Volunteers give the gift of music to flood victims

Published 5:00 pm Wednesday, November 2, 2022


Folksinger Michael Johnathon and volunteers from the WoodSongs internationally syndicated broadcast completed the WoodSongs Flood Relief Effort project for the flood victims across Appalachia and eastern Kentucky. Volunteers of the program gave away more than 600 new and refurbished musical instruments on Oct. 29 at Knott County Central High School in Hindman.

“I believe that love is the greatest transaction of the arts, it drives everything we do, everything we create and everything we feel,” Johnathon said. “This was a time to put our politics, opinions and divisions aside and be loving neighbors to those in real, actual need. Let’s not underestimate the comfort music and art can bring to families and neighbors in a time of great loss.”

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Among the several hundred mountain musicians that came for the instrument distribution were Polly Barse Fleming and her daughter Bellamie, a member of the Knott County Central High School band. After arriving early and helping to unload the 20-foot box truck loaded with guitars, banjos, mandolins, fiddles, band instruments and more, they waited patiently for more than an hour to make their instrument request.

“Today a dream came true,” said Polly Fleming. “When WoodSongs got there Bellamie and I got out of our cars and helped unload the truck. Michael asked what type of instrument we were hoping for today. I told him the dream instrument would be an upright bass. There was only one in sight.”

After waiting patiently as hundreds of instruments were handed out, their turn came.

“We stood and waited as they gave out guitars, banjos, dulcimers, fiddles, drums, banjos, etc. When they made it to Bellamie, Michael pointed to an upright base, turned toward her and jokingly said, ‘Girls don’t typically play upright bass,’ and then told her it was hers,” Polly Fleming said. “Bellamie began trembling and crying, which also made me cry, too. I thought this was only a dream instrument, but here it is. Once home, we find that it is a Wurlitzer 1934 worth nearly $5,000.”