West Virginia Music Hall of Fame home
Ideas for Teachers

“All these musicians were once West Virginia schoolkids”

In this unit, you’ll find childhood stories about three of West Virginia’s most-loved musicians: Bill Withers, Billy Edd Wheeler, and Hazel Dickens. You will also find links to their songs and videos. You can use them to teach writing skills while you build students’ pride in their state.

These are the first three stories we have produced. To read them, click on the photos at right. If teachers find them valuable, we’ll do more. So we’d like feedback from you. Please let us know if you used this material and send us your comments to: katelong@wvmusichalloffame.com

You can use the stories and links in combination with the Hall of Fame website. If the Hall of Fame’s Traveling Museum visits your school, you can use these stories, songs and links to stir up interest in advance of the visit, or after the exhibit leaves, let interested students research further.

These stories also teach much about West Virginia history. Billy Edd Wheeler’s stories, for instance, paint a vivid picture of a child’s life in a southern West Virginia coal camp.

The stories also teach solid life lessons. Success did not come easily to any of these three artists. They worked for it. They made the most of their chances. Their stories are intended to cause students to think, “Well, if they did it, maybe I can too.”

All students do not want to be musicians, but all will have to persist past roadblocks in life. These stories give teachers a way to help students think about that.

You can use this material for whole-class activities or independent study projects.

The childhood stories are 4-8 pages long. They are easy to copy. They correlate with the songs on the web links. Please review the Internet links. They lead students to more information about these artists, plus wonderful performances of their songs by other well-known artists.

A piece of advice: Tell students a bit about the musicians or have them read a story before they listen to the songs. Some of the recordings are not the polished productions the children are used to, and they will listen with more interest if they know something about the songwriter. We have chosen songs that contain life lessons and might lend themselves to class discussion.

The “lyrics” file for each artist contains lyric sheets for at least four songs. The artist pages include URLs of YouTube videos or audio files of the songs. The Department of Education has lifted the YouTube block on the URL links in this project, so you and your students can access them at school.

Click here for a list of featured songs.

The material in this section was developed and written by Kate Long.

This project received support from the West Virginia Humanities Council.

Want to read stories about these artists when they were West Virginia schoolchildren? Want to hear their music? Just click on their pictures.

Bill Withers

Hazel Dickens

Billy Edd Wheeler