Adult Marching Band Builds Community Pride and Music In Mount Hope, W.Va.
Mount Hope High School in Fayette County, home of the Mustangs, closed in 2012, but the spirit can still be found in town.
On Main Street, in an old two-story building, a group of people of various ages gather around a small circular kerosene heater in a narrow room. Thin red carpet covers the old hard-wood floor that stretches into another wider room scattered with extension cords, a bicycle and plastic milk crates.
This is the home of a high school marching band. But nobody’s in high school and the members really don’t march.
They call themselves the Mount Hope Regional Band.
“We’re a marching band (and) we have a bandwagon,” said one of the founding members Carrie Kid. “We are too old to march in parades but still like to be in the parades.”
That band-wagon is a flatbed trailer that most members ride on while playing an instrument. The band borrows a truck to haul the wagon.
The idea of an alumni band started back in 2011 when Kidd heard that Mount Hope High School would close.
“It was really to keep that Mustang pride alive,” Kidd said. “Because it’s something that is still important. It’s still a part of the town’s character itself.”
In 2017, Kidd started Harmony for Hope, a non-profit organization with a mission to unite Appalachians through art and music. The organization supports the band and has expanded to include several events and projects for the community.
“I had a skillset because I left and I knew I can provide something to my community so I decided to come home and provide that,” Kidd said.
Kidd wears a few different hats. She’s a geographical information systems specialist by day, and bell player in the adult marching-style band by Thursday night.
The momentum has been building since the band first got together. Nathan Shelton graduated from Mt. Hope High in 1966, just four years after desegregation.
Shelton found a place to belong as a child and now he found a place as an adult in the marching band.
“It means that I can continue to do what I love to do, which is play music,” Shelton said. “As long as I can put air in my horn I’ll be here to play.”
The band has also grown to welcome more than for Mount Hope alumni. Karen Leathers went to school in Ohio and currently lives in Princeton. She travels almost an hour, every week, for rehearsal.
“When I found out I could join I was jumping around like a little kid,” Leathers said. “I was so excited I actually got to march out on the field.”
It was a dream come true for Leathers. Growing up, she wasn’t allowed to join the school’s marching band. Now, it’s helping her cope with some childhood trauma.
“It means no matter what else is going wrong in the world, this is right. It feels right,” Leathers said.
For Mike Carver, it’s a place to stay in tune with music. He grew up in Pennsylvania and moved to West Virginia about seven years ago to be closer to his grandchildren.
“There’s very limited opportunities to play music in this region,” Carver said. “When we heard about this we were excited to join. We had just a couple of people at first but it’s growing.”
Inside the old building, after warm-ups and a few other songs, Carver plays the trumpet in his left hand while keeping time with his right hand.
The smiles in the room are particularly bright during the classic holiday tune, “Jingle Bells.”
“I saw the need here in the community for something to be in the community,” Kidd explained. “Music spoke to me because it reaches across lines that words can’t.”
The Mount Hope Regional Band has performed at more than 25 events, many of the occasions annually. The events vary from parades to youth football games.
The Mount Hope Regional Band is welcoming new members until it runs out of space in the old building.