Talana Greene faced certain challenges when she came to King High School in 2002. Not only was she fresh out of college, she was faced with having to rebuild the school's disheveled music department.
Greene, then known as Talana Hamm, arrived at KHS mid-year as director of Vocal and Orchestral Music. After 10 years of successes, she's moving on to the district office to work as county-wide evaluator with the Gates Foundation.
When Greene got to King, the music department was hanging on by a thread. The former director had been fired in September 2001 due to certification issues. The school's Gospel Choir and elite show choir, "Pride," had been left under the direction of a substitute teacher.
“I came into an unpleasant situation," Greene said. "They hadn’t had a full-time teacher in three months. There was no chorus teacher to speak of.”
That meant a lot of adjustments and logistical issues for both Greene and the students, including the short amount time available to prepare for the district festival.
Greene laughed as she recalled her first week of teaching, during which she had to break up a fight between two students during class.
“It was eye opening,” she said.
Despite the difficulty, Greene persisted, relying largely on college mentors and other music teachers within the county.
“My initial goals were just to get (the students) to districts, because in my mind, high expectations are what create success,” Greene said. “I just thought, ‘We have to do this. There’s no way around this.’”
Although the chorus didn't receive high marks that year, Pride earned a superior rating, the competition’s highest ranking.
Cut to 2007, when King transitioned from a four- to seven-period day. In addition to managing numerous choral ensembles, Greene subsumed orchestra and guitar classes, and added AP Music Theory to the department’s curriculum. She also assisted with the marching band, the Florida Vocal Association, and All-County festivals.
Greene said she believes in opening doors for students.
“Kids getting the opportunity to explore, that’s the big thing," she said. "That’s what high school in particular is all about."
Since 2002, the school-wide interest in music at King has exploded. Pride, which initially accepted all 16 members who auditioned in 2002, auditioned 100 students for 28 spots in 2010. This year, Greene taught roughly 180 students, quadrupling the amount she had taught her first year.
Most recently, the school’s orchestra department has become the talk of the town, earning superior ratings in district festival for its three orchestras in 2011.
Greene said she is going to miss the culture and the familiarity of King.
“I think the first day of school next year, my car’s just going to get on I-75 and go north," she said, "because that’s all I’ve known.”