LARSON: Community well-invested in new Suwanee high school

Susan Larson

Susan Larson

When Lambert High School opened in Suwanee, just over the Gwinnett border in Forsyth County, last year, its focus on music struck a chord with the community. In order to provide a high quality band program for the school, Lambert took out a sizable loan from the school system to ensure that every student had an instrument and uniform. The plan paid off in many ways.

In their inaugural year, under the leadership of band director Scott McCloy, percussion director Tonya Mashburn and guard director Trey Gaines, the band garnered five championship titles at The Lake Lanier Tournament of Bands, Georgia Bandmasters Championships, and The Southern Association of Performance Arts Championships, as well as straight superior ratings at all marching and concert contests and festivals.

"I am so thrilled for our entire school and community. The Longhorn music program exemplifies the best in young people today ... dedication, talent and tremendous effort. The award-winning Lambert Band is such an asset to LHS that I cannot contain my enthusiasm," Lambert Principal Dr. Gary Davison said.

Evidently a lot of that enthusiasm Davison could not contain spilled out into the community as their fundraising efforts significantly paid down the loan in their first year. However, the LHS band succeeded in not only bringing in trophies and titles, but also increased the size of the band from 70 to 120 students.

Of course that means more instruments, more uniforms and, yes, more money. But, not to worry. Here's where Lambert Allied Stampede Support Organization comes into play. With generous support of community businesses including Music Authority, Elizabeth M. Cooke, M.S. LPC NCC, Shane's BBQ, Backyard Burgers, FlowerCraft Inc., Star94 and Office Max, LASSO is sponsoring their first Lambert Family Music Festival featuring their award winning LHS Stampede Marching Band and Color Guard and the Sounds of Sawnee Concert Band. There will also be clowns, inflatables, face painting, arts and crafts and all kinds of food.

But there's even more to this community effort. Joshua Bishop, a member of the band, needed a project for his Eagle badge. Most scouts choose projects involving the outdoors, but Bishop chose to march to a different drummer. He approached McCloy about taking over the organization, publicity and coordination of programs for the Family Festival. After approval from his Scoutmaster, Britt Bramblett, Bishop brought in Boy Scout Troop 513 from Sugar Hill Baptist Church to team up with LASSO to run the festival

I asked Bishop if he encountered any challenges he had not anticipated.

"Initially, it just all came together. Lots of people were eager to help and actually, it seemed too easy," Bishop said. The hard part, he said, was the paperwork required for the Eagle badge, but he had no problem getting people involved.

It probably isn't advisable to start off any organization in debt, especially in this economy, but this is one case where the loan paid off -- thanks to the community -- with lots of interest.

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.