Don’t be surprised if you hear a little “Copacabana” played by the Joplin High School marching band during halftime at the tornado-stricken school’s football games this season.
The school’s band members have the man who made that song famous, Barry Manilow, to thank for getting them back on the field, with shiny new instruments in hand.
The iconic American singer is using his Manilow Music Project to refurbish the instruments, sheet music and more the band lost when the town of Joplin was ravaged by a tornado last May 22.
The tornado, one of the deadliest in U.S. history, wiped out nearly one-third of the small Missouri town, and killed 162 of its residents.
The storm hit Joplin High School particularly hard, tearing down buildings and wiping away nearly the school’s entire library of music and instruments.
Thanks largely to community support, students returned to school Aug. 17, as scheduled, for the first day of the new school year, holding classes in converted warehouses and typing on laptops donated by the United Arab Emirates.
Local Joplin residents Dr. Michael Fitterling and his wife, Margie, reached out to Manilow’s non-profit for help with the band’s fundraising drive, and the project responded with more than the school’s music department imagined - $300,000 worth of brand new instruments.
The singer also stepped up to partner with Dr. Fitterling’s dentistry practice to host an instrument drive in Joplin, taking place now, where people can drop off new and gently used instruments, as well as cash donations to replenish the school’s music library.
The drive, to take place the week of October 24, will end in a thrill for Joplin’s newly formed band of “Fanilows,” a special appearance by Manilow himself, in Joplin, to personally deliver the instruments to the students.