Joplin school music programs continue to rebuild

Thursday, June 20, 2013 | 7:03 p.m. CDT

JOPLIN — Music programs that suffered severe losses when a tornado hit Joplin in 2011 are slowly rebounding from losing most of their sheet music, instruments, costumes and uniforms although some financial strains remain, music officials said.

Kylee VanHorn, orchestra director for Joplin High School, East Middle School and South Middle School, said the rebuilding has been a challenge.

"Every time I get on the Internet and look at the music sites, there are so many pieces I want to purchase, and I just don't have the money," VanHorn said.

New sheet music costs an average of $40 to $70 per piece, and the orchestra typically performs eight to 10 different pieces per concert, VanHorn said. The program is expected to enroll 60 to 80 students next year at the high school level, The Joplin Globe reported.

Last week, the high school's string program received a $1,000 donation from Atalie Lebedeff and her daughter, Carla Boyer, both graduates of Joplin schools. VanHorn said the donation will be used to buy new music for the orchestra.

The high school band, which suffered an estimated $3.7 million loss, is "in really good shape," director Rick Castor said. The band had the largest high school music library in the state before the tornado, and the lost sheet music was valued between $600,000 and $1 million.

Instruments were donated by many individuals and groups, including singer Barry Manilow. The marching band's uniforms were quickly replaced and the band also received "a nice amount" of donated music, Castor said. An insurance company recently released some of the sheet music damaged in the storms, and Castor said it would be a long process to determine what is salvageable.

The high school choir program, which lost most of its sheet music, costumes, props and trophies, also bounced back, said Breana Clark, one of the choir teachers. The largest loss was the show choir risers because they were needed every day in practice, she said.

Donations replaced most of the music and costumes and a $15,000 grant from a competition associated with the TV show "Glee" went toward risers — which are now installed at both high schools — as well as more show choir robes, she said.

Clark said enrollment in the choirs has grown since the tornado and her "resilient" students kept the program strong.

"They didn't want to be victims anymore," she said. "They have really fought over the past two years to make a name for themselves other than just the tornado victims."

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