Wheeling Park High School Student Makes Plea to W.Va. Lawmakers to Save Governor’s School


WHEELING — When Katherine Leary sings “Le Violette,” you can hear a balance of vocal support and delicate, controlled vibrato.
Through her interpretation, you can feel the angst of springtime’s promise of love, contrasted with the shy beauty of the song’s subject: the violets that are hidden, yet flourishing and fragrant in tall, new grasses.
The Wheeling resident and vocalist reached this level of artistic accomplishment by studying at the West Virginia Governor’s School for the Arts.
Of course, her vocal training during her years at Ohio County Schools, including as a member of the Young Patriots honor choir at Wheeling Park High School, is the basis of her being selected for the prestigious, three-week academy.
“It’s a very valuable program, and an experience I will never forget,” she said of the vocal arts program that she attended last summer, held at West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon. The next Governor’s School for the Arts, set for June 25 to July 15, will be held at Marshall University.
“They are considering cuts in the budget,” she said of legislators, and their final budget could include cuts to the state’s four Governor’s Honors Schools, as well: arts, entrepreneurship, honors academy, and math and science. “Not only did it teach me more about music, but also about attending college. I highly recommend it,” Leary said.
“All the governor’s schools are an investment in our state’s future,” she said.
That’s the same, enthusiastic message she presented before the state’s House of Delegates last month at the state Capitol in Charleston.

It was an honor to be asked to represent the entire school to elected officials, said the junior at Wheeling Park, who is the daughter of Brendan and Jamie Leary.
She got a tour of the Capitol, including a floor session.
“It was interesting to see see democracy at work,” she said.
The extemporaneous speech champion who’s a member of Wheeling Park’s speech and debate team — a team that took the state championship for the 38th consecutive year earlier this month — said presenting to legislators “was one of the best experiences I’ve had.”
Not only was she able to study and practice one of her talents, vocal arts, but she also got a taste of the other programs in the arts school, as well: dance, creative arts, instrumental music, digital media art, and acting/theater.
While most of her work was on her solo performances, including the aria from “Pierro e Demetrio,” an opera by Alsessandro Scarlatti, she also did intensive work on a choral performance of “Home,” from the musical “Phantom.”
During their days and weeks at the academy, the 150 students from all the schools’ arts programs also came together to perform a multimedia presentation about why art is important, Leary explained.
And, she got to learn skills from the other programs.
So, not only can Leary sing, but now she can do a bit of ballet and stage fighting, as well.
Leary said the school taught her appreciation of the extensive artist community that exists in West Virginia and the nearby areas of Appalachia.
For example, through an interpretive-dance performance by The West Virginia Dance Company, she saw artists describing the toil of coal mining, the happiness that comes from life itself, and appreciation of the natural beauty of our mountainous and lush state.
Leary, who is also active in Wheeling Park’s Theater Department and has a part in “Cinderella” opening April 28, said she plans to attend a college or university in-state, where she can double-major in music and political science or history.

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Janet Metzner The Intelligencer Wheeling News-Register