Mick Souter travels to schools to 'Celebrate West Virginia'
Dubbed the "Bard of Education," Barbour County native Mick Souter travels the state to share his program, "Celebrate West Virginia," with elementary and middle school students.
Souter entertains and educates with his one-man show which includes original songs.
"I use songs and storytelling with a lot of education to teach the kids about different aspects of West Virginia history, heritage, culture and the people," he said.
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History has named Souter's program the number one touring cultural arts program in the state.
Along with traveling to schools in the state, Souter also performs at state parks.
"What's interesting is the more enthusiastic audiences are the people from out of state," he said. "You'd think they wouldn't be interested, but my program gives them a sense of context for where they are staying. It tells them this is where you are and this is what makes West Virginia so unique, aside from the natural beauty."
Souter began his musical career in school and never thought he would live his dream of being a professional musician.
"In my high school senior yearbook, it had your ambition with your picture. While my classmates were aspiring to be mechanical engineers, I said I wanted to be a professional folk singer," he explained. "I've always wanted to do that. Pretty much, I've always made my living in part, if not in whole, as a musician. For the past 20 years, I've been full-time. I feel really blessed."
Before he began creating educational programs, Souter toured with like-minded musicians and found himself as part of the house band at Snowshoe Mountain Resort.
"For 10 years, I toured with a jazz flute player," he said. "We went by the name Night Sky and for seven full seasons, we were the house band for Snowshoe. We were there from Thanksgiving to Easter entertaining hundreds of thousands of people at Snowshoe."
In the summer, Night Sky played shows at beach resorts, including Nags Head, Virginia Beach and Hilton Head.
Souter tired of playing music in bars and after a short period of running his own recording studio, he developed the touring programs he performs now.
"After a request from the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, I developed this program," he said. "I developed my Steven Foster program through a research grant through the National Endowment for the Humanities and the West Virginia Humanities Council."
Souter was also one of the original six performs in the History Alive! series, known at the time as the Chautauqua Series.
Now, working as a full-time storytelling folk musician, Souter has realized his dream and couldn't be happier.
"I get to ply my art as an actor/storyteller musician, not in the bars, and I get to do it strictly for family audiences and the schools," he said. "I get to bring a lot of cultural and educational enrichment to the students throughout the state and it's been pretty neat."
Last week, Souter visited Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, Marlinton Middle School, Hillsboro Elementary School and the Marlinton Elementary School students at Pocahontas County Opera House to perform his program.
The Celebrate West Virginia program includes songs about the history of the Mountain State, including coal mining, farmers and the origin of county and river names.