MMS band receives VH1 Save the Music grant
In a first for the VH1 Save the Music foundation, the state of West Virginia has been selected to receive grant funding for middle school bands over the next several years. In the first round of grant donations, Marlinton Middle School was one of 11 schools to receive the $30,000 musical instrument grant.
VH1 Save the Music Foundation Program Manager Rob Davidson said the foundation is always looking for new ways to support music education in the country.
ﾓTypically, what we do is work with an individual school district,ﾔ he said. ﾓIn the past, weﾒve done a lot of larger cities like Chicago, LA and New York. Weﾒre very active in larger school districts, but as the foundationﾒs grown, weﾒre looking for more partnerships in rural areas and trying to expand what we do.ﾔ
Through a partnership with the Clay Foundation and Yamaha, Davidson was introduced to the status of music education in rural schools. With the help of Mike Bates of Yamaha, Davidson realized that many music classrooms donﾒt have any instruments, and if they did, these instruments were outdated.
ﾓ[The schools] really wanted to boost bands, and theyﾒre trying to have band programs, but they just didnﾒt have any instruments to work with,ﾔ he said. ﾓThe kids were having to rent instruments and a lot of families couldnﾒt afford to do that. So, Mike invited me out to see what was going on and that year we gave a grant to Harman School and to Tucker County.ﾔ
The following year, Davidson met Randall Reid-Smith, Commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History for the Arts. As the two discuss the musical instrument situation in the state, Reid-Smith suggested the foundation do a state-wide initiative with West Virginia.
ﾓWeﾒre used to working with school districts where thereﾒs 1,800 schools in the district, so scale-wise, doing a state-wide initiative with West Virginia made sense,ﾔ Davidson said. ﾓItﾒs the first time that weﾒve done a state-wide initiative and we are thrilled to be here. This year we gave 11 grants, one middle school per county. Our initial goal is to have a footprint in each county and our long-term goal is to go back and help all the K-8 schools throughout the state.ﾔ
With the state-wide program, each grant was a 50-50 split between VH1 Save the Music and funds raised in the state.
Unlike most grants, the Save the Music model comes with one requirementﾠﾖ the school receiving the funding must maintain a music teacher position.
ﾓItﾒs not just give them instruments and walk away,ﾔ Davidson said. ﾓThe school has to have a certified music teacher in place and teach music as part of the school day. They have to keep that in place in order to keep the instruments in the schools. Weﾒre using this act of charity, as an act of advocacy to encourage music education in the schools.ﾔ
For Davidson, a former music teacher, seeing the instruments encourage students to join band has been worth the hard work and long trip.
ﾓA lot of the counties weﾒve seen so far, they had 10 kids in the band last year and now, all of a sudden, they have 40 because there are instruments for them,ﾔ he said. ﾓWe were just in Pendleton County and the gentleman had a trombone from 1912. These instruments are truly that old. Itﾒs really common for the instruments to be 40 or 50 years old and be at a point where theyﾒre not playable, especially for beginners.ﾔ
MMS music teacher Richard McLaughlin understands the plight of using old instruments.
ﾓWe still have instruments that went through the ﾑ85 flood,ﾔ he said. ﾓI have a trombone and baritone that I would say are 1960s, something like that.ﾔ
McLaughlin said he received eight flutes, 11 clarinets, three saxophones, six trumpets, four trombones, a set of bells, set of cymbals, a snare drum, a base drum and a set of books.
Students in both the beginning and varsity bands are using the new instruments.
ﾓThey think itﾒs wonderful,ﾔ McLaughlin said of the studentsﾒ reaction.
The enthusiasm of the students was apparent as they filed into the music room Thursday to play a few songs for Davidson, Reid-Smith and Jeff Pierson and Cicely Bosley, also of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History for the Arts.
The students took great pride in their craft as they carefully put their instruments together and awaited direction from McLaughlin.
Pierson equated the new instruments to receiving gifts on Christmas.
ﾓWhen you look at a room full of boxes [of instruments] like this, for schools that didnﾒt even have instruments, itﾒs amazing to them,ﾔ he said. ﾓI had a student yesterday, he had a trumpet in his hand and he said, ﾑitﾒs my first time in a band and I have a brand new instrument.ﾒ When we go into the schools and see the kids with instruments, thatﾒs the payoff for us.ﾔ