BELTON — Before the tubas are buffed and stage makeup is applied, the Belton Independent School District’s new fine arts director, Richard Thomas, is unpacking boxes and becoming familiar with the city.

In May, the Belton ISD board of trustees approved the hire of Thomas to replace Rebecca Northern, who retired last school year.

Thomas holds a bachelor’s degree in music education from Baylor University and a master’s degree in educational administration from Lamar University. He comes to Belton from Red Oak High School, where he was director of bands.

“I am very excited to be here in Belton,” Thomas said.

In addition to his 18 years in education, Thomas also was director music pastor of First Baptist Church of Fort Worth for three years.

He said his time involved in music ministry expanded his knowledge and love of theater.

While working on programs for churches, Thomas was in charge of both sound and lighting.

When Thomas went back to teaching, he was equipped with a new knowledge of the technical side of theater and took on the unprecedented task of a band director directing a high school musical.

“My band friends all asked me, ‘What are you doing?’” Thomas said.

However, the risk of being a band geek in a musical world paid off for Thomas.

As well as widening his knowledge of fine arts education, the play was nominated for a Dallas Summer Musicals High School Musical award.

Belton Superintendent Susan Kincannon said in an email Thomas’ experiences show a clear passion for fine arts.

“In 18 years as an educator, Richard has demonstrated a passion for fine arts. He will use his experience and expertise to continue to enhance and improve BISD’s programs so that our students are able to fully develop their talent,” Kincannon said in the email.

While Belton ISD saw Thomas’ passion for fine arts, Thomas saw Belton’s appreciation for arts programs in education.

“It’s really nice to step into a program where fine arts are valued,” Thomas said.

Before deciding to relocate his family, Thomas did some research.

He spent time researching not only the city of Belton on the Internet, but also read through the district’s past board reports.

The amount of care put into each decision and the forward thinking of all the board members impressed Thomas, he said.

“Belton has tremendous schools, and the community, administration and school board have a very thoughtful approach to education,” he said.

Thomas has no immediate visions of what he would like the district’s fine arts program to grow into.

First, Thomas will survey and learn what is happening in the many programs.

“I want to learn what is awesome and make it more awesome,” he said.

One program in the Belton district Thomas is excited to work with is the orchestra program, he said.

“I am excited to be in a district with strings,” Thomas said.

Right now the orchestra program at the high school is strings only but has experienced substantial growth in the past five years.

Because of this growth, it may soon be time for the program to expand to a full orchestra, he said.

Despite his heavy involvement and experience in many of the arts, Thomas said his biggest learning curve will be in visual arts.

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