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Steel Band, Park Alumni Perform

July 1, 2012
Linda Comins , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Mountaineers can take pride in the fact that the West Virginia University Steel Band Drum Ensemble is performing daily at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Ohio County residents have a special reason to cheer because the band features six graduates of Wheeling Park High School.

The Wheeling Park alumni playing with the band are Logan Seidler, Brad Bell, Cassie Nelson, Alexis Morrell, John Posey and Stephen Schramm. A photograph of the bandmates from Park can be seen on Page D4 of today's Life section.

This year's Smithsonian Folklife Festival opened Wednesday, June 27. Free concerts, exhibits and events continue today, July 1, and Wednesday, July 4, through Sunday, July 8.

Wheeling resident Ann Nelson said the WVU group was the first act to open the evening concert series. "All the land grant colleges in the country are here (WVU is across from Michigan State, sharing a tent with Texas and next to Hawaii) and WVU was asked to bring their steel drum band," she said.

"I am extremely proud of the Wheeling kids for representing us here, and it is also worth noting that a small group of them was chosen to perform at a small private event today (Thursday, June 28) for the president of WVU," Nelson added. "Out of the whole band, four were chosen, and all are former Wheeling Park students."

The WVU group performed with drummer Ellie Mannette, who started the university's steel drum ensemble in the 1990s.

Poetry fans and Ohio Valley residents (especially Martins Ferry natives) enjoyed the multimedia tribute to Martins Ferry poet James Wright that was presented as a Lunch With Books offering at the Ohio County Public Library in Wheeling Tuesday, June 26.

David Thomas, a member of the English department faculty at West Liberty University and a poet in his own right, read selections from the late Pulitzer Prize winner's canon of poetry. Popular area guitarist Roger Hoard performed musical accompaniment as a 1987 film, "James Wright's Ohio," was shown on the big screen in the library's auditorium.

Unfortunately, scheduled co-presenter C.J. Farnsworth of Wheeling was hospitalized and was unable to participate in the poetry reading.

Described as a docu-drama, "James Wright's Ohio" was filmed largely in Martins Ferry. The film included interviews with poets William Matthews and Stanley Kunitz and with Wright's wives, Liberty Kovacs and Annie Wright.

The late Claude Colvin, who was a member of the English department faculty at Ohio University Eastern Campus and Bethany College, appeared in one of the opening segments.

The multimedia tribute also gave Lunch With Book patrons a preview of the literary elements of the upcoming Wheeling Arts Fest. The day-long free festival on Saturday, July 14, will feature literary events at two venues: the library's auditorium and a stage at West Virginia Northern Community College.

Sean Duffy, the library's coordinator of programming and a member of the Arts Fest planning committee, said the theme for the festival's literary component is "Appalachian Poetry and Storytelling."

The July 14 literary events at the library are scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m., with David Thomas and C.J. Farnsworth presenting "The Poetry of James Wright" and leading an open-microphone session.

West Virginia Poet Laureate Marc Harshman of Wheeling will present a creative writing workshop and reading in the library's auditorium at 1 p.m. that day. His presentation will focus on prose poems, short-shorts and flash fiction.

Also at the library during Arts Fest, poet Bonnie Thurston of Wheeling will read at 2 p.m. Duffy said Thurston's reading "will explore the interface between her poetry's Celtic origins and Appalachian places and world-views."

A reading of Wheeling native Sean O'Leary's new play, "The Boy in the Box," will be offered at 3 p.m. The playwright's father, Wheeling actor-director Hal O'Leary, will perform the staged reading.

Featured during the Wheeling Arts Fest on the WVNCC stage will be storyteller Rich Knoblich of Wheeling, appearing at noon; poet Laura Bentley, 2 p.m.; storyteller Cheryl Ryan Harshman of Wheeling, 3 p.m.; poet Mark Defoe, 5 p.m., and poet Doug Van Gundy, 6 p.m.

Duffy said Bentley, a poet and fiction writer, will read from "Lake Effect," her book of poetry. Van Gundy "will read from his Appalachian poetry and share traditional music from West Virginia (fiddle, banjo and voice)," the event coordinator said.

DeFoe will read from his collection of poems set in West Virginia and the Appalachian region. "He will also read longer pieces that capture life in contemporary West Virginia," Duffy said.

Cheryl Ryan Harshman will provide examples of West Virginia storytelling for both children and adults. Knoblich will provide examples of Appalachian storytelling.

Linda Comins can be reached via e-mail at:

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