream up until recently," Hensley said. "It's just been a dream to bring music to Hebron."

Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays.