Bald Eagle Area High School student Michael Bailey was the first to test a piano donated to the school by Barry Manilow.
It was shipped to the South Eagle Valley Road facility on the afternoon of June 8.
When it was unwrapped, Bailey hit the keys.
For BEA music educators and students, it’s more than just a piano; it’s a way to enhance music education.
And after attending a Manilow concert, at least one student said it wasn’t hard to see why the singer-songwriter was so invested in music education.
“I went with my family to his concert and absolutely loved it,” said Jessica Cain, 16, who will be a senior next school year. “His music is fun and the concert was amazing. To have someone as talented and gifted in music and entertainment as Barry Manilow give our small school a piano is such a blessing. I believe he really understands and appreciates the importance of music education.”
“I’m thrilled to be giving the gift of music to these kids,” Manilow said in a press release.
District business manager Craig Livergood said Manilow’s management company approached the BJC and asked about a local school or organization that would benefit from his program.
A representative from the BJC then contacted the district on March 1.
“I don’t know how we were chosen but (we) were asked if we wanted to be a part of it and said yes,” Livergood said.
The next day, the district got the final confirmation it would receive the gift.
“This is the future of music education, and we have been blessed to receive such a gift,” high school music and band director Kellie Long said. “When someone like Barry Manilow shows how important music education is, people notice. I am so impressed with that, and (with) Barry Manilow’s success he still recognizes that music education is important, and he is using his success to give back to communities where he performs. … Bald Eagle loves Barry Manilow and will be forever grateful for his gift.”
The piano will be used for all aspects of the high school’s music program.
“As a choir student, we use a piano every day to learn the pitches and memorize them,” said Lacey Geyer, 16. “It is then used to accompany us and create a foundation to sing along with. In jazz band, the whole band will tune to the piano because it is the only instrument we cannot change. Being able to replace our piano means we can use a piano that will always be in tune — a huge benefit to our ensemble.”
Choir Director Ryan Wade told the CDT in March the piano will allow him to make changes to lesson plans that could benefit students.
The piano can be used to record songs that can later be used during activities like choir rehearsal at a time the teacher needs to step away from the piano, but students can still practice to accompanying music.
But more so than receiving the gift, students and teachers said they’re more impressed with Manilow’s advocacy in investing in music education.
“It’s just really great that someone of Mr. Manilow’s status is doing all kinds of things to help keep music alive in schools,” Wade said. “For some students, it’s all they have. For athletes, their bodies will eventually break down, but musicians can have a lifetime of music.”