ARLINGTON, Tenn. — Bolton High School’s new band director Tia Rice is hitting all the right notes with her students and the community making her a Remarkable Woman.
At Bolton High School in Arlington, Tennessee, if you listen carefully as you approach the school’s band room, you can hear the sound of silence slowly turning into the sound of music.
The horns, the woodwinds and the drums have echoed through this community for decades earning the school prestige and awards.
“We have been known, Bolton, to have one of the most prestigious band programs in the Mid-South area,” said Shana Gnintede. “The goal is to get back to that level of intensity and involving our students in this activity so they can use it for their future.”
Just like any musical instrument that begins to show its age after years of rehearsals and performances, the Bolton High School Band was in need of a tune up and a new leader.
“We wanted a fresh face, new ideas and pull at the heart strings of our students and make them want to be involved,” Gnintede said.
Enter Tia Rice. At 22 years young, this recent University of Arkansas Pine Bluff alum from Chicago was hired last fall to pick up the conducting baton becoming Bolton’s new band director.
“The age difference between them and me may be four or five years, max. So, I honestly take them under my wings as if they were my little brothers and sisters and if I have to pull them to the side because sometimes, they’ll try me,” Rice said.
For Tia it’s about instilling respect and discipline in her students.
“I told them, before people hear you play, they’re going to see you,” Rice said. “So, you need to make sure that you pretty much carry yourself with that good character and you have to be disciplined when you are going outside.”
She shares advice about character, especially with young African-American men so they won’t become at risk when they’re outside of the band room.
“Some people out here will just shoot you for whatever. You don’t want that. I don’t want that,” she said. “You have to be better for yourself. Definitely that stereotype that society has on black men, I want them to always carry themselves with that respect.”
Dr. Rodney Chism said he’s watched Rice change the lives of young ladies and men.
“These boys actually look up to her as possibly stepmom, auntie, or family member. She’s a no-nonsense person but she has patience,” Chism said.
When she’s not helping cultivate these musicians, you could say she’s also directing and nurturing the most important young person in her life — her daughter, Aria.
“I just pretty much wanted to be the best role model that I can be for her because I noticed everything I do she’s constantly following me around the house and doing this.”
Around Memphis, Tia’s friends and coworkers say she is also known for helping strangers by feeding, clothing, and transporting the homeless during the holidays, volunteering her time to be a church musician and doing countless hours of community service work.
“She’s just a natural born helper, giver, lover of humanity,” Chism said.
And she’s helping make a difference in Memphis and in the classroom.“She was already looking for opportunities for the students to get scholarships and things of that nature and I feel like there could not be any other nominee better than her and I think this well-deserved,” Gnintede said.