THE VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEER

 

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

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Project Pick, which stands for Playing Instruments Changes Kids, is a weekly program that teaches students first-hand through songs, stories and music about their culture and heritage. Some 350 students throughout the county have signed up to participate and more are signing up every day.

Picking Up Speed
Project PICK Attracts Over 350 Students

by JoBeth Wampler
Staff Reporter
  
Eager little hands leap upwards in a frenzy, as Project PICK Director Belinda Honaker asks who might be interested in participating in the after-school program that will put the instruments in students' hands.
   No one could have prepared Project PICK instructors and coordinators for the response of Buchanan County students, after instructors led assembly presentations at all ten public schools last week.
   Some 350 students throughout the county have signed up to participate and more are signing up every day.
   "We've had such a great response," Honaker says with an excited laugh. "We don't know what we're going to do with them, to be honest."
   Project PICK, which stands for Playing Instruments Changes Kids, is a weekly program that teaches students first-hand through songs, stories and music about their culture and heritage.
   And, last week, students made it clear that they wanted the program in Buchanan County.
   "It tripled our expectations," says Jeff Mathis, who will teach guitar through Project PICK this year. "We're really filling a need. I just hope we can handle that many kids."
   The Council resident, who taught guitar lessons at the Music Box in Claypool Hill for 18 years, now owns his own recording studio, performs instrument repairs and installs sound systems for local churches throughout the area.
   But, despite his busy schedule, Mathis says this is a project worth his time.
   Growing up, he says he always had instruments and music in his life, but many students throughout the county have never touched an instrument. And, that's something Mathis and the rest of Project PICK's instructors hope to remedy.
   During the assembly presentations last week, Mathis says he often sat at the edge of the stage, holding his guitar, while students asked questions. Slowly, the children inched toward him, hoping to play a few chords before he left for the day.
   "I'd be surrounded in minutes," he says, laughing.
   Shelby Jewell, of Whitewood, was also a big hit with the children.
   The regional guitarist is the only member of the instructors with the experience to teach fiddle. A 36-year member of the regional band Bluegrass Kinsmen, Jewell has never formally taught anyone how to play an instrument.
   However, just because he's never taught before doesn't mean Jewell doesn't know his way around children.
   When asked what the difference was between a violin and a fiddle, the children scrambled for answers. However, it was Jewell that offered them the most memorable response.
   "Really, there's no difference between the fiddle and the violin," he says. "My dad always said if a rich man owns it, it's a violin. And, if a poor man owns it, it's a fiddle."
    At this, the children responded with resounding laughter and agreed that must be the answer.
    "The teachers and the children seemed very excited," says Jewell. "The children especially seemed to be very excited. Of course, that might have had something to do with getting out of class."
    Jewell laughs.
    But, his laughter turns to nervousness and he explains how the number of students planning to participate in Project PICK has him worried.
    "My only concern is that there are so many kids," he says.

For more of the story, see the print edition of the Mountaineer, on sale at newsstands now.  To subscribe to the Mountaineer, call 276-935-2123 today.


Questions Surround HHS 'Cliff'
Supervisor Says Games Will Be Played

by Scotty Wampler
News Editor

  
Questions surround the usability of the Hurley High School football field after debris was discovered in the soil used to make needed improvements at the "Cliff."
   Knox Supervisor Pat Justus said Tuesday accusations that the presence of harmful debris in the soil, including soda cans, wire and glass shards, were overblown and next Friday's home game against Montcalm, WV would be played on the field.
   The soil in question was retrieved from the old D.A. Justus Elementary School site in Hurley after TECO Coal Company volunteered to perform minor improvement tasks, such as grading and hydroseeding, to get the field into playing shape, Justus said. Justus also said he authorized the use of the soil.
   Justus said the field was in dire need of resodding prior to its use this season. The need to change the location of last week's home game against Ervinton to the Grundy High School field was to allow the new grass enough time to become stable for use, he added.
   According to Buchanan County Engineer Marcus Stiltner, soil debris from the 2002 Hurley flood cleanup effort was stockpiled at the former elementary school site, along with debris from the school that was demolished.
   Stiltner said approximately 180 tons of topsoil from the site were used for the football field improvements.
    Though Justus admitted a few bottles were found in the soil, and removed, he said the soil was otherwise usable and the field would be ready for play next week.
    In the meantime, an official from the Department of Environmental Quality is expected in Hurley on Thursday to examine the soil remaining at the D.A. Justus Elementary site.

For more of the story, see the print edition of the Mountaineer, on sale at newsstands now.  To subscribe to the Mountaineer, call 276-935-2123 today.


                       

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