Yamaha and VH1 Save the Music Foundation Help Strengthen Music Education in West Virginia
BUENA PARK, Calif. —Yamaha and VH1 Save the Music Foundation have joined forces to distribute $1.29 million in new band instruments to 43 schools in 33 counties throughout West Virginia. The ultimate goal is to provide new instruments to schools in all 55 counties within the state to help bolster music education.
“Music is very important to every one of these communities and that is evident by the way parents, students, teachers and administrators have responded to support music programs in the schools,” said Mike Bates, western regional manager, Institutional Solutions Group, Yamaha Corporation of America. “This is an absolutely life-changing trend that is happening there.”
The program got its start in 1996, when the Lyell B. and Patricia K. Clay Foundation contacted Yamaha to help donate new Disklavier performance reproducing pianos and other equipment to state colleges and universities that included programs that trained music teachers. At the time, music education across the state had deteriorated to such a level that most schools did the best they could with dated and damaged instruments–or no instruments at all–and many districts had trouble keeping bands and classes afloat.
Eventually, Yamaha and the foundation decided to expand the program to provide digital keyboards, along with band and orchestral instruments, to high schools, middle schools and elementary schools. After Clay died in 2007, Yamaha recruited VH1 Save the Music Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to restoring and sustaining instrumental music education in United States public schools and raising awareness about the importance of music education. To qualify for a grant of instruments, school districts must hire full-time, certified music teachers to serve their students. The Clay Foundation also provides participating local music stores with a $1,000 retainer earmarked for repairing student instruments during a given year.
Barbara Green, music teacher at the Harman School in Harman, West Virginia, received one of the first grants and recalled her early struggles. In addition to being burdened by a lack of instruments, only 10 out of 200 children at the K-12 school participated in the band and the local board of education threatened to cut her position to half time. When the VH1 Save the Music Foundation sent a letter to the school board stating that the school would be ineligible for the grant, they reinstated Green’s full-time position and she now serves 50 enthusiastic band students.
With the backing of Yamaha and VH1 Save the Music Foundation, the initiative has galvanized the entire state. United States Senator Joe Manchin and his wife, Gail, reached out to businesses, non-profit organizations and individuals to contribute. State officials, including Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and his wife, Joanne Jaeger Tomblin, along with Randall Reid-Smith, commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, are also onboard.
“Music and arts education is so much more than learning notes and marching bands,” said Mrs. Tomblin, the state’s First Lady. “It is about the growth and development of our students . . . that part of you that brings your heart and soul to life.”
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