VH1 helps save the arts at one Kanawha County middle school

Local News

ST. ALBANS, WV (WOWK) – McKinley Middle School, home of the Trojans celebrated Christmas in July when mysterious packages started arriving at the front office.

Nobody was expecting the packages, not even Band Director, Melody Bias.

She explained that it was announced over the intercom during band class that she had a package waiting for her in the office. The package was then wheeled down by the janitor, and to her astonishment, the word Selmer stamped on the package.

This is exactly how Bias found out that McKinley Middle School had been selected by VH1’s Save the Music Foundation, granting the school with 36 new instruments (eight flutes, 11 clarinets, three altos, six trumpets, four trombones, a cymbal/bell/snare drum kit and other supplies).

“They were so new that they were still wrapped in tissue paper and the instruments still had corks in the holes. You don’t get that very often, even at the music store,” said Bias.

She said that when she was in middle school, instruments were never really provided to students by the school. Everyone bought their own instruments, and that’s not the case nowadays. Nearly 100% of her 6th graders use school instruments to test the waters, because to purchase an instrument is expensive and kids at this age aren’t quite sure if they will stick with it.

For 7th grader, Kendall Estep, she fell in love with the clarinet when she first picked it up last year but for the longest time, wasn’t using the sweetest sounding instrument.

Now, Kendall is playing one of the clarinets granted through the program.

“It’s really nice because a clarinet can cost a lot of money. This one is $1,200, so it’s just kind of hard to get new instruments, a lot of them and it’s just an honor to get them,” said Estep.

Melody Bias said this all began because she was encouraged by Randall Reid-Smith with the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. So, she went through the application process, skeptic of course, but to her disbelief, was the one VH1 wanted to support.

All 36 instruments averaging to a grand worth of $35,000. Bias left feeling truly blessed.

“Through this process, I’ve learned that people are talking about my program and my kids, and sometimes you doubt, ‘did you really get through to that kid?’ and so I just want to say thank you to all the parents and the community, my fellow band directors and anyone who talks up my program, because I truly couldn’t do what I do without the support.”

McKinley Middle School currently has 75 members and more than half of those students use school-loaned instruments. The instruments granted are now forever McKinley, and with a few program checkups here and there from VH1 itself, faculty says that is a very small price to pay for what they’ve given their students who are eager to learn the art of music.

VH1 Spokesperson, Chiho Okuizumi Feindler said, “VH1 Save The Music Foundation is thrilled to be in the state of West Virginia, the only state where we are doing a statewide rebuild of instrumental music education in middle schools. We are thrilled to be granting in McKinley Middle School where the music is a very active part of school life and with this grant, we are confident that more students can make music.”

VH1 is expecting to pay their first visit to McKinley and meet the students and staff on Friday, October 26th and 13 News plans to be there to continue this story.

Follow Haley Kosik’s stories impacting our region on Twitter here and on Facebook here.

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