For more than a dozen years now the students at Bell and Trenton Elementary Schools have been without a music teacher, but with the new school year beginning on Thursday the schools will have a full time music teacher, Laura Antoni Beard.
Laura Beard will spend the first half of the year teaching music at Trenton Elementary and the second half of the year teaching music at Bell Elementary.
Beard hopes to bring a lifetime appreciation and love of music to the elementary students she will be teaching. She also plans to build a music foundation for the students as they advance through elementary school.
Laura Antoni Beard grew up in Trenton and first learned about music from longtime elementary music teacher Mary Jo Mansfield, later she was a member of the THS band in the era of Baruch Whitehead. According to Beard, Mr. Whitehead was very influential in her musical career. She remembers hearing Mr. Whitehead playing the oboe after school one day and it became her instrument of choice. She went on to say, “I have known that I wanted to teach music since the 6th grade.”
She advanced though the Trenton High School Band program to become the Drum Major her last three years of high school.
After high school she attended the University of Florida on a full scholarship earned by her talented ability on the oboe. Her senior year at UF she was the Drum Major for the marching band. This meant she was the conductor of the band while they were on the field at college football games. After graduating in 2000 from the university with a Bachelor of Music Education with Honors she got her first teaching job at Creekside Middle School where she was the symphonic, concert and Jazz band director. Her first year at Creekside, which is in the Port Orange area, she received the First Year Teacher of the Year for all of Volusia County Schools. Since those beginning teaching years, she has been the band director at Saint Augustine High School. She earned her Master of Music in Instrumental Conduction from the University of Florida in 2006, was Director of Bands at Boca Raton High School from 2009-2011 and then taught at Duval Charter School at Arlington where she was the music teacher from 2011-2013.
She took a break from full time teaching while her and her husband Douglas’ two children were small.
She went on to say that there were many benefits in growing up in a small town and that was what she and her husband wanted for their children. Beard said, “ Children gain a confidence here and have support here which helps them succeed, I have learned it is different in other areas.”
Trenton Elementary Principal Ronda Adkins said, “We are very excited to have a music teacher. Students, parents and teachers have been asking for one for years.” Principal Adkins said Laura will enhance our curriculum for our students. She went on to say that when Beard was teaching in Bell the second half of the year, Jennifer Wingate would be working with the 5th grade and the other students would have extra computer time.
Beard plans for the TES students to have a Christmas performance and the BES students to have a Spring Concert. She also said she was looking forward to working with both high school band directors as the elementary schools will once again be a feeder to the high school band programs. She is very excited about the musical future of local students here in Gilchrist County.
“It’s great to be home again.” Laura Antoni Beard said last week while setting up the music room at TES.