Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Bill Archer

May 5, 2014

A reflection on the 2014 Shott Excellence in Media award recipients

— — I was planning to attend the Bluefield College Media Appreciation Day last Wednesday, but I was a little under the weather at the time, and I decided against attending at the last minute. I’ve arrived at a point in my life when a little rest goes a long way to meet the challenges of the next day. I’m also glad that my wife helps remind me that I have to slow down occasionally.

Early last Thursday morning when I was checking out other people’s Facebook posts, I saw that my friend Jason Reed had received the 2014 Shott Excellence in Media Award in a post that another friend, Paul Hess, had put on his Facebook page. Jason had been one of the child performers in an historical musical that I wrote the songs for 26 years ago. I actually envisioned all 28 of the songs in the show over one weekend, and the song Jason sang with several other youngsters from Bramwell — “Celebrate Life” — was the first song I taught to anyone in the play.

We were, in fact, working on the song when Karl Miller walked into the Bluestone Inn carrying a Korg keyboard and a small amplifier. I sang “Celebrate Life” to Karl and he picked the melody up immediately. It was the start of the second great musical partnership of my life. Prior to that time, I had a 20-year musical partnership with my brother. Stu and I were blessed to maintain that brotherly harmony for three more years until his death in 1991.

Jason was just like everyone else associated with “Bramwell 100.” He was willing to put in hours of practice to breathe life into the project honoring Bramwell’s centennial. “Celebrate Life” was one movement of the Party Trilogy that included two other songs, “One Party — Two Party,” and “The Grandest Ball of the Year.” That trilogy — one of two in the show — told the story of how the men, women and children individually viewed the grand parties during the glory days of Bramwell’s golden era.

When I got to know Jason as a radio personality, I didn’t make the connection we shared in 1988. In fact, I came to know him as a hard-working professional who was always willing to put in extra time to serve the public whether he was on the air doing his job or just doing the kinds of things that make things happen at events like the annual Mercer County Alzheimer’s Walk, along with scores of other community service activities.

None of the people who worked on “Bramwell 100” were compensated for what we did. Karl and I still perform a few of the songs from that show. I remember how hot the Bramwell High School auditorium was on opening night, May 27, 1988, when we first performed it. I remember how frightening it was for me that hundreds of people were in the audience that night — all of whom knew a great deal more about Bramwell than I ever dreamed of knowing. I got most of my insights from visiting Goldie Rickmon for an afternoon and reading her scrapbooks.

When I saw Paul’s post and later read the story about Jason and Missy Baines being honored as the professional and student Shott Excellence in Media award recipients, I was transported back to that time when all of those songs crashed into my head at the same time, and I spent a week or so writing them all down. It was just as Louise Stoker had written in the narrative that Scott Bowen read connecting the songs, while Betty, Sarah and Dreama Goins managed the flow of the show.

I’ve been promising Jason that I would get him a copy of the video of that show that I had so he could copy it off, but my quest to find it Thursday morning proved unsuccessful. For me, the memory still burns bright, and to me, the kids — Jason and April Reed, Jennifer Harrison, Amanda Cochran, Nicole Perry, Kristen Settle, Robert Perry,  Kristy Stroupe, Candace and Crystal Dillon, Kimberly and Jack Carver, Brandon Goins and J.P. Reed — stole the show that night.

I guess the most amazing thing to me is that Jason, as well as others who were in that play, became active community servants. I know for a fact though, that on that particular night in Bramwell, they absolutely stole the show. There were other moving performances, but the song I kept singing in my head that night was “Celebrate Life.” Karl and I have never performed it in any of our shows, and I can’t remember most of the lyrics. However, I still remember how much joy the kids put into the song. It had a life of its own.

There were many other people associated with the show — including Dana Cochran, Roger Stroupe, Christine Dillon, Cathy Steele, Reba Jesse, Christina Eller, Rebecca Allen, Doug Cochran, Bill Whittaker, Jerry and Erica Waller, Carla Stotts, Beth Harrison, Reneé Perry, Louise, Karl, myself and more — but the image that lingered with me after hearing about Jason’s honor was that of the young people who sang their hearts out for the thrill of doing something good for their hometown. The high school closed a couple of years later and the 1988 Millionaire basketball team truly did make history. I still can’t express how proud I am of Jason’s recognition ... Proud that I knew him then and proud that I know him now.

Bill Archer is senior editor at the Daily Telegraph. Contact him at barcher@bdtonline.com.

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