SECOND AT STATE: SHS string band, quartet win big

Published 9:31 am Saturday, June 10, 2017

Straughn High School’s FFA String Band and FFA Quartet walked away from this week’s

Alabama FFA State Convention with second place finishes.

Sponsor Karen McGlaun said it was a great way to leave, as she is retiring and this was her last competition with the groups.

“I was so proud of them that I can’t even really put it into words,” McGlaun said. “They’ve given me two second place state banners. The only thing that would have made it better was if it was a first place one. They had to step up the competition and had to change a couple of things, and they did everything that I asked and had their very best performance this year.”

Jade Smith guitar; Leah Thompson, bass; Loni Blatz, tenor; Kristen Bracewell, lead; Brinnley Stewart, soprano. The Quartet also won second place.

The FFA String Band secured a spot in the finals after competing against 12 bands at Opelika High School on Tuesday. Their performance included “Send me the Pillow,” the instrument “Country Boy,” and “You’re the One.”

The FFA Quartet won a spot in finals after competing against six quartets at Southern Union Community College in Opelika. Their performance included “You Are My Sunshine,” “If That Isn’t Love,” and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”

“I told them they have made history, and history is forever,” McGlaun said. “I know of no other string band or quartet in the history of Straughn’s FFA, going back to the 1950s, who have placed in both state competitions, much less brought home two second-place banners to add to the trophy case.”

McGlaun said that her students have improved each year and the second place finishes have even made her question her retirement.

“It almost makes me want to question retiring,” she said. “Maybe we’d come back and get that first place banner next year.”


The String Band made big changes this year their eyes on state competition.

“We made a goal list this year including items we believed would help us be more competitive against the North Alabama bands whose genre is typically traditional

folk/bluegrass music,” she said. “We had not won first place before so we knew we had to change our normal ‘country/Southern rock’ genre to beat the competition.

“We learned new instruments, including a mandolin, doghouse bass, and dobro. These students were passionate, persistent, and practiced with a vengeance throughout the year to make it to state. They met every goal, made it to state and performed remarkably.

McGlaun said that she has enjoyed every group she has taught but the last four have been special.

“Every year has been great and I always love each student that I work with, but the last four years have just been wonderful, especially this last year,” she said. “They are all very sweet, nice kids and very respectful and passionate about what they do. If they didn’t have that passion or ethics of hard work that they have they never would have made it this far.”

This year the band raised $5,300, which McGlaun said was a record for them.

Despite the recent success, the future of Straughn’s FFA String Band is in question.

“I don’t know if there will be a string band or not (in the future),” McGlaun said. “I don’t know, it may end when I leave but I really hope not. I hope that tradition continues.”

Alabama is currently the only state in the country that sponsors an FFA string band and quartet competition.

“I think it’s very important to develop the talent that we have at schools,” McGlaun said. “If we don’t give them an avenue to show that talent or the competition there’s not a lot of reason for these kids to work together.”