By Kevin Murphy
KANSAS CITY, Mo (Reuters) - Students and staff Friday were unpacking three truckloads of new musical instruments that singer Barry Manilow donated to tornado-ravaged schools in Joplin, Missouri.
Manilow presented the instruments, valued at $300,000, to a gathering of Joplin music students on Thursday. The instruments will help replenish ones lost on May 22 when an EF-5 tornado swept through Joplin, destroying the high school and several other school buildings.
"We are just thrilled, he is such a nice person," Rick Castor, director of the Joplin High School band, said Friday. "It was just like Christmas. We opened a few of the things last night and today."
The donation includes a concert grand piano that will be placed on the stage of the temporary, and then the new auditorium, Castor said. The schools also got six new upright pianos, along with brass, string and other instruments, to replace ones that were destroyed, he said.
The instruments come from the Manilow Music Project, which for six years has helped schools that suffered cuts to music programs. Manilow is also helping with a local drive to get used instruments donated to the Joplin schools and to raise money to replace sheet music lost in the tornado.
The tornado killed 162 people.
"I know first-hand how invaluable music can be to get you through life's tough times," Manilow said in a statement. "It is an honor and a privilege to help these kids after such a disaster."
Manilow, 68, had his biggest success in the 1970s but has remained a popular touring artist for years. Castor said his students had not heard of Manilow and were surprised when he told them he is among the top-selling singer-songwriters of all time.
In speaking to the students Thursday, Manilow quipped that "back in the 1970s, I was Justin Bieber," according to The Joplin Globe.
(Writing and reporting by Kevin Murphy; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Greg McCune)