Music is in the air at Wheeling Park High School’s Performing Arts Center.
March 9 is the Patrick Latos Memorial Scholarship concert at the Wheeling Park High School JB Chambers Performing Arts Center. The 2016 Latos Scholarship award winner will be announced at the event. The public is welcome to attend, and this concert is a donated admission with proceeds benefitting the Latos Scholarship fund and Ohio County Strings students. Suggested donation is $5 adults, $3 students. WPHS orchestras (there are two full orchestras) and middle school strings students from Triadelphia, Bridge Street, Wheeling and Warwood Middle will be performing. Instrumental work that will be featured March 9 includes, Train’s “Drops of Jupiter,” a “Jersey Boys” medley, and “Hundred Years” by Five for Fighting.
The Patrick Latos Memorial Scholarship is awarded to one or two high school seniors and helps them in furthering their music education. Established in 1999 as a memorial to Patrick, who had been a member of the Ohio County Strings Program throughout his years at Wheeling Park High School, the Scholarship Fund has provided $5,000 scholarships and grants to 27 WPHS students (as of 2015). Several of past Latos awarded students have returned to the Ohio Valley and are currently active in music education, while others are well on their way to careers in the field of music.
Nearly 600 students from Ohio County public schools (grades 4-12) are involved in Strings performance, one of the largest programs in West Virginia. With support from the Ohio County Strings Association (a parent and teacher fundraising organization), Ohio County School Board, and faculty, this program has become a model for public school music education . In 2015, for example, 25 of the 85 West Virginia high school students selected for the All-State Orchestra were from WPHS, and 16 of the 44 West Virginia middle school students selected for the All-State Middle School Orchestra were from Ohio County. All-State info for the 2015-16 year: 30 high school and 22 middle school students represent Ohio County Schools. The Ohio County Strings Association fund was able to provide support for their lodging and meals while they were away from home. The Latos Scholarship Fund is managed by the Ohio County Schools Foundation. Donations received during these spring concerts are added to the Fund, which has made it possible to provide deserving students with nearly $80,000 in financial assistance over the past 16 years.
Ben Podolski started the strings program in Ohio County Schools and directs the program at Wheeling Park High School teaching two full orchestras of kids, approximately 140 musicians. Strings class is offered in the schedule all day at Wheeling Park High School to accommodate the student demand for music classes.
The strings program has a strong elementary and middle school strings program instructed by Kate O’Connell at Warwood Middle and Elementary schools, Madison, Steenrod, West Liberty, and Woodsdale Elementary schools. Melissa Tracy teaches at Wheeling and Bridge Street Middle schools and Richie, Elm Grove, Bethlehem and Middle Creek Elementary schools and Rayce Lieb teaches a full schedule of strings classes at Triadelphia Middle School. The program starts in fourth grade and is available to any interested child. Classes generally meet once or twice a week at the elementary school level, and once a day at the Middle School level. The state of the art PAC center typically hosts at least 10 orchestral concerts a year featuring strings students from Ohio County Public Schools. The impressive size of the high school orchestra is a direct result of the passion that students, teachers and parents have for the musical arts in Ohio County.
All fundraising dollars raised by the OC Strings Association go toward expenses of such things as musical instrument repair & replacements, cost for purchasing sheet music for the students (In the 2014-2015 school year OCSA spent approximately $1,500 on sheet music alone for the high school and some of the middle schools) and travel expenses for competitions. A Summer Strings Camp is held every June for interested Ohio County School students, and The Latos Scholarship helps stellar students further their music education.
In addition to the Latos Memorial Concert a fundraising dance is planned at Camp Russel April 2, featuring the band Hit Play. Tickets will be $25 per person. Interested in attending the April 2 dance? Contact the Ohio County Strings Association at firstname.lastname@example.org and like Ohio County Strings Association on facebook for further information on strings events.
*The Elementary School strings students will perform at WPHS JB Chambers Performing Arts Center in May, date to be announced.