The tornado that flattened much of Joplin on May 22 also destroyed several of Joplin’s schools, and a famous musician has taken special interest in a certain type of classroom in particular; the band room.

The tornado that flattened much of Joplin on May 22 also destroyed several of Joplin’s schools, and a famous musician has taken special interest in a certain type of classroom in particular; the band room.

Barry Manilow, author and singer of such famous songs as “Mandy,” “Copacabana,” “Read ‘Em and Weep” and many other Top 40 hits has donated $300,000 worth of musical instruments to the Joplin R-8 School District’s band program through the Manilow Music Project. School and city officials as well as students received an added bonus Thursday morning at Junge Stadium when Manilow himself delivered several truckloads of the instruments.

According to its website, the Manilow Music Project was developed in response to the needs of public schools and their severely depleted music programs. Manilow gathered some friends and formed The Manilow Music Project as part of his nonprofit Manilow Health and Hope Fund.

Manilow’s welcoming party was raucous, with multiple signs proclaiming fans’ devotion to the star. When Manilow finally took the podium, he seemed thrilled to address the audience.

“I feel like I know everyone already,” Manilow said to a loud eruption of cheers. “I feel like I’m at home. I wish I could do this every day of the year.

Manilow said he was shocked when he saw the news of the disaster. Shortly afterward, he said, Joplin resident Margie Fitterling, a long-time friend and ardent supporter of music education, phoned him to ask whether the MMP could help replace the district’s instruments that were destroyed. The answer, of course, was “yes.”

“As I saw the pictures and watched the newscasters I asked myself, ‘How cam I help? What can I do?” Manilow said. “Margie called and I thought ‘Maybe we can bring some music back to the kids of Joplin.’”

Manilow said there was no hesitation on his part.

“I’m a musician, and I’m so proud to say that. It’s the most important thing in my life,” Manilow sad. “I know what music can do to young people’s lives, and to think that they wouldn’t have music in their lives drove me crazy.”

Mayor Mike Woolston said the city of Joplin will benefit from the donation.

“Music provides some of the most uplifting moments in our lives,” Woolston said. “One way to do that it is to provide music to our public schools. We will once again be on a path to a lifetime of musical appreciation and musical enjoyment.”

Joplin Schools Band Director Rick Castor said the donation is helping send his students more quickly down the road to recovery and healing.

“It’s helped a lot,” Castor said after the ceremony. “The only way we have any continuity is by seeing each other all the time. It gives them an outlet, a way to help bring them back together.

Castor said much of the credit goes to Fitterling for the hours she spent helping to coordinate the donation.

“Margie spent so much time on this,” Castor said. “Margie and Barry Manilow are our heroes.”