Mauldin freshman band student Sydney Fulcher poses with her instrument. Photo/Will Crooks

Greenville County Schools approved 13 new courses for its catalog of classes schools can offer, including honors-level introductory band and theater classes.

Students who take band and theater throughout high school currently aren’t able to take advanced versions of the classes until their junior or senior years.

Adam Scheuch, the district’s director of bands at Mauldin High School, said not having introductory honors classes discourages students who are focused on having a high GPA from taking the classes.

Regular high school classes operate on a 5.0 GPA scale, while honors classes operate on a 5.5 scale, and Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate/dual-credit classes operate on a 6.0 scale.

“Probably eight to 10 years ago, there were a significant number of students who would drop band so they could go load up on honors or AP courses for the sole reason of improving their GPA so they could be considered for salutatorian or valedictorian, or even in the top 10 [students],” Scheuch said. “They loved band, they wanted to stay in band [and] were already in this group, but they also recognized that if they didn’t do something more advanced, then they were just going to be behind their peers.”

At Mauldin High, advanced band students take Scheuch’s wind ensemble class — students in Band 3 and 4 are able to get honors credit, but freshman and sophomore students who take the class as Band 1 or 2 can’t, even though they often do the same advanced work.

Connor Nelson, a senior in the honors version of the class, has taken a band class since sixth grade. When he graduates, he wants to go to college to become a band teacher.

Mauldin High School senior Connor Nelson has been involved in band for several years. Photo by Will Crooks.

All of Connor’s high school classes have been honors, dual credit, or Advanced Placement — except for Band 1 and 2.

With more than 2,300 students, Mauldin is the largest high school in Greenville County. The school currently awards the top 20 graduating seniors with honors designations — a tough competition where a senior this year would have to make it in the top 3.7 percent of the class.

Connor, who said he’s ranked somewhere in the top 50, said a student who decides to take even one regular class is almost guaranteed to be out of the running.

“It’s very competitive,” Connor said. “The top 20 are side by side.”

For some students, having honors-level band classes is about more than GPA — it’s a recognition that a class they’re passionate about is important.

Scheuch’s daughter, Ashlyn, is a sophomore at Mauldin who’s also been involved in band since middle school.

“I love band,” Ashlyn said. “I do color guard, too — which is a band class — so I’m [in] here twice a day.”

Schools can offer courses added to the district catalog, but it doesn’t mean schools will automatically offer the courses.

The full list of courses the district approved:

  • Instrumental Music Band 1 Honors
  • Instrumental Music Band 2 Honors
  • Theatre 1 Honors
  • Theatre 2 Honors
  • Genetics Honors
  • Theatre Foundations Honors
  • Orchestra 1 Honors
  • Advanced Topics Theatre 1 Honors
  • Advanced Topics Theatre 2 Honors
  • Project Lead the Way Computer Principles Honors
  • Advanced Topics Theatre 2 CP
  • Advanced Topics Theatre 1 CP
  • Banking Services
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