It had already been an exciting day for the students of Wadsworth High School.
The Ohio high school’s choir was in Orlando for the Disney Performing Arts workshop. They had learned new techniques and recorded some new music.
But the teens had no idea that their day was about to get more exciting.
They were corralled into Disney’s Saratoga Springs Performance Hall. They chatted with each other good-naturedly until a movie started playing.
On the screen were the four members of Little Big Town, the five-time CMA Vocal Group of the Year. They spoke for a moment about the importance of school music programs. And then, as the video ended, the four members of the group — Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Jimi Westbrook and Phillip Sweet — entered the room.
Unsurprisingly, the teens began to scream loudly. (PEOPLE was on-hand for the big reveal, and can confirm that the screams were deafening.) Some of the students began to cry.
What happened next was an impromptu question and answer session about Little Big Town’s experiences with music education, and the importance of music in the lives of all students.
After the 20-minute session was the kickoff event for the fourth annual Music in Our Schools Tour, in which high schools receive grants for their music programs.
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PEOPLE caught up with the band after the presentation. “Music education is so important for kids,” Fairchild said. “Obviously, it helps them learn about music, but it also develops their creativity. The students learn to work together as a group. There are so many life lessons that can be taught through music.”
Fairchild recounted the time that a music teacher “pushed” her out on stage and made her sing a solo. “I was terrified,” she laughed. “But it changed my life. It gave me self-confidence, which is something that all students can use.”
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Added band member Phillip Sweet: “Not every student will make their living in music, but a music education teaches so many important lessons.”
All four of the Little Big Town members are parents, including Schlapman, who just welcomed daugher Dolly Grace. “As parents, we all see the importance [of music education] even more,” she told PEOPLE. “It hits home.”
And what does the band say to the people in charge of education budgets? “Music isn’t optional,” said Westbrook. “It needs to be given priority in schools as they’re deciding what’s important.”
As the band continues to make new music, they acknowledge that there were involved teachers and mentors who helped them all succeed. “Without them,” said Fairchild, “none of us would be where we are today.”