Heart of the Arts

About Heart of the Arts

The National High School Spirit of Sport Award is annually conferred to eight section recipients as well as one national recipient. The recipient must be an individual from a high school that is a member of an NFHS-member athletic or activity association.

Heart of the Arts Awards

  • Under the guidance of Band Director Sherri Miller, the Dale County High School Marching Band selflessly supported rival neighboring school Skipperville G.W. Long High School by performing at its 2015 AHSAA (Alabama) football playoff games.

    “Our band kids are very special,” Miller said. “They wanted to share their love for music – wanted to give back.”

    During the past eight years, both high schools have endured numerous tragic losses.

    Among them, Dale County Head Football Coach Todd Horne was killed in a car accident, and the school’s then-new band director Sean Miller (Sherri’s husband) was killed in a car accident on the same highway where Horne was killed.

    Sherri – who had been Sean’s band assistant – was asked in February 2015 to take over the position of band director. Sherri and Sean had one child at the time and were expecting their second child in July. Her band students immediately showered her with love and continue to do so today.

    • Kayleigh Hunt Student
      Section 1 Ellicottville High School New York
    • Marisa DeFranco Student
      Section 2 Arlington Wakefield High School Virginia
    • Sherri Miller Band Director
      Section 3 Midland City Dale County High School Alabama
    • Gabe Stanforth Student
      Section 4 Taylor Ridge Rockridge Illinois
    • Ethan Och & Gina Christopherson Student & Band Director
      Section 5 Swanville High School Minnesota
    • Academics Team
      Section 6 Van High School Texas
    • Kelsie Albee Student
      Section 7 Manti High School Utah
    • Mikayla Heston Student
      Section 8 Gresham Sam Barlow High School Oregon
  • Ethan Gray, who was the embodiment of the ideal high school performing arts person while a student at Chicago (Illinois) St. Rita of Cascia High School as he is self-taught in 11 different musical instruments, has faced health challenges his entire life.

    Among those, he endured a stroke in April 2014 and has genetically inherited sickle cell disease and thalassemia, which among other things necessitates undergoing a monthly blood transfusion for the rest of his life. In addition, he experiences debilitating episodes known as “pain crisis” that can occur at any time when parts of his body are deprived of blood and oxygen due the sickling of his blood cells.

    While music will always be a part of Gray’s life, his long-term goal is to establish a career with his other artistic abilities. He plans to pursue collegiate studies in game design illustration and animation, with the ultimate goal of one day drawing comic books for Marvel or D.C.”

    • Molly Parker Student
      Section 1 Hinesburg Champlain Valley Union Vermont
    • Rachel Johnson Student
      Section 2 Roanoke Patrick Henry Virginia
    • Brian Evans Student
      Section 3 Hattiesburg Oak Grove Mississippi
    • Ethan Gray Student
      Section 4 Chicago St. Rita of Cascia Illinois
    • Danielle Medrano Student
      Section 5 Wichita The Independent High School Kansas
    • Elizabeth-Helen Martin Student
      Section 6 Ponca City Oklahoma
    • Kevin Berlat English Teacher and Speech/Debate Coach
      Section 7 Phoenix Central Arizona
    • Cory Bergh Student
      Section 8 Deming Mount Baker Washington
  • Leia Schwartz

    Despite almost dying from a collapsed lung at age six and dealing with medical issues her entire life, Leia Schwartz of Miami (Section 3 Florida) Coral Reef High School has excelled in the performing arts, athletics and academics. Schwartz was also selected the national recipient of the “National High School Heart of the Arts Award”



    • Derrick Hopkins Theatre
      Section 1 Willsboro Central School New York
    • Jennifer Moore Theatre
      Section 1 Willsboro Central School New York
    • Abby Leonard Music, Debate, & Theatre
      Section 2 Gate City High School Virginia
    • Lydia Dawley Theatre
      Section 4 Decorah High School Iowa
    • Justin Speck Theatre
      Section 5 Rapid City Central High School South Dakota
    • Frank Sferra Speech
      Section 6 Denver Mullen High School Colorado
    • Clin Eaton Music & Theatre
      Section 7 Riverton High School Utah
    • Aubrie Lucas Music
      Section 8 Anchorage Dimond High Schoo Alaska