The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

Music and mission partner SMU professor and Carter High School


When Virginia Dupuy’s husband asked her what she wanted for her birthday she didn’t request jewelry, flowers or a new handbag. Instead the SMU Meadows music professor asked for uniforms for the Carter High School choir.

Four and a half years ago, Professor Dupuy saw a need in her community and decided to personally get involved. She created a partnership between SMU and David W. Carter High School. Dupuy wanted to ensure that all of Carter’s musically talented but economically disadvantaged choir students were ready for college auditions. Her gift of uniforms was just one more way to help students at the low-income school in Oak Cliff.

Dupuy believes the arts especially rise above economic limitations.

“The pecking order is not money or prestige or social status,” Dupuy said. “It has to do with talent.”

Dupuy has been working closely with Demetrius Ethley, the charismatic Carter choir director, to enhance the school’s program. When Ethley was hired, the choir program was newly reestablished after a four-year absence. He knew the job would not be without its challenges.

“I believe this is a call and my energy and passion gets refueled by that call,” Ethley said.

About 85 percent of the students who attend Carter High School are economically disadvantaged. The school was categorized as “improvement required” by the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) 2014 Accountability Summary. That means Carter needs to improve its student performance and postsecondary readiness. The school earned no distinction designations in any single subject area.

In addition, Carter ranked in the bottom 12 percent of all other high schools in the state, according to

The TEA also reported, however, that approximately 100 percent of the students graduate. The high school students are determined and hardworking. They just simply do not have access to the funding, programs and private lessons their suburban counterparts do, according to Ethley.

He knew he would need help and Dupuy was happy to lend her expertise.

“I call Virginia Dupuy our angel here at Carter,” he said.

Dupuy is known as an exceptional recital and concert singer. She is also one of the leading scholars on transforming Emily Dickinson’s poetry into music. Dupuy has seen the arts provide a sense of community that can combat bullying and support those students with personal challenges and economic disadvantages. Carter students attest to that strong community.

“The fun part about choir, I would just have to say, would be building a family,” said Taya Haynes, a junior. “We share secrets, we watch each other go through hard times, good times, bad times. We discover our strengths and our weaknesses.”

The Carter choir has 121 members from freshman to seniors. Recently the choir has had several members make it to the All District and All State Choir. More and more students are not only attending universities, but they are also receiving scholarships, according to Ethley and Dupuy.

The heart Dupuy and Ethley bring is not only evident in the students’ musical successes. Their spirit inspires the infectiously encouraging and optimistic attitudes of students.

“This choir has brought me from zero to sixty in two years,” said Ke’Yon Singleton, varsity choir member. “I’ve learned so much with Mr. Ethley.”

Dupuy began working with Carter by tutoring singers on Friday afternoons who were auditioning for the All District Choir. Dupuy said in her first year working with Carter, a formerly homeless student was able to make the All State Choir and later received a full ride scholarship to East Texas Baptist University.

Dupuy is also responsible for gaining the help of the Fine Arts Chamber Players (FACP). FACP is a non-profit organization that provides free classical music concerts and educational programs for North Texas. The Carter choir is funded primarily through FACP’s grants and grants from local businesses. Because of FACP’s educational outreach programs, many SMU graduate students are contributing to the choir by providing free vocal and piano lessons to Carter students.

Dupuy is still currently developing a more formal relationship between the high school and SMU, but she believes with more help and funding it could truly flourish. Dupuy would like to see the relationship grow from supporting the choir, to supporting other programs as well.

Rogene Russell, the FACP founder and current Artistic Director, works closely with Dupuy. She believes the combination of Dupuy and Ethley is the reason the program has seen success.

Russell also believes in the importance of music in teenage development. “Being a musician requires self-motivation, confidence, persistence, attention to detail and personal responsibility,” Russell said.

Russell, Dupuy, and Ethley hope music can be the vehicle of change for Carter High School.

“There is no point in educating them in something that doesn’t impact their lives,” Ethley said.

The Carter choir will preform on Dec. 15 at 7 p.m. in the Carter auditorium. For more information “like” the choir’s Facebook page.

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