The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

June 19, 2013

Donations helping JHS music programs rebuild after tornado

By Emily Younker

JOPLIN, Mo. — Building a repertoire for the Joplin School District’s orchestra program is a challenge for Kylee VanHorn.

“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. She is the orchestra director for Joplin High School, East Middle School and South Middle School.

VanHorn, like the directors of the high school band and choir, continues to rebuild her program more than two years after the 2011 tornado, which not only destroyed the high school but also the sheet music, instruments, costumes, uniforms and even risers used by those programs.

Just this week, the orchestra took another step on the path toward rebuilding when VanHorn accepted on behalf of the high school’s string program a $1,000 donation from Atalie Lebedeff and her daughter, Carla Boyer. Both are alumnae of Joplin schools. The presentation was made on Lebedeff’s behalf by Larry Sanborn, a retired music teacher in Joplin schools.

In a letter to VanHorn, Lebedeff — who moved to New York after the tornado destroyed her Joplin home — said her late husband, William, also was a music teacher in Joplin and helped build the high school’s band and orchestra programs until his retirement in 1976.

VanHorn said the donation — a gift certificate to Educational Music Service, a supplier of printed sheet music — will be used to purchase new music for the orchestra.

Some of the music that was salvaged after the tornado was moldy; much of it was written for an “advanced full symphony, and we don’t have that,” 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.

“This will be tremendous,” she said of Lebedeff’s donation.

VanHorn said she will look specifically for “new, fun material” to keep her students engaged in music and to help build up the program, which is expected to enroll 60 to 80 students next year at the high school level.


The high school band is “in really good shape” two years after the tornado, according to director Rick Castor. The losses were steep, given that the band had the largest high school music library in the state. The loss was estimated at $3.7 million, which included instruments and other equipment. The value of the sheet music that was lost was put at $600,000 to $1 million.

But an outpouring of donations has put the band in almost a better position than it was before, Castor said.

Instruments were donated by a number of individuals and groups, including singer Barry Manilow on behalf of the Manilow Music Project. Uniforms for the marching band were replaced as quickly as possible. Castor said the band also has received a “nice amount” of donated music, including a batch of solo and ensemble music that he recently picked up.

Some of the sheet music damaged by the heavy rains after the tornado has just been released to the band by the insurance company, Castor said.

“We’re going to have a long process of going through that” to determine what is salvageable, he said.


The high school choir program also has bounced back. It lost in the tornado much of its sheet music, too, as well as choir costumes and props and many of the trophies won over the years at competitions, said Breana Clark, one of the choir teachers.

“The largest loss for us was probably the show choir risers because you have to use them every day to practice, and now that we have two high schools, it was difficult to figure out where those should go,” she said.

Donations from individuals and companies helped replace most of the music and costumes, Clark said. A grant of about $15,000 from a competition associated with the “Glee” TV show went toward risers — which are now installed at both high school campuses — as well as additional show choir robes, she said.

Clark said enrollment in the choirs has grown since the tornado, largely because directors created two choirs — one all-female and one mixed — for each campus. She credits her “resilient” students for helping the choirs remain a strong program.

“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.”

Out of print

THE SHEET MUSIC at Joplin High School that was lost in the 2011 tornado included some pieces no longer in print, such as “Highlights from Exodus” and the “Armed Forces Salute,” which the band had used in Veterans Day parades.