HUNTERSVILLE – For most schools, students find a niche to plug into whether it is sports, band or drama, but SouthLake Christian Academy Fine Arts Department Director Jose Bas is encouraging students to be multi-disciplined in three areas – academics, athletics and fine arts.

Being involved in all three creates well-rounded students, just the type that colleges look for, he said.

“That’s been my speech, you cannot divorce one from the other,” he said.

When Bas came to SouthLake in 2008 as its orchestra teacher, the school had already established its athletic programs and high academic standards, but its fine art programs were small. Since then, its orchestra program has grown tenfold, its band program has doubled in size and the choral program is on a similar trajectory.

During Bas first year at SouthLake, the orchestra consisted of 10 students, most of who were in middle school. Within six months, Bas started recruiting students as young as second grade to create a core group that would expand the program as they reached high school.

Now, there are about 100 students in three orchestras – one in the lower school, middle school and high school each.

When Bas was named the school’s fine arts department director a year ago, he implemented a similar recruiting plan for the band program, which grew from about a dozen students in its first year to 25 students in its second year.

The choral program will be the focus for this year, Bas said. Last year, it had about 12 students, and he’s hoping to get it to about 50.

But Bas’ efforts aren’t just to grow the fine arts programs. Bottom line, it’s another way to encourage and equip students to glorify God.

“God is a creative God,” Bas said. “He extends that attribute to each one of us so we use the arts to glorify him.”

And there are also academic advantages to studying the arts, he added.

“It is important because music and art, any form of creative art, contributes to the student’s higher level critical thinking, and it’s proven by standardized tests and research that students do better in math and reading, reading comprehension when they are exposed to any formal creative art or expressing themselves with a musical instrument, a paintbrush or on stage with drama,” he said. “It enhances their critical thinking.”

It also complements the leadership and teamwork students learn through athletics, making students more well-rounded, which provides them with opportunities for their future.

SouthLake alumnus Kelsey Bundy is just one example, as she received an athletic scholarship for volleyball, a music scholarship for playing the violin and an academic scholarship to attend Asbury University.

As Bas continues to enhance the fine arts programs internally, he hopes to also share the students’ talents with the community by offering events like a concert series and extravaganzas. Last spring, the department held its first Spring Extravaganza where the school’s three orchestras performed in front of more than 700 friends and family members. About 150 other works of student art – paintings, pottery, photographs, graphic arts – were showcased.

“I see our program making a significant impact in our community,” Bas said of where he sees the school’s fine arts department in five years. “That’s an ambition I have here.”