The MerleFest Outreach program, in place for nearly as long as
MerleFest has been around, has now hosted more than 200 concerts in schools in and around Wilkes
One of the luckier of those schools the past two years has been West Wilkes Middle School. Last year, the seventh and eighth graders at WWMS were treated to a concert featuring MerleFest favorite Donna the Buffalo.
This year, it was Canadian band Enter the Haggis that rocked the WWMS gymnasium.
The same arena that was usually reserved for gym class and West Wilkes Knights basketball and volleyball games was instead turned into one of the largest dance floors in Wilkes County.
Of course, it’s not always easy to get kids ages 12, 13 and 14 out of the bleachers and dancing around, particularly when their teachers are watching them.
“About the second or third song of the set, I thought I could see some kids in the far corner of the gym get up and dance,” said Mark Abraham, bass player for Enter the Haggis.
Indeed, it was the students of the special education class that made the first foray onto the dance floor. Soon after that, the boys’ baseball team and the girls’ softball team formed a conga line that began to snake its way toward the band.
Eventually, a majority of the students present at the concert were on the floor, working out the kinks in a variety of dance moves. Some of the boys showed proficiency in the ’80s dance styles of “the robot” and break dancing, while a number of girls displayed style and grace with timeless “whip my hair” moves.
Although it appeared that none of the students were familiar with the music of Enter the Haggis, they appreciated the band’s driving beat and ability to play a variety of instruments. Lead singer Brian Buchanan played keyboards plus a mean Celtic-style fiddle, while multi-instrumentalist Craig Downie played xylophone, bagpipes, harmonica and trumpet during the show.
Buchanan urged the students to participate in a dance contest and gave the winners a collection of the band’s CDs.
After the concert, members of the band met with the kids and signed copies of the CDs until all of the students had made their way back to their classrooms.
“We always make ourselves available to the folks who come out to support us,” Abraham said. “We’ll stick around after a show until everyone who’d like to say hello to us has had a chance to.”