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Save the Music Foundation visits area schools

Apr. 05, 2013 @ 10:57 PM

MILTON -- An official from VH1 Save the Music Foundation visited middle schools in Mason and Cabell counties Friday to see the need they have for new instruments.

Rob Davidson, the director of Programs and Policy for the foundation, was joined by Cabell County native Randall Reid-Smith, who is the commissioner of the West Virginia Department of Culture and History, and Jeff Pierson, the department's director of the arts. At Milton Middle School, they talked with music teacher Brenda Graves about the need for such instruments as flutes, saxophones and trumpets.

"I had some students who signed up (for band) who wanted to play flute, but I only have one to give out," Graves said. "So they didn't join band."

Of the nearly 100 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders who are in the band, Graves said probably 40 percent cannot afford to purchase their own instrument, which can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Reid-Smith said that although West Virginia has made sure schools have music programs, there isn't always enough funding for instruments, even in a more affluent county like Cabell.

"We have music teachers in about every school," Reid-Smith said. "Just need instruments. This (program) is an opportunity to put resources in teachers' hands."

Last year, Davidson was at Barboursville Middle to present the first strings instrument award given in West Virginia. The VH1 Save the Music Foundation first started working with West Virginia schools in 2010, giving eight $30,000 instrument packages -- three to schools in Lincoln County.

In 2011-2012, 11 more schools received awards, followed by 16 this school year. Reid-Smith said he expects applications for the grants to be submitted by schools in Nicholas, Raleigh, Summers, Putnam and Kanawha counties for the 2013-2014 school year.

Davidson said the foundation is, for the first time, working with officials to tackle the instrument shortage at the state level, rather than just individual counties.

"It's a new model, and West Virginia has been very supportive of this effort," he said.

That support and cooperation led to the state being honored last month with the SupportMusic Award from the National Association of Music Merchants.

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