Famed recording artists sign guitars to benefit Central’s music program

Published 8:34 pm Thursday, April 13, 2017

In an era where various incidents can go viral online for all the wrong reasons, one school in Carter County saw their story shared across the globe with outpouring support.
And that support continues to this day.
The story of over 10 Fender Squier guitars falling off a truck in Elizabethton – en route to Central Elementary – and being snatched up by passersby went viral in January. Since that time, the school has seen all of the guitars be returned, an anonymous donor provide 17 guitars and most recently was able to enlist the services of well-known superstar musicians. The musicians signed excess guitars to be used for an auction set for May 11 at 6 p.m. at Central to benefit the school’s music program.
“We’ve gotten calls from all over since the story went viral,” Central Principal Terry Morley said. “Chris Stapleton didn’t even wait for us to send a guitar, he went out of his way to send one of his own guitars and just mailed it to us. Who knows where he was when he did that. We’ve gotten calls from all across the nation, and even got a few calls from outside our country. Everybody was so thankful the guitars were returned and were so supportive of music education in Tennessee.”
Country music juggernauts Charlie Daniels, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Hank Williams Jr.., Carrie Underwood and Josh Turner, were just some of the artists that have decided to offer support for the school’s educational program that utilizes the acoustic guitars in the system.
The guitars were offered to Title 1 schools through grant opportunities by the Tennessee Center for Civic Learning and Engagement, a 501(c) 3 organization that stresses the importance of having music in the classroom.
“This program gets guitars into kids’ hands,” Morley said. “We’re excited that the stars came out of the woodwork to support this project. Dr. Taylor has contacted the world, and the world has responded.
“Studies show if you get instruments into your kids’ hands, and if they just do a little bit, their reading skills, verbal skills, and fluency goes up, math skills go up, and it’s just fun for everybody,” he continued. “It’s a social program that lets them interact with each other and interact with the world.”
After seeing a negative turn into a positive rather quicky, Taylor was ready to offer her support for the auction.
“For certain, I’ve been spending a few hours each day contacting these superstars we all know and love,” Taylor said with a laugh about the past couple of weeks. But that’s OK. I’ve contacted them by phone, email, and letters.”
Just days after the guitars were reported missing in January, various outlets reported on the incident following a Facebook post by WBEJ Radio – which reported the incident. A donor provided 17 guitars to replenish the stockpile, but Morley added that over the days, people started to return guitars either to the Elizabethton Police Department or at the school system offering their apologies.
While the school was able to have more than enough to supply their students, they decided to use the other guitars as part of the auction to help the music program stay self-sufficient in the coming years.
“It started off as an excellent suggestion by Mr. Morley,” Taylor said about obtaining the autographs. He asked if we could get my brother (David Miller with WBEJ) to get one sign. David and Daniel Grindstaff (local musician that’s toured with Marty Raybon and was recently at the Grand Ol Opry) were able to get two guitars signed by Carrie Underwood.”
After seeing the progress, the teacher knew she had to get one over her brother.
“Now you know you can’t get outdone by your brother,” Taylor said with a laugh. “I wanted to see who I could contact, and the first person I could think of was Josh Turner. I was able to get a yes there then I was able to get in touch with Patty Loveless and Lady Antebellum and the Little River Band, and they all said yes.”
Throughout the experience, Taylor said the biggest joy was seeing superstars come out to aid of the school’s program.
“It’s been the kindest event ever because all of the people that signed, didn’t have to,” Taylor said. “They’ve been asked over the years to sign numerous things. I even got responses from musicians that thanked me for being part of this. That meant so much to know that these recording artists wanted to help this program because they love music so much.”
Central special educator teacher Alicia Blevins is assisting the cause by providing a wider audience for the event.
“My Dad, who is an auctioneer, actually talked to Mr. Morley and told him I dabbled a little bit on eBay,” Blevins said. “We’re going to place all of the guitars on the site so that everybody across the country can see what guitars are offered and can put in a bid. We can have it shipped to them.”
Other items donated that will be available for the event include different CDs, posts, vinyl records, two tickets to a James Taylor concert provided by the musician and two signed football from Elizabethton native and Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten.
An exclusive live stream of the auction will also be available online. The public can check Blevins’ eBay account at www.ebay.com/user/blevins8813 beginning May 1 until May 10 to see what guitars are available For more information; the public can visit the Central Elem. Online Guitar Auction Facebook event page online.

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