Award Winning Roanoke Student Turns Big Ideas Into Musical Reality

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by Beverly Amsler

Locher Grove had a dream; to provide one set of musical instruments for Roanoke City elementary schools.  The Patrick Henry senior far surpassed his goal.  He spearheaded the Noteworthy Music Festival-a music fundraising concert that netted about $15,000 – enough money to provide three sets of instruments for each school.

Locker was one of a dozen students across the U. S. to take part in last summer’s Aspen Ideas Festival as part of the Bezos Scholars Program in Colorado.  They heard from speakers such as Sandra Day O’Conner and Justice Stephen Breyer.

“It was our responsibility to come back to our own communities and run some kind of festival to benefit some kind of cause in your community.  So, music’s always been a big part of my life and I’ve played violin since I was six. The problem with Roanoke City is we have teachers, we have the capabilities to have more classical and band instruction, we just don’t have the resources.”

The school division recently received a VH1 “Save the Music” grant, which provides one set of instruments per school.  But “that doesn’t cover enough for students to take instruments home.  You get to play in the classroom once or twice a week and then they leave so they don’t get to cement the learning.”

He ran into some challenges preparing for the concert.  “The biggest thing is having people actually listen to you.  I’m only a high schooler so when I call them, some people don’t quite take me seriously.  But the biggest thing is that once you get people on board and (once they understand the purpose of the fundraiser) they’re much more willing to open up and (help).”

Twelve bands performed at the event held at Patrick Henry High, including “Big Lik” whose keyboardist Linda Hanks is also Locher’s calculus teacher at the Governor’s School.

“It’s such a good cause and he’s such a great guy,” said Hanks.

“We thought if it (this cause) inspires one child to pick up an instrument that otherwise maybe wouldn’t have . . . we have done so much.  We’re so blessed to have so many things that I feel like anything we can do to help contribute to that would just be huge.  We have so much equipment; we have so many things that we could just donate to people.  And if other bands would just clean out their garages or just get rid of some of the old and give it to a kid that can have just something to practice on.”

She says her husband, the band’s drummer, started out banging on tin cans because he wanted so much to play the drums.  As a teenager, he purchased a drum set for $10 a month at a downtown Roanoke music store.  “All he had was the snare drum and he just started with that.”

“Even as a 14-year-old child, he would get his mother to bring him to the music store to put his little $10 on that snare drum.”

Locker isn’t sure yet but says he might make the Noteworthy Music Festival an annual event.