Foundation awards grant to Sherman Band
SETH — The Derick Kirk Foundation presented a check to Sherman High band director Alec Hunt for $1,000 on Aug. 8 to be used for any needs within the department.
“It certainly shows that the students’ efforts are appreciated and valued,” Hunt said. “It is a big morale booster for our program. Running a band program is expensive and when someone gives back it can go a long way. Gestures like this show the kids that what they do (is) valued.”
Derick Kirk was a 1996 graduate of Sherman High School and stands among the most decorated and respected musicians to ever come through the school. He went on to study music and graduate from West Virginia State University. Kirk died in 2007 after a hard-fought battle with cancer. He was 28 years old.
Kirk grew up in a musical family — his father, the late Danny Kirk was a retired Boone County Schools principal and multi instrumentalist who often used a guitar to entertain students or implement a teaching moment through music. Derick’s older brother Darren is also an accomplished multi-instrumentalist who has been a member of the Charleston music scene for over two decades and currently performs with the acoustic songwriting duo of “McCracken & Kirk.”
Both Darren and mother Lois Kirk are foundation board members and came to the school for the presentation of the check.
Sherman Principal Todd Barnett, a 1985 Sherman graduate who by this time had earned a bachelors degree as a saxophone major with a woodwinds minor was preparing to work on his masters degree. He remembers the first time he heard a young middle school kid playing his horn.
“I met this tall blonde-headed kid in junior high from Ashford named Derick Kirk,” he said. “I’m going to use this in the most complimentary way I can because the phrase has appropriately been used to describe the athleticism of Randy Moss. Derick was a freak of nature. He was like a savant that was so gifted musically. As a teacher, I immediately recognized his gifts and talent. I talked to his parents and told them that I’d like to give him private lessons for free because he was that talented. His senior year of high school he was playing what I was playing in my senior year of college. Quitefrankly, heplayed it better than me.”
On Oct. 18, a fundraiser for the Derick Kirk Foundation will be held in Charleston as part of Fall Festivall at a yet-to-be-determined location. Local musicians who shared the stage with Derick will perform and donations will be accepted to assist the foundation in its work of supporting high school musicians and band programs in the region.
The non-profit’s mission, as stated on its website, reads: “The Derick Kirk Foundation supports and funds music education and development in grades kindergarten through 12. Recognizing personal and professional development begins early, The Foundation endeavors to promote the significant role music plays in nurturing the creative process in youth.”
Band programs outside of Boone County such as Raven-swood High, Capital High, Horace Mann Middle School, Sissonville High, South Charleston High and many others have received grants/scholarships from the Derick Kirk Foundation over the last decade.
High School seniors from Boone, Clay, Jackson, Logan, Roane, Putnam and Kanawha counties are eligible to apply for scholarships but they must be pursuing a degree in music.
Outside of the work of the foundation, Derick’s personal instruments have found their way into the hands of musicians through the years.
“When the flooding happened in Sissonville and so much was destroyed, I gave them several of Derick’s instruments so they’d have something to play,” said Lois Kirk.
In his college years and for sometime after, he worked as an instrument repairman at Gor-by’s Music in South Charleston.
“Derick learned to repair instruments by watching,” she said. “He would go and watch Terry Roush do repairs and he learned that way. He really enjoyed that kind of work. He started that when he was in college. He showed me around his work area and I found it to be really interesting. He was passionate about it.”
Derick Kirk played in multiple music acts, primarily jazz groups, but he graced the stage with groups of other genres as well. The Kirk brothers shared recording projects and live performances with the indie rock band Highway Jones.
Lois Kirk said she was very proud of Derick for what he accomplished in music but it is the stories that she still hears about who he was as a person and how he helped people that mean the most.
“It humbles me to know that I’m his mother,” she said emotionally. “And I used to be surprised when people say they knew Derick but I’m not surprised anymore because he knew so many people and he touched so many people. It wasn’t just his music. People tell me about something that he did for them. Those things mean more to me than the music.”
For more information on the Derick Kirk Foundation, visit derickkirk.net.
Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @philipdperry.