By Kathleen Panek
This afternoon as I was scrolling through the posts on Facebook there was a post by world traveler Rick Steves. He had recently returned to his hometown in the State of Washington and the previous evening, the Board of Education had discussed the budget and to make that budget work the discussion was to cut the band, choir, drama, and arts. He was shocked that a Board of Education would actually consider, and most likely will, no longer fund the arts in their school system.
That made me so proud of West Virginia and Shinnston. Shinnston has always promoted the arts. Throughout the existence of Shinnston there have been bands, not just sports. Yes, football, basketball, and baseball were important – every town had their teams, but they also had bands.
When I first moved to Shinnston it was a joyous thing for my artist husband to discover the very active Dabblers, a group of quite talented artists that included Deloris Minor and the late Beverly Paushel. It helped make him feel welcome in his new city and become a West Virginian. As with anything, there is a season and as the years passed, so did many of the Dabblers but the arts were not forgotten.
Thanks to the All-School Reunion in 1996, when the Shinnston High School Band of 1952 performed a Concert, the Shinnston Community Band was formed. It remains active and has grown, including musicians from all over the area. But now there is a new group in Shinnston of a new genre of music and it has been welcomed with open arms also. The Soapbox, The Press, and The Palette have come to town along with new music festivals. And Shinnston is showing welcome and support. Every Wind Down Wednesday features local bands, offering an opportunity to showcase their music.
West Virginia as a whole supports the arts. There is Mountain Stage and the WV Music Hall of Fame, as well as country music stars and opera stars.. Appreciation of the arts may be found going back in time to the Wheeling Steel Choir as well as to current day radio personality Aristotle Jones and his Born & Bred Concert Series, showcasing up-and-coming musicians.
While many places in this wonderful country are cutting the arts in their schools, West Virginia shines as it encourages our high school bands, choirs, and plays as well as the art classes. Is it any wonder then that we are West Virginia Proud!
Kathleen Panek is a Shinnston resident, as well as the owner of the Gillum House Bed & Breakfast and the city clerk.