The Mountain Arts Center has hosted educational music classes at its facility in Prestonsburg for decades, and this year, officials hope to start a new tradition to help students learn more about music.
Jamuary, featuring six bands, will begin at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 25, at the MAC. Tickets range for between $15 and $25. MAC Director Joe Campbell reported that a $5,000 donation supplied in December by ARH and other donations the MAC is seeking will fund all costs of hosting this concert so that all proceeds from ticket sales can be used to buy new band equipment for students at Prestonsburg High School.
Campbell said he hopes the concert becomes an annual event that benefits students in Floyd, Pike, Johnson, Martin and Magoffin counties — the five counties served by Big Sandy Community and Technical College, which operates the MAC.
“Jamuary is our new program we want to do every year and we want to build our high school band programs back up,” he said. “We noticed the arts programs have been cut and the band programs have been cut over the years and we want to play a part in building that back up in the communities and in the high schools.”
Settles said the list of needs is long for the PHS band. He said 17 students are enrolled in band at PHS and the school has instruments for only 12 of them.
“We try to trade some of them out on the percussion instruments so that they have a chance to play,” he said.
He said the school’s band equipment is old and in need of repair.
“We’re needing instruments because the instruments that we have are very old and very out of repair,” Settles said. “Normally, throughout the years, booster organizations will take care of the instruments, take care of the repairs, general maintenance and everything. And because it’s been 12 years, probably since we’ve had a program to take care of the instruments, their in — what few instruments we have are in bad shape. We’re needing those repaired and we’re needing new ones because, oftentimes, with kids in our area, they want to do band but are unable to purchase their own instrument. It would be nice to be able to offer them a school instrument so that they, if they want to participate in band, they can.”
He said the school needs all instruments, especially larger, more expensive ones that students can’t afford.
“We’re needing tubas, we’re needing a drum line, the larger percussion instruments, some of the instruments that are a little bit more obscure, but necessary for band programs like French horns as well as just general, regular instruments, too — flutes, clarinets, trumpets, saxophones. A baritone saxophone is definitely needed. That’s an instrument that’s very large and usually too expensive for kids to purchase on their own that usually schools provide.”
He said officials want to start a “feeder” music program that offers instruction in band to students in the middle school. The instruments that will be purchased through this concert will be used for years, he said.
Settles, who has taught music for 25 years in Kentucky and for about a year at PHS, said he signed up for band in the sixth grade and continued in band and chorus throughout his high school years. He said it taught him — and teaches students in his classes — life skills that they would not get elsewhere.
“It’s a good growing experience for the person individually all around, in both academics and personality and in preparation for life,” he said.
He jokes that he’ll write a book some day titled, “Everything I Needed to Know in Life, I Learned in Band.”
“With our students, I’ve seen — and not just the students that go on to major in music and be band directors — but I’ve seen students struggle with a particular passage and work and work and learn how to work hard; and then fix it and then be able to perform it at a high level, and to see the pride that comes along with doing that — yes, I’ve seen it make a tremendous difference in the lives of students.”
He said the school is selling T-shirts as part of the effort and it also accepts donations of used instruments.
“A lot of people in the past have said, well, I’ve got a trumpet in the closet somewhere. We’ll take it,” he said. “And if they want to give, contact the school.”
Thanking the people who are coordinating and supporting the fundraising concert, Settles said this effort will benefit the community.
“I want to say thank you for being willing to do it. I want to say thank you to the people who are going to go listen to this concert and the people who are going to give because we’re trying to build a program here that will give back to the community as in doing the Prestonsburg parade, as in doing marching band shows for the football team, doing pep band for the basketball team and just doing concerts for the community,” he said. “This area is rich in history with music and professional music and music in Nashville. We have the Country Music Highway here. It would be good for us to just continue giving kids an option to learn to perform at that level and just as a support entity for the community.”
The concert will feature music by Magnolia Boulevard, Laid Back Country Picker, Down the River, Luna & The Mountain Jets, Wayne Graham and Colby O’Bryan.
For tickets, visit, macarts.com, or call, (888) MAC-ARTS.