POCAHONTAS COUNTY, W.Va. — A West Virginia High School has national attention after the students resiliently decided to teach themselves.
According to the Washington Post, the band’s former teacher left over the summer to take a teaching position at a different school, leaving Pocahontas High School without a band teacher.
At the beginning of the year, the students were told that there were no applicants for the position and that they could either take different electives or teach themselves with the support of the school and money budgeted for the music department.
The Post says that out of 38 students, 10 decided to keep the band alive and nominated drummer Hailey Fitzgerald as band director. They also enlisted the help of two teachers at the school as advisers.
Casey Griffith and Jennifer Nail-Cook are normally math teachers, but they agreed to help the students with paperwork, listen to them practice, and offer support to the group.
According to the story, the students created class rules, practiced the school song and fight chants, and learned to work together. When they realized they had too many drummers, several of the band members began teaching themselves how to play other instruments.
They now have three drummers as well as a tenor saxophone, an alto saxophone, a clarinet, and a trumpet.
Their “Rules and Expectations to Live by are what keeps the group focused and going, including:
“Instruments and supplies out and ready to play within 5 minutes of class beginning”
“Only play when directed, no arguing about what you’re playing”
“No food or drink (except water) in room”
“Instruments go home for practice on weekends”
“Don’t touch anyone’s instrument, don’t share germs”
The group was soon ready for their home football game on September 22 against Richwood High School.
The other students rallied for their band. They cheered them from the stands and made signs to encourage them.
The Warriors do not have enough members to participate in marching field shows, but they keep their school spirit alive from the stands.
The band was also featured in The Real WV, and when the story was published, several school alumni were moved by the students’ effort to keep the band together and offered to join the students in the stands on Homecoming Day and play their old instruments.
Like many other states across the nation, West Virginia is experiencing a teacher shortage, and music programs are in short supply. The school’s principal, Josephy Riley, said that they are hopeful to fill the band instructor’s position soon, but until they do, the students are making it work.