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Helen Harrelson named Blue KC Sporting Samaritan for August

Aug 21, 2023

The Director of Instrumental Music at St. James Academy, Helen Harrelson has always been fascinated by music. Her interest started at a young age, and her passion quickly grew until she knew she wanted to teach music full time and proclaim its beauty to the next generation. But Harrelson’s story began long before she moved to Kansas City in 2007. Originally from Sheffield, England, Harrelson obtained her Doctor of Musical Arts in Conducting from the University of Salford in the United Kingdom.

She taught overseas for the beginning portion of her career before she arrived in Kansas City for a sabbatical semester, where she helped found the ‘Fountain City Youth Brass Academy’. Known as Kansas City’s most exciting youth brass and percussion ensemble, the Academy has been a highlight of Harrelson’s career, alongside her 15 years directing music at St. James.

“While there have been local, state and international awards, the thing that sticks with me the most are the unseen victories,” said Harrelson. “When a parent expresses gratitude for my assistance to their child, a student feels comfortable enough to seek my support in a difficult situation or a former student shares that I motivated him/her to find their path are the moments that keep me inspired to strive for excellence as an educator.”

The community of students, teachers and administration within the walls of St. James has helped make Harrelson’s transition to Kansas City a welcoming and embracing experience. She was once told to explore every available opportunity with curiosity and an open mind. Harrelson has successfully navigated that path, while simultaneously relaying a similar message to her students.

“Each person is unique and valuable beyond their academic achievements,” said Harrelson. “I encourage students to discover, express and appreciate all the incredible talents and qualities they possess.”

While her success at St. James and the Fountain City Youth Brass Academy further exemplify her commitment and dedication to music, Harrelson will be the first to mention the marvelous supporting cast of teachers, mentors and coaches throughout the Kansas City area who have assisted her in keeping both programs thriving for the past 15+ years. When her students graduate from her program, they’re more equipped for life’s challenges than they were before.

“Providing students with the chance to reach high standards is vital, but just expecting high standards is not enough,” said Harrelson. “Collaborating with students to establish individual objectives and guiding them on how to accomplish them is a critical part of the process. Additionally, gaining knowledge about how to grow through difficult situations is crucial for achieving success, not only in high school, but also in other various aspects of life.”

“Helen has dedicated herself to creating a program that not only produces great music, but also instills discipline, teamwork and a love for the arts in the students,” said Harrelson’s nominator, Taylor Edwards. “Under Helen's leadership, the band program (at St. James Academy) has grown from a group of just a few guitars and a drum set, to a thriving program with multiple ensembles that regularly performs at community events and competitions. What truly sets Helen apart is her unwavering dedication to her students. She invests her time, energy and resources into providing opportunities for her students to expand their skills and knowledge beyond the classroom.”

“As the old saying goes, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’”, said Harrelson. “I couldn’t have done it without the support of my community, and I’m excited to continue working to make our city an even better place to live, work and play.”

“St. James Academy is fortunate to have such an uplifting, energetic and knowledgeable music instructor,” said Christina Lively, Blue KC Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer. “The way Helen challenges her students to become the best version of themselves is an inspiring trait that benefits everyone. Her ability to teach high schoolers, in conjunction with her exceptional work with the Fountain City Youth Brass Academy, further demonstrates her passion for music and reminds us all about the importance of living life to the fullest. Congratulations to Helen on being selected as this month’s Blue KC Sporting Samaritan!”

Blue KC Sporting Samaritans will continue to be recognized monthly at Children’s Mercy Park during Sporting home games this season. Fans are encouraged to nominate teachers and students who are making a positive impact on their schools and communities by using the form online at https://www.sportingkc.com/BlueKC.