The Marching Highland Cavaliers continued the band’s tradition of boosting the region’s high school music programs by donating several drums and accessories to Lee High School.

Rick Galyean, director of bands at UVa-Wise, said the Marching Highland Cavaliers have helped the music program in Dickenson County and at Twin Valley High in Buchanan County by donating gently used instruments and equipment from time to time. Several high schools have also been given a needed instrument or two over the years as the Marching Highland Cavaliers purchase replacement horns and equipment.

The Marching Highland Cavaliers came into existence nine years ago when the College began a full-fledged music program. The band has less than 100 members, but the Marching Highland Cavaliers top bigger Virginia colleges and several peer institutions in terms of the percentage of enrolled students who join the band.

A generous gift from the Hunter J. Smith Foundation helped the band grow over the years. Smith, in making the gift, expressed the hope that the band could promote music programs in the region’s schools and communities. Galyean said the band honors Smith’s intention by performing at various events in the region, helping local band programs and assisting local band directors when possible.

The music program at UVa-Wise has produced several graduates who are now teaching music or band in schools across Virginia and in other states. Ben Harding, band director at Lee High, is a 2010 graduate of UVa-Wise. Galyean said the donation to Lee High was special because the drums were donated to an alumnus who was part of the College’s first year of the marching band program.

“Purchasing new drums would have been a major financial hurdle our boosters would have had to face,” Harding said. “They can now use the money they would have spent on the drums on other pressing matters.”

Galyean, who often visits local schools to recruit students for the music program, noticed that Harding and his students had patched up their 20-year-old drums with duct tape or other adhesives.

“Our drums were 10 years old, but they were in much better shape that those 20 year-old drums,” Galyean said. “We were at the point where we had to purchase new ones, so we decided to help Lee High out.”

Harding said his students were excited to receive the drums and accessories. He said the equipment would make a difference, especially as the Generals get ready for another performance season. The drum donation amounts to about $15,000 worth of equipment.

Lee High has 78 band members on its roster this season. Harding said he always tells the students about his experiences at UVa-Wise, and he encourages them to keep his alma mater in mind when they begin to consider colleges.