Credit: Seth Young

Junk Drums and Levy Funds

Seven years ago I started teaching choir and general music at Elkins Middle School. My yearly budget for all materials for the 600+ students I taught was $150. Considering choir music costs $3-$5 per sheet it did not take long for that money to go. I couldn’t even afford to buy one complete song for a single choir and I taught three choirs a day.

But the great injustice, I thought, came in general music. There was nothing. And by nothing I mean NOTHING. This may be the highest level music class a person ever gets to experience and there was not one instrument to experience it on.

One day I saw three trash cans that were being tossed out because they didn’t meet state trash can standards. I took them and turned them over, I cut some dowel rods for sticks, and I proceeded to teach rhythm reading with the only tools I could muster.

Before the passage of the Randolph County Levy…

This shaped my whole philosophy of what I would invest in given the opportunity. The only thing you would ever find me purchasing if entrusted with public funds is something a student can put their hands on and learn from.

Now here we are, I started teaching at Jennings Randolph Elementary and the community has had enough faith in me to trust me with a $1500 budget per year for the last five years. I have never once even considered purchasing an item that a student could not learn from in a hands on-real time way.

There are guitars, banjos, and a mandolin for Appalachian heritage music. African drums to sync the brain and body for emotional balance. Glockenspiels to begin reading pitches and introduce a keyboard. Ukuleles and steel drums because they are awesome and every kid wishes they had the opportunity to learn them.

Five years later...
Five years later…

Without the levy who knows? Maybe I would have a class set of trash cans.

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