October 29th, 2011
05:52 PM ET
Barry Manilow not only writes the songs, he makes sure kids can too.
The singer-songwriter visited tornado ravaged Joplin, Missouri, Thursday and donated $300,000 in musical instruments to the town's schools through his non-profit Manilow Music Project. “I know firsthand how invaluable music can be to get you through life’s tough times," Manilow said in a statement. "It is an honor and a privilege to help these kids after such a disaster."
Signs like "Barry is our Man-ilow" and "Joplin has hope cause of Barry" ringed the Eagles football field for the presentation. Students, teachers and townspeople gathered to watch three truckloads of instruments arrive which included pianos, brass and string instruments. The donations will benefit not just the high school band, but also the pep club, the middle school, the choir and the orchestra according to Rick Castor, music director for Joplin High School.
The town is still feeling the effects of the tornado, which struck in May cutting a 13 mile path of destruction through the southwest Missouri city of 50,000 and killed at least 159 people. The National Weather Service calls it the single most deadly tornado to hit the U.S. in 60 years. More than half the students at Joplin High School were affected – losing loved ones, homes, and possessions.
Joplin High School's music library, the second oldest and one of the largest in the state and worth over $800,00, was destroyed. In addition to the $300,000 in instruments, Manilow's Music Project teamed up with local business Fitterling Dentistry to accept donations of gently used instruments and money to help rebuild the sheet music library. The drive netted $8320.oo.
Manilow points to his own school music programs as being crucial to his growth as a musician. He established the MMP in 2008 ( www.ManilowMusicProject.org ) to bolster arts programs nationwide that have suffered due to budget cutbacks. Joplin is just one of many towns his non-profit has helped, but to the man who writes the songs, this felt personal, "It feels like family, I feel like I know everyone and I've never even been here," Manilow said.
About this blog
Our daily cheat-sheet for breaking celebrity news, Hollywood buzz and your pop-culture obsessions.